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duced to relent. For this decision, he is believed to have been chiefly indebted to the exertions of a leading delegate* from Massachusetts.
Much as there was in the conduct of Great Britain to disappoint expectation and wound national pride, yet on a dispassionate view, it is to be deemed the natural result of the relative situations of the two countries. Many of her statesmen saw, or imagined that they saw, in a close adherence to the colonial system the chief sources of her wealth. Her jealousy had long been awakened to the competition which the character and condition of the American people would produce, and every effort to relieve themselves from the pressure of her monopolies confirmed her adherence to them, and was followed by more minute and rigorous exactions. It could therefore with little probability be expected, that while she maintained her navigation act towards other nations, she would relax her system towards that power, whose interference with her trade she most feared, especially as the United States were, by the treaties they had formed, precluded offering to her any equivalent for such an exemption.
England also confided in the magnitude of her capital, in the credits she could give, and in the cheapness of her productions, as ensuring the introduction of them to the American market, where the habits of the people had always secured to her a preference. The efforts of France to compete with her had failed, and while the British merchants were engrossing the trade, France was occupied in speculating on the grounds of such a preference.
These circumstances, combined with too great a deference to the feelings of the monarch, had weight, but the consideration which chiefly influenced the court of St. James, was the political condition of the confederacy.
Whatever might be the future resources of this nation, whatever were the capacities of the people, America now presented an unrelieved picture of anarchy and disunion. Her public engagements had nearly all been violated, her private resources appeared either to be exhausted, or could not be called into action; and while the individual states were pursuing measures of mutual hostility and detriment, the confederation was powerless over their laws, powerless over public opinion. Hence, to every argument or inducement in favour of a commercial treaty, there was an irrefutable reply-America will not, or if she would, she cannot fulfil it. “Our ambassadors," Hamilton observed, “ were the mere pageants of mimic sovereignty.”
In this brief retrospect of the negotiations with the two leading powers of Europe, nothing is more obvious than the want of that practical common sense, which had carried these States through the revolution, both in the objects, and in the conduct of them. This country was, in fact, without a government. Could it be hoped, that either France or England would treat on advantageous terms with a people who had not the power to fulfil their engagements ? Could it be supposed, for a moment, that those old governments would abandon their artificial systems and fixed maxims, affecting so many public and private interests, for an untried theory?
Jefferson* at an early period advised that “the American workshops should remain in Europe ;” that “ perhaps it might be better for us to abandon the ocean altogether, that being the element whereon we shall be principally exposed to jostle with other nations; to leave to others to bring what we shall want, and to carry what we can spare.” Now he is the projector of a system of entangling alliances with all the nations of Europe. He voted against a proposition to adopt the commerce of “natives” as the basis of treaties, and he proposed to treat with England on that basis. “I know," he wrote to Adams, “it goes beyond our powers, and beyond the powers of congress too; but it is evidently for the good of all the states that I should not be afraid to risk myself on it, if you are of the same opinion."*
* Notes on Virginia, p. 175, 176.
Abandoning the principle of his own instructions,t he suggested to Vergennest “ that both nations would cement their friendship by approaching the conditions of their citizens reciprocally to that of 'natives,' as a better ground of intercourse than that of the most favoured nation.'” The reply of France was an arret, approving in its preamble a general freedom of commerce; but vindicating the “exclusion of foreign goods, as required under existing circumstances by the interest of the kingdom.”
Yet he at the same period avows, “ were I to indulge my own theory, I should wish them (the United States) to practise neither commerce nor navigation, but to stand, with respect to Europe, precisely on the footing of China."S
The opinions of Adams as to the foreign policy of this country, were not less various.
At one time he affirmed, “ that it is in the power of America to tax all Europe whenever she pleases, by laying duties upon her exports, enough to pay the interest of money enough to answer all their purposes."|| He then enters into this project of commercial freedom ; then denounces it, declaring, “ that we had hitherto been the bub bles of our own philosophical and equitable liberality;" and indicates as the only means of redress, “commercial regulations.”
* 2 D.C. 338.—July 28, 1785. + Niles, v. 12, p. 82.
October 13, 1785.—Jeff. Works, vol. 1, 344. 1 2 D. C. 338.
| November, 1785.
|| 5 D. C. 502.
The course of events had proved the correctness of Hamilton's views, as he calmly consulted the great permanent interests of the country. Though in his liberal spirit the advocate of a policy which, he observed, would establish“ our system with regard to foreign nations upon those grounds of moderation and equity by which reason, religion, and philosophy had tempered the harsh maxims of more early times, and that rejects those principles of restriction and exclusion which are the foundations of the mercantile and navigating system of Europe;" yet, judging wisely of human nature, of the force of habit, prejudice, and passion, he had from the earliest period indicated the necessity of conferring upon congress the power of regulating trade, laying prohibitions, granting bounties and premiums."* And when he saw the confederacy nerveless—the states in collision—the people desponding —their energies withering under the restrictive regulations of Europe—he then again avowed the necessity of counteracting “ a policy so unfriendly to their prosperity, by prohibitory regulations extending at the same time throughout the states," as a means of compelling an equal traffic ; of raising the American navigation so as to establish" an active" instead of “a passive commerce;" of "a federal navy, to defend the rights of neutrality.”
These views, as the perspective of this vast republic rose before him, were embraced in the exhortation—“Let Americans disdain to be the instruments of European greatness ! Let the thirteen states, bound together in a strict and indissoluble union, concur in erecting one great American system, superior to the control of transatlantic force or influence, and able to dictate the connection be. tween the old and the new world !”+
The Constitutionalist, No. 4, August, 1781–No. 6, July 4, 1782 + The Federalist, No. 11.
In the domestic situation of this country there was much to justify distrust. The definitive treaty had indeed assured almost Roman limits to the new republic ; but the eastern boundary was disputed—the western deniedwhile from the frowning fortresses which dotted its outline, each morning's drum-roll struck alarm into the breast of the borderer, as it awakened in the crouching savage his slumbering appetite for carnage. The interior subdivisions were also unsettled. The coterminous states of Massachusetts and New-York had not yet wearied of their disputes. Pennsylvania, though her rights had been established under a constitutional tribunal, was threatened with a contest with the New-England settlers at Wyoming, who were preparing to refer their claims to the most summary arbitrament. Virginia was compelled to release Kentucky from her reluctant embraces. North Carolina was dissevered, and a fragment of her domains was forming into an independent state under the name of Frankland, of which an assembly preparatory to a convention had met.* While so many inducements existed to adopt a comprehensive national policy, such was the prevalence of state jealousy, that instead of labouring to invigorate the arm of the general legislature, an aversion to the restraints of law, and an increasing disposition to withhold confidence from the constituted authorities, were daily developed. Instead of looking for remedies to relieve the
* August 1, 1785.