By Gerald Therrien

Table of Contents

Part 1 – The Irish Frontier 

Part 2 – The Haitian Frontier  

Part 3 – The Louisiana Frontier 


[the following is from ‘Author’s Introduction’ to ‘How the Nation Was Won’, by H. Graham Lowry]

‘This is a book about how men move mountains.  The description is not simply metaphorical, concerning America’s astonishing feat of forging a superpower out of a continental wilderness.  It also applies to an extraordinary political fight, waged for nearly a century before the outbreak of the American Revolution: the battle to break beyond the long barrier of the eastern Appalachian Mountain chain, in order to colonize and develop the vast territories to the west … As colonial potentials increased for development beyond the mountain barriers, the obstacles became less the mountains themselves, and more the combined political and military opposition of forces in both Britain and France.

‘The story of how those obstacles were overcome is the subject of this work.  A small group of colonial leaders in America, working both openly and behind the scenes, began implementing a strategy in 1710 for an American ‘breakout’ beyond the Appalachian and Allegheny mountains.  What they accomplished was indispensable to American independence.  What they inspired was the mission of nation-building, for which Americans would fight a war to ensure its being fulfilled … The evidence for an hypothesis of continuity is irrefutable.  The proof lies in determining the singularities which account for the fact, that the idea of a continental republic, was transformed into a concrete prospect, before America’s direct challenges to British authority during the 1760’s.

‘Thus, the foundations for America’s independence must be proven to have been established through earlier, successful efforts to open the way for developing the West, despite British and French determination to stop it.  Throwing aside prevailing historical opinion, in order to take a fresh look at the matter, one can identify a truly remarkable singularity in the pattern of events occurring around the year 1710.  New Royal governors arrived that year to take command of Virginia and New York, the two most strategically placed colonies for developing settlements beyond the mountains, from the Great Lakes to the Mississippi River.  Cotton Mather published his classic manual on organizing a republican citizenry, Essays to Do Good.  Virginia’s Governor Alexander Spotswood immediately announced plans to push beyond the supposedly impassable Blue Ridge Mountains as far as the Mississippi …’”

William Clark and Meriwether Lewis were both born in Virginia.  Lewis was born near Rockfish Gap, in the Blue Ridge Mountains.  A little less than 100 years from the launching of that republican offensive in 1710, the Lewis and Clark expedition would reach the Pacific Ocean – thus asserting the reason for ‘the very name given to those fighters for independence: the Continental army’.

Some historians, incorrectly, attribute America’s western expansion as its inherent desire for ‘conquest’ or ‘empire’.  This ‘desire’ does not occur until the mistreatment of the natives under the evil Andrew Jackson administration.  Otherwise America’s western progress was a war fought against the existing world’s empires – British, French and Spanish, that was motivated by the idea of a ‘continental republic.

America before the Louisiana Purchase

Part One – The Irish Frontier

1. John Adams Becomes President, March 4th 1797

President Washington’s Farewell Address, written with the help of Alexander Hamilton, appeared in the American Daily Advertiser on September 19th 1796, and was reprinted in newspapers and pamphlets across the country.  Now that President Washington was not going to seek another term in office, the race to be the next president began in earnest.

Washington and his right hand man, Alexander Hamilton

When Hamilton had written the Camillus letters in July 1795, to answer the ‘republican’ opposition to Jay’s treaty, he noted in the first ‘Defense’ that ‘there are three persons prominent in the public eye as the successor of the actual President of the United States in the event of his retreat from the station – Mr. Adams, Mr. Jay, Mr. Jefferson.  No one has forgotten the systematic pains which have been taken to impair the well-earned popularity of the first gentleman.  Mr. Jay has been repeatedly the objects of attacks with the same view.’

In October 1796, an anonymous author, signed ‘Phocion’ (probably William L. Smith and Oliver Wolcott), wrote 18 letters in the Gazette of the United States, that were later published as a pamphlet ‘The Pretensions of Thomas Jefferson to the Presidency Examined; and the Charges Against John Adams Refuted’.  It ridiculed the claims that Jefferson was a philosopher – ‘employing his fertile genius in discoveries and improvements in the useful arts, impaling butterflies and insects, and contriving turn-about chairs, for the benefit of his fellow citizens and mankind in general’ and by showing Jefferson’s contradictory beliefs on race that are found in his book ‘Notes on Virginia’.  In response, in November, an anonymous author, signed ‘A Federalist’ (probably Tench Coxe), wrote 12 letters that were also published as a pamphlet ‘The Federalist: containing Some Strictures upon a pamphlet …’

John Adams, who considered himself the ‘heir apparent’, became the ‘Federalist’ candidate for president, with Thomas Pinckney as their candidate for vice president, against the ‘Republican’ candidate for president, Thomas Jefferson, and Aaron Burr, their candidate for vice president.  In November 1796, Hamilton would write in a private letter that ‘all personal and partial considerations must be discarded and everything must give way to the great object of excluding Jefferson.’

left to right: Jefferson, Burr and Adams

Earlier, on June 13th 1796, Secretary of State Pickering had written to James Monroe, America’s minister to France, that ‘as early as October last, you predicted that if Mr. Jay’s treaty should be ratified, it would excite great discontent in France.  Early in November, you mentioned the arrival of Mr. Fauchet, extremely dissatisfied with the treaty; adding, that he was well received, and would therefore be attended to.  On the 6th of December, you acknowledged the receipt of my letter of September 12th, written subsequently to the ratification of the treaty, to repeat and further explain the principles and views of the Government concerning it.  Mr. Adet’s objections to the treaty, and their refutation, accompanied my letter; and with such means in your hands – means amply sufficient to vindicate the conduct of the United States – no less regret than surprise is excited, that no attempt was made to apply them to the highly important use for which they were sent.’

A young James Munroe (Minister to France)

‘Although you anticipated discontents; although the symptoms of discontent appeared; although these symptoms, unattended to and unalloyed, might increase to an inflammation; and Mr. Fauchet’s arrival, with all his dissatisfaction and prejudices about him, would assuredly add to the irritation; yet you were silent and inactive, until on the 15th of February, you were alarmed by the project of the directory, accidentally communicated to you by the minister of foreign affairs, of sending to this country an envoy extraordinary, to represent to our Government their decision concerning the treaty with Great Britain; “that they considered the treaty of alliance between us as ceasing to exist, from the moment the treaty was ratified.” ’  (Pickering would write to Monroe on August 22nd to inform him of his recall and his replacement by Pinckney.)

Monroe, the American minister to France, had led the French government, the National Convention, into believing that Jay’s treaty would never be ratified by the United States, while Fauchet, the French minister to the United States, had laboured, unsuccessfully, with the ‘republican’ press and with the friends of Jefferson, to stop the ratification of the treaty.  Later, Fauchet’s replacement as minister to the United States, Pierre Adet, worked with the ‘republican’ press and with Jefferson’s friends in the House of Representatives, again unsuccessfully, to refuse the appropriations necessary to carry into effect Jay’s treaty.

John Jay

On December 15th 1795, Fauchet, who had recently returned to France, presented the new French government, the Directory, with a 70-page ‘Memoir on the United States’, that was in line with the counsel of Monroe, that the people would overthrow the administration of Washington as a result of the treaty and that better things might be expected with a ‘republican’ victory in the 1796 presidential election.  Monroe now spent all his efforts on preventing the sending of an envoy extraordinary, because ‘as soon as the mission was known to foreign powers, they would commence their intrigues to make it the means of separating us; that all were interested in our separation, none in our union; and, that our separation was an evil to be deprecated by both parties’.

And yet, even with all of Monroe’s ‘efforts’, the French Directory, on July 2nd 1796, resolved that ‘all neutral or allied powers shall, without delay, be notified that the flag of the French republic will treat neutral vessels, either as to confiscation, as to searches, or capture, in the same manner as they shall suffer the English to treat them’.  This would nullify the 1778 treaty of commerce between the United States and France, and would do what Monroe warned about – but without France sending the envoy extraordinary!!!  Monroe had indeed succeeded in preventing the sending of the envoy, but had merely delayed the decree of the French Directory.

   Note: The National Convention was the government of France for 3 years – from September 20th 1792 until October 26th 1795.  The Reign of Terror began in October 1793 and continued until July 27th 1794, when a majority of the National Convention ordered the arrest of Robespierre and his supporters.  But when the troops from the Paris Commune arrived to free Robespierre, the Convention then ordered up a part of the army, which caused the troops of the Commune to desert, and the army was able to re-arrest Robespierre and the others.  The next day, they were guillotined, and 500 suspected counter-revolutionaries were freed as the Reign of Terror ended.  [Madison arrived in Paris on August 3rd 1794 – five days after the execution of Robespierre.]  The National Convention then began planning for a new constitution, while a treaty with Prussia was signed on April 5th 1795.  But first, the Convention had to put down an insurrection of the sans-culottes from the eastern sections of Paris on May 22nd.  Secondly, a British fleet of 9 warships and 60 transports landed 3500 émigré troops at Brittany, to join with 15,000 ‘Chouans’ – anti-government insurgents in the western departments of France.  General Lazare Hoche defeated the invading forces, forcing them to surrender on July 21st.  The next day, on July 22nd, a peace treaty was signed with Spain. 

The new constitution was approved on August 22nd 1795, creating a new form of government for France, that consisted of a Council of 500, a Council of Ancients (with 250 members) and a five-man executive, the Directory.  But before elections could take place, an uprising took place in Paris on October 6th.  Barras, who was made commander of the Army of the Interior, appointed Napoleon Buonaparte, employed at (Carnot’s) Topographic Bureau in the war ministry, as his second-in-command.    Buonaparte’s troops fired cannons loaded with grapeshot at the insurgents as they matched toward the government buildings, killing 400, and the insurrection ended.  Buonaparte was then promoted to General in Chief of the Army of the Interior.


1795, 26 year old artillery officer Napoleon Bonaparte fires against counter revolutionaries in the streets of Paris

The new French government took office on November 2nd 1795, under the five Directors – Paul Barras, Jean-Francois Rewbell, Louis de la Revellierre-Lepeaux, Etienne Letourneur and Lazare Carnot.  Their new Minister of Foreign Affairs was Charles-Francois Delacroix.  One of the Directory’s main concerns was the war against the (remaining) coalition of Austria and Britain.

The decree was communicated to Pickering by Mr. Adet, the Minister Plenipotentiary of the French Republic, on October 27th – and somehow, a copy of this letter was published in the Aurora on October 31st!  Pickering answered Adet’s letter on November 1st, and Adet wrote a long reply to this on November 15th – and, again, a summary of Adet’s reply was published in the Aurora on November 18th!

But Hamilton again stepped forward and wrote ‘The Answer’, published in the Minerva, on December 8th, to refute those objections – raised by Adet in his November 15th letter.  All this was happening during the presidential elections that took place between November 2nd and December 7th!

Note:  Also, at this same time, France abandoned the plan for an attack on the British possessions in India, and instead launched a direct attack on Britain – with an invasion of Ireland (see note on the French Expedition to Ireland in 1796)!!!

The French invasion of Bantry Bay in 1796 was a disaster

On January 16th 1797, Pickering wrote to Pinckney with his answers to the complaints of Adet’s letter of November 15th, and included documents and correspondence of the administration on this matter from 1793 until the present, so that ‘joined with your own observations, you will be enabled, it is believed, to vindicate the United States, and to demonstrate their impartiality as a neutral nation, their fidelity in the observation of treaties, and their friendship as an ally’.  On January 19th, President Washington presented to the Senate and the House of Representatives the entirety of the administration’s correspondence with the French government and with America’s ambassadors, that Pickering had provided to Pinckney.

General Pinckney

On January 22nd, President Washington wrote to Hamilton that “the conduct of France towards the United States, is, according to my ideas of it, outrageous beyond conception: not to be warranted by her treaties with us; by the Law of Nations; by any principle of justice, or even by a regard to decent appearances … In a few days, there will be published a statement of facts, in a letter of references, to General Pinckney [i.e. Pickering’s reply to Adet]; containing full answers to all charges exhibited in Mr. Adet’s notes, against the conduct of this government.  After reading them with attention, I would thank you for your sentiments thereon, fully, and frankly communicated; and what you think ought further to be attempted, to preserve this country in peace, consistently with the respect which is due to ourselves?’  Hamilton replied that ‘I have reflected as maturely as time has permitted on the idea of an extraordinary mission to France, and notwithstanding the objections, I rather incline to it under some shape or other … The best form of the thing in my view is a commission including three persons who may be called Commissioners Plenipotentiary & Extraordinary.  Two of the three should be Mr. Madison and Mr. Pinckney.”

Hamilton justified the actions of the United States in a series of letters, written by ‘Americus’ and called ‘The Warning’, that were published between January 27th and March 27th, in the Gazette of the United States and in the Philadelphia Daily Advertiser.

In Warning No. III, he wrote that “Moderation in every nation is a virtue. In weak or young nations, it is often wise to take every chance by patience and address to divert hostility and in this view to hold parley with insult and injury – but to capitulate with oppression, rather to surrender at discretion to it is in any nation that has any power of resistance as foolish as it contemptible. The honor of a nation is its life. Deliberately to abandon it is to commit an act of political suicide. There is treason in the sentiment avowed in the language of some, and betrayal by the conduct of others, that we ought to bear anything from France rather than go to war with her. The nation which can prefer disgrace to danger is prepared for a master and deserves one.”

On February 8th, the votes of the electors for the presidential election were counted in the Senate, with the head of the Senate, Vice President Adams looking on, as he defeated Jefferson for president – by the slimmest of margins – by 3 votes!  Adams received 71 electoral votes while Jefferson received 68 electoral votes.

Jefferson had swept the southern and western states of South Carolina, Georgia, Kentucky and Tennessee; and took 14 out of 15 votes in Pennsylvania, 20 out of 21 votes in Virginia, and 11 out of 12 votes in North Carolina.  Adams had swept the northern states of New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey and Delaware; and took a single vote in Pennsylvania, Virginia and North Carolina.  In Maryland, Adams had 7 votes, and Jefferson had 4 votes.  Adams owed his victory to those three brave electors in Pennsylvania, Virginia and North Carolina, who withstood enormous pressure and voted for him.

If just a few of his electoral votes had instead gone to Jefferson (or to someone else), there could have been either a tie or Jefferson could have won.  Adams had said that he would refuse to serve again as vice-president, and that he would refuse to serve if he was chosen as president, after a tie vote.  But, instead of thanking Hamilton for his help in getting him elected in a very close contest, Adams blamed Hamilton for his slim margin of victory!

Thomas Pinckney

Hamilton had supported Thomas Pinckney as the Federalists’ candidate for vice-president and had urged all of the federalist electors to vote equally for Adams and Pinckney – as a way of stopping Jefferson from being elected vice-president.  Some of Adam’s supporters feared that if Adams and Pinckney received the same number of votes in the northern states, and if Pinckney received some additional votes in the southern states, or if some of Jefferson’s supporters switched their votes to Pinckney (in order to prevent Adams from being elected), then Pinckney would receive more votes than Adams.  Some of Federalist electors in New England were urged to vote for Adams but not for Pinckney.  (At that time, when the electors cast their two votes, it was not specified which vote was for president and which vote was for vice-president.)

Hamilton was later informed by Stephen Higginson that ‘the blind or devoted partisans of Mr. Adams, instead of being satisfied with his being elected, seem to be alarmed at the danger he was in of failing; and they have the folly to say, that this danger was incurred wholly by the arrangement of pushing him & Pinckney together.  They go further and say, that this arrangement was intended to bring in Pinckney and exclude him … At the head of this Junto, as they call it, they place you and Mr. Jay; and they attribute the design to him & you of excluding Mr. A. from the Chair, which the arrangement alluded to was intended to effect.  They affect also to believe, that it is for the interest of the country to have Mr. Jefferson for vice president rather than Pinckney – that he will serve readily under Mr. Adams, and will be influenced by and coincide with him.’

Pinckney received 59 votes – receiving 8 votes from his home state of South Carolina where Adams received none, but receiving 18 votes less than Adams in the New England states.  By Adams’s supporters not listening to Hamilton’s advice, and, by believing in this fabricated excuse of Hamilton’s and Jay’s treachery, Jefferson became the vice president and the head of the Senate.  John Adams was inaugurated as President of the United States on March 4th 1797.

The day before the inauguration, Adams met with Jefferson, at the Francis Hotel where both of them were staying.  Adams discussed the crisis with France and his wish for Jefferson’s help.  (As Hamilton had earlier suggested), Adams wished to send two emissaries to Paris to join with Pinckney, as part of a 3-man commission to renegotiate and reconcile America’s relations with France.  Knowing that ‘it did not seem justifiable for him to send away the person destined to take his place in case of an accident to himself, nor decent to remove from consideration one who was a rival for public favor’, Adams instead asked Jefferson if he would inquire if Madison would accept being sent to France as a member of the commission – (again, as Hamilton had suggested).  Madison (of course) refused the offer.

On the evening of March 13th, Adams received the news that the French Directory had refused to receive Pinckney as America’s ambassador, and that American ships were being seized in the Caribbean by French cruisers.  In response, on March 25th, Adams asked Congress to reconvene for a special session to begin on May 15th.

Also at that time, news would begin to reach the United States of the attempted French invasion of Ireland.

1.1 A note on the French ‘Expedition to Ireland’ in 1796

In 1790, the Catholic Committee waited on Chief Secretary Hobart (i.e. Prime Minister) and requested him to support a petition to Parliament, simply praying that the grievances of the Catholics might be taken into consideration.  The request was refused.  In the same year an address of loyalty to the Lord Lieutenant Westmorland (i.e. Governor) was contemptuously returned to the Catholics because they had ventured to express the hope that there might be a further relaxation of the Penal Code.  At the beginning of 1791, a deputation from the Catholic Committee went to Dublin Castle (i.e. the seat of government) with a list of the penal laws which they were anxious to have modified and repealed, but they were dismissed without the courtesy of an answer.  Lord Kenmare, a leader of the Committee, was prepared to suffer these insults, but not so the Dublin merchant, John Keogh.

Kenmore moved a resolution in the Committee proposing to leave the measure and extent of future relaxations of the disabilities wholly to the Legislature.  Keogh opposed the resolution and it was defeated; whereupon Kenmare, followed by sixty-eight other landed gentry, resigned from the Committee (in December), and John Keogh became supreme in the councils of the association.  Resolutions were passed in almost all the counties and large towns of the kingdom approving of the conduct of the majority and censuring the sixty-eight ‘seceders’.  Keogh would spend the last 3 months of 1791 in London, along with Richard Burke (the son of Edmund Burke) whose services would be retained by the Catholic Committee, in talks on the grievances of Irish Catholics, with Dundas, Grenville and Pitt, before Keogh and Burke returned to Ireland.

[It should be remembered that in April / May 1791, the debate occurred in the British Parliament on the Quebec Act, whereby French-Canadian Catholics were given the right to vote – in the counties, if they owned a dwelling or land worth 40 shillings yearly, or, in the towns and townships, if they owned a dwelling and lot worth ₤5 yearly. At that same time, Thomas Paine’s ‘The Rights of Man’ was being printed in Ireland.]

In July 1791, Theobald Wolfe Tone (a Protestant from Dublin) was asked to write resolutions for a new society that would be inaugurated during Belfast’s July 14th celebration of the French Revolution, that was organized by the Belfast Volunteers and the Northern Whig Club.  The first resolution – ‘that the weight of English influence on the government of this country was so great as to require a cordial union among all the people of Ireland to maintain that balance which is essential to the preservation of our liberties and the extension of our commerce’ and the second resolution – ‘that the sole constitutional mode by which this influence can be opposed is by a complete and radical reform of the representation of the people in parliament’ were passed; but the third resolution – ‘that no reform is practicable, efficacious, or just, which shall not include Irishmen of every religious persuasion’ caused concern among some of the Volunteers and it was not passed.

In August, Tone would address that concern and would publish a pamphlet addressed to the Irish Dissenters (the Presbyterians) entitled ‘An argument on behalf of the Catholics of Ireland’ – ‘to convince them that they and the Catholics had but one common interest and one common enemy; that the depression and slavery of Ireland was produced and perpetuated by the divisions existing between them, and that, consequently, to assert the independence of their country, and their own individual liberties, it was necessary to forget all former feuds, to consolidate the entire strength of the whole nation, and to form for the future but one people’.

Tone was then invited to Belfast, in October, in order to assist in framing the first club of United Irishmen, and, upon returning to Dublin in November, to form a club there.  The Dublin Society of United Irishmen met on alternate Friday evenings in the Music Hall on Fishamble Street (where Handel’s Messiah was first preformed).  The Catholics flocked in, in droves – including John Keogh.

Belfast Society of United Irishmen

In February 1792, in response to their meetings with Burke and Keogh, the British government introduced a bill in the Irish Parliament to admit Catholics to the bar (to allow them to be solicitors) – but not to permit them to vote or to sit in parliament.  During the course of the debate, the petition, prepared by Richard Burke (with help from his father), was introduced, praying for admission of the Catholics to the electoral franchise.  The bill passed, but the petition was rejected, by a vote of 208 to 23.

In April, Keogh and the Catholic Committee made plans for the election of delegates to a national Catholic Convention – to legitimately represent all 3 million Catholics in Ireland (after the departure of Kenmare and the aristocrats).  The Committee also appointed Tone as its assistant secretary in July!

The convention met in Dublin, on December 2nd 1792, and agreed to send 5 delegates to present their petition directly to the king, demanding that ‘the Catholics might be restored to the equal enjoyment of the blessings of the constitution’ – the end of the penal codes and the right to elective franchise.

After arriving in London and meeting with Henry Dundas, the Secretary of the Home Department, the delegates ‘delivered into the King’s own hands the petition of his Catholic subjects of Ireland’ on January 2nd 1793.

Also, at that time, plans for a national battalion of Volunteers were being discussed, but on December 10th, the Lord Lieutenant issued a proclamation threatening to disperse this new force.

On December 16th, at a meeting of the Dublin Volunteers, Archibald Rowan and Napper Tandy distributed ‘An Address to the Volunteers’, calling for a national battalion; and arrest warrants went out against Rowan, Tandy, the printers of the Address, and the proprietors of the Northern Star – the newspaper of the United Irishmen.

[During the winter of ’92/93, fueled by the downturn in the textile industry, several major cotton and silk businesses collapsed – throwing thousands out of work.  The Defenders were started in reaction to the Peep o’ Day Boys – who were Protestants who launched nighttime raids ‘at the peep o’ day’ on Catholic homes to confiscate arms that Catholics were prohibited from possessing – due to ‘rumours’ that the Catholics were obtaining arms from France.  The Defenders were started to stop the raids, but they also would raid Protestant homes to acquire arms.  After one of their clashes – the ‘Battle of the Diamond’ in September ’95, some Peep o’ Day Boys met and founded the Orange Order.]

In February 1793, during the next sitting of the Irish Parliament, after it was announced that France had declared war against Britain, the House of Lords began secret committee hearings and examined witnesses, to try to link the Irish reformers to the recent Defender disturbances – but also to try to link the reformers with France.

Archibald Rowan

At the 1793 spring assizes, large numbers of Defenders were executed – some immediately upon sentencing, while others were transported.  When the authority of the secret committee was challenged in a paper put out by the Dublin Society of United Irishmen, Simon Butler and Oliver Bond, their chairman and secretary, were immediately imprisoned without trial for 6 months and fined ₤500.  Anyone refusing the summon for witness was also jailed.

On April 9th, the Lord Lieutenant signed into law the Catholic Relief bill, but also the Militia bill.  While these bills offered a small appeasement to the Catholics, they served to divide the lower agrarian and labouring classes from the property-owning and educated ‘gentry’.

The Catholic Relief Bill gave Catholics the right to vote; but an amendment to the bill, to give Catholics admission to Parliament was defeated by a vote of 163 to 69 (an insult to the Catholic ‘gentry’).  The Catholic Committee couldn’t come to agreement, whether or not to reject the bill and to demand full relief, and it would dissolve itself in April.

