Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

powers, is not incompatible with the performance of any stipulations in our treaties, which would not include our becoming an associate in the war; and it has been observed, that the conduct of the executive, in regard to the seventeenth and twenty-second articles of the treaty of commerce, is an unequivocal comment upon the terms. They were, indeed, naturally to be understood, with the exception of those matters of positive compact, which would not amount to taking part in the war; for a nation then observes a friendly and impartial conduct towards two contending powers, when it only performs to one of them what it is obliged to do by stipulations in antecedent treaties, which do not constitute a participa.. tion in the war.

Neither do those expressions imply, that the United States will not exercise their discretion in doing kind offices to some of the parties, without extending them to the others, so long as they have no relation to war : for kind offices of that description may, consistently with neutrality, be shown to one party and refused to another.

If the objectors mean, that the United States ought to favour France, in things relating to war, and where they are not bound to do it by treaty ; they must in this case also abandon their pretension of being friends to peace. For such a conduct would be a violation of neutrality, which could not fail to produce war.

It follows then, that the proclamation is reconcileable with all that those who censure it contend for : taking them upon their own ground, that nothing is to be done incompatible with the preservation of peace.

But though this would be a sufficient answer to the objection under consideration; yet it may not be without use, to indulge some reflections on this very favourite topic of gratitude to France ; since it is at this shrine that we are continually invited to sacrifice the true interests of the country; as if all for love, and the world 6 well lost,” were a fundamental maxim in politics.

Faith and justice between nations, are virtues of a nature the most necessary and sacred. They cannot be too strongly inculcated nor too bigbly respected. Their obligations are absolute, their utility unquestionable ; they relate to objects which, with probity and sincerity, generally admit of being brought within clear and intelligible rules.

But the same cannot be said of gratitude. It is not very often that between nations, it can be pronounced with certainty, that there exists a solid foundation for the sentiment; and how far it can justifiably be per. mitted to operate, is always a question of still greater difficulty.

T'he basis of gratitude is a benefit received or intended, which there was no right to claim, originating in a regard to the interest or advantage of the party on whom the benefit is, or is meant to be, conferred. If a service is rendered from views relative to the immediate inte. rest of the party who performs it, and is productive of reciprocal advantages, there seems scarcely in such a case, to be an adequate basis for a sentiment like that of gratitude. The effect at least would be wholly disproportioned to the cause, if such a service ought to beget more than a disposition to render in turn a correspon. dent good office, founded on mutual interest and reciprocal advantage. But gratitude would require much more than this; it would exact, to a certain extent, even a sacrifice of the interest of the party obliged to the service or benefit of the one by whom the obligation had been conferred.

Between individuals, occasion is not unfrequently given for the exercise of gratitude. Instances of conferring benefits from kind and benevolent dispositions or feelings towards the person benefited, without any other interest on the part of the person who renders the service, than the pleasure of doing a good action, occur every day among individuals. But among nations they perhaps never occur. It may be affirmed as a general principle, that the predominant motive of good offices from one nation to another, is the interest or advantage of the nation which performs them.

Indeed the rule of morality in this respect is not precisely the same between nations, as between individuals. The daty of making its own welfare the guide of its actions, is much stronger upon the former, than upon the latter; in proportion to the greater magnitude and importance of national, compared with individual happiness, and to the greater permanency of the effects of national than of individual conduct. Existing millions, and for the most part future generations, are concerned in the present measures of a government : while the consequences of the private actions of an individual or. dinarily terminate with himself, or are circumscribed within a narrow compass.

Whence it follows, that an individual may on nume. rous occasions meritoriously indulge the emotions of generosity and benevolence, not only without an eye to, but even at the expense of, his own interest. But a government can rarely, if at all, be justifiable in pursuing a similar course ; and if it does so, ought to confine itself within much stricter bounds.* Good offices which are indifferent to the interest of a nation performing them, or which are compensated by the existence or expectation of some reasonable equivalent; or which produce an essential good to the nation to which they are ren. dered, without real detriment to the affairs of the benefactors, prescribe perhaps the limits of national generosity or benevolence.