The Militia bill created a 16,000-man militia for Ireland – ‘to check the spirit of volunteering and to maintain the peace’ – that prohibited any armed associations except government forces (i.e. to eliminate the Volunteers).  Catholics were to be included in the militia – that would be chosen by compulsory ballot – but they could not become officers (an added insult to the Catholic ‘gentry’).  Catholic opposition to the militia levies would result in the ‘militia riots’ that summer.

On August 16th, the last day of that session of parliament, ‘An act to prevent the election or appointment of unlawful assemblies, under the pretense of preparing or presenting public petitions, or other addresses, to his Majesty of the Parliament’ was signed into law, that would prohibit ‘unlawful’ meetings, such as the Catholic Convention or the United Irishmen, and that would prohibit any future petitions!!!  The crackdown had begun.

(Clockwise) Wolfe Tone, Henry Joy McCracken, Thomas Russell, Samuel Neilson

Rowan was finally arrested in December – for distributing ‘An address to the Volunteers’ the previous December, and his trial began in January 1794, with bribed witnesses implicating Rowan in association with the Defenders, and also with the French.  He was found guilty and sentenced to 2 years imprisonment and a ₤500 fine.  (In another trial, the proprietors of the ‘Northern Star’ were acquitted, but the printer of the newspaper, John Rabb, was imprisoned.)  After these trials, all important decisions of the United Irishmen would be conducted in secret.

[In fact, in April 1793, Henry Sheares, who came from a prosperous Irish banking family, returned to Ireland after residing in Paris where he had been a member of the Jacobin Club with Lord Edward Fitzgerald, and became president of the United Irishmen.  At a meeting in May, an offer of military aid from France (for the Volunteers) was made – but was rejected by those introduced to the scheme, including by Rowan (!!!) who felt that nothing could be done in the present situation.  At this time, Tone withdrew entirely from the United Irishmen ‘because of his opposition to violent speeches and writings which would give a handle to government to attack them’.]

In 1794, Rev. William Jackson, a Protestant clergyman who had lived in Paris since 1790, was sent to Great Britain by the Committee of Public Safety of France to communicate with the opposition politicians and to sound out their opinion of a French invasion of Britain and of Ireland, and to bring back an account of the country’s conditions.  In January, he arrived in London, and, in his meetings, was informed that the people were in general anti-French and that a French landing would be repulsed by the bulk of the British populace, which he received in a written statement from the opposition MP, Benjamin Vaughan.  While in London, Jackson was re-acquainted with an old friend, solicitor John Cockayne – who immediately informed the Pitt government of his intended visit to Ireland.  Pitt wished Cockayne to accompany Jackson to Ireland, to watch his movements, and to report everything back to the government.

On April 3rd, the two men arrived in Dublin, where Cockayne effected a meeting with some of leaders of the United Irishmen, through Leonard McNally, whom he had known as a law student in London.

[Leonard McNally had been one of the founding members of the United Irishmen and had acted as the Society’s lawyer, but, after his death in 1820, it would emerge that he had been a paid informant for the British Government (!!!)  – when his heirs attempted to collect his government pension of ₤300 per year!?!  As the lawyer for many of the United Irishmen at their trials – including Tone – he was paid to pass the defense’s secrets to the government prosecution, where they were invariably convicted.  The British were better informed of Jackson’s mission than the French!!!]

On April 12th, Jackson, accompanied by Cockayne and Tone, met with Rowan in Newgate prison, where they discussed possible French aid and were shown Vaughan’s statement.  Tone and Rowan asserted that Ireland’s situation was very different and agreed to write a statement that could be sent to France – that France must disclaim any idea of conquest and announce their intention of helping the people establish the independence of their country.

Dr. Reynolds was chosen to travel to France and act as the agent for the United Irishmen to France’s Committee of Public Safety.  Jackson sent a package to France, that included the statement from Tone and Rowan (but written by Rowan), but it was intercepted by the British, and Jackson was arrested for treason on April 28th.

Rowan escaped from prison on May 1st and fled to France where he met with leading French politicians and delivered a copy of his and Tone’s statement.  (Reynolds also fled, on May 3rd.)  Tone was now offered immunity from prosecution, in return for a full statement of his own involvement and of his conversations with Jackson – and his promise to leave the country.

On May 23rd, a meeting of the Dublin Society of United Irishmen was raided, its papers were seized, leading members were rounded up in the ‘swoop’, and the organization was officially suppressed.

After the coalition government of Pitt and Portland was formed in July, Earl Fitzwilliam was made the new Lord Lieutenant of Ireland – aiming to reconcile the Catholics to British rule.  In February 1795, Fitzwilliam gave Grattan leave to introduce a new Catholic Relief bill, but he was then urged to postpone it by the British ministry.  When he refused, he was immediately recalled, and any hope for a change in the system of governing Ireland ended.

(When his successor, Lord Camden arrived, on March 31st, intense rioting occurred in Dublin.)

The leaders of the Catholics of Dublin met and prepared a new petition to the king, which a delegation, including Keogh and Tone, delivered on March 13th, but they received no response from the government on their intentions, and returned home to Ireland ‘disgusted by the hauteur with which they were received’.

A massive meeting was held on April 9th (nearly 4,000 attended) to report back on their delegation, with speeches ‘that the Catholics of Ireland, refused this time, would never again seek the favour of the British Cabinet’; and that the independence of their country would not be traded for their own liberty – a pamphlet had recently been published which claimed that Pitt planned a union of the two countries as the price of emancipation.  Keogh declared that ‘the present was the last time the Catholics would ever assemble in a distinct body – their cause being no longer a distinct cause, but adopted by their Protestant brethren as the common cause of Ireland’.

After many delays, Jackson’s trial finally took place on April 23rd, he was found guilty, but before sentence could be pronounced, he died of a self-administered dose of arsenic.  On May 4th, Grattan’s bill for Catholic emancipation was defeated by 84 votes to 155.  Although the Society of United Irishmen had been suppressed (after the May 1794 raids), plans for a new, secret, oath-bound United Irish Society were now made – that would unite the United Irishmen with the Catholics and the Defenders.

Although Tone and Rowan had been reluctant at their meetings with Jackson to accept the offer of French aid, Tone now decided that he would leave Ireland and go into exile in America, and as he confided to his close friends – ‘that my intention was, immediately on my arrival in Philadelphia, to wait on the French minister, to detail to him, fully, the situation of affairs in Ireland, to endeavour to obtain a recommendation to the French government, and, if I succeeded so far, to leave my family in America, and to set off instantly for Paris, and apply, in the name of my country, for the assistance of France, to enable us to assert our independence’.  Tone left Dublin and arrived in Belfast on May 2nd, and was asked, by the ‘new’ United Irishmen, to be their delegate to France.  On June 13th, Tone left Belfast, with his wife and children, and arrived in America on August 1st.

[During the ocean voyage, their ship was stopped by three British frigates, boarded and rummaged, and ‘they pressed every one of our hands, save one, and near fifty of my unfortunate fellow-passengers, who were most of them flying to America to avoid the tyranny of a bad government at home, and who thus most unexpectedly fell under the severest tyranny, one of them at least, which exists’ !!!  Tone was ordered into the boat by one of the lieutenants, and he would have also ‘been pressed and sent on board a man-of-war’, but ‘it was only the screams of my wife and sister which induced him to desist’.]

Tone would soon meet Reynolds and Rowan in Philadelphia.  Rowan had left France after the 9th of Thermidor and the dissolution of the Committee of Public Safety – he had suffered imprisonment under ‘The Terror’ – and the plans for French aid for Ireland were forgotten in the confusion at this time.

Through Rowan, Tone was able to meet with Adet, the French minister in the United States, and Tone provided him with a memorial on the situation in Ireland, which Adet later sent to the new French government.

Tone had reported that although a French invasion would find little support in England, that would not be the case in Ireland.  He claimed that over 1/2 of British forces in Ireland was the Irish militia, that 2/3 of the British navy was manned by Irishmen (!?!) and that were Ireland to join with France, England would be destroyed and the Liberty of Mankind assured.

But Tone ‘did not expect that the French government might take notice of my memorial, and if they did not there was an end to all my hopes’.  Tone would buy a 180-acre farm near Princeton, intending ‘not to interfere, in any degree, directly or indirectly, with their politics’  (Tone had arrived in the midst of the fight over Jay’s Treaty) and later writing of ‘my debt of gratitude to the United States for the asylum they have afforded me … their government is the best under heaven … you can have no idea from anything you have ever seen or read, or fancied, of the affluence and ease in which they universally live.’

But, after receiving letters telling him ‘that the state of the public mind in Ireland was advancing to republicanism faster than even I could believe … they pressed me, in the strongest manner, to fulfil the engagement I had made with them at my departure, and to move heaven and earth to force my way to the French government in order to supplicate their assistance’, Tone left for Philadelphia and met with Adet, who was now most willing to assist him, and who gave him a letter of recommendation to the French government and money for his expenses.

Tone also met with John Beckley, the Clerk of the House of Representatives, who helped Tone to secure an American passport and who also gave him a coded instruction to James Monroe, the American envoy in France.  Tone sailed from New York on January 1st and arrived in Paris, France on February 12th 1796.

Since Tone had travelled with an American passport, he first visited Monroe, the American Minister to France, who arranged a meeting with Delacroix, the Foreign Minister of France, and on February 24th, Tone was able to meet with Lazare Carnot, member of the Directory.  Tone agreed to prepare two memorials on the situation in Ireland and was then was assigned to meet with General Henry Clarke, the head of Carnot’s Bureau of Topographie et Historique Militaire, and Tone presented him with copies of his memorials.

By July, Tone had met with General Lazare Hoche, who would be appointed to lead the invasion of Ireland.  On October 30th, Tone, now appointed Adjutant-General in the French army, arrived at Brest to help with the preparations that were being delayed, because the fleet at Brest had been instead preparing for an expedition against the British possessions in India – the India expedition was cancelled by the Directory on October 13th, and the naval commander was replaced by Vice Admiral Morard de Galles..

On December 16th, a fleet of 43 ships set sail from Brest – one day before the Directory cancelled the Irish expedition and ordered Hoche to take his troops to Italy!!!  Tone sailed on the 80-gun ship-of-the-line ‘Indomptable’ under the command of Captain Bedout, a Canadian, and Hoche sailed with de Galles on the 36-gun frigate ‘Fraternite’, along with 16 other ships-of-the-line, 12 other frigates, and with 13 corvettes and transports.  The fleet sailed south through the Raz de Sein (with its treacherous reefs and turbulent seas), at night, in order to avoid the blockading British fleet.  When the ‘Fraternite’ decided to abandon the plan and sail through the main channel, most of the ships failed to see the signal, or were confused with the signal from a ship-of-the-line that floundered on the rocks, and in the darkness, the fleet became scattered – with Hoche and the ‘Fraternite’ blown out into the Atlantic!

By the 19th, Rear Admiral Bouvet and General Grouchy, assumed command, were able to rendezvous with 33 ships (with 10 ships still missing, including the ‘Fraternite’) and set sail for the south coast of Ireland, anchoring at Bantry Bay on the 21st, in preparation for landing, and having now regrouped to 36 ships.  That night the weather worsened, with a heavy gale and driving hail and snow that continued for days – 1 frigate was driven ashore and destroyed losing almost 550 men, while 2 other frigates were lost but the men were rescued.

On December 29th, with supplies running low, Bouvet abandoned any attempt at a landing and ordered a return of the ships to France.  On December 30th, Hoche and the ‘Fraternite’ finally arrived at Bantry Bay, discovered that the rest of the fleet was gone, and decided to return to France behind the rest of the damaged fleet.

On December 31st, a British frigate squadron began a pursuit of the retreating French fleet, and were able to capture 3 transports, 2 corvettes, and 1 frigate; and they also attacked 1 ship-of -the-line which was wrecked on a sandbar.  In the unsuccessful Irish expedition, the French had lost a total of 10 ships; and 2000 soldiers and sailors were drowned.

Tone reached Brest on January 1st 1797, while Hoche arrived at La Rochelle on January 12th.  Hoche was then sent to command the Army of the Sambre and Meuse and he invited Tone to join his staff on the Rhine.

2. The Reynolds Affair Pamphlet, August 15th, 1797

Two weeks before Congress met in this special session, a letter of Jefferson’s was published in the Minerva on May 2nd 1797.  A year earlier, on April 24th 1796, during the House debate and fight over Jay’s treaty, Jefferson had written a letter to his former neighbour, Philip Mazzei.  On January 25th 1797, a translation of this letter had appeared in Paris in the Gazette Nationale ou le Moniteur Universel, along with 4 added paragraphs that were highly critical of America’s foreign policy.  When Noah Webster obtained a copy of this French newspaper, he printed a translation of the letter and the commentary in his newspaper, the Minerva.

Note: While living in London as a wine merchant and a teacher of Italian, Mazzei had met Dr. Benjamin Franklin.  While helping Dr. Franklin, he was encouraged in his idea to import Tuscan products to America.  In 1773, he sailed from Italy with plants, seeds, silkworms and 10 farmers, to Virginia, where he became friends with Jefferson, who gave him about 200 acres of land, and along with the 700 acres that he purchased, he set up an experimental plantation.  In 1775, he joined the Independent Company of Albemarle County to fight the British landing at Hampton.  In 1778, he returned to Italy as an agent of the state of Virginia, where he shipped arms to Virginia during the Revolutionary War and wrote a political history of the Revolution.

In ‘A Nation of Immigrants’, John F. Kennedy wrote that ‘The great doctrine “All men are created equal” and incorporated into the Declaration of Independence by Thomas Jefferson, was paraphrased from the writing of Philip Mazzei, an Italian-born patriot and pamphleteer, who was a close friend of Jefferson … Mazzei and Jefferson often exchanged ideas about true liberty and freedom.  No one man can take credit for the ideals of American democracy.’

Philip Mazzei

Appearing in ‘The Virginia Gazette, 1774. Translated by a friend and neighbor, Thomas Jefferson’ was the following, ‘all men are by nature equally free and independent.  Such quality is necessary in order to create a free government.  All men must be equal to each other in natural law.’

Jefferson had written to Mazzei that ‘an Anglican, monarchical and aristocratical party has sprung up, whose avowed object is to draw over us the substance, as they have already done the forms, of the British government.  The main body of our citizens however remain true to their republican principles, the whole landed interest is with them, and so is the great mass of talents.  Against us are the Executive, the Judiciary, two out of three branches of the legislature, all of the officers of the government, all who want to be officers, all timid men who prefer the calm of despotism to the boisterous sea of liberty, British merchants and Americans trading on British capitals, speculators and holders in the banks and public funds, a contrivance invented for the purposes of corruption and for assimilating us in all things, to the rotten as well as the sound parts of the British model.  It would give you a fever were I to name to you the apostates who have gone over to these heresies, men who were Samsons in the field and Solomons in the council, but who have had their heads shorn by the harlot England.’

This was seen as another of Jefferson’s thinly veiled, personal attacks on President Washington.

Note: Earlier on July 6th 1796, President Washington had written to Jefferson and expressed his anger over a leaked cabinet memorandum, that ‘I should be accused of being the enemy of one Nation, and Subject to the influence of another; and to prove it, that every act of my Administration would be tortured, and the grossest, & most insidious misrepresentations of them be made (by giving one side only of a subject, and that too in such exaggerated, & indecent term as could scarcely be applied to a Nero; a notorious defaulter; or even to a common pickpocket)’.  This would be the last personal letter between the two.

James Monroe arrived in Philadelphia from France on June 27th, and met with Jefferson, Aaron Burr and Albert Gallatin to express his indignation at being recalled as American minister to France.  Monroe would now begin work on a 500-page book that attacked President Washington and his administration’s policies. It would be entitled ‘A View of the Conduct of the Executive in the Foreign Affairs of the United States’ and would be published by Benny Bache in December 1797.

Soon afterwards, a series of pamphlets, written by James Callender (who used to write for Bache’s Aurora) began to appear, and in July, they would be subsequently published together as a 312-page book that was entitled ‘The History of the United States for 1796’.  In pamphlet # 5, Callender wrote that ‘the unfounded reproaches heaped on Mr. Munroe, form the immediate motive to the publication of these papers’ – that Callender tried to use in his attempt to charge Hamilton with official misconduct.  This would become known as the ‘Reynolds Affair’.

Callender published all the documents (that Monroe was supposed to have safely stored).  One statement, signed by Clingman on December 13th 1792, read that Reynolds had said ‘that colonel Hamilton had made $30,000 by speculation, that colonel Hamilton had supplied him with money to speculate.’

Another statement, signed by Monroe on January 2nd, 1793, read that ‘Mr. Clingman called on me this evening and mentioned that he had been apprized of Mr Hamilton’s vindication by Mr. Wolcott the day or two after our interview with him. He further observed to me that he communicated the same to Mrs. Reynolds, who appeared much shocked at it & wept immoderately. That she denied the Imputation & declared that it had been a fabrication of Colonel Hamilton and that her Husband had joined in it, who had told her so, & that he had given him rects. for Money & written letters, so as to give countenance to the pretence’.

The pamphlet stated that ‘the charge of Reynolds wears a more serious aspect.  If he was one agent for the purchase of certificates, it may well be conceived though it cannot yet be proved, that our secretary had 20 others … Let him observe that this narrative is explicit; and that under the circumstances of the affair, silence will be more fatal to his character, than the most feeble vindication’.

[Callender was implying that the affair with Mrs. Reynolds was merely a means to cover up this claimed charge against Hamilton – that he had speculated on government securities for his own personal gain.]

In the summer of 1791, Hamilton was duped into having an affair with Mrs. Maria Reynolds (it is uncertain if her husband, James Reynolds, was a fellow conspirator in the blackmail plot) and by December, James Reynolds was threatening to inform Hamilton’s wife about the affair, unless he received $1000.  The blackmail continued until, by the summer of 1792, Hamilton had stopped seeing Mrs. Reynolds.

Maria Reynolds and Alexander Hamilton

But in November, James Reynolds and Jacob Clingman were arrested and charged with defrauding the United States government – after they had obtained a list of veterans that were owed money by the government (a list that was stolen from the Treasury Department) and they had posed as the executors of a supposedly deceased veteran.  Reynolds sought Hamilton’s help, but when he received no assistance, Reynolds loudly began insinuating that he could ‘make disclosures injurious to the character of some head of a department’.  Clingman sought the help of former House Speaker Frederick Muhlenberg (having formerly been Muhlenberg’s clerk) and Muhlenberg met with Hamilton to strike a deal – if Reynolds and Clingman refunded the money, returned the stolen list of veterans and identified the Treasury employee who had leaked the document to them, then the charges would be dropped.

Frederick Muhlenberg

Clingman had told Muhlenberg that Reynolds possessed damning information concerning Hamilton – that Hamilton was deep into speculation and that he had also provided Reynolds with money for that illicit speculation.  Believing that he could not hide such information, Muhlenberg met with Senator James Monroe and Congressman Abraham Venable on December 12th, and showed them some notes from Hamilton to Reynolds, that Clingman had obtained from Mrs. Reynolds.  They met with Reynolds in prison – who promised that he could divulge more, once he was freed, and they later met with Mrs. Reynolds.  After being released from prison that day, Reynolds, with Clingman, went to arrange a meeting with Hamilton.  After meeting with Hamilton the next morning, Reynolds vanished from Philadelphia.  However, Reynolds had promised Monroe and Venable that he would meet them that day.  When they discovered that he had couldn’t be found, they became suspicious that maybe Hamilton was guilty of some kind of misconduct.

Before they presented their findings to President Washington, they first went to meet with Hamilton himself, and confront him with their findings.  On December 15th, Muhlenberg, Monroe and Venable met with Hamilton and Oliver Wolcott, at Hamilton’s home, where Hamilton confessed to his affair with Mrs. Reynolds, and produced a batch of letters from both James and Maria Reynolds.  With their suspicions of misconduct removed, the three legislators swore that they would keep the incident confidential.  When Hamilton asked for copies of the documents that they had shown him (that they had gotten from Clingman), Monroe had John Beckley, the recently ousted clerk of the House of Representatives, make the copies for him!  Beckley, a Jeffersonian loyalist, decided to preserve copies of the papers for himself!

The Reynolds affair would be kept quiet, except for ‘deep whispers’ in the rumour mills, for 4 ½ years.

Note: Jefferson wrote a memorandum noting ‘the affair of Reynolds and his wife’ on December 17th 1791 – a mere 2 days after Monroe’s meeting with Hamilton!  And, when Jefferson became president, he would restore Beckley as the clerk of the House of Representatives, and would appoint him as the first librarian of Congress!

In May 1793, Mrs. Reynolds would file for divorce from her husband, hiring as her lawyer – Aaron Burr!  The day that the divorce became official, Maria would marry Jacob Clingman!!!

Aaron Burr

On July 6th, Hamilton wrote to John Fenno, the publisher of Callender’s pamphlets, regarding the paragraph that stated that ‘during the late canvas for the election of a president, Webster in his Minerva (Noah Webster was the editor of the Minerva), gave a hint that Mr. Hamilton would be an advisable candidate.  A person in this city who chanced to see this newspaper, wrote immediately to a correspondent in New York.  The letter desired him to put himself in Mr. Hamilton’s way, and inform him that if Webster should in future print a single paragraph on that head, the papers referred to were instantly to be laid before the world.  It is believed the message was delivered to Mr. Hamilton, for the Minerva became silent.’

Hamilton declared that this was ‘wholly false, and that I never received any such intimation as is therby pretended from any persons whatever.  As to the papers contained in the pamphlet, from a cursory perusal, I take them to be authentic.  But the solution of them is simply this – they were the contrivance of two of the most profligate men in the world to obtain their liberation from imprisonment for a serious crime by the favor of party spirit.’

He continued that ‘a full explanation took place between them (Monroe, Muhlenberg and Venable) and myself … in which by written documents I convinced them of the falsehood of the accusation.  They declared themselves perfectly satisfied with the explanation, and expressed their regret at the necessity which had been occasioned to me of making it.  It is my intention shortly to place the subject more precisely before the public.’

Callender had also written that ‘when some of the papers which are now to be laid before the world, were submitted to the secretary; when he was informed that they were to be communicated to President Washington, he entreated in the most anxious tone of deprecation, that this measure might be suspended.  Mr. Monroe was one of the three gentlemen who agreed to a delay.  They gave their consent to it, on his express promise of a guarded behaviour in future, and because he attached to the suppression of these papers, a mysterious degree of solicitude, which they, feeling no personal resentment against the individual, were willing to augment.’  And, further on, Callender wrote that Hamilton had made ‘a volunteer acknowledgement of seduction`.

[This statement is nowhere to be found in any of the documents that were published, implying that it must have been told to Callender by someone who was one of the three men at the meeting with Hamilton – perhaps this is why Hamilton blamed Monroe for the release of the papers.  After all, it was Monroe who was supposed to have stored the papers, but who had allowed Beckley to make copies for Hamilton (and for himself !!!)]

Regarding this statement of Callender’s, Hamilton wrote to Monroe (and to Muhlenberg and Venable) on July 5th, that ‘the peculiar nature of this transaction renders it impossible that you should not recollect it in all its parts and that your own declarations to me at the time contradicts absolutely the construction which the Editor of the Pamphlet puts upon the affair.  Ì think myself entitled to ask from your candour and justice a declaration equivalent to that which was made me at the time in the presence of Mr. Wolcott by yourself and the other two gentlemen, accompanied by a contradiction of the representations in the comments cited above.’

On July 11th, Hamilton (with John Church) met with Monroe (with David Gelston) where Hamilton requested ‘an immediate answer to so important a subject in which his character, the peace & reputation of his family were so deeply interested.’  Monroe gave his explanation on ‘a relation of the facts & circumstances individually as they appeared to him’ and that ‘the packet of papers before alluded to, he yet believed remained sealed with his friend in Virginia (Jefferson), but Hamilton replied that ‘your representation is totally false.’

This nearly resulted in a duel between them, except for the intervention of Church and Gelston.  It was then agreed that the matter should rest, until Monroe returned to Philadelphia and a meeting could be had with Mr. Venable & Mr. Muhlenberg and a joint letter or answer could be given.  The answer from Monroe and Muhlenberg, written on July 17th, was ‘that the explanation of the nature of yr. connection with Reynolds which you then gave, removed the suspicions we had before entertained of your being connected with him in speculation.’

However, Hamilton was still not satisfied and wanted an explanation of Monroe’s document of his meeting with Clingman on January 2nd 1793, that ‘it may be inferred, from the attention to record the information of Clingman therein stated after what had passed between us, that you meant to give credit and sanction to the suggestion that the defense set up by me was an imposition.’

After a series of letters between them and another threat of a duel, Monroe released a certificate on August 16th, that ‘I hereby certify that it was not my intention to give any sanction to, or opinion of my own, as to the entry which bears my single signature, in the papers containing an inquiry into Colo. Hamilton’s conduct, by messrs. Muhlenburg Venable & myself in 1792, but that I meant it to stand on the credit of Mr. Clingman only upon whose application the entry was made.’

On July 22nd, Hamilton had written to Fenno again, to state that it was his intention ‘to place before the public an exact detail of the affair in all its circumstances, accompanied with the written documents which explain unequivocally its true nature.’  On August 15th, Hamilton had published a 95-page pamphlet (37 pages of his personal confession of adultry and 58 pages of supporting letters and affidavits), entitled ‘Observations on Certain Documents Contained in No. V & VI of “The History of the United States for the Year 1796”, in which the Charge of Speculation Against Alexander Hamilton, Late Secretary of the Treasury, is Fully Refuted’.

While Hamilton was willing to sacrifice the reputation of his private life, he fought to preserve his public honour – and the integrity of President Washington’s administration, identifying his true enemy as ‘the spirit of Jacobinism’ and ‘the Jacobin Scandal Club’.

A week later, on August 21st, General Washington sent a gift to Hamilton and wrote that ‘Not for any intrinsic value the thing possesses, but as a token of my sincere regard for you and as a remembrance of me, I pray you to accept a wine cooler for four bottles … and that you would be persuaded that with every sentiment of the highest regard, I remain your sincere friend and affectionate honorable servant.’

3. Adams Sends Three Envoys to France, May 31st, 1797

On May 1st 1797, Secretary of State Pickering sent his report to President Adams regarding ‘General Pinckney’s mission to the French Republic’ and ‘French depredations on the Commerce of the United States’, in which Pickering compared the British captures with the many French captures, and recommended, among the following measures: ‘1. that provision be made for equipping & manning the frigates … 5. that the principal seaports of the United States be put in a proper state of defense … 6. that a provisional army be organized, to consist of 30,000 men, to be in readiness for actual service, if a war should take place … 12. that provision be made … to punish those American citizens who shall fit out or serve on board privateers which shall cruise against or annoy the commerce of the United States’.

On May 16th, at the Special Session, President Adams addressed both houses of Congress that ‘… while we are endeavouring to adjust all our differences with France, by amicable negotiation, the progress of the war in Europe, the depredations on our commerce, the personal injuries to our citizens, and the general complexion of affairs, render it my indispensable duty to recommend to your consideration effectual measures of defense …’

‘A naval power, next to the militia, is the natural defense of the United States … our sea coasts, from their great extent, are more easily annoyed, and more easily defended, by a naval force than any other …’

‘It remains for Congress to proscribe such regulations as will enable our seafaring citizens to defend themselves against violations of the law of nations, and at the same time restrain them from committing acts of hostility against the powers of war.  In addition to this voluntary provision for defense by individual citizens, it appears to me necessary to equip the frigates, and provide other vessels of inferior force, to take under convoy such merchant vessels as shall remain unarmed …’

‘The greater part of the cruisers, whose depredations have been most injurious, have been built, and some of them partially equipped, in the United States … if a mode can be devised, by the wisdom of Congress, to prevent the resources of the United States from being converted into the means of annoying our trade, a great evil will be prevented.  With the same view, I think it proper to mention that some of our citizens resident abroad have fitted out privateers, and others have voluntarily taken the command, or entered on board of them, and committed spoliations on the commerce of the United States.  Such unnatural and iniquitous practices can be restrained only by severe punishments …’

‘To guard against sudden and predatory incursions, the situation of some of our principal seaports demand your consideration; and as our country is vulnerable in other interests beside those of its commerce, you will seriously deliberate, whether the means of general defense ought to be increased, by an addition to the regular artillery and cavalry, and by arrangements for forming a provisional army.’

Congress would pass ‘an act to prevent citizens of the United States from privateering against nations in amity with, or against citizens of, the United States’; ‘an act to provide for the further defense of the ports and harbors of the United States’; ‘an act directing a detachment from the militia of the United States’ – to organize, arm, equip and hold in readiness to march at a moment’s warning, 80,000 militia; and ‘an act providing a naval armament’, that would cause 3 of the 6 frigates, authorized by the Naval Act of 1794, to be manned and employed.

President Adams signed this last act into law on July 1st, creating the United States Navy – as President Washington had earlier envisioned.  The USS United States had been launched on May 10th 1797 at Philadelphia, and would be followed by the launching of the USS Constellation on September 7th at Baltimore, and the launching of the USS Constitution on October 21st at Boston.

On May 31st, Adams nominated Charles Pinckney, along with John Marshall and Francis Dana to be envoys extraordinary and ministers plenipotentiary to the French Republic.  When Dana couldn’t serve due to ill health, he was replaced by Elbridge Gerry on June 20th.

Elbridge Gerry

On June 21st, Pickering would submit to Adams his requested report that ‘American vessels have been captured since the 1st of October 1796, by the armed vessels of Spain, Great Britain and France’.  Of Spain, he wrote that ‘there have, probably, been a number of captures by Spanish cruisers’.  Of Great Britain, he wrote that ‘captures and losses by British cruisers, the Secretary presumes, have not been numerous’.  But of France, he gave a detailed report of all of the reported incidences and listed the 316 American vessels captured by the French!!!

By July of 1797, Marshall and Gerry had left the United States to travel to Europe as Adam’s peace commissioners to the government of France.  They were first to meet Pinckney in the Netherlands before travelling to Paris.  Pinckney was at The Hague, where he had gone after the French government had refused to receive him as American ambassador, threatened him with imprisonment and expelled him from France in January 1797.

Marshall arrived in Amsterdam after being delayed by a British blockade of the Netherlands, and joined Pinckney at The Hague, where they awaited the arrival of Gerry, before proceeding to Paris to meet with the members of the Directory.

In a letter to General Washington on September 15th, Marshall wrote that ‘you have observed the storm which has been gathering in Paris.  The thunderbolt has at length been launched at the heads of the leading members of the legislature, and has, it is greatly to be feared, involved in one common ruin with them, the constitution and liberties of their country.’  Marshall proceeded to report on the coup d’etat of September 4th.

‘Since the election of the new third’ (during March and April of 1797, elections were held for one third of the legislature, as provided for in the new constitution – 205 out of 216 were defeated, only 11 were re-elected) ‘there were found in both branches of the legislature a majority in favour of moderate measures, and, apparently, wishing sincerely for peace.  They have manifested a disposition which threatened a condemnation of the conduct of the directory towards America, a scrutiny into the transactions of Italy, particularly those respecting Venice and Genoa, an inquiry into the disposition of public money and such a regular arrangement of the finances as would prevent in future those dilapidations which are suspected to have grown out of their disorder …’

‘Carnot and Barthelemy, two of the Directory, were with the legislature.  The cry of a conspiracy to re-establish royalism was immediately raised against them.  An envoy was dispatched to the army of Italy to sound its disposition.  It was represented that the legislature was hostile to the armies, that it withheld their pay and subsistence, that by its opposition to the Directory it encouraged Austria and Britain to reject the terms of peace which were offered by France and which but for that opposition would have been accepted, and finally that it had engaged in a conspiracy for the destruction of the constitution and the republic and for the restoration of the royalty … To support the general charge of a conspiracy in favor of royalty, I know of no particular facts alleged against the arrested members except Pichegru and two or three others …’

‘The story at large is still more improbable … because Pichegru is made in the first moment of conversation to unbosom himself entirely to a perfect stranger who had only told him that he came from the Prince of Conde and could not exhibit a single line or testimonial of any sort to prove that he had ever seen that Prince or that he was not a spy employed by some enemies of the General.  This story is repelled by Pichegru’s character which has never before been defiled.  Great as were the means he possessed of personal aggrandizement he retired clean handed from the army, without adding a shilling to his private fortune … Yet this improbable and unsupported tale seems to be received as an established truth by those who the day before his fall bowed to him as an idol …’

‘Indeed sir, the constitution has been violated in so many instances that it would require a pamphlet to detail them.  The detail would be unnecessary for the great principle seems to be introduced that the government is to be administered according to the will of the armies and not according to the will of the nation.’

General Washington replied to Marshall on December 4th that ‘it is laughable enough, however, to behold those men, amongst us, who were reprobating in the severest terms, and sounding the tocsin upon every occasion that wild imagination could torture into a stretch of power, or unconstitutionality in the executive of the United States, all of a sudden become the warm advocates of those high handed measures of the French Directory which succeeded the arrestations of the 4th of September; and this too without denying that the barriers of the constitution, under which they acted have been overleaped, but do it on the ground of tender mercy and an unwillingness to shed blood.  But so it always has been and I presume ever will be, with men who are governed more by passion and party views than by dictates of justice, temperance and sound policy.’

Pinckney and Marshall decided to leave immediately for Paris without Gerry, but, en route, they received news that Gerry would soon arrive.  On October 4th, Gerry arrived at Paris, and on the 6th, the three commissioners would request a meeting with the new minister of Foreign Affairs, Talleyrand, to present their credentials.

But the French government they were sent to meet would be a different government when they arrived.

3.1 A note on the French Coup d’Etat of 18 Fructidor and the Dutch Expedition to Ireland in 1797

After the failed attempt of the French expedition to Ireland in December 1796, the British government would place Ulster under martial law – guns were seized and houses burned in a campaign to disarm the province, and by June 1797, over 100 United Irishmen leaders would be arrested and in prison.  The Northern Star’s office was attacked, its proprietors were arrested, and its presses were destroyed.

A secret committee of the United Irishmen now appointed Edward Lewins their special envoy to France – to thank the Directory for the Bantry Bay attempt, to ask for another expedition of 20,000 men and 100,000 arms, and to ask for a commitment from France to insist on Irish independence in any peace negotiations with Britain.  Lewins was to give the French information on the strength and position of the British defenses – 18,000 regulars, 20,000 militia (although 1/3 of the militia were Irishmen sympathizers), and 25,000 (Orangemen) yeomanry; and was to inform them that they could expect help from 100,000 Irishmen on their arrival.  Plus, a mutiny broke out in the British navy in April (lasting until June) as men refused to sail until their petition for better conditions and better wages had been answered – later to be blamed on the Irish component of 50% or more on board the mutinous ships!

On May 29th, Hoche met Lewins, and the next day, sent his report to the Directory for a second expedition.  Carnot replied that the Directory had not abandoned the Irish, but that Britain was clearly master of the seas, and France could not then spare the necessary troops and ships to combat such supremacy; but he would happily permit Hoche to organize the dispatch of arms and some troops from Holland.  Taking up an offer from the Batavian Republic, Hoche, Tone and Lewins met with General Daendels and with the Batavian Committee of Foreign Affairs at the Hague on June 28th.

On July 1st, Hoche received his orders to take command of the Irish expedition, and to assemble a force of 8,000 men that had been retained near Brest; and he then sent Tone to the Texel to accompany the Dutch fleet.  Hoche professed to believe that there was only enough infantry to guard the west coast of France, with no cavalry or artillery, and so he ordered an infantry division of 6,000 men, a chasseur division of 3,000 men, and an artillery division of 1,000 men from his army to march – nominally, on Brest, but in reality, on Paris!  On July 9th, under the pretext of moving some of his troops to Brest for the expedition against Ireland, and by an arrangement made only with Barras, Hoche began a march to Paris with a force of 10,000 men.

Note: After the French elections in March and April of 1797, to replace 1/3 of the members of both of the legislative houses, the old ‘Conventionists’ members were almost all defeated by new members who were in ‘Opposition’ to the ‘Thermidoreans’.  (Only 13 out of 216 ‘conventionists’ were re-elected – and one of these was Joseph Bonaparte, older brother of Napoleon.)  The triumvirate in the Directory – Reubel, Reviellere and Barras – now sought to eliminate the ‘opposition’ members with a coup.

On July 16th, Barras (and the triumvirate) nominated Hoche to be the new Minister of War; on the 18th, nominated Talleyrand to be the new minister of foreign affairs – both, over the opposition of Carnot; and Barras also had Fouche organize a secret police.

Hoche to be the new Minister of War

On July 18th, when Hoche’s forces arrived near Paris, the Councils became alarmed, since the Constitution forbade the entry of troops within the city; and Carnot, the president of the Directory, inquired severely of Hoche.  When Barras would not take any responsibility for Hoche’s army’s movement, a confused Hoche had to withdraw – becoming the scapegoat for the failed attempt at a coup d’etat.  The council then found that Hoche was not yet thirty – the age required by the constitution for ministers, and Hoche now had to renounce his appointment as war minister, and he left Paris in disgust.  While the Directory ordered him on July 28th, to continue his march to Brest, Hoche refused to embark and he returned to his command of the Army of the Sambre et Meuse.

The first attempt at a coup d’etat (using Hoche) by the Triumvirate had failed, and Barras now turned to his other general – Bonaparte.  At the request of Barras, Bonaparte sent General Augereau to Paris, where the Directory appointed him to command the Military Division of Paris.

Note: After having put down the Jacobin uprising in Paris in October 1795 – while under the command of Barras, General Napoleon Bonaparte (who changed his name from Buonaparte) was then given the command of France’s Army of Italy on March 2nd, 1796 – a few days after he had married Josephine de Beauharnais, the former lover of Barras.

Paul Barras

On September 4th, Augereau’s troops occupied the city of Paris, arresting Pichegru, the president of the Council of 500, Barbe-Marbois, the president of the Council of the Ancients, and the Director Barthelemy, and attempted to arrest Director Carnot, who was able to avoid assassination and escaped.  The next day, on evidence supplied by Bonaparte, Pichegru was charged with treason, and the results of the election were annulled.

Thirty-two newspapers and journals were shut down, the journalists and editors were arrested and, along with sixty-five other leading opposition deputies, were condemned to exile in Guyana.

[The Jacobins were back in power, but this was merely the first step in the surrender of France to a dictatorship.]

On September 3rd, Daendels dispatched Tone to meet with Hoche with new proposals for the Irish expedition – the first landing of 20,000 men at Lough Swilly in the north of Ireland would be followed by 15,000 troops sent to Scotland to create the impression that England herself was under attack, forcing the British to withdraw troops from Ireland for home defense.

On September 13th Tone arrived at Hoche’s headquarters at Wetzlar but Hoche did not like the plan of a second landing and promised to give an answer in 3 or 4 days and to then send Tone to Paris with his decision.  Tone, however, was more worried about the deteriorating physical condition of Hoche, who died on September 19th from consumption (tuberculosis).

De Winter, the Vice-Admiral of the Batavian fleet at Texel, now decided that any attempt to join the French forces at Brest was impractical, and he abandoned the plan for an Irish expedition.

On October 8th, De Winter sailed his fleet out of Texel, on orders to conduct a sweep of the southern North Sea in search of weak British naval forces that could be overwhelmed by his fleet.  On October 11th, the British North Sea fleet attacked and defeated De Winter’s fleet off the Dutch coast near the village of Camperduin.

4. Talleyrand Becomes French Foreign Minister, July 15th 1797


Talleyrand had lived in the United States from the summer of 1794 until the summer of 1796, when, with the assistance of Madame de Stael, the National Convention struck his name from the list of emigres and he was allowed to return to France.

In January 1794, while living in London, he was informed that he must leave the country or be deported.  Fearing that were he to return to France, he would face the guillotine, he sought refuge in the United States – along with the thousands of other French emigres who emigrated to America in the 1790’s.  During his time in Philadelphia, Talleyrand could frequently be found with other French emigres who would gather at the bookstore of Moreau de St. Mery.  Talleyrand also made 2 trips to New York, where he was the house guest of Aaron Burr.

Arriving in Philadelphia in April 1794, he stayed at the home of Theophile Cazenove, who had lived with Talleyrand in Paris in the 1780’s, and as his financial adviser, had advised him on speculations in land and currency in the United States.  Cazenove was now the American agent of the Holland Land Company, a syndicate of Dutch banking houses – one of which was Van Staphorst and Hubbard, a firm that financed the debt of the United States, and one of whose partners was Nicholas Hubbard – who would later become known as Mr. W.

Talleyrand formed a partnership to purchase land with Cazenove and Jean Conrad Hottinguer – who would become known as Mr. X.  Hottinguer was a former Zurich banker, who had set up his own bank in Paris in the 1780’s and who also fled from Paris in 1793 to avoid the guillotine.  Hottinguer moved to London, where he married an American, and then emigrated to Philadelphia in 1795.  Later, he would move to Hamburg, where he formed a land company that sold land in America to French emigres.  Hottinguer returned to Amsterdam and then to Paris to raise money for the company and later opened his own bank in Paris in 1798.

The secretary of the land company was Pierre Bellamy, of the banking firm of Bellamy and Ricci, who would become known as Mr. Y.  Bellamy had been a banker in Geneva, but after the revolution in 1794, had fled to Hamburg where he formed a new bank with his partner, Gabriel-Marie Ricci, another French émigré.

When Talleyrand returned to Europe in 1796, he was met in Hamburg by Ricci.  Talleyrand then traveled to Amsterdam, where he conducted business with Hubbard on their American investments, and then Talleyrand returned to Paris, with Hottinguer – to continue their business ventures.

When Talleyrand had learned of his possible return to France, in November 1795 he sold to the Spanish envoy in Philadelphia, British plans for an attack on Spanish possessions in South America that he had secured while he had earlier lived in London, for $8,000.

Now back in Paris, Talleyrand was made a member of the Institut National, where he gave his views on America in two public lectures – a ‘Memoir concerning the commercial relations of the United States with England’ (April 4th 1797) and an ‘Essay upon the advantages to be derived from new colonies’ (July 3rd 1797).

In Talleyrand’s ‘Memoir concerning the commercial relations of the United States with England’, he asserts that ‘there is no science more dependent on facts than political economy.  Indeed, the art of collecting, arranging, and drawing conclusions from them, constitutes almost the whole of the science.  And, in this point of view, it has, perhaps, more to expect from observation than from genius …’

‘When, after that bloody struggle, in which the French defended so well the cause of their new allies, the United States of America were free from the dominion of the English, every reason seemed to unite for the dissolution of those commercial connections which had before existed between two portions of the same people …’

‘Whoever has observed America, cannot doubt, that still she remains altogether English in the greater part of her habits; that her ancient commerce with England has increased, rather than declined in activity, since the epoch of the independence of the United States; and that, consequently, that independence, far from being of disadvantage to England, has benefited her in many respects … Hence, there has been, on the side of England, an increase in the exportation of her manufactured goods, and an exemption from the expense of the American government …’

‘The immense quantity of manufactured goods which are sent out of England; the division of labour, at the same time a cause and consequence of their immense production, and particularly the ingenious employment of the mechanical powers, adapted to the different processes of the manufactures, have enabled the English manufacturers to lower the price of all the article of daily use, below the rate at which other nations have hitherto been able to afford them.’

‘Further, the great capitals of the English merchants enable them to give more credit than those of any other nation; this credit is at least for a year, often for a longer time.  The consequence is, that the American merchant who receives his wares from England, employs scarcely any principal of his own in this commerce; but trades almost entirely upon English capitals.  Therefore, it is in fact England that engrosses the commerce of American consumption’.

But Talleyrand’s conclusions would come from his romantic view of Americans and from his pessimistic conception of man.  ‘If we consider those populous cities filled with English, Germans, Irish, and Dutch, as well as their indigenous inhabitants; those remote towns, so distant from one another; those vast uncultivated tracts of soil, traversed rather than inhabited by men who belong to no country; what common bond can we conceive in the midst of so many incongruities?  It is a novel sight to the traveler, who setting out from a principal city, where society is in perfection, passes in succession through all the degrees of civilization and industry, which he finds constantly growing weaker and weaker, until in a few days he arrives at a mis-shapen and rude cabin, formed of the trunks of trees lately cut down.  Such a journey is a sort of practical and living analysis of the origin of people and states … and it appears as if we traveled backwards in the history of the progress of the human mind …’

‘In many districts the sea and the woods have formed fishermen, and wood-cutters.  Now such men, properly speaking, have no country; and their social morality is reduced within a very small compass … The American wood-cutter does not interest himself in anything; every sensible idea is remote from him – Those branches so agreeably disposed by nature; beautiful foliage; the bright colour which enlivens one part of the wood; the darker green which gives a melancholy shade to another: these things are nothing to him; he pays them no attention; the number of strokes of his axe required to fell a tree fills all his thoughts.  He never planted; he knows not the pleasures of it.  A tree of his own planting would be good for nothing, in his estimation; for it would never, during his life, be large enough to fell.  It is by destruction that he lives; he is a destroyer wherever he goes.  Thus every place is equally good in his eyes: he has no attachment to the spot on which he has spent his labour; for his labour is only fatigue, and is unconnected with any idea of pleasure.  In the effects of his toil he has not witnessed those gradual increases of growth, so captivating to the planter; he regards not the destination of his productions; he knows not the charm of new attempts; and if, in quitting the abode of many years, he does not by chance forget his ax, he leaves no regret behind him.’

‘The vocation of an American fisherman begets an apathy, almost equal to that of the wood-cutter … In America, with the exception of the inhabitants of Nantucket, who fish for whales, fishing is an idle employment.  Two leagues from the coast, when they have no dread of foul weather, a single mile when the weather is uncertain, is the sum of the courage which they display; and the line is the only instrument with whose use they are practically acquainted.  Thus their knowledge is but a trifling trick; and their action, which consists in constantly hanging one arm over the side of the boat, is little short of idleness.  They are attached to no place; their only connection with the land is by means of a wretched house which they inhabit.  It is the sea that affords them nourishment: hence a few cod-fish, more or less, determine their country.  If the number of these seems to diminish in any particular quarter, they emigrate, in search of another country, where they are more abundant … All the qualities, all the virtues, are wanting in the man who lives by fishing.  Agriculture produces a patriot in the truest acceptation of the word; fishing can alone succeed in forming a cosmopolite.’

‘I have, perhaps, dwelt too long on a sketch of these manners: it may seem foreign to this memoir; and yet it completes the object of it; for when I had to prove that it was not merely by reason of their origin, of their language, and of their interest, that the Americans so constantly find themselves to be Englishmen – an observation which applies more especially to the inhabitants of the cities.  When I cast my eye upon those people wandering amongst the woods, upon the shores of the sea, and by the banks of the rivers, my general observation was strengthened, with regard to them, by that indolence and want of a native character, which renders this class of Americans more ready to receive and to preserve the impression of a foreign one.  Doubtless the latter of these causes will grow weaker, and even disappear altogether, when the constantly-increasing population shall, by the cultivation of so many desert lands, have brought the inhabitants nearer together.  As for the other causes, they have taken such a deep root, that it would, perhaps, require a French establishment in America to counteract their ascendency with any hopes of success.  Undoubtedly such a political project should not be overlooked …’

Talleyrand then draws out his facts to his desired conclusion, abandoning, it seems, any thoughts of spreading the ideas of liberty, but proposing, instead, new methods of establishing an empire.  He says that ‘in fine, to arrive at a complete proof of the fact which I advanced concerning the relations of the Americans with Great Britain, it was necessary to reject probabilities, and to discard analogies …’

‘The knowledge of this fact itself might lead to false conclusions; it might give reason to believe that the independence of colonies was an advantage to their mother-countries.  But when we revert to its real causes, the consequence is reduced within narrower limits.  At present we can perceive in it nothing more than that the independence of the United States has been useful to England, and that it would be so to every state of the continent which, on the one side, should offer the same advantages to colonies of the same nature, and on the other should be seconded by similar faults in its neighbours.  The development of the causes of this fact has led to many ulterior consequences.