It is not here meant to recommend a policy absolutely selfish or interested in nations ; but to show, that a po. licy regulated by their own interest, as far as justice and good faith permit, is, and ought to be, their prevailing one : and that either to ascribe to them a different principle of action, or to deduce from the supposition of it, arguments for a self-denying and self-sacrificing gratitude on the part of a nation, which may have received from another good offices, is to misrepresent or misconoeive what usually are, and ought to be, the springs of national conduct.

This conclusion derives confirmation from the reflection, that under every form of government, rulers are only trustees for the happiness and interest of their nation, and cannot, consistently with their trust, follow the suggestions of kindness or humanity towards others, to the prejudice of their constituents.

These general reflections will be auxiliary to a just estimate of our real situation with regard to France : of which a closer view will be taken in a succeeding paper.

No. V. FRANCE, the rival, time immemorial, of Great Britain, bad in the course of the war, which ended in 1763, suffered from the successful arms of the latter, the severest losses and the most mortifying defeats. Britain from that moment bad acquired an ascendant in the affairs of Europe, and in the commerce of the world, too decided and too humiliating to be endured without extreme impatience, and an eager desire of finding a favourable opportunity to destroy it, and to repair the breach which had been made in the national glory. The animosity of wounded pride, conspired with the calculations of interest, to give a keen edge to that impatience, and to that desire.

The American revolution offered the occasion. It early attracted the notice of France, though with extreme circumspection. As far as countenance and aid may be presumed to have been given 'prior to the epoch of the acknowledgment of our independence, it will be no onkind derogation to assert, that they were marked neither with liberality nor with vigour; that they wore the appearance rather of a desire to keep alive disturbances which might embarrass a rival, than of a serious design to assist a revolution, or a serious expectation that it could be effected.

The victories of Saratoga, the capture of an army, which went a great way towards deciding the issue of the contest, decided also the hesitations of France. They established in the government of that country, a confi. dence of our ability to accomplish our purpose, and as a consequence of it, produced the treaties of alliance and commerce.

It is impossible to see in all this any thing more than the conduct of a jealous competitor, embracing a most promising opportunity to repress the pride, and diminish

the power of a dangerous rival, by seconding a success. ful resistance to its authority with the object of lopping off a valuable portion of its dominions. The dismemberment of this country from Great Britain was an obvi. ous, and a very important, interest of France. It cannot be doubted, that it was both the determining motive and an adequate compensation, for the assistance afforded to us.

Men of sense, in this country, derived encouragement to the part which their zeal for liberty prompted them to take in our revolution, from the probability of the co-ope. ration of France and Spain. It will be remembered, that this argument was used in the publications of the day; but upon what was it bottomed? Upon the known competition between those nations and Great Britain, upon their evident interest to reduce her power and cir cumscribe her empire ; not certainly upon motives of regard to our interest, or of attachment to our cause. Whoever should have alleged the latter, as the grounds of the expectation held out, would have been then justly considered as a visionary or a deceiver. And whoever shall now ascribe to such motives the aid which we did receive, would not deserve to be viewed in a better light.

The inference from these facts is not obscure. Aid and co-operation, founded upon a great interest, pursued and obtained by the party rendering them, is not a proper stock upon which to engraft that enthusiastic gratitude, which is claimed from us by those who love France more than the United States.

This view of the subject, extorted by the extravagancy of such a claim, is not meant to disparage the just pretensions of France to our good will. Though neither in the motives to the succours which she furnished, nor in their extent (considering bow powerfully the point of honour, in such war, reinforced the considerations of interest when she was once engaged) can be found a sufficient basis for that gratitude which is the theme of so much declamation : yet we shall find, in the manner of affording them, just cause for our esteem and friendship,

« ZurückWeiter »