‘In enumerating these causes, we have found reason to conclude successively:

1st, that the first years which follow peace decide upon the commercial system of states; and that if they neglect to seize the moment to draw their advantage from it, it turns out almost inevitably to their loss:

2dly, that commercial habits are more difficult to break through than we imagine; and that interest brings together in one day, and often for ever, those whom the most ardent passions had armed against each other for a series of years:

3dly, that in the calculations of the relations of every kind which may exist amongst men, identity of language is one of the most binding:

4thly, that religious toleration, in its fullest extent, is one of the most powerful guarantees of social tranquility: for where liberty of conscience is respected, every other right cannot fail to be so:

5thly, That the spirit of commerce, which renders man tolerant through indifference, tends also to render him selfish through avidity; and especially that a people whose social character has been shaken by long agitations, ought, by means of wise institutions, to be drawn towards agriculture; for commerce always keeps the passions in a state of effervescence, and agriculture uniformly calms them:

Finally, that, after a revolution which has changed every thing, we should know how to forego our hatreds, if we would not for ever renounce our happiness.’

Next, in Talleyrand’s ‘Essay upon the advantages to be derived from new colonies’, he elaborates on his amoral attitude towards slavery and his new proposed colonial policy.  He said that ‘those men who have meditated upon the nature of the relations which unite metropolitan countries to their colonies, those who are accustomed at a distance to read political events in their causes, have long been aware that the west India colonies will one day separate themselves from their mother countries; and by a natural tendency, which the vices of Europeans have but too much accelerated, will either unite among themselves, or will attach themselves to the neighbouring continent.’

‘The idea of putting men into their proper places is, perhaps, the first in the science of government; but that of finding the proper place for the discontented is, assuredly, the most difficult; and the presenting to their imagination distant objects, perspective views, on which their thoughts and their desires may fix themselves is, I think, one of the solutions of this difficulty … This may be easily perceived in Louisiana, which remains French, although it has been under the dominion of the Spaniards for more than 30 years; and in Canada, although in the power of the English for the same length of time; the colonists of these two countries were Frenchmen; they are so still, and an obvious bias inclines them always towards us … Upon the supposition that our West India islands should be exhausted, or that they should throw off our subjection, some establishments along the coast of Africa, or rather in the islands which border upon it, would be easy and convenient …

‘M. le Duc de Choiseul … who so early as the year 1769 foresaw the separation of America from England, and feared the partition of Poland, was endeavouring by means of negotiations at that time to pave the way for the cession of Egypt to France, in order that he might be ready to replace, by the same productions, and by a more extended commerce, the West India colonies, at the time that they should be lost to us … The question, so injudiciously agitated, respecting the liberty of the Negroes, whatever may be the remedy which wisdom may bring for the evils which have been the result of it, will introduce sooner or later a new system in the cultivation of the colonial products.  It is politic to be before-hand with these great changes; and the first idea which offers itself to the mind, that which brings with it the greatest number of favourable suppositions, appears to be, to attempt this cultivation in those very places where the cultivator is born…’

Shortly afterwards, on July 15th 1797, Talleyrand, as Director Barras’s candidate, became the new foreign minister for the French Republic, and this group of returning French emigres (W, X and Y) now sought to rebuild their fortunes.

However, at the same time that Talleyrand was conducting his diplomacy with the Americans, he was also strategizing with Napoleon Bonaparte.

4.1 A note on Talleyrand and Bonaparte

On December 5th, Bonaparte, who had now been made commander of the Army of England, returned to Paris and after meeting with Talleyrand, they met with the Directory.

Talleyrand stated that ‘as money is the sinew of war, he took the liberty to call the attention of the Directory to the relative situation of neutral states.  They were formerly poor, but were now enriched by the distresses of France and her revolutionary war.  They could not therefore complain of injustice, if she reclaimed a part of these extorted and ill-gotten treasures.  He did not mean to propose a direct warfare with neutral nations, but such severity and restrictions on their navigation and trade, as would, in our turn, procure us opportunities to use the right of our actual power gives us of seizing, capturing, and confiscating, together with their cargoes, all vessels sailing contrary to our regulations: this. While it compensates the losses we have suffered, may even augment our future resources.’

‘To attain this desirable object, a decree of the Directory should immediately declare every neutral ship trading with England, or having English property on board, a legal prize.  Such a decree would not only be political, and advantageous to France, but detrimental and destructive in the highest degree to England …’

‘I submit to the wisdom of the Directory the following calculation, as to the amount which each neutral government may be asked to repay; and how much the subjects of each can, without causing their utter ruin, by captures, restore to the French Republic.  From the American government may be claimed one hundred millions of livres; from the American citizens may be captured as high as to five hundred millions; from the Danish government may be claimed 50 millions: and from the Danish subjects may be captured as far as to 200 millions; from the Prussian government, as an ally, whose commercial navy is vastly inferior to her military strength, may be claimed 24 millions of livres; and from the Prussian subjects may be captured as far as 60 millions; from the Swedish government may be claimed 30 millions; and from the Swedish subjects may be captured as far as 100 millions; from the senate of the imperial cities and Hanse towns may be claimed 80 millions; and from their citizens may be captured as far as 200 millions; from the king of Naples may be claimed 24 millions; and from his subjects may be captured up to 50 millions; from the grand duke of Tuscany 30 millions may be claimed; and from his subjects may be captured to the extent of 70 millions; form the ling of Spain may be claimed 150 millions; and from his subjects may be captured as far as 300 millions; from the Pope may be claimed 12 millions; and from his subjects may be captured as far as 24 millions.’

The directory unanimously assented ‘that this proposal, with regard to neutral nations, should be immediately changed to a decree, and its contents communicated to all neutral ministers and consuls resident in France, and by couriers sent to all the diplomatic and commercial agents of the French Republic, accredited to neutral states.’  In proposing this decree against the neutrals, Talleyrand could have no other object in view but immediate, though temporary, pillage.

[It should also be seen in view of Bonaparte’s conquest (pillage) of Italy.]

Bonaparte signed an armistice with Piedmont and with Parma in April 1796, and sent back to Paris paintings and manuscripts for the Musee Central des Arts (later called the Musee du Louvre); upon entering Milan in May, he levied a 20 million franc contribution from Lombardy; after signing an armistice with the Pope in June, he levied a 15 million franc contribution, and negotiated the handing over of hundreds of pictures, vases, busts or statues plus 500 manuscripts from the Vatican library; and after signing a peace treaty in February 1797 with the Pope, he was promised a contribution of 30 million francs and 100 works of art.

French Military parade in Italy

After the successful invasion of Piedmont, and the hard-fought, eight-month-long series of battles ending in the successful siege of the Austrian garrison at Mantua in February 1797, Bonaparte launched an invasion of Vienna, causing the Austrians to sue for peace.  On April 18th, Bonaparte signed a preliminary peace treaty at Leoben with Austria – that was about to receive a loan from the British government of 40 million francs, whereby Austria ceded the Austrian Netherlands to France, and renounced all its Italian possessions west of the Oglio river, but in compensation Austria would receive the mainland territories of Venice.

Earlier, on April 17th, Verona, a part of the Venetian Republic, had staged an uprising that killed over 300 Frenchmen, and later, on April 20th, the Venetians fired on and killed a French sea captain (who had illegally moored his vessel near the powder-magazine).  Bonaparte declared war on Venice and inspired a coup d’etat – the doge and the senate abolished themselves, and in the treaty with the new government, it promised to furnish 3 battleships and 2 frigates to the French navy; to pay a contribution of 15 million francs; to provide 20 paintings and 500 manuscripts; and hand over its mainland territories.  The massacre at Verona was punished with a payment of 1.7 million francs from the city.

After Bonaparte had aided the triumvirate’s coup d’etat in September 1797 (the 18th of Fructidor), the new Directory ratified Bonaparte’s Treaty of Campo-Formio with Austria, on October 26th, and also appointed Bonaparte the Commander of the Army of England.

Bonaparte was back in Paris by December, and after evaluating the chances of a successful invasion of Britain, (including a meeting with Tone) he concluded that it was too hazardous and should not be attempted.  Talleyrand and Bonaparte had earlier been discussing the idea of colonising Egypt.

Bonaparte reported to the Directory on February 23rd 1798, that ‘whatever efforts we make, we shall not for some years gain naval supremacy.  To invade England without that supremacy is the most daring and difficult task ever undertaken …’

‘If, having regard to the present organization of our navy, it seems impossible to gain the necessary promptness of execution, then we must really give up the expedition against England – be satisfied with keeping up the pretence of it – and concentrate all our attention and resources on the Rhine, in order to try to deprive England of Hanover … or else undertake an eastern expedition which would menace her trade with the Indies.’

A conquest of Egypt would protect France’s traders on the Nile river and would undermine Britain’s trade with the East Indies.  Bonaparte promised the Directory that as soon as he had conquered Egypt, he would establish relations with the princes of India and together they would attack the British possessions there.

On April 12th, Bonaparte was made commander of the Army of the Orient and secretly began to prepare for an invasion of Egypt – sailing from France on May 19th, conquering the island of Malta on June 11th, and landing at Alexandria on July 1st.  Bonaparte’s army captured the ports of Alexandria and Rosetta, then marched south and at the Battle of the Pyramids defeated the Mamluks, who surrendered the city of Cairo on July 22nd.

The Battle of the Pyramids by Francois Louis Watteau

But, the British navy, under the command of Horatio Nelson, found and attacked the French warships that were anchored in the bay of Abukir – capturing or destroying 11 of the 13 French ships-of-the-line and 2 of the 4 French frigates (the 4 remaining French ships fled to France).

Upon receiving news of the French fleet’s destruction, the Ottoman Sultan in Constantinople prepared two huge armies to attack Bonaparte’s forces now stranded in Egypt – one army to attack from Syria, the other to be sent by sea from Rhodes to attack at Alexandria.  Learning of the Ottoman movements, Bonaparte left Cairo with a 13,000-man army on February 5th, 1799 and marched into Syria to attack the Ottoman army – capturing El-Arish, Gaza, Jaffa, Haifa, Nazareth and Tyre, but after a failed siege of Acre (from March 18th to May 10th) Bonaparte withdrew back to Egypt – having lost 1800 men and with 1800 wounded.

Bonaparte now learned that 100 Ottoman ships were off Aboukir, and marched to Alexandria, and attacked the 18,000-man Ottoman army garrisoned at the fort at Aboukir – 10,000 Ottomans drowned, and the rest were captured or killed.  This was Bonaparte’s last land battle in Egypt.  Shortly before this battle, on July 15th, while strengthening the defenses at their fort near Rosetta, French soldiers uncovered a slab with inscriptions on one side (with 3 different scripts – hieroglyphic, demotic and Greek), now called the Rosetta Stone.

The Battle of Abukir

During a prisoner exchange with the British at Aboukir, Bonaparte learned of events in France, and decided to return to France.  On August 21st, Bonaparte secretly left Egypt and without meeting a single enemy British ship, landed in France on October 8th 1799.

Note: The French army that was left behind, remained in Egypt until finally surrendering to the British on September 2nd, 1801 – signing over to Britain the priceless hoard of Egyptian antiquities that the French had collected (including the Rosetta Stone).

5. The Dispatches of the American Commissioners arrive in Philadelphia, March 4th 1798

In dispatches written from Paris to Pickering, the Secretary of State, the first on October 22nd 1797, and the second on November 8th, the three American commissioners would inform the American government of their attempts to carry out their mission.  [These dispatches would later be transmitted by President Adams to Congress, ‘omitting only some names’, designated by the letters W. X. Y. Z., ‘and a few expressions, descriptive of the persons’.  The commissioners had written that ‘the nature of the above communication will evince the necessity of secrecy; and we have promised Messrs. X and Y that their names shall, in no event, be made public’.]

On October 8th, the commissioners met with the new French foreign minister, Talleyrand, who told them that ‘the Directory had required him to make a report relative to the situation of the United States with regard to France, which he was then about, and which would be finished in a few days, when he would let us know what steps were to follow’.

Now, as foreign minister, he wrote in his report to the Directory, ‘Memoir on relations between France and the United States from 1792 – 1797’, that France had no reason to conclude the negotiations quickly, advocating a slow pace to the negotiations – he would use the French objections to President Adams’s speech as a delaying tactic.  He explained that he thought Adams was more conciliatory than Washington; that Adams’s slight majority would deter him from adopting a strongly anti-France policy; that Adams was not a tool of the ‘British’ party; that the United States would not go to war; that even if the United States declared war, the public would not support it; and that France should not declare war, because this would harm the French West India colonies and drive the United States into the British orbit.

Note: In a June 7th report to the French foreign minister from France’s charge d’affaires in Philadelphia, Letombe wrote of a meeting he had with Vice President Jefferson, who told him that America was penetrated with gratitude to France and would never forget that it owes its liberation to France; that the new president was another matter; that Adams was vain, irritable, stubborn, endowed with excessive self-love, and still suffering pique at the preference accorded Franklin over him at Paris; but that his term of office was only four years and he did not have popular support; that he only became president by three votes, and that the system of the United States will change along with him.

When President Adams would learn that in private correspondence, Jefferson had accused him of willfully endangering the peace, he would describe Jefferson as ‘eaten to a honeycomb with ambition, yet weak, confused, uninformed, and ignorant’.

‘In the morning of October 18th, Mr. W, of the House of ____, called on General Pinckney, and informed him that a Mr. X, who was in Paris, and whom the General had seen, was a gentleman of considerable credit and reputation, and that we might place great reliance on him.’

Later that evening, Mr. X called on Pinckney and informed him ‘that he was charged with a business in which he was a novice; that he had been acquainted with M. Talleyrand, and that he was sure he had a great regard for America and its citizens; and was very desirous that a reconciliation should be brought about with France; that, to effectuate that end, he was ready, if it was thought proper, to suggest a plan, confidentially, that M. Talleyrand expected would answer the purpose’.  Mr. X said ‘the Directory … were exceedingly irritated at some passages of the President’s speech, and desired that they should be softened; and that this step would be necessary previous to our reception.  That, besides this, a sum of money was required for the pocket of the Directory and minister, and which would be at the disposal of M. Talleyrand; and that a loan would also be insisted on.  Mr. X said if we acceded to these measures, M. Talleyrand had no doubt that all our differences with France might be accommodated’.

Pinckney requested that he should make his propositions to all three commissioners and ‘for fear of mistake or apprehension, that he should be requested to reduce the heads into writing’.  Mr. X said that ‘his communication was not immediately with M. Talleyrand, but through another gentleman in whom M. Talleyrand had great confidence.  This proved afterwards to be Mr. Y.’

On the 19th the commissioners met with Mr. X, who left them with a first set of propositions that ‘it is desired that in the official communications there should be given a softening turn to a part of the President’s speech to Congress, which has caused much irritation … The French government desires, besides, to obtain a loan from the United States … the sum which would be considered as proper, according to diplomatic usage, was about twelve hundred thousand livres’.

On the 20th the commissioners met again with Mr. X and Mr. Y, the confidential friend of Talleyrand, who he said ‘was willing to aid us in the present negotiation by his good offices with the Directory, who were, he said, extremely irritated against the Government of the United States, on account of some parts of the President’s speech, and who had neither acknowledged nor received us, and consequently have not authorized M. Talleyrand to have any communication with us.’  Mr. Y gave them ‘a French translation of the President’s speech, the parts of which, objected to by the Directory, were marked … Then he made a second set of propositions.’

First, ‘there is demanded a formal disavowal in writing, declaring that the speech of the citizen president, Barras, did not contain any thing offensive to the Government of the United States, nor any thing which deserved the epithets contained in the whole paragraph’;

Secondly, ‘reparation is demanded for the article by which it shall be declared, that the decree of the Directory there mentioned, did not contain any thing contrary to the treaty of 1778, and had none of those fatal consequences that the paragraph reproaches to it’;

Thirdly, ‘it is demanded that there should be an acknowledgement, in writing, of the depredations exercised on our trade by the English and French privateers’;

Fourthly, ‘the Government of France, faithful to the profession of public faith, which it has made not to intermeddle in the internal affairs of foreign governments with which it is at peace, would look upon this paragraph as an attack upon its loyalty, if this was intended by the President.  It demands, in consequence, a formal declaration that it is not the Government of France, nor its agents, that this paragraph meant to designate’;

And finally, that ‘in consideration of these reparations, the French Republic is disposed to renew with the United States of America a treaty which shall place them reciprocally in the same state that they were in 1778.  By this new treaty, France shall be placed, with respect to the United States, exactly on the same footing as they stand with England, in virtue of the last treaty which has been concluded between them.  A secret article of this new treaty would be a loan to be made by the United States to the French Republic’.

Mr. Y continued that ‘I will not disguise from you, that this satisfaction being made, the essential part of the treaty remains to be adjusted; you must pay money, you must pay a great deal of money … These propositions, he said, being considered as the admitted basis of the proposed treaty, M. Talleyrand trusted that, by his influence with the Directory, he could prevail on the Government to receive us’.

On the 21st, the commissioners again met with Mr. X and Mr. Y, who ‘represented to us, that we were not yet acknowledged or received; that the Directory were so exasperated against the United States, as to have come to a determination to demand from us, previous to our reception, those disavowals, reparations and explanations, which were stated at large last evening … that if we satisfied the Directory in these particulars, a letter would be written to us to demand the extent of our powers, and to know whether we were authorized to place them precisely on the same footing with England; whether, he said, our full powers were really and substantially full powers; or … only illusory powers’.

The commissioners replied that ’our powers respecting a treaty are ample; but the proposition of a loan … is not within the limits of our instructions … that our powers were such as authorized us to place France on equal ground with England, in any respects in which an equality might be supposed to exist at present between them, to the disadvantage of France … the constitution of the United States authorized and required our President to communicate his ideas on the affairs of the nation; that, in obedience to the constitution, he had done so; that we had not power to confirm or invalidate any part of the President’s speech; that such an attempt could produce no other effect than to make us ridiculous to the government and to the citizens at large of the United States; and to produce, on the part pf the President, an immediate disavowal and recall of us as his agents.’

On the 27th, they again met Mr. X, who said ‘that the Directory were becoming impatient, and would take a decided course with regard to America, if we could not soften them.’  He again ‘expatiated on the power and violence of France: he urged the danger of our situation, and pressed the policy of softening them, and of thereby obtaining time … Mr X again returned to the subject of money: Said he, gentlemen, you do not speak to the point; it is money: it is expected that you will offer money’.  They replied that ‘it is no; no; not a sixpence.’  Mr. X ‘again called our attention to the dangers which threatened our country, and asked if it would not be prudent, though we might not make a loan to the nation, to interest an influential friend in our favor.  He said we ought to consider what men we had to treat with; that they disregarded the justice of our claims and the reasoning with which we might support them; that they disregarded their own colonies, and considered themselves as perfectly invulnerable with respect to us; that we could only acquire an interest among them by a judicious application of money.’

They replied that ‘the conduct of the French Government was such as to leave us much reason to fear, that should we give the money, it would effect no good purpose, and would not produce a just mode of thinking with respect to us … but the Directory could decide on the issue of our negotiation.  It had only to order, that no more American vessels should be seized, and to direct those now in custody to be restored, and there could no opposition to the order’.  ‘The conversation continued for nearly two hours; and the public and private advance of money was pressed and re-pressed in a variety of forms.’

Mr. Z (Lucien Hauteval, a wealthy West India sugar planter who had to flee from Santo Domingo in 1792), met with Gerry to inform the commissioners that Talleyrand ‘had expected to have seen the American ministers frequently in their private capacities; and to have conferred with them individually on the objects of their mission.’

The commissioners all met with Mr. Z and ‘General Pinckney and General Marshall expressed their opinions, that not being acquainted with M. Talleyrand, they could not, with propriety, call on him; but that according to the custom of France, he might expect this of Mr. Gerry, from a previous acquaintance in America.’

On October 28th, Gerry met with Mr. Z and Talleyrand, who said that ‘the Directory had passed an arret, which he offered for perusal, in which they had demanded of the envoys an explanation of some parts, and a reparation for others, of the President’s speech to Congress, of the 16th of May last; he was sensible, he said, that difficulties would exist on the part of the envoys relative to this demand; but that by their offering money, he thought he could prevent the effect of the arret … but that this matter about the money must be settled directly, without sending to America.’

The next day, October 29th, Mr. X again called, and said that ‘Talleyrand was extremely anxious to be of service to us, and had requested that one more effort should be made to induce us to enable him to be so.  A great deal of the same conversation which had passed at our former interviews was repeated … the sum of his proposition was, that if we would pay, by way of fees, (that was his expression) the sum of money demanded for private use, the Directory would not receive us: but would permit us to remain at Paris as we now were; and we should be received by M. Talleyrand, until one of us could go to America and consult our Government on the subject of the loan …’

‘We asked him, whether they would suspend further depredations on our commerce?  He said they would not … We told him that France has taken violently from America more than 15 millions of dollars, and treated us, in every respect, as enemies, in return for the friendship we had manifested to her; that we had come to endeavor to restore harmony to the two nations, and to obtain compensation for the injuries our countrymen had sustained; and that in lieu of this compensation, we were told, that if we would pay 12 hundred thousand livres, we might be permitted to remain in Paris …’

‘War was made upon us so far as France could make it in the present state of things; and that it was not even proposed, that on receiving our money this war should cease; we had no reason to believe that a possible benefit could result from it; and we desired him to say that we would not give a shilling, unless American property unjustly captured was previously restored, and further hostilities suspended … He said that without this money we should be obliged to quit Paris; and that we ought to consider the consequences: the property of Americans would be confiscated, and their vessels in port embargoed.’

The next morning, October 30th, Mr. X and Mr. Y met with the commissioners again and the subject was resumed.  ‘Mr. Y spoke without interruption for near an hour … that his (Talleyrand’s) situation had been very materially changed by the peace with the Emperor … Mr. Y then called our attention to our own situation, and to the force France was capable of bringing to bear upon us … Perhaps, said he, you believe that, in returning and exposing to your countrymen the unreasonableness of the demands of this government, you will unite them in their resistance to those demands; you are mistaken; you ought to know that the diplomatic skill of France, and the means she possesses in your country, are sufficient to enable her, with the French party in America, to throw the blame which will attend the rupture of the negotiations on the federalists, as you term yourselves, but on the British party, as France terms you; and you may assure yourselves this will be done.’

On November 1st, ‘it was at length agreed that we should hold no more indirect intercourse with the government’.

On November 3rd, Mr. X called again to say that Mr. Y wished to meet, but he was informed by the commissioners that ‘we considered it as degrading our country to carry on further such an indirect intercourse as we had for some time submitted to, and had determined to receive no propositions, unless the persons who bore them had acknowledged authority to treat with us’.  Mr. X added that ‘M. Talleyrand was preparing a memorial to be sent out to the United States, complaining of us as being unfriendly to an accommodation with France.’

The commissioners replied that ‘it would not be easy for him to convince our countrymen that the statements we should make were untrue … and we trusted we should be supported by the great body of candid and honest men.  In this conversation we again stated, that America had taken a neutral position; that she had faithfully sought to preserve it; that a loan of money to one of the belligerent powers was directly to take part in the war; and that to take part in the war against her own judgement and will, under the coercion of France, was to surrender our independence’.

In a third dispatch written to Pickering on November 27th, the commissioners would inform him that on November 11th, the commissioners transmitted an official letter to the French Minister of Foreign Affairs, that since their meeting on October 8th, they were told that ‘a report on American affairs was then preparing, and would in a few days be laid before the Directory, whose decision thereon should, without delay, be made known, has hitherto imposed silence on them … They have not yet received it; and so much time has been permitted to elapse … that they can no longer dispense with the duty of soliciting your attention to their mission.’

The commissioners then stated their mission – that ‘the President of the United States has given it in charge to the (commissioners) to state to the Executive Directory the deep regret he feels at the loss or suspension of the harmony and friendly intercourse which subsisted between the two republics, and his sincere wish to restore them; to discuss candidly the complaints of France, and to offer frankly those of the United States.  And he has authorized a review of existing treaties, and such alterations thereof as shall consist with the mutual interest and satisfaction of the contracting parties’.

The commissioners wrote to Pickering that they ‘have not, however, hitherto received any official intimation relative to this business; we are not yet received; and the condemnation of our vessels, for want of a role d’equipage, is unremittingly continued.  Frequent and urgent attempts have been made to inveigle us again into negotiations with persons not officially authorized, of which the obtaining of money is the basis: but we have persisted in declining to have any further communication relative to diplomatic business with persons of that description; and we mean to adhere to this determination.  We are sorry to inform you that the present disposition of the Government of this country appears to be as unfriendly towards us as ever, and that we have little prospect of succeeding in our mission’.

In a fourth dispatch to Pickering, written on December 24th, the commissioners wrote that they ‘have not yet received any answer to our official letter … but reiterated attempts have been made to engage us in negotiation with persons not officially authorized … We are all of opinion that, if we were to remain here for six months longer, without we were to stipulate the payment of money, and a great deal of it, in some shape or other, we should not be able to effectuate the objects of our mission, should we be even officially received; unless the projected attempt on England was to fail, or a total change take place in the persons who at present direct the affairs of this government’.

They related an offer made to them on December 17th by Mr. Y, who had observed that Marshall had been the advocate for Beaumarchais ‘in his cause against the State of Virginia’; and stated that ‘M. de Beaumarchais had consented, provided his claim could be established, to sacrifice 50,000 pounds sterling of it, as the private gratification which had been required of us; so that the gratification might be made without any actual loss to the American Government’.  Marshall replied that ‘no one of us would consent to it, unless it was preceded or accompanied by a full and entire recognition of the claims of our citizens, and a satisfactory arrangement on the objects of our mission’.

Mr. Y then met with Gerry and accompanied him to meet with Talleyrand who made an offer that ‘understanding that the French republic has 16 millions of Dutch rescriptions to sell, the United States will purchase them at par, and will give her further assistance when in power.  The first arrangement being made, the French government will take measures for reimbursing the equitable demands of America arising from prizes, and to give free navigation to their ships in the future’.

On January 8th 1798, the commissioners wrote a fifth dispatch to Pickering concerning a message from the French Directory about a law that was to be passed by the Council of 500, ‘to declare, as good prizes, all neutral ships having on board merchandises and commodities, the production of England, or of the English possessions, that the flag, as they term it, may no longer cover the property.  And declaring, further, that the ports of France, except in case of distress, shall be shut against all neutral ships, which, in the course of their voyage, shall have touched at an English port’.  They concluded that ‘nothing new has occurred since our last, in date of the 24th ultimo.  We can only repeat that there exists no hope of our being officially received by this government, or that the objects of our mission will be in any way accomplished’.

Late in the evening on March 4th, the five dispatches that were sent by the commissioners arrived at Philadelphia and delivered to Pickering, who immediately informed President Adams.

The next day, March 5th, President Adams sent the following message to Congress: ‘The first dispatches from our envoys extraordinary, since their arrival in Paris, were received at the Secretary of State’s office at a late hour the last evening.  They are all in a character which will require some days to be deciphered, except the last, which is dated the 8th of January 1798.  The contents of this letter are of so much importance to be immediately made known to Congress, and to the public, especially to the mercantile part of our fellow citizens, that I have thought it my duty to communicate them to both Houses, without loss of time’.  This dispatch had contained the message from the French Directory concerning the new law regarding neutral ships.

On March 23rd, Pickering wrote to the American envoys that ‘the President, therefore, thinks it proper to direct – 1. That if you are in treaty, with persons duly authorized by the Directory, on the subjects of your mission, then you are to remain and expedite the completion of the treaty … and if you shall have discovered a clear design to procrastinate, you are to break off the negotiation, demand your passports, and return … 2. That if, on the receipt of this letter, you shall not have been received, or, whether received or not, if you shall not be in a treaty with persons duly authorized by the Directory, with full and equal powers, you are to demand your passports and return.’

6. The Publication of the ‘XYZ Affair’ Dispatches, April 19th 1798

On January 18th 1798, a bill was introduced in the House of Representatives to provide the means of intercourse between the United States and foreign nations, and was objected to by the ‘republican’ party, led by Albert Gallatin, due to what it perceived to be the danger of executive influence – from its power to appoint foreign ministers.  The ‘federalist’ party charged that their opposition was based on their faulty belief that the House ‘by its power over appropriations, has a right to control and direct the Executive in the appointment of foreign ministers’.

This debate extended for 7 days, until an altercation on January 30th between Matthew Lyon (Vermont), and Roger Griswold (Connecticut) – during an argument, Lyon spit tobacco juice on Griswold’s face; and Griswold attacked Lyon with a wooden cane while Lyon defended himself with the metal tongs from the fire.  After the House voted against the expulsion of Griswold and Lyon (by a vote of 73 to 21), the debate was begun again on February 27th, and continued for 4 more days until March 5th, when the Congress received President Adam’s message containing the 5th dispatch from the commissioners.  The House continued the debate of amending the foreign intercourse bill, which was defeated 52 to 48.  The next day the bill was approved by the House.

A cartoon of Griswold and Lyon fighting

On March 19th, President Adams sent another message to Congress, that ‘… knowing it to be my duty, and believing it to be your wish, as well as that of the great body of the people, to avoid, by all reasonable concessions, any participation in the contentions of Europe … I can discern nothing which could have insured or contributed to success, that has been omitted on my part, and nothing further which can be attempted, consistently with maxims for which our country has contended, at every hazard, and which constitute the basis of national sovereignty …’

‘(I) exhort you to adopt, with promptitude, decision, and unanimity, such measures as the ample resources of the country afford, for the protection of our seafaring and commercial citizens; for the defense of any exposed portions of our territory; for replenishing our arsenals, establishing foundries, and military manufactories; and to provide such sufficient revenue as will be necessary to defray extraordinary expenses, and supply the deficiencies which may be occasioned by depredations on our commerce.’

On March 27th, President Adams signed into law an act for an additional appropriation to provide and support a naval armament – to complete the 3 frigates: the United States, the Constitution and the Constellation.

On March 27th, the ‘republican’ party then tried to propose a resolution that ‘it is not expedient for the United States to resort to war against the French Republic’.  The ‘federalist’ party objected ‘that the only subjects fit for discussion were active measures, and that it was not regular to declare when they would not do a thing’ and that ‘all (they) had heard of war was from gentlemen who were so loudly opposed to it, as if they were the only men in the country who had any value for its peace and happiness.  Was any part of this alarm made by men who fought eight years for the independence of this country?  No such thing; they wished the country to remain in peace; but they wished it also to be prepared for war’.  The ‘republicans’ responded that ‘when gentlemen say that all has been done by this Government that could have been done, he should consider it as treason to his country not to show, that the present misunderstanding with the French Republic was founded in our own misconduct.’ (!?!)

On March 29th, Mr. Giles gave a speech, saying that ‘though he thought France had just ground of complaint against this country, he did not mean to justify her conduct towards us.  He thought she ought to have received our ministers; and, if they had not agreed, to have taken such measures as they thought proper.  But this is supposing our minsters clothed with sufficient powers; if they were not, there would be some ground of justification for their conduct.  The President of the United States is in possession of information which would satisfy the Congress and the people in this respect, but he has thought proper to withhold it, and therefore he alone is responsible … when party rage shall subside, and it shall be seen that the Executive is pursuing hostile measures, and keeping all information from Congress, this conduct would be deemed extraordinary … but it has left a strong impression on his mind that something was not correct, which was the reason the expected papers were not sent.’

The next day, it was then proposed that ‘the President of the United States be requested to communicate to this House the dispatches from the Envoys Extraordinary of the United States to the French Republic, mentioned in his message of the 19th instant’, and it was passed by the House on April 2nd.

The following day, on April 3rd, President Adams sent to Congress the executive’s instructions to the Envoys Extraordinary that were sent to France, and also sent to Congress their first 4 (decoded) dispatches of October 22nd, November 8th and 27th, and December 24th, 1797.

On March 25th, Secretary of State Pickering had written two letters to Hamilton concerning the dispatches received from the three American envoys in France, and that he was preparing ‘a firm communication from the President to the two Houses of Congress, on the state of our affairs with France’.  He asked for his advice on Britain – ‘What shall we say to the British Government? … The opposition party have often insinuated that a treaty offensive & defensive has doubtless been already concluded with Great Britain … The truth is, that not one syllable has been written to Mr. King or any one else upon the subject’.

He also asked for his advice concerning Spain – ‘What ought we to do, in respect to Louisiana?  … that Gayoso has recd. orders to evacuate the posts … Perhaps these orders may have resulted from Spain’s seeing or fearing the necessity of ceding Louisiana to France – and hence concluding that she might as well do a grateful thing to us before the surrender’.

On March 27th, Hamilton replied that ‘I am against going into alliance with Great Britain.  It is my opinion that her interest will ensure us her cooperation, to the extent of her power, and that a treaty will not secure her further.  On the other hand, a treaty might entangle us …’ and ‘If Spain would cede Louisiana to the United States I would accept it, absolutely if obtainable absolutely, or with an engagement to restore it if it cannot be obtained absolutely’.

Alexander Hamilton now began a series of published letters, called ‘The Stand’ written by ‘Titus Manlius’, to defend President Adam’s request of March 19th and to attack the ‘republican’ apologists for France.

On March 30th, in ‘The Stand I’, Hamilton wrote that ‘our nation, thro its official organs, has been treated with studied contempt and systematic insult; essential rights of the country are perseveringly violated, and its independence and liberty eventually threatened, by the most flagitious, despotic and vindictive government that ever disgraced the annals of mankind … among those who divide our legislative councils, we perceive hitherto, on the one side unremitting efforts to justify or excuse the despots of France, to vilify and discredit our own government, of course to destroy its necessary vigor, and to distract the opinions and to damp the zeal of our citizens, what is worse, to divert their affections from their own to a foreign country … But ’tis not enough to resist.  Tis requisite to resist with energy…. A respectable naval force, ought to protect our commerce, and a respectable army ought both to diminish the temptation to invasion.’

On April 4th, in ‘The Stand II’, Hamilton wrote concerning France, that ‘in retracing the progress of a war which has immersed Europe in blood and calamity, it is an error as common as it is strange, to acquit France of responsibility, and to throw the whole blame upon her adversaries … it was not only to scatter the embers of a general conflagration in Europe – it was to interfere coercively in the interior arrangements of other nations – it was to dictate to them, under the penalty of the vengeance of France, what form of government they should live under – it was to forbid them to pursue their political happiness in their own way – it was to set up the worst of all despotisms, a despotism over opinion, not against one nation, but against almost all nations.’

On April 7th, in ‘The Stand III’, he wrote again on France, that ‘it has been seen that she commenced her career as the champion of universal liberty; and, proclaiming destruction to the governments which she was pleased to denominate despotic, made a tender of fraternity and assistance to the nation whom they oppressed.  She, at the same time, disclaimed conquest and aggrandizement … but it has since clearly appeared, that at the very moment she was making these professions, and while her diplomatic agents were hypocritically amusing foreign courts with conciliatory explanations and promises of moderation, she was exerting every faculty, by force and fraud, to accomplish the very conquest and aggrandizement which she insidiously disavowed.’

On April 12th, in ‘The Stand IV’, he warns that ‘in the pursuit of her plan of universal empire, the two objects which now seem chiefly to occupy the attention of France, are a new organization of Germany favorable to her influence, and the demolition of Great Britain.  The subversion and plunder, first of Portugal, next of Spain, will be merely collateral incidents in the great drama of iniquity … with the acquisition of Louisiana, the foundation will be laid for stripping her of South America and her mines; and perhaps for dismembering the United States … the majority of the directory foresaw that Peace would not prove an element congenial with the duration of their power; or perhaps under the guidance of Sieyes, the conjuror of the scene, they judged it expedient to continue in motion the revolutionary wheel, till matters were better prepared for creating a new Dynasty and a new Aristocracy, to regenerate the exploded monarchy of France with due regard to their own interest.’

On April 16th, in ‘The Stand V’, he wrote that ‘many of the most determined advocates of France among us appear latterly to admit that previous to the Treaty with Great Britain, the complaints of France against the United  States were frivolous, those of the United States against France real and serious.  But the Treaty with Great Britain, it is affirmed, has changed the ground.  This, it is said, has given just cause of discontent to France – this has brought us to the verge of war with our first ally and best friend – to this fatal instrument are we indebted for the evils we feel and the still greater which impend over our heads … These suggestions are without the shadow of foundation; they prove the infatuated devotion to a foreign power of those who invented them and the easy credulity of those with whom they have obtained currency’.

‘… in contempt of established usage and of the respect due to us as an independent people, with the deliberate design of humbling and mortifying our government, these special and extraordinary ministers have been refused to be received … instead of this, informal Agents, probably panders and mistresses, are appointed to intrigue with our envoys … What is the misshapen result?  Money, money is the burthen of the discordant song of these foul birds of prey.’

On April 19th, in ‘The Stand VI’, he warns that ‘when the wonders achieved by the arms of France are duely considered the possibility of the overthrow of Great Britain seems not to be chimerical.  If by any of those extraordinary coincidences of circumstances, which occasionally decide the fate of empires, the meditated expedition against England shall succeed, or if by the immense expense to which that country is driven and the derangement of her commerce by the powerful means employed to that end, her affairs shall be thrown into such disorder as may enable France to dictate to her the terms of peace; in either of these unfortunate events the probability is, that the United States will have to choose between the surrender of their sovereignty, the new modelling of their government according to the fancy of the Directory, the emptying of their wealth by contributions into the coffers of the greedy and insatiable monster – and resistance to invasion in order to compel submission to those ruinous conditions’.

‘… The question returns – what is to be done?  Shall we declare war?  No – there are still chances for avoiding a general rupture which ought to be taken … our true policy is, in the attitude of calm defiance, to meet the aggressions upon us by proportionate resistance, and to prepare vigorously for further resistance. To this end, the chief measures requisite are to invigorate our treasury by calling into activity the principal untouched resources of revenue – to fortify in earnest our chief sea ports – to establish foundries and increase our arsenals – to create a respectable naval force and to raise with the utmost diligence a considerable army.’

On April 9th, Pickering, the Secretary of State, had written to Hamilton that ‘this morning the dispatches from our envoys are published, and I enclose a copy.’  He continued that ‘you will readily imagine what apologies our internal enemies make for the French Government.  Jefferson says that the Directory are not implicated in the villainy and corruption displayed in these dispatches – or at least that these offer no proof against them.  Bache’s paper of last Saturday says “that M. Talleyrand is notoriously anti republican; that he was the intimate friend of Mr. Hamilton, Mr. King and other great federalists, and that it is probably owing to the determined hostility which he discovered in them towards France, that the Government of that country consider us only as objects of plunder”.’

On April 21st, in ‘The Stand VII’, Hamilton answered Bache and Jefferson, that ‘the dispatches from our envoys have at length made their appearance.  They present a picture of the French government exceeding in turpitude whatever was anticipated from the previous intimations of their contents.  It was natural to expect, that the perusal of them would have inspired a universal sentiment of indignation and disgust; and that no man, calling himself an American, would have had the hardihood to defend, or even to palliate a conduct so atrocious. But it is already apparent, that an expectation of this kind would not have been well founded.’

‘… the high-priest of this sect (i.e. Jefferson), with a tender regard for the honor of the immaculate Directory, has already imagined several ingenious distinctions to rescue them from the odium and corruption unfolded by the dispatches. Among these is the suggestion that there is no proof of the privity of the Directory – all may have been the mere contrivance of the minister for foreign relations … the inventor of the subterfuge, however, well knew, that the Executive organ of a nation never comes forward in person to negociate with foreign ministers; and that unless it be presumed to direct and adopt what is done by its agents, it may always be sheltered from responsibility or blame’.

‘… publications have appeared (i.e. Bache’s Aurora), endeavoring to justify or extenuate the demands upon our envoys, and to inculcate the slavish doctrine of compliance.  The United States, it is said, are the aggressors, and ought to make atonement; France assisted them in their revolution with loans, and they ought to reciprocate the benefit; peace is a boon worth the price required for it, and it ought to be paid … to pay such a price for peace, is to prefer peace to independence. The nation which becomes tributary takes a master.  Peace is doubtless precious, but it is a bauble compared with national independence, which includes national liberty.  The evils of war to resist such a precedent, are insignificant, compared with the evil of the precedent.’

‘… it is curious to remark, that in the conferences with our envoys this treaty (i.e. Jay’s treaty) was never once mentioned by the French agents … but the dispatches of our envoys, while they do not sanction the charge preferred by the Gallic faction (i.e. ‘republicans’) against the treaty, confirm a very serious charge which the friends of the government bring against that faction.  They prove, by the unreserved confession of her agents, that France places absolute dependence on this party in every event, and counts upon their devotion to her as an encouragement to the hard conditions which they attempt to impose.  The people of this country must be infatuated indeed, if after this plain confession they are at a loss for the true source of the evils they have suffered or may hereafter suffer from the despots of France.  ‘Tis the unnatural league of a portion of our citizens with the oppressors of their country.’

As Hamilton had anticipated, with the publication of the dispatches in the press, the sentiment in the country would now change dramatically.

On April 23rd, an address to Congress was sent from the townships of Windsor and Montgomery, and the towns of Princeton and Kingston, New Jersey, ‘expressing their unshaken and entire confidence in the wisdom and integrity of the Executive of the United States, and pledging their lives and fortunes, and sacred honor, in support of the Constitution, and such measures of defense as the government may find expedient to adapt, in this critical and threatening aspect of public affairs’.

Over the next weeks, similar addresses, memorials and resolutions came pouring in, from Philadelphia, PA; Georgetown, MD; Newark NJ; Trenton, NJ; New York, NY; Baltimore, MD; Harford city, MD; New Brunswick, NJ; Elkton, MD; Salem, MA; Bucks county, PA; Fairfax county, VA; Portsmouth, NH; Gloucester, MA; Upper Marlboro, MD; Upper Freehold, NJ; Dover, NH; Gloucester county, NJ; Newbern, NC; Elizabeth, NJ; Charleston, SC; Liberty, MD; Lynn, MA; Kent and Queen Ann’s counties, MD; Frederick and Somerset counties, MD; Vergennes, VT; Schenectady, NY; Montgomery and Washington counties, MD; and Georgetown, SC.

Congress passed, and President Adams signed into law, for America’s protection:

an act to provide an additional armament for the further protection of the trade of the United States (April 27th);

an act to establish an Executive department, to be denominated the Department of the Navy (April 30th);

an act supplementary to the act for the further defense of the ports and harbors of the United States (May 3rd); and,

an act … to cause to be purchased, or built, a number of small vessels to be equipped as gallies (May 4th).

On May 4th, President Adams now sent to Congress the 6th dispatch, dated February 7th, from America’s three envoys to France.  This dispatch contained their letter to Talleyrand, the French Minister of Foreign Affairs, because ‘the ministers plenipotentiary and envoys extraordinary from the United States of America to the French Republic, have been hitherto restrained, by the expectation of entering on the objects of their mission in the forms usual among nations, from addressing to the Executive Directory, through you, those explanations and reclamations with which they are charged by the government they represent.’  This long and detailed letter set out to explain the American ‘system of neutrality’ and the United States’ relations and treaties with both France and Great Britain, and the reasons for seeking to end the punitive trade decrees of the French government against the United States.

Congress then passed, and President Adams signed into law, for the defense of the United States:

an act authorizing the President of the United States to raise a provisional army (May 28th); and,

an act more effectually to protect the commerce and coasts of the United States (May 28th).

On June 5th, President Adams sent to Congress the 7th dispatch, dated March 9th, from the three envoys extraordinary in France.  The dispatch reported on the envoys’ two meetings with Talleyrand, on March 2nd and 6th.

At the first meeting, Pinckney started by saying that ‘we have received many propositions through Mr. Y to which we had found it impracticable to accede; and that we had now waited on him for the purpose of inquiring whether other means might not be devised which would effect so desirable an object’, i.e. ‘to remove the subsisting difference between the two republics’.

Talleyrand replied that ‘would require some proof, on the part of the United States, of a friendly disposition, previous to a treaty with us … we ought to search for and propose some means which might furnish this proof; that if we were disposed to furnish it there could be no difficulty in finding it; and he alluded very intelligibly to a loan.’  Gerry answered that ‘it would involve us in a war with Great Britain’ and it would be ‘a breach of their neutrality’.

At the next meeting, Talleyrand began by stating that he had ‘observed that we had some claims on the French government for property taken from American citizens.  Some of those claims were probably just.  He asked, if they were acknowledged by France, whether we could not give credit as for the payment; say for two years.  We answered that we could.  He then insisted that it was precisely the same thing; that by such an act we should consent to leave in the hands of France funds to which our citizens were entitled, and which might be used in the prosecution of the war.’

‘Gerry replied that ‘if the United States make such a loan, it would give too much reason to suppose that their government had consented, in a collusive manner, to the capture of the vessels of their citizens and had thus been furnishing France with supplies to carry on the war … (and) that a treaty on liberal principles … would be infinitely more advantageous to France than the trifling advantages she would drive from a loan. … As we were taking our leave of Mr. Talleyrand, we told him that two of us would return immediately, to receive the instructions of out government, if that would be agreeable to the Directory; if it was not, we would wait some time, in the expectation of receiving instructions.’

Congress responded, and President Adams signed into law an act to suspend the commercial intercourse between the United States and France (June 13th).

On June 18th, President Adams sent to Congress, the 8th dispatch, dated April 3rd, from the envoys in France, that contained a letter from Talleyrand, ‘purporting to be an answer to our memorial of January 17th’; and a letter that was the envoys’ response to Talleyrand.

Talleyrand had answered that ‘the commissioners and envoys extraordinary, reversing the known order of facts, have aimed to pass over, as it were in silence, the just motives of complaint of the French government, and to disguise the true cause of the misunderstanding which is prolonged between the two republics!  So that it would appear, from that exposition, as partial as unfaithful, that the French republic has no real grievance to substantiate, no legitimate reparation to demand, whilst the United States should alone have a right to complain – should alone be entitled to claim satisfaction.’

Talleyrand argued that the United States was responsible for the conflict, for not granting any means of reparations for French claims.  He continued that ‘an incontestable truth … is, that the priority of grievances and complaints belonged to the French republic … that all the grievances which the commissioners and envoys extraordinary exhibit … are a necessary consequence of the measures which the prior conduct of the United States had justified on the part of the French republic, and which its treaties with the said United States authorized in certain cases.’  Talleyrand further found fault with the United States, that ‘it was thought proper to send to the French republic persons whose opinions and connections are too well known to hope from them dispositions sincerely conciliatory’.

He also found fault with Jay’s treaty, ‘that in this treaty, every thing having been calculated to turn the neutrality of the United States to the disadvantage of the French Republic; and to the advantage of England’ and that the French republic ‘was perfectly free, in order to avoid the inconveniences of the treaty of London, to avail itself of the preservative means which the law of nature, the laws of nations, and prior treaties, furnished it’ and that ‘the newspapers, known to be under the indirect control of the cabinet, have since the treaty redoubled the invectives and calumnies against the republic and against her principles, her magistrates, and her envoys.’

The three envoys again replied, in a long, detailed account, to ‘detect the sophisms and erroneous statements of the minister’, that ‘a complete review of the conduct of their government, accompanied with a candid and thorough investigation of the real principles on which that conduct was founded, by removing prejudices, might restore sentiments which the United States has ever sought, and still seek to preserve.’

On June 19th Marshall would arrive at Philadelphia from France and would meet with President Adams, informing him that he had received his passport and had left Paris on April 12th; that Pinckney had received his passport but had remained in southern France due to the ill health of his daughter; and that Gerry had not received his passport and had reminded in Paris.

On June 21st, President Adams informed Congress of the arrival of Marshall, and sent to Congress a letter from Gerry – ‘the only one of the three who has not received his conge’, dated April 16th; a letter from Talleyrand to Gerry, dated April 3rd, and Gerry’s reply, dated April 4th.

Adams wrote that ‘I presume that, before this time, he has received fresh instructions (a copy of which accompanies this message) to consent to no loans; and therefore the negotiation may be considered at an end.  I will never send another minister to France without assurances that he will be received, respected, and honored, as the representative of a great, free, powerful, and independent nation.’

In his letter to President Adams, Gerry wrote that ‘… indeed I expected my passport with my colleagues; but I am informed the Directory will not consent to my leaving France; and to bring on an immediate rupture, by adopting this measure, contrary to their wishes, would be in my mind unwarrantable.  The object of M. Talleyrand, you will perceive, was to resume our reciprocal communications, and again to discuss the subject of a loan.  I thought it best in my answer not merely to object to this, but to every measure that could have a tendency to draw me into a negotiation.  I accepted of this mission, my dear sir, to support your administration, and have brought myself into a predicament (I allude to my painful residence here as a political cipher), which you must assist me to extricate myself from, by appointing others to supply the places of myself and colleagues, if further progress in this business should be found practicable.’

In his letter of April 3rd, Talleyrand wrote that ‘I suppose, sir, that Messrs. Pinckney and Marshall have thought it useful and proper, in consequence of the intimations given in the end of my note … and the obstacle which their known opinions have interposed to the desired reconciliation, to quit the territory of the republic.’  He then invited Gerry ‘to resume our reciprocal communication upon the interests of the French republic and the United States of America.’

But in his reply on April 4th, Gerry answered that ‘whilst my colleagues and myself, to whom the government of the United States have entrusted the affairs of the embassy, had a joint agency therein, I have carefully imparted to them all the propositions which you have requested, and the relative conferences and to yourself our decisions thereon … But as, by the tenor of your letter, it is now expected that they will quit the territory of the French republic, it will be impossible for me to be the medium of, or to take, any measures which will be painful to my colleagues, or not to afford them all the assistance in my power …’

‘You have proposed … to resume our reciprocal communications upon the interests of the French republic and of the United States … To resume this subject will be unavailing, because the measure, for the reasons which I then urged, is utterly impracticable.  I can only then confer informally and unaccredited on any subject respecting our mission, and communicate to the government of the United States the result of such conferences being in my individual capacity unauthorized to give them an official stamp.’

Before Congress ended this session, they passed and President Adams signed into law, new measures:

an act authorizing the defense of the merchant vessels of the United States against French depredations (June 25th);

an act concerning aliens (June 25th);

an act respecting alien enemies (July 6th);

an act to declare the treaties heretofore concluded with France no longer obligatory on the United States (July 7th);

an act for establishing and organizing a marine corps (July 11th);

an act for the punishment of certain crimes against the United States (July 14th); and,

an act to augment the army of the United States (July 16th).

7. Hamilton Becomes Second-in-Command of the Army, October 19th 1798

The act (of May 28th 1798) that authorized President Adams to raise a provisional army, was only to be in the event of a declaration of war against the United States, or of an actual invasion or of imminent danger of an invasion, in which case the president could call into service a number of troops (not exceeding 10,000) to be enlisted for a term not exceeding three years.  But, if neither of these events happened, the provisional army would never be raised, and would exist only on paper.  However, the act did provide that whenever the President deemed it expedient, he was empowered to appoint a commander of the army, an inspector general, and two major-generals.

Already, on May 19th, Alexander Hamilton had written to General Washington (to learn his thinking if asked to become the commander of the army) that ‘you ought also to be aware, my dear Sir, that in the event of an open rupture with France, the public voice will again call you to command the armies of your Country; and though all who are attached to you will from attachment, as well as public considerations, deplore an occasion which should once more tear you from that repose to which you have so good a right – yet it is the opinion of all those with whom I converse that you will be compelled to make the sacrifice.’

General Washington replied (on May 27th) that ‘if a crisis should arrive when a sense of duty, or a call from my country, should become so imperious as to leave me no choice, I should prepare for the relinquishment, and go with as much reluctance from my present peaceful abode, as I should do to the tombs of my ancestors.’  He then inquired of Hamilton’s thinking if he was asked to serve, that ‘it may well be supposed too, that I should like, previously, to know who would be my coadjutors, and whether you would be disposed to take an active part, if arms are to be resorted to.’

Hamilton answered him on June 2nd that ‘if I am invited to a station in which the service I may render may be proportioned to the sacrifice I am to make – I shall be willing to go into the army.  If you command, the place in which I should hope to be most useful is that of Inspector General with a command in the line. This I would accept.’

On June 22nd, President Adams wrote to General Washington that ‘in forming an army, whenever I must come to that extremity, I am at an immense loss whether to call out the old Generals or to appoint a young set … I must tax you, sometimes for advice.  We must have your name, if you, in any case permit us to use it.  There will be more efficacy in it, than in many an army.’

On July 2nd, before General Washington replied to this letter, President Adams wrote to the Senate that ‘I nominate George Washington of Mount Vernon to be Lieutenant General and Commander in Chief of all the armies raised or to be raised in the United States.’  Washington would learn of his appointment – reading a newspaper!!!

Note: In a letter to Knox (August 9th) General Washington related that ‘the first knowledge I had of my own appointment – nay, the first intimation that such a measure was in contemplation, was contained in a news-paper, as a complete act of the President & Senate – accompanied with a few lines from the Secretary of War of equal date (4th of July) informing me that he should be the bearer of my commission, and the President’s instructions to make some, but does not say what, arrangements.’

On July 4th, General Washington replied to President Adam’s letter of June 22nd, that ‘in case of actual invasion by a formidable force, I certainly should not entrench myself under the cover of age & retirement, if my services should be required by my country, to assist in repelling it.’

On July 7th, President Adams would finally write to General Washington informing him of his appointment.  The letter would be delivered personally by James McHenry, Secretary of War, who met with General Washington on July 11th.  McHenry also delivered a confidential letter to General Washington from Hamilton.

On July 8th, Hamilton wrote to General Washington that ‘I was much surprised on my arrival here to discover that your nomination had been without any previous consultation of you … I use the liberty which my attachment to you and to the public authorizes, to offer my opinion that you should not decline the appointment.  It is evident that the public satisfaction at it is lively and universal.  It is not to be doubted that the circumstance will give an additional spring to the public mind – will tend much to unite and will facilitate the measures which the conjuncture requires – on the other hand, your declining would certainly produce the opposite effects, would throw a great damp upon the ardor of the country, inspiring the idea that the crisis was not really serious or alarming’.

‘… The President has no relative ideas & his prepossessions on military subjects in reference to such a point are of the wrong sort.  If you accept it will be conceived that the arrangement is yours & you will be responsible for it in reputation.  This & the influence of a right arrangement upon future success seem to require that you should in one mode or another see efficaciously that the arrangement is such as you would approve’.

On July 13th, General Washington wrote to President Adams that ‘… satisfied therefore, that you have sincerely wished and endeavored to avert war, and exhausted to the last drop, the cup of reconciliation, we can with pure hearts appeal to Heaven for the justice of our cause, and may confidently trust the final result to that kind Providence who has heretofore, and so often, signally favored the people of these United States.’

‘Thinking in this manner, and feeling how incumbent it is upon every person, of every description, to contribute at all times to his country’s welfare, and especially in a moment like the present, when every thing we hold dear & sacred is so seriously threatened, I have finally determined to accept the commission of Commander in Chief of the Armies of the United States, with the reserve only, that I shall not be called into the field until the army is in a situation to require my presence, or it becomes indispensable by the urgency of circumstances.’

On July 14th, General Washington replied to Hamilton that ‘I have consented to embark once more on a boundless field of responsibility & trouble, with two reservations – first, that the principal officers in the line, and of the staff, shall be such as I can place confidence in; and, that I shall not be called into the field until the army is in a situation to require my presence, or it becomes indispensable by the urgency of circumstances.’

‘… By the pending bill, if it passes to a law, two Major Generals, and an Inspector Genl. with the Rank of Major General and three Brigadiers are to be appointed.  Presuming on its passing, I have given the following as my sentiments respecting the characters fit, & proper to be employed; in which the Secretary concurs.  Major. Generals: Alexr. Hamilton, Inspector; Chas. C. Pinckney; Henry Knox – or if either of the last mentioned refuses, Henry Lee.’

On July 16th, Washington wrote to Knox informing him of his appointment as Commander-in-chief, and ‘that I have placed you among those characters on whom I wish to lean, for support.  But my dear Sir … I must add, that causes – which would exceed the limits of an ordinary letter to explain, are in the way of such an arrangement as might render your situation perfectly agreeable; but I fondly hope that, the difficulty will not be insurmountable, in your decision … I would fain hope, as we are forming an army anew, which army, if needful at all, is to fight for every thing that ought to be dear and sacred to freemen, that former rank will be forgot; and among the fit & chosen characters, the only contention will be, who shall be foremost in zeal, at this crisis, to serve his country.’

On July 16th an act was passed to augment the army of the United States – to augment the existing 4 (‘old’) regiments in the United States army with the addition of 12 new regiments and 6 new troops of light dragoons.

On July 17th, President Adams sent to the Senate the letter he had just received from General Washington that ‘… I must not conceal from you my earnest wish that the choice had fallen upon a man less inclined in years, and better qualified to encounter the usual vicissitudes of war … and the determination I had consoled myself with, of closing the remnant of my days in my present peaceful abode … It was not possible for me to remain ignorant of, or indifferent to, recent transactions … and feeling how incumbent it is upon every person, of every description, to contribute at all times to his country’s welfare, and especially in a moment like the present, when every thing we hold dear and sacred is so seriously threatened, I have finally determined to accept the commission’.

On July 18th, President Adams sent to the Senate his nomination of ‘Alexander Hamilton of New York to be Inspector General of the Army with the rank of Major General’, and additionally of Charles Cotesworth Pinckney of South Carolina, Henry Knox of Massachusetts as Major-Generals; and of Henry Lee of Virginia and Edward Hand of Pennsylvania to be Major Generals of the Provisional Army.  It was approved by the Senate the next day.

On July 25th, McHenry wrote to Hamilton and to Knox (Pinckney had not yet returned from his mission to France) informing them of their appointments, but that they hadn’t yet been called into service or given a command.  (On the same day, July 25th, now that Congress was adjourned for the summer, and also to escape a yellow fever epidemic, President Adams and his wife left Philadelphia to return home to Quincy, Massachusetts.)

On July 28th, Hamilton replied to McHenry, accepting his appointment as Inspector General.  But, however,

on August 5th Knox wrote to McHenry that he would not yet accept the appointment due to his demand that he be placed higher in rank than Hamilton or Pinckney, due to his superior rank in the Continental Army, and that ‘it is therefore important, previously to my answering affirmatively or negatively, as to an acceptance, that you inform me on these points.  Whether the order of names, as specified in the list, is intended to establish, the priority of rank?  Or whether the former relative rank is intended to govern, according to the heretofore established principles, and invariable practice?  Those principles determine explicitly that all appointments, made in the same grade and on the same day, are to be governed by the former relative rank.’

Earlier, on July 29th Knox had written to General Washington that ‘at present I do not perceive how it can possibly be to any other purport, than in the negative, unless the relative rank of the late War, should govern according to the established and invariable usage of the former war.’

On August 9th, General Washington replied, “My earnest desire, often repeated, was, that Congress could be prevailed on, circumstanced as things were, to vest a power in the president to make appointments in the recess of the Senate, rather than precipitate the organization of the army, that time might be allowed for a deliberate & harmonious consultation in the arrangement, (of the General Officers at least); and I offered to attend in Philadelphia myself, & send for Colo. Hamilton and you to meet me there, for this very desirable purpose: I even hastened – precipitately – Mr. McHenry’s return, in hopes he might be back in time to accomplish this object: guarding however against the failure.’

‘Under this statement which you will find correct, how was it possible for me, who had never in the remotest degree, directly nor indirectly, interfered in any matter of government since I left the chair of it, to have consulted you, previously to the nomination of the General Officers? and if giving in your name without, in the manner it was handed to the President (which seemed to be the result of necessity, proceeding from causes which have been communicated) is considered as a wound to your feelings, might I not complain upon ground equally strong & hurtful to mine? brought as I was, without the least intimation, before the public, after it had been officially announced to the world, and I hope, believed, that my soul panted for rest; and that the first wish of my heart was to spend the remnant of a life worn down with cares; in ease & contemplation?  But left as I was by this act without an alternative, or a very disagreeable one, I passed it over in silence, from a conviction that if affairs are in the alarming state they are represented to be, that it was not a time to complain, or stand upon punctilios.’

On August 4th, McHenry had written to President Adams that due to the enormous amount of work that he had in preparing for the enlisting, the planning and the logistics in the augmentation to the army, ‘that you will give me leave to call effectually to my aid, the Inspector General, and likewise General Knox; and to charge them with the management of particular branches of the service’.

On August 14th, President Adams replied to McHenry’s request that ‘I desire that you would inform General Washington, that I consider him in the public service from the date of his appointment and entitled to all the emoluments of it … Calling any other General Officers into service at present will be attended with difficulty, unless the rank were settled.  In my opinion, as the matter now stands, General Knox is legally entitled to rank next to General Washington, and no other arrangement will give satisfaction.  If General Washington is of this opinion and will consent to it, you may call him into actual service as soon as you please.  The consequence of this will be that Pinckney must rank before Hamilton.  If it shall be consented that the rank shall be Knox, Pinckney and Hamilton, you may call the latter too into immediate service, when you please.  Any other plan will occasion long delay and much confusion.  You may depend upon it the five New England states will not patiently submit to the humiliation that has been meditated for them.’

McHenry would later write to General Washington that ‘something or other … had caused a very great change in his (the President’s) mind’ and that ‘it may be that the President has conceived certain prejudices unfavorable to General Hamilton that has influenced him in the present case’.  President Adams was now siding with Knox and risking a conflict with General Washington.

On August 11th, McHenry had written to Hamilton, sending him a copy of Knox’s August 5th letter, and asking ‘what is to be said to General Knox?’

Hamilton replied, on August 19th, sending both an official reply that ‘the intention as to the relative grades of the officers appointed is presumed to be unequivocal.  It is believed that the rule to which General Knox refers can have no application to the case of the formation of a new army, at a new epoch – embracing officers not previously in actual service.  It was not a permanent provision of law, but a regulation adapted to the peculiar circumstances of the late army and, governing as far as I recollect, only in the cases of promotions from lower subsisting grades to higher ones’; and a private reply, with a draft of a reply to Knox ‘to advise him to accept, with a reservation of his claim ad referendum upon the ground of the rule he quotes, and with the understanding that it will not be understood to engage him to continue if the matter be not finally settled according to his claim.’

On August 20th, McHenry sent to President Adams the drafts for two letters to Knox – one private and the other official.

President Adams replied to McHenry, on August 29th, that ‘I could not send him (i.e. Knox) either your official or private letter, as neither contains sentiments that I can approve.  My opinion is and has always been clear, that as the law now stands, the order of nomination or of recording has no weight or effect, but that officers appointed on the same day, in whatever order, had a right to rank according to antecedent services.  I made the nomination according to the list presented to me, by you, from General Washington, in hopes that rank might be settled among them by agreement or acquiescence, believing at the same time, and expressing to you that belief, that the nomination and appointment would give Hamilton no command at all, nor any rank before any Major-General.  This is my opinion still.  I am willing to settle all decisively at present (and have no fear of the consequences) by dating the commissions Knox, on the first day, Pinckney on the 2nd. Hamilton on the third.’  McHenry sent a copy of this letter to General Washington.

Secretary of War McHenry then discussed this situation together with Secretary of the Treasury Wolcott, Secretary of State Pickering and Secretary of the Navy Stoddert and ‘it was proposed, that they should join in a respectful representation to the President.  After however a good deal of deliberation the idea of a joint address was relinquished for a representation from Mr. Wolcott alone, who did not appear to be implicated in his suspicions of intrigue.’

On September 17th, Wolcott wrote to President Adams that ‘General Washington has never disclosed a wish to interfere with any of the powers constitutionally vested in the President.  Nevertheless I presume it to have been the intention of the President and the expectation of General Washington, that the principal arrangements should be made in concert … that without such concert everything must go wrong.’

‘… the circumstances of the case in respect to General Washington appear therefore to be, first, that he was nominated to command the armies without any previous consultation or notice; second, that his “advice in the formation of a list of officers” was requested, accompanied with an intimation that “his opinion on all subjects would have great weight”; third, that General Washington formed a list of officers, and after mature deliberation settled the rank, which in his judgement, the officers in question ought to enjoy in the proposed army; fourth, that in the nominations exhibited by the President to the Senate, the order proposed by General Washington respecting those Gentlemen was preserved.’

‘… contrary to expectation, General Knox claims the first rank, and in support of his pretensions refers to a rule adopted in the Revolutionary War, by which according to his statement, among officers appointed to the same grade, on the same day, their relative rank in the new grade, was to be determined by their respective ranks, prior to such new appointments … No general and unqualified rule of the kind alluded to by General Knox, is to be found by me in the resolutions of Congress: it is however presumed that the regulations prescribed on the 24th of November 1778, are those to which he refers – A due attention to these regulations will evince, that they are wholly inapplicable to the present state of things.’

‘… besides the President’s acts must be founded on and be consistent with some principle – And if one officer is allowed to claim rank with reference to services in the late war, all will expect the same privilege – If the principle is allowed in some instances and not allowed in others, the conduct of the President will be considered as arbitrary and directed by personal favor.’

On September 20th, McHenry received a letter from General Washington (in reply to sending him President Adams’s letter of August 29th) that ‘I can perceive pretty clearly however, that the matter is, or very soon will be brought, to the alternative of submitting to the President’s forgetfulness of what I considered a compact or condition of acceptance of the appointment with which he was pleased to honor me, or, to return him my commission.’

On September 21st, McHenry immediately wrote to General Washington to inform him of the history of the whole affair and of Wolcott’s current effort to correct the situation.

On September 25th, General Washington wrote to President Adams that ‘this opportunity (i.e. to have been asked ‘on what terms I would have consented to the nomination’ previous to being appointed) was not afforded before I was brought to public view.  To declare them afterwards, was all I could do … They were, that the General Officers, and General Staff of the Army should not be appointed without my concurrence.  I extended my stipulations no farther … in the arrangement made by me, with the Secretary of War, the three Major Generals stood – Hamilton, Pinckney, Knox. and in this order I expected their commissions would have been dated.  This, I conceive, must have been the understanding of the Senate.  And certainly was the expectation of all those with whom I have conversed.  But you have been pleased to order the last to be first, and the first to be last.’

‘… We are now, near the end of September, and not a man recruited, nor a Battalion Officer appointed, that has come to my knowledge.  The consequence is, that the spirit and enthusiasm which prevailed a month or two ago, and would have produced the best men in a short time, is evaporating fast, and a month or two hence, may induce but few, and those perhaps of the worst sort, to enlist.  Instead therefore of having the augmented force in a state of preparation, and under a course of discipline, it is now to be raised; and possibly may not be in existence when the enemy is in the field: we shall then have to meet veteran troops, inured to conquest, with militia, or raw recruits; the consequence of which is not difficult to conceive, or to foretell.’

‘… I hope with respect … to be informed whether your determination to reverse the order of the three Major Generals is final.’

On September 30th, President Adams wrote to McHenry that ‘enclosed are the commissions for the three generals signed and all dated on the same day.’

On October 9th, President Adams replied to General Washington that ‘I received, yesterday, the letter you did the honor to write to me on the 25th of September.  You request to be informed, whether my determination to preserve the order of the three Major Generals is final.’

‘… I some time ago signed the three commissions and dated them on the same day, in hopes similar to yours that an amicable adjustment or acquiescence might take place among the gentlemen themselves. But, if these hopes should be disappointed, and controversies should arise, they will of course be submitted to you as Commander in Chief, and if after all any one should be so obstinate as to appeal to me from the judgment of the Commander in Chief, I was determined to confirm that judgment.’

‘Because, whatever construction may be put upon the resolutions of the ancient Congress which have been applied to this case, and whether they are at all applicable to it or not, there is no doubt to be made that by the present Constitution of the United States, the President has authority to determine the rank of officers.’

After receiving President Adams’s instructions on September 30th, McHenry was still not sure what to do, and on October 12th, sent all the relevant documents to the other cabinet members – inquiring as to their opinions.  The next day, Pickering, Wolcott and Stoddert replied to McHenry that “the only inference we can draw from the facts … is, that the President consents to the arrangement of rank as proposed by General Washington and pursued in the order of nomination and appointment by the President and Senate’ and that ‘the Secretary of War ought to transmit the commissions and inform the Generals that in his opinion the rank is definitively settled according to the original arrangement.’

On October 19th, Hamilton accepted his commission.  On October 23rd, Knox declined his appointment – ‘no officer can consent to his own degradation by serving in an inferior station’; and on October 31st, Pinckney accepted his commission, having arrived back in the United States from France.

8. The Kentucky Resolutions, November 16th, 1798

On October 1st 1798, the day after President Adams had signed the commissions for General Washington’s Major-Generals, Elbridge Gerry returned to the United States.  After finally being able to leave Paris on July 26th, with a short delay at Le Havre, Gerry reached Boston and immediately wrote to President Adams – explaining why he had decided to stay longer in Paris after the other two commissioners had left, and showing how he had rejected the French minister’s insistence that he could negotiate a treaty with him alone – ‘I had declared I could only confer with him informally on the objects of the mission’.

In his letter, Gerry wrote how the French Foreign Minister, Talleyrand, in his letter to the envoys, ‘renewed his proposal for me to treat separately, and again received a negative answer.  He then proposed that I should remain at Paris until the sense of the Government could be obtained; declaring, as before, that an immediate rupture would be the consequence of my departure.  To have left France, under such circumstances, was a measure which I could not justify.  The power of declaring war was not entrusted with the supreme Executive of the United States, much less with a minister; and to have thus provoked it would, in my mind, have been tantamount to a declaration thereof.  Indeed, to have plunged the nation into a war suddenly, even if it was inevitable, appeared to me, in other respects, unwarrantable.’

‘… France, at that time, was making very formidable preparations, with a professed design to overthrow the British Government … If, then, on the one hand, a new coalition against France, a change in her Government, or even a successful resistance on the part of Great Britain, had happened, a favorable opportunity would have presented itself to the United States for obtaining of her a just and advantageous treaty; and this would have been lost by a previous rupture in consequence of my departure.  If, on the other hand, Great Britain, unaided, had fallen, the United States would have been in a much better condition at peace than in war with the most formidable power the world had exhibited.  In such an event, they could have had but small hopes of resisting France; and it might have been deemed madness in them even to have attempted it.  For these reasons, I thought it my indispensable duty to remain a short time at Paris.’

‘The tenor of our instructions, the last as well as the first, shows that the Government did not anticipate the proposition for treating separately, and made no provision for such an event.  The French minister has uniformly insisted that I had power to treat … but I trust that the argument, stated in the correspondence enclosed, are sufficient to show that the power to treat did not exist; or, if it did, that I was justified, under existing circumstances, in refusing to exercise it.’

‘… from the best information which I could obtain relative to the disposition of the Executive Directory, (for I never had any direct communication with them) they were very desirous of a reconciliation between the republics … I was, nevertheless, of opinion that, should France be just and liberal in her measures, the Government of the United States would still meet her on the ground of accommodation.’

Along with this letter, Gerry would ‘enclose copies of my letters to yourself of the 12th and 13th of May last, Nos 1 and 2’ (informing Secretary of State, Pickering, that the brig Sophia had then arrived and that he would embark in her for the United States, when it was ready); ‘of the correspondence between Mr. Talleyrand, the French Minister of Foreign Affairs, and myself, numbered according to the respective dates, from 3 to 28 inclusively’ (from April 3rd until August 8th); and ‘of an arret (No. 29 – dated July 31st) enclosed in his last letter’ – ‘his (Talleyrand’s) desire to send it by the Sophia probably produced the official impediments which, for several days, prevented her sailing’ – from Le Havre.

The arret stated that ‘the Executive Directory having heard the report of the Minister of Marine and the Colonies; Considering that information recently received from the French colonies and the continent of America leave no room to doubt that French cruisers, or such as call themselves French, have infringed the laws of the Republic relative to cruising and prizes; Considering that foreigners and pirates have abused the latitude allowed at Cayenne, and in the West Indian islands, to vessels fitted out for cruising, or for war and commerce, in order to cover with the French flag their extortions, and the violation of the respect due to the law of nations, and to the persons and property of allies and neutrals;’

‘1. Hereafter, no letters of marque, authorizations, or permissions, to fit out vessels either for cruising, or for war and commerce, shall be issued in the colonies of America, but by the special agents of the Directory themselves …’ ‘2. All letters of marque, authorizations, or permissions, granted in the colonies of America … shall be considered as not having been done …’

‘5. The said special agents of the Executive Directory, the commanders of all vessels of the Republic, the consuls, vice consuls, and all others invested with powers for that purpose, shall cause to be arrested and punished, conformably to the laws, all those who shall contravene the provisions of the present decree’.

On October 4th, Gerry would meet with President Adams and they would have a long private talk.

After leaving Massachusetts and arriving back at Philadelphia on November 24th, President Adams received news of the opposition to the Alien and Sedition acts.  After Congress had passed the ‘act respecting alien enemies’ – later known as the Alien Enemies act, and the ‘act for the punishment of certain crimes against the United States’ – later to become known as the Sedition Act, Jefferson and the ‘republicans’ initially opposed the acts on the grounds that it would violate Americans’ rights.

Congress passed the Alien Enemies act so that ‘whenever there shall be a declared war between the United States and any foreign nation or government, or any invasion or predatory incursion shall be perpetrated, attempted, or threatened against the territory of the United States, by any foreign nation or government, and the President of the United States shall make public proclamation of the event’, that ‘all natives, citizens, denizens, or subjects of the hostile nation or government, being males of the age of fourteen years and upwards, who shall be within the United States, and not actually naturalized, shall be liable to be apprehended, restrained, secured, and removed, as alien enemies.’  [Although the ‘republicans’ opposed this act, since war with France was never declared by Congress, this law was never enacted, but it remained in force – even when ‘republicans’ became presidents.]

Congress also passed the Sedition act so that if any person should conspire to oppose or to impede any measure of the government; or, to intimidate or prevent any person holding a place or office in the government from undertaking, performing or executing his duty; or, to counsel, advise or attempt to procure any insurrection, riot, unlawful assembly; they would be deemed guilty of a ‘high misdemeanor.’  Similarly, if any person should write, print, utter or publish; or, to cause, procure, assist or aid in writing, printing, uttering or publishing any false, scandalous and malicious writing against the United States government, with intent to defame, to bring them into contempt or disrepute, to excite against them the hatred of the good people of the United States, to stir up sedition to resist, oppose, or defeat any law or act, or, to aid, encourage or abet any hostile designs of any foreign nation against the United States, their people or their government, then they would also be guilty of a ‘high misdemeanor’.

[The Sedition Act was set to expire on March 3rd, 1801 – the last day of that administrative term.]

That summer, after Jefferson returned home to Monticello, he would meet with Colonel George Nicholas and John Breckenridge from Kentucky about the Alien and Sedition acts, and Jefferson agreed to sketch resolutions ‘on an energetic protestation against the constitutionality of those laws’.  Jefferson would later send his ‘sketch’ to Nicholas, who would give them to Breckenridge, who would introduce them in the Kentucky General Assembly.

[Jefferson wished to keep his authorship secret, and so Breckenridge was given the assumed credit.  Jefferson didn’t admit his authorship of the resolutions until 1821!]

Note on Henry Clay: In November 1797, Clay had moved to Lexington, Kentucky and soon received a license to practice law, where he apprenticed with lawyers Nicholas and Breckenridge!!!

[In Prentice’s biography of Clay – ‘In July 1798 there was a gathering to discuss the Alien and Sedition Laws.  Nicholas spoke out against them denouncing their anti-constitutional character, in the tumult that followed Henry Clay was called and his eloquent denunciation of the Federalist suppression so captivated the public that both were hoisted on the shoulder of the crowd and borne away as the heroes of the day.’]

The resolutions stated that ‘the several states composing the United States of America …  by a compact under the style and title of a Constitution … delegated to that government certain definite powers, reserving each state to itself, the residuary mass of right to their own self-government; and that whensoever the General Government assumes undelegated powers, its acts are unauthoritative, void, and of no force’ and that this applied to the Sedition Act.  [Jefferson had not simply objected to an attack on ‘freedom of speech’ but had attacked directly the constitution itself and had asserted the right of the states to nullify any federal laws that they disagree with!!!]

After passing the House and Senate, the resolutions were approved by Governor Garrard on November 16th.  The resolutions were then sent to the other states for their agreement.  Virginia responded by passing similar resolutions (authored by James Madison) on December 24th.  Delaware answered by resolving that these resolutions were ‘a very unjustifiable interference with the general government and constitutional authorities of the United States, and of dangerous tendencies, and therefore not a fit subject for the further consideration of the General Assembly’.  The resolutions were also rejected by Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, New Hampshire and Vermont.  Also, placing themselves on record against the principle of the resolutions were Maryland, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.  [Not answering (and not rejecting) the resolutions were North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee.]

The list of states that either supported or rejected these resolutions foreshadows the future alignment of states in the American civil war – including the intense fighting over the neutrality of Kentucky in that war.

The main supporter of the Sedition act in Kentucky was Kentucky’s Senator Humphrey Marshall – who would later fight a duel with Henry Clay in 1809.  And remember that President Abraham Lincoln and Confederate President Jefferson Davis – who was named after Thomas Jefferson – were both born in Kentucky.

The issue of the Alien and Sedition acts was also being fought out in the nation’s press.

On June 26th 1798, Benjamin Bache, co-editor of the Aurora – the ‘pro-republican’ newspaper that was attacking the Adams’s administration and the passing of the alien and sedition acts, was arrested (under common law – before the Sedition Act became law) for ‘libeling the President and the Executive Government, in a manner tending to excite sedition and opposition to the laws’.  But Bache died on September 10th, in the yellow fever epidemic that summer in Philadelphia, before he could be brought to trial.

Note: John Fenno, the publisher of the ‘pro-federalist’ Gazette of the United States, also died of yellow fever on September 14th – 4 days after Bache died.  His paper was continued by his son.

After Bache’s death, the other co-editor of the Aurora, William Duane, whose wife had also died of yellow fever, would marry Bache’s widow and would continue to publish the Aurora.

Later, in March 1800, Duane would be charged with false, scandalous and malicious assertions tending to defame the Senate, during which he was found guilty of contempt by the Senate, but because of a series of delays, the proceedings were finally dropped – after Jefferson became president!!!

On the other side of this fight was William Cobbett’s newspaper, the Porcupine’s Gazette, that attacked Duane’s Aurora.  However, while defending the Alien and Sedition acts, Cobbett became obsessed by the activities of the United Irishmen – identifying 17 leaders of the American Society of United Irishmen (including the printers, James and Mathew Carey, and also Thomas McKean, the future governor of Pennsylvania), and he tried to create suspicion in Federalist circles of foreign-born radicals who were thought to harbour revolutionary sympathies that were inimical to American interests – the Irish ‘republican’ immigrants.

In 1799, Cobbett would publish a pamphlet, ‘Detection of a Conspiracy, formed by the United Irishmen, with the Evident Intention of Aiding the Tyrants in France in Subverting the Government of the United States of America’ – while most Americans were concerned with French emigrants (especially those from Saint-Domingue) they were not concerned with the small number of Irish emigrants.

Note: William Cobbett, of England, joined the British army in 1783, was stationed in New Brunswick from 1785 until 1791 (when New Brunswick was being settled by the ‘loyalists’ – the tories who left the United States after the revolutionary war), rose to the rank of Sergeant Major, and was discharged from the army when he returned to Britain in 1791.  In 1792, he arrived in the United States, and in 1797, he started a (so-called) ‘pro-federalist’ newspaper, but with pro-British views, called “Porcupine’s Gazette’ in Philadelphia – it’s first issue was on the same day that John Adams was inaugurated as president.

8.1 A note on the Irish Rebellion of 1798

With Ulster (i.e. Belfast) under martial law, the British now moved against the United Irishmen in Leinster (i.e. Dublin).  On March 12th 1798, the British arrested 12 members of the provincial committee of the United Irishmen at a meeting in Dublin, and later arrested 2 other members; and on March 30th, martial law was proclaimed for the entire country.  The commander of the British forces in Ireland, moved into each county to demand the inhabitants surrender their arms or else to have large bodies of his troops placed among them to live at free quarters.  Houses (including furniture and provisions) were burned – where concealed weapons were found or where meetings had been held; and suspected conspirators were tortured.  At the spring assizes, Catholic witnesses were scorned, prisoners’s defenses were treated with contempt, and capital sentences were imposed on the flimsiest of evidence.

Fearing destruction of their forces before the arrival of assistance from France, a plan was now made to launch a rebellion against the government forces – to begin on May 23rd in Dublin and to serve as a signal for rebellion to the rest of the country.  The Irish government learned of the plot, and on May 19th, in order to pre-empt the insurrection, the British forces arrested (and fatally shot) Lord Edward Fitzgerald, and on the 21st, arrested (and later hung) several other leaders of the United Irishmen, including Henry and John Sheares – who had confided the secret to a captain in the county militia – believing him to be an United Irishman!

With the mobilization of British troops, militia and yeomen at the rebels’ assembly points, the rebellion was thwarted in Dublin, but it arose the next day in the towns in the neighbouring counties.  The British were able to put down the rebellion in County Carlaw on May 25th and in County Meath on May 26th; and were able to force their surrender in County Kildare on May 28th.  In the north, the rebels were defeated in County Antrim on June 7th and in County Down on June 13th.

In County Wexford, after occupying the town of Wexford and declaring a republic, when they forced the government troops to abandon it, the republican forces were stopped from advancing, in battles at New Ross, Arklow and Bunclody, and were defeated by a 20,000-man British force at Vinegar Hill on June 21st, before splitting into smaller bands and taking refuge in the mountains of County Wicklow to fight using guerrilla tactics.  Government repression that occurred afterwards continued with the burning of houses and chapels, and the conviction and hanging of 330, and transporting of 430 prisoners.

On June 21st, the same day as the British victory at Vinegar Hill, the new Lord Lieutenant and Commander-in-chief of Ireland, Lord Cornwallis, arrived in Dublin to put down the insurrection and ‘to frighten the supporters of the Castle into an union’.  Cornwallis offered the ‘deluded wretches’ permission to return home safely, upon taking an oath of allegiance.  Large numbers came forward, due to their disillusionment with their own leaders and also with their French allies.

Note: Cornwallis had previously been Governor-General and Commander-in-chief of British India, from 1789 to 1793.

Lord Cornwallis by Copley 1795

On July 26th, Myles Byrne, the Wexford leader, was sent to the gallows and was hanged.  The United Irishmen leaders, held prisoners at Kilmainham Jail, offered the British a full confession of the rebellion for their own voluntary exile.  Cornwallis considered ‘the establishment of the traitorous conspiracy by the strong testimony of all the principal actors in it, to be a matter of much more consequence than the lives of 20 such men …’

[This agreement came to be known as the ‘Kilmainham Treaty’ of 1799, and the prisoners were exiled in 1802.]

In France, Tone did not learn of the outbreak of the rebellion until June 17th (a few days before it was ended!!!)  But the Directory had no plans whatsoever to send aid to the United Irishmen – the ships to carry the Army of England to Ireland didn’t exist, as Napoleon had sailed away for Egypt – just a few days before the start of the rebellion!!!  And the Army of England itself was gone – as regiments had been sent to Switzerland and to the Rhine, and also to police the spring elections!!!

James Tandy, who had left his exile in the United States in 1798 and had arrived in Paris in February, formed the Parisian United Irishmen Society with his supporters of fellow exiles, and sent a delegation to the Council of 500.  On June 25th, the Directory issued instructions to the Ministry of Marine – for a hastily constructed army to be put together from the remnants of France’s military forces.  The Directory was concerned that only Leinster had risen in rebellion, and (since they considered Ulster to be the United Irishmen stronghold) was anxious to also produce a rising in the north, and would send a small advanced force of 300 French and Dutch troops, with 6000 stand of arms and 480,000 cartridges on board to Ulster from the Dutch ports – to assure the Ulstermen that a larger force would follow.

As part of the naval preparations, William Duckett was sent on a secret mission to support a mutinous tendency in the British forces – as thousands of addresses to the Irish sailors were distributed to British crews in neutral ports.  After the British arrested Ducketts in Hanover, the advance mission was abandoned.

Preparations were commenced for three expeditions – General Rey at Dunkirk, General Humbert at Rocheforte and the main force with General Hardy at Brest.  The Dunkirk expedition was to sail first and to provide a rallying point for the Irish until the others arrived.  Hardy’s expedition would follow with an entire field-train of artillery and the main body of French soldiers.  All three were to sail to different points on the Ulster coast to divide the attention of the British forces, and then to eventually join together with the Irish rebels into one army.  But time was needed to finance and provision the three expeditions.

But, the plans were disrupted by the foolhardiness of Humbert – who managed to prepare his force without waiting, and he sailed from La Rochelle on August 4th with 1000 troops in 3 frigates under the command of Commodore Savary – an army meant more to annoy than to conquer, and with 6,000 stand of arms and 3,000 uniforms.  Humbert landed at Killala bay, county Mayo, on the Ireland’s west coast on August 22nd, ‘astonished at the extreme poverty which we saw everywhere’.  After being joined by over 700 Irish recruits (the uncombed ragged peasants in their new uniforms, tasting the luxury of shoes and socks and fresh meat – possibly for the first time in their lives), on August 27th at Caslebar, the French met a larger British force of regulars and yeomanry, who in the middle of the battle, unexpectedly fled.

Volunteers from the combined forces of the Society of the United Irishmen and the Defenders confront British troops at the Battle of Killala in 1798

Although the rebellion in the north had been completely subdued, Cornwallis was convinced that the rest of the country was poised for another rebellion.  Thirteen English militia regiments were immediately ordered to Ireland.  Cornwallis now marched north with an overwhelming force of 30,000 men, and forced Humbert’s army to surrender, at the battle of Ballinamuck on September 8th.  The 850 French soldiers that were taken prisoner were later exchanged for British prisoners-of-war.  But the Irish were not allowed to surrender with them – 500 lay dead on the field while 200 were taken prisoner and were later hanged.  In recapturing areas that had fallen to the French, an estimated 2,000 Irish, caught in arms after Ballinamuck, were killed.

The frigate, Anacreon, under the command of Captain Blankmann, sailed from Dunkirk on September 4th, with General Rey, 80 French artillerists, 120 Irish refugees under James Tandy, and with arms and ammunition to distribute to the Irish rebels, and arrived at Donegal on September 18th.  But, upon hearing of the defeat of Humbert, ten days earlier, and now realizing the futility of their expedition and their small number, they re-embarked and, in order to avoid the British fleet, sailed round the north of Scotland to Bergen, Norway where the Irish were landed.  (Tandy eventually made his way back to Paris.)

On August 14th, (accompanied by Tone) Hardy embarked his 3,000 men aboard 1 ship-of-the-line, the Hoche, under the command of Commodore Bompart, with 8 frigates and 1 schooner.  But due to a lack of favourable wind, the poor state of repair of the ships and a mutinous disposition of the crews who had not been paid, Bompart did not leave Brest until September 16th and sailed for Lough Swilly at the north end of Ireland.

However, the French fleet was tracked by a British frigate squadron, that alerted the British Channel Fleet.  After initially feigning to sail to America, and then evading a 100-ship East Indiamen convoy, but failing to engage the 3 British frigates with 3 of his own, Bompart was finally able elude his pursuers, and sailed for Lough Swilly, the scheduled landing place at the north end of Ireland, to meet up with Humbert.  However, on October 12th, Commodore John Warren, with 3 ships-of-the-line and 2 frigates, and joined by the 3 pursuing frigates, finally forced Bompart to join in battle, with the overwhelming British squadron forcing the surrender of the Hoche (with Bompart and Tone taken prisoners) and 3 frigates. Over the next few days, the British frigate patrols captured 3 more frigates.  Only 1 schooner and 2 frigates were able to avoid pursuit and reach safety.

Even though Tone was a French officer, an Adjutant General, he was treated as a common criminal.  He was tried by a military court on November 10th, charged with treason, and he pleaded guilty – requesting the death of a soldier by firing squad, but instead he was ordered to be publicly hanged.  Having vowed ‘never to suffer the indignity of a public execution’, in his cell Tone slit his throat and died on November 19th.

The arrest of Tone

The loss of Tone was irreparable for any future negotiations between Ireland and France for French aid; none of the principal leaders of the Society of United Irishmen remained active – most were either in prison or dead.  Also, some in France considered the ‘Kilmainham confessions’ as a dishonourable betrayal of their ally, a betrayal that would discredit those United Irish leaders whose plan for Irish independence depended solely upon French aid.   But, with the destruction of France’s navy by the British, at the Battle of the Nile on August 3rd 1798, there was little likelihood of a new French expedition to Ireland.

To ensure that the Irish people would never become an independent nation or even to have an independent parliament, an Act for the Union of Great Britain and Ireland was passed by the British parliament on July 2nd 1800 and by the Irish parliament on August 1st 1800 – on January 1st 1801, the Irish parliament was officially dissolved, and 100 ‘lucky’ Irish protestants were selected to sit as Members of Parliament in the British House of Commons!

Act for the Union of Great Britain and Ireland was passed by the British parliament on July 2nd 1800

Part Two – The Haitian Frontier

9. The Beginning of the American Alliance with Saint-Domingue, January 3rd 1799

Victor-Marie Du Pont

During July of 1798, while Gerry had been preparing to leave France and return to the United States, Victor-Marie Du Pont had arrived back in France from America.  Du Pont was appointed to be the Consul General of the French Republic to the United States.  He arrived at Philadelphia in May, but because of Talleyrand’s refusal to accept the American ministers to France, President Adams, in return, refused to issue Du Pont his exequator as consul-general.  Before Du Pont left Philadelphia, he met with Vice President Jefferson, and upon returning to Paris, Du Pont reported to Talleyrand, on his view of the situation in America, and of the recent measures passed by Congress for America’s defense.  However, Talleyrand would send his own report to the Directory – urging a policy of temporization, to enable the ‘republicans’ to triumph in the coming elections.  The Directory then issued a new arret on July 31st.  (This new decree was featured by the ‘republican’ press as proof of French amity.)

Note: The American elections of November/December 1796, had resulted in a Federalist majority of 22 to 10 in the Senate, and a Federalist majority of 57 to 49 in the House of Representatives.  However, the American elections for the 6th Congress that took place between April and November 1798 (although Virginia wouldn’t vote until April 1799) would result in a Federalist majority of 22 to 10 in the Senate, again, and an increased Federalist majority of 60 to 46 in the House of Representatives.

Just before Gerry finally was able to leave Paris, Talleyrand sent Louis-Andre Pichon to The Hague as secretary of the French legation, who was also to meet with the American minister to The Hague, William Vans Murray.  (Pichon had previously been secretary to Genet and Fauchet, in Philadelphia, and then a secretary in the bureau of foreign affairs concerning American affairs, before being sent to the Hague.)

Vans Murray wrote to President Adams, on July 17th, that ‘I had expected that they would probably attempt to use me as a vehicle of overtures to be made to the Government, for the purpose of distracting and dividing and of reviving that hope which has so much been our disease … If this affair takes a more formal attempt, I shall only listen but to get what I can and then declare myself incompetent & that having no power & not having any security I shall not dare to meddle nor to write to government upon the subject …’

That summer, President Adams was visited at his home in Massachusetts by the British Ambassador, Robert Liston, seeking an alliance between Britain and the United States (in case of a war with France) – otherwise, France may offer terms so attractive that Britain could not turn them down, and the United States would be left exposed to the resentment of France.  But President Adams would not agree.

After his meetings with Gerry, President Adams wrote to Pickering, on October 20th, asking for advice for his upcoming address to Congress when they would return in December.  He asked ‘whether it will be expedient for the president to recommend to the consideration of Congress a declaration of war against France … whether any further proposals of negotiation can be made with safety … (and) whether in the speech, the president may not say, that in order to keep open the channels of negotiation, it is his intention, to nominate a minister to the French Republic, who may be ready to embark for France, as soon as he or the president shall receive from the directory, satisfactory assurances, that he shall be received and entitled to all the prerogatives and privileges of the general law of nations, & that a minster of equal rank & powers shall be appointed and commissioned to treat with him …’

On November 27th, Pickering replied that ‘our country ought not to be exposed to a third ignominious repulse.  We should nevertheless stand ready to negotiate with the French Republic, whenever it shall give reasonable evidence of its disposition to respect our rights as an independent nation; to make just reparation to our injured merchants; & shall send a minister with adequate powers to treat and conclude on these and all other subjects of difference between the two nations.  These now appear to me to be indispensable preliminaries … The sentiments above expressed are incompatible with a recommendation to declare war against France; and to me it appears inexpedient … because the people of the United States seem not yet to be convinced of the necessity of war … (and) further measures for the protection of our commerce, by an increase of our naval force, and an extension and complete execution of the measures for defense and war by land … would probably prevent a war; or if it should finally be inevitable, we should be prepared to meet it’.

President Adams received another letter from Vans Murray, who wrote, on October 7th, that ‘the enclosed is from Mr. Talleyrand to Mr. Pichon who left this place the 24th September for Paris.  In many interviews which this gentleman sought with me, with much solicitude, I had repelled the idea that “the Assurances” declared by you Sir in your message in June, had been given in any of Mr. Talleyrand’s letters that I had seen; … that nothing but a formal & explicit assurance of respectful reception, worthy the minister of a free independent & powerful nation would in my opinion, as an unauthorized individual, be considered by you Sir as “the assurances” which you had spoken of …’

In this copy of the letter from Talleyrand to Pichon, it read that ‘you were right to assert that whatever plenipotentiary the Government of the United States might send to France, in order to terminate the existing differences between the two countries, he would be undoubtedly received with the respect due to the representative of a free, independent, and powerful nation’.

On September 14th, John Quincy Adams would write to his mother, ‘which though not directed to yourself (i.e. his father) were intended for your perusal’, that ‘the French newspapers made no scruple of announcing that a Revolution would soon overthrow the American Government and place the affairs of the United States in the hands of patriots devoted to France …’

‘But the tone is now totally changed and the signal of the change, was the first shew of firmness and a determination to resist on the part of our Government – Dupont the ex-consul arrived at Paris – The newspapers, not yet having received their cue, announced that Dupont had said that the American people were as decided in favour of France, as the American Government was against her, and that this government would fall at the first instant of hostility from France against it. – Dupont soon contradicted this paragraph, and gave it as his opinion that a rupture would only strengthen the English party and English influence in America, and that the true patriots, French and American, wished rather for conciliatory measures on the part of France – From that moment the French government have affected a friendly disposition towards the United States’.

On September 25th, John Quincy would write directly to President Adams (in cypher) on his prospects in Prussia, but also concerning France, that ‘the present situation of the affairs of France however, combining with the spirit which she at length finds roused in the United States, have produced a great and important change in her conduct towards us – It is no longer an overbearing and insolent Minister of external relations, who keeps three Ministers waiting six months without reception, and after attempting to dupe and swindle them by his pimping spies, insults us by a discrimination, injurious to the rights of an independent nation …’

‘They are at present very industrious in spreading abroad the idea that they wish reconciliation with the United States, and are extremely desirous of a new negotiation. – All this for the present is probably nothing more than a design to lull us into security, and especially to divide the people of the United States from their Government – They have discovered that by their arrogance and indignities and pretended contempt of our friendship they have only weakened their own party in America, and given strength and vigour to the friends of Government … All this however must be deemed mere artifice, while they continue to violate the rights of our neutrality – A mere lullaby to keep us inactive and defenseless until they shall have more leisure to point their whole force against us’.

Young John Quincy Adams

On December 8th 1798, President Adams gave his address to open the new session of Congress, stating that ‘the course of the transactions in relation to the United States and France, which have come to my knowledge during your recess, will be made the subject of a future communication.  That communication will confirm the ultimate failure of the measures which have been taken by the Government of the United States towards an amicable adjustment of differences with that power.  You will, at the same time, perceive that the French Government appears solicitous to impress the opinion that it is adverse to rupture with this country, and that it has, in a qualified manner, declared itself willing to receive a Minister from the United States, for the purpose of restoring a good understanding …’

‘It is also worthy of observation that the decree of the Directory, alleged to be intended to restrain the depredations of French cruisers on our commerce, has not given, and cannot give, any relief … Hitherto, therefore, nothing is discoverable in the conduct of France which ought to change or relax our measures of defense; on the contrary, to extend and invigorate them is our true policy … But, in demonstrating by our conduct that we do not fear war in the necessary protection of our rights and honor, we shall give no room to infer that we abandon the desire of peace … But to send another Minister, without more determinate assurances that he would be received, would be an act of humiliation to which the United States ought not to submit.’

A bill that had been passed in the last session of Congress – to suspend the commercial intercourse between the United States and France, was to expire at the end of the current session, and so, on January 3rd 1799, Mr. Otis called up a bill ‘to further suspend the commercial intercourse between the United States and France, and the dependencies thereof’, and it was debated whether the House should first wait for the promised dispatches to be sent from the President.

Mr. Livingston, ‘speaking hypothetically’, said ‘suppose an agent shall have arrived in this city from the Governor of a certain foreign island; suppose that agent should have been the bearer of certain proposals, in order to produce an alliance, either commercial or political, with the United States; suppose he should have been introduced to the president, and have laid these proposals before him; suppose this agent has also these proposals before certain members of the Legislature; ought not this House to be equally well informed with such gentlemen on this subject, before they are called upon to act?’

This new bill was ‘hypothetically’ referring to the resumption of trade with the French colony of Saint-Domingue – that was in the middle of a revolution to secure freedom for its newly-freed slaves.

[Before the American government had prohibited trade with France, there had been 600 American ships employed in the Saint-Domingue trade (in 1796).  And due to seizures by French privateers, insurance rates for a trip to the Caribbean had risen from 6% in 1796 to 30% in 1798, and the trade collapsed.]

9.1 – Note on the Slave Revolt in Saint-Domingue

In 1787, the French West Indies colonies were the islands of Martinique, Guadeloupe, Tobago, Saint Lucia and Saint-Domingue – the western end of the (Spanish) island of Santo Domingo.  The most important colony economically was, by far, Saint-Domingue, with its 398 cotton and indigo plantations, its 1,962 coffee plantations, and its 655 sugar plantations –contributing two-thirds of France’s tropical produce and one-third of France’s foreign trade.  The colony was administered by a governor and a small group of bureaucrats, lawyers and soldiers.

French colonists bask in the luxury of their Haitian estates and servants

The majority of the plantation owners (called grands blancs) lived on the plantations (a minority of absentee-landlords lived in France) along with a middle class of merchants and small shopkeepers, and a lower class of plantation overseers, artisans and mechanics (called the petits blancs), and together they made up about 35,000 of the colony’s inhabitants.  The mulattoes and free blacks (called gens de couleur) owned about one-third of the plantations and about one-fourth of the slaves in the colony, had to face social and racial discrimination, were not allowed to ‘hold any public office, trust, or employment’, and made up about 25,000 of the inhabitants.  But, the overwhelming majority of the inhabitants in the colony were the almost half a million slaves, imported from slave colonies in Africa, who laboured on the plantations – about 2% of the slaves died each year.

The May 1789 Estates Generale
Emblem of la Société des Amis des Noirs

After King Louis XVI had called for the Estates-General to be convened in May 1789, the grand blancs of Saint-Domingue formed a committee and selected 37 delegates to be sent to attend the Estates-General, where they were allowed to sit provisionally with the Third Estate.  When the National Assembly was formed, the  Société des Amis des Noirs contested their right to 37 delegates – because they only represented the grand blanc portion of the population, and not any of the gens de couleur portion.  In July, Saint-Domingue was allowed to seat six (grand blanc) delegates.  On March 8th 1790, the National Assembly decreed that the colonies were allowed to form their own local system of government – but the grand blanc delegates opposed giving active citizenship to the petit blancs.  And on March 28th, the National Assembly issued their instructions, that all taxpayers and proprietors, over the age of 25, had the right to participate in colonial assemblies.

In Saint-Domingue, each province elected its own Provincial Assembly and its own National Guard, and a general Colonial Assembly was called to meet.  But, in April 1790, in a revolt against the bureaucratic authority, National Guards from the North province marched to Port-au-Prince to seize the Intendant, Francois Barbe-Marbois, who was able to flee back to France.  [We shall see Marbois later – involving the Louisiana purchase.] Colonel Mauduit, commander of a regiment of French regulars, led the bureaucracy and administrative caste in maintaining their authority and opposed the general assembly.  Mauduit would support the gens de couleur against both the grand blancs and petit blancs, who refused to include the gens de couleur in the March 28th instructions.

On May 28th, the Colonial Assembly (dominated by the petit blancs – calling themselves the Patriots) drafted a constitution, that recognized the king as the supreme authority, and that the National Assembly could not decree laws concerning the internal regime of Saint-Domingue.  The grand blancs now feared that the petit blancs would seize control of the colony, and the grand blancs of the North Province seceded and returned to their provincial assembly.  Manduit would now ally with the grand blancs – to split the grand blancs and petit blancs, and to restore bureaucratic authority and control.

On June 29th, the Patriots of Port-au-Prince captured a government patrol but were then dispersed by Manduit’s forces.  The Colonial Assembly then sent a delegation of 85 members, who eluded Manduit, to France to present its case to the National Assembly, and they arrived at Brest on September 21st.  However, led by Barnave, the National Assembly instead censured the Patriot address, and annulled the Colonial Assembly on October 12th.

Vincent Oge, a leader of the ‘Colons Americains’ (a group of mulattoes living in France), who was angered at the refusal of the National Assembly to listen to their complaints or to seat mulatto delegates, now left France and on October 21st, arrived back in Saint-Domingue where he gathered together a force of 700 mulattoes at Grand Riviere.  (After the adoption of the Declaration of Rights of Man and Citizens, the gens de couleur demanded full citizenship.)  On October 29th, Oge sent a letter to the Provincial Assembly of the North demanding that the gens de couleur be included in the Instructions of March 28th.

Jacques Vincent Ogé

Mauduit, and the French regulars, defeated Oge’s force and drove them into the mountains.  Oge and his lieutenant, Chavannes, fled to St. Jago in Spanish Santo Domingo.  The two were later captured by Spanish troops and were extradited back to Saint-Domingue, where they were tried, found guilty and hanged on March 9th 1791.

Earlier in March, two French regiments had arrived as reinforcements in Port-au-Prince.  The troops, however, soon mutinied and joined with the Patriots’ National Guard, who vowed to avenge the defeat they had suffered under Manduit.  Manduit tried to appease the mutineers and as a gesture of good will, returned the captured colours of the National Guard.  But, on March 4th, during the proceedings to return the colours, Manduit was attacked and murdered.

The National Assembly, in France, now passed the Decrees of May 13th and 15th 1791, that stated that the National Assembly shall make no law on the status of unfree persons in the colonies except at the specific and unprompted request of the colonial assemblies; but also, that the colonial assemblies will admit people of colour, born of free fathers and mothers, if they otherwise have the required status.  This last motion affected only a very small percentage of the 25,000 mulattoes in Saint-Domingue (perhaps no more than a few hundred).

However small such a concession was to the gens de couleurs, the Colonial Assembly at Saint-Domingue now worked to see that the May Decree should not be enforced, and the colonial deputies at the National Assembly in Paris worked for the repeal of the decree.  But all of that would change on August 22nd 1791, when Boukman led a revolt of 100,000 slaves in the North Province that destroyed over 300 plantations.

The slave rebellion of August 22, 1791

Note: Boukman had been a slave in Jamaica and had been called ‘Book Man’ because he had taught himself to read and write.  After he had attempted to teach other slaves how to read, he was sold by his British master to a French slave owner in Saint-Domingue, and his name became ‘Boukman’.  At one of the slaves’ regular night meetings, on August 14th, the assembled slaves, led by Boukman, swore an oath to break their chains or die.  A week later, the revolt began.

Fleeing to Le Cap Francis for safety were 10,000 grand blancs and petit blancs, along with many gens de couleur, where they were besieged by over 40,000 slave and mulatto Insurgents.  With the defenses of the city secured to withstand the Insurgent onslaughts, the grand blanc and petit blanc troops made sallies against the Insurgent positions – taking no prisoners and killing any and all Insurgents – including Boukman.

In the South Province, the mulattoes revolted and joined with the slaves in attacking the planters, and in laying siege to Les Cayes.  In the West Province, the mulattoes revolted and were joined by thousands of slaves, destroying plantations and defeating a detachment sent from Port-au-Prince.  On September 13th, 4,000 mulattoes laid siege to Port-au-Prince.  But the gens de couleur, fearing that the slaves might gain equality with them, now offered to join with the grand blancs, and formed an agreement to suppress the Insurgents.

On September 20th, the Colonial Assembly recognized the May Decrees and applied it to all of the mulattoes.  The petit blancs in the West Province however refused to honour the agreement, and the mulattoes again revolted, at the same time that 20,000 Insurgents were moving to attack Port-au-Prince.  By the end of October, a new alliance between the mulattoes and grand blancs was formed and took control of Port-au-Prince.

However, in France, upon learning of the slave rebellion, the National Assembly voted to repeal the May Decree and to send three peace commissioners along with an expedition of 18,000 troops.

Upon learning of the National Assembly’s repeal, the Colonial Assembly rejected its pledge of equality for mulattoes.  On November 21st, when a mulatto who had been sentenced to death, was about to be executed, the gens de couleur rioted and abandoned Port-au-Prince, after much of the city had been destroyed.  But, many of the grand blancs defected and joined with the gens de couleur, in fighting against the petit blancs that remained in the city.

In early December, the three peace commissioners from France arrived, but with only 6,000 troops (not the promised 18,000) and declared a general amnesty for those who would cease fighting.

Following the death of Boukman, the Insurgent leaders, on December 8th, sent two emissaries with a letter to the Colonial Assembly, offering to have their followers return to the plantations, in exchange for freedom for their 50 senior leaders.  But the Colonial Assembly refused to even receive the emissaries, and demanded that the Insurgents must surrender first, and then they would be shown ‘the known clemency of their proprietors’.

On December 22nd, a delegation of the Insurgents met with the commissioners at the Saint-Michel plantation, and it was agreed to an amnesty for the Insurgents – with the Insurgents surrendering their weapons, freeing all their prisoners and with the returning of all rank-and-file to the plantations.

However, the Colonial Assembly refused to abide by the agreements, and secretly planned to massacre the Insurgents, once they had given up their weapons.  But the Insurgents somehow found out about the plot, the fighting resumed, and the chance for peace collapsed as the commissioners returned to France.

In the North Province, the Insurgents continued their attacks and siege on Le Cap Francois; in the South Province, the mulattoes and Insurgents continued their attacks and siege of Les Cayes; and in the West Province, the strange alliance of Insurgents, mulattoes and grand blancs laid siege to Port-au-Prince.

On March 24th 1792, the National Legislative Assembly – the new government of France after the adoption of the constitution on September 3rd 1791 – now voted to grant full citizenship to all mulattoes, to appoint a new governor, and to send three new peace commissioners to Saint-Domingue, along with 7,000 troops.

This decree was signed into law by the King on April 4th, and the three commissioners arrived at Saint-Domingue in September – Etienne Ploverel, Jean-Antoine Ailhaud and Leger-Felicite Sonthonax.  But before the commissioners arrived with their instructions from the Legislative Assembly, a new revolutionary commune had seized control of Paris, the Tuileries had been stormed and the King imprisoned, and the National Convention was elected, becoming the new government of France.

In October, the Colonial Assembly held its last meeting and was replaced with the Intermediate Commission.  Sonthonax, the leader of the new commission, decreed that slavery should be protected in Saint-Domingue, that it recognized only two distinct and separated classes: free men without distinction of colour, and slaves (as was stated by the Legislative Assembly in its March decree) and that the institution would be safe after the expulsion of ‘agitators’.  Sonthonax established Jacobin clubs throughout the colony, and in attempting to root out royalism, he deported many leading military men (and bribed those remaining), and attempted to build an alliance with the gens de couleur.

Léger Félicité Sonthonax

The Insurgents were soon beaten badly by the French troops and were driven from the Plaine de Nord and into the mountains.  There, the Insurgents joined with the Spanish, who supplied them with aid and encouragement.  France had recently declared war against Spain, and Spain now saw an opportunity to regain the western end of the island.  The Insurgents now renewed their attack on Le Cap Francois in the North Province.

General Galbaud arrived at Le Cap Francois as Saint-Domingue’s new governor on May 7th 1793, but his authority was challenged by Sonthonax – since Galbaud owned a local plantation, he was violating a French law that prohibited a proprietor from governing the colony.  Sonthonax ordered Galbaud to embark and leave on the French fleet in port.  While Sonthonax and the other commissioners left to prepare the defenses at Port-au-Prince in the West Province, Galbaud conspired with the planters at Le Cap Francois in the North Province to deport the commissioners and to return Saint-Dominigue to the conditions before the Legislative Assembly’s March decree.  Galbaud convinced 2,000 sailors from the French fleet to join him and the French troops.

Sonthonax rushed back to Le Cap Francois with a force of free men from Port-au-Prince and battled Galbaud, with much destruction and loss of life.  During the night of June 20th 1793, Sonthonax promised freedom ‘to all Negro warriors who will fight for the Republic under the orders of the Civil Commissioners’.  Encamped just outside of Le Cap Francois was the 15,000-man Insurgent army, that now accepted Sonthonax’s terms of freedom and attacked the city.  In the battle, the city was destroyed, over 10,000 people in total were killed, and thousands fled the city to escape as the fleet, with Galbaud, sailed to cities on the coast of the United States.

With this promise, Sonthonax had not intended to abolish slavery, but that most slaves could expect improved conditions, with some hope of gradual freedom.  The Insurgents however believed that this promise was intended to abolish slavery completely.  [General Laveaux was now appointed acting Governor of Saint-Domingue]

But, now, with the Spanish army and its Insurgent allies preparing to attack Le Cap Francois, and with the British navy preparing to come to the aid the remaining petit blancs, Sonthonax decreed the abolition of slavery in the North Province, on August 29th, asking the former slaves to ‘return to your workshop or to your former owner; you will receive the wages of your suffering.  You will no longer be subjected to the humiliating correction that was once inflicted on you; you will no longer be the property of another; you will remain masters of your own, and you will live happy’.  Two weeks later, Polverel extended the abolition of slavery to the South and West Provinces.

While the British would be content to leave the fighting on the continent, against France, to Austria and Prussia, and to orchestrate the internal chaos in Paris, however, with France’s declaration of war against Britain, the British now could seek to capture the West Indien colonies of France.  The British ministry, under Prime Minister Pitt and Secretary of Foreign Affairs Grenville, had already been preparing its move.

Three days after the declaration of war in February 1793, instructions were sent to the British navy at Barbados – resulting in the seizure of Tobago in April 1793, and later of Martinique in March 1794, and of St. Lucia and Guadeloupe in April 1794.  But, on September 20th 1793, the British navy began an invasion of its key target, Saint-Domingue – both to capture France’s most important colony and to stop the slave revolt there from spreading to Britain’s most important colony, Jamaica – ‘to prevent a circulation in the British colonies of the wild and pernicious Doctrines of Liberty and Equality’.

General Williamson led the British invasion, and seized Jeremie in South Province and Mole Saint Nicolas in North Province, while blockading Sonthonax at Port-au-Prince in West Province.  By the end of 1793, with over 5,000 regulars and the colonial militia, the British had captured Jean Rabel, Saint Marc, Arcahaie and Leogane from the 2500-man French army.  In 1794, the British offensive would capture Tiberon in January, and L’Acul in February, and forced the surrender of  Les Cayes in April and of Port-au-Prince on June 1st.

Battle of Santo Domingo

In June 1793, the French forces faced a second front of attack, when the Spanish invaded from Santo Domingo in the east, with 14,000 men under General Moreno, along with thousands of Insurgents.

By July 1794, the Spanish had captured Fort Dauphin and controlled most of the North Province, except for Le Cap Francois and Port-de-Paix.  With the British invasion along the western coast, and with the Spanish pressing from the east, the French defeat seemed only a matter of time.

On February 4th 1794, the National Convention of France would declare ‘the slavery of the blacks abolished in all the colonies; consequently all men irrespective of colour living in the colonies are French citizens and shall enjoy all the rights provided by the Constitution.’

In May 1794, upon hearing of the Convention’s declaration, Toussaint Louverture, a 50-year old Insurgent leader whose army had been previously allied with the Spanish, would decide to switch sides – to fight alongside of the French against both the Spanish and the British – a decision that would change the course of history.

Note: Toussaint Louverture had been born, as a slave, on November 1st (as his name implies) in 1743, and was freed in 1776.  He had worked overseeing the livestock, and later acted as coachman to the manager of the plantation, Bayon de Libertat.

Toussaint Louverture

Louverture now claimed that the Spanish refused to liberate the slaves and ‘have caused us to fight each other to diminish our numbers and to overwhelm the remainder with chains’.  Louverture met with Laveaux in July, and officially joined forces with the French.  (Sonthonax had been recalled to France by the National Convention, and on June 15th, he had sailed from Saint-Domingue, leaving Laveaux in charge of the remaining French forces.)

Louverture drove the Spanish back eastward, drove the British back towards the coast, and soon controlled most of the Artibonite Valley.  Laveaux and Villatte, the commander of the mulatto fighters in North Province, were able to lift the siege of Port-au-Paix and Le Cap Francois in North Province; and Rigaud, the commander of the mulatto fighters in South Province, attacked the British forces in the south, regaining Leogane and Tiburon.

In July 1795, the French National Convention would promote Louverture to Brigadier General, along with Villatte (the mullato commander of Le Cap Francois), Rigaud and Beauvais (the mullato commander at Jacmel).

Also in July, Spain withdrew from the Coalition fighting against France in Europe, and Spain ceded all of Santo Domingo to France.  As the Spanish now withdrew from the fighting in Saint-Domingue, Louverture would gain control over most of North Province and West Province, and most of the Insurgents who had fought under the Spanish would join the ranks of Louverture’s army.

The British offensive waned, as yellow fever and malaria began its attack on the troops, and by June 1795, they held only Saint Marc and Port-au-Prince in West Province, Jeremie in South Province, and Mole Saint Nicolas in North Province.  In September, the British would capture Mirebalais, that opened an important supply line to the Spanish Central Plateau, and Louverture would wage a guerrilla war against the British, trying to regain Mirebalais.  And in August, the British faced a Maroon rebellion in Trelawny Parish in Jamaica.

When the Moroons surrendered, instead of relocating them to another parish in Jamaica, as promised, the British instead deported the 500 Maroons to Nova Scotia.

Sir Ralph Abercromby

In December, in its attempt to conquer Saint-Domingue and the rest of the French west indies, the British ministry decided to launch ‘the great push’ – sending General Ralph Abercrombie with a force of 30,000 men in 200 ships, that arrived at Barbados in March 1796.  Abernathy dispatched Gordon Forbes to Port-au-Prince with a force that, by June, would number 10,000 men.  Forbes first launched an attack against Rigaud at Leogane, with 20 ships bombarding the town for 9 hours before attacking the city.  The attack failed and the British were forced to retreat.

Forbes moved his forces to Saint Marc in an attempt to push back Louverture, but that offensive also failed, Louverture counter-attacked, and the British became bottled up at Port-au-Prince and Saint Marc, as yellow fever and malaria continued to take their toll.  The British, meanwhile, had secretly been encouraging Villatte to depose Laveaux, whose support they believed was the basis of Louverture’s strength.

On March 20th 1796, 100 mulatto fighters entered the government palace at Le Cap Francois, seized the governor, beat him, dragged him through the streets, and threw him in prison.  Louverture immediately sent 10,000 men to Le Cap Francois demanding that Laveaux be released or he would storm the city.  Laveaux was released and Villatte and 600 of his followers fled.  On April 1st, Laveaux made Louverture the Lieutenant Governor and the next day, Louverture increased his army with 5 new regiments – now commanding an army of over 20,000 men.

On May 11th, Sonthonax returned to Saint-Domingue.  In 1794, Sonthonax and Polverel had been ordered to return to France by Robespierre to answer charges.  By the time they arrived back in France, Robespierre was gone and the Terror was over.  After a year of proceedings, in October 1795, Sonthonax was vindicated, and three months later, he was appointed as the head of a five-man Commission sent by the Directory, the head of the new government of France – to survey the administration and application of French law in the colony; to keep Saint-Domingue both French and free; and to restore its economic prosperity based on a system of general emancipation.

Now, in order to obtain military support from the two main commanders, Louverture and Rigaud, and also to win mulatto support in his efforts to eradicate all class and racial distinctions, Sonthonax first deported Villatte and his close followers to France, and secondly sent two delegates to meet with Rigaud in the South Province.

But the delegation proved to be a disaster, the delegates had to flee to (Spanish) Santo Domingo, and the South Province remained semi-independent of Sonthonax and French authority in the north.

In September, elections were held to chose Saint-Domingue’s representatives to the French National Assembly.  Two of the elected representatives were Laveaux and Sonthonax.  Laveaux left to take up his duties in France in October, but Sonthonax remained, writing letters to the government in France, requesting his recall, before he would leave for France.

In April 1797, Louverture finally recaptured Mirebalais from the British, and their new commander, General John Graves Simcoe, who had arrived on February 28, 1797.  After taking Mirebalais, Louverture then threatened the British at Port-au-Prince, but was forced to retreat.  Simcoe sent Dessources, the grand blanc ally of the British, to advance from Saint Marc with 2000 men and attack Louverture at Verrettes, while at the same time he sent General Churchill to retake Mirebalais.  Louverture moved with 10,000 men to face Dessources and annihilated his army.  Louverture now launched an attack on Saint Marc, but the attack failed, forcing Louverture to retreat.  However, the British realized that if Saint Marc fell, Mirebalais could then easily be retaken, and Simcoe recalled his forces from Mirebalais to defend Saint Marc, and Louverture reoccupied Mirebalais.  For his success in the campaign, Sonthonax promoted Louverture to Commander in Chief of all the French forces in Saint-Domingue.

General John Graves Simcoe

Note: Ironically (or karma, perhaps) Lt-Governor Simcoe, who had signed into law the act to end the importation of slaves into Upper Canada, left Canada in 1796 and returned to Britain on sick leave, but he was then re-assigned by the British ministry to Saint-Domingue – to lead the British fight against Louverture, arriving in January 1797.  Simcoe returned to Britain in August because he was frustrated by the failure of the government to provide the troops and supplies that he felt were necessary.

He then resigned his Saint-Domingue commission and his lieutenant-governorship in Upper Canada.

General Toussaint (as he would be called) and Sonthonax now tried to restore the plantation economy with freedmen’s labour.  However, friction developed between them, when Sonthonax refused to allow any emigre to return to Saint-Domingue, while General Toussaint urged the return of many of the grand blancs, who had fled in 1793 – as he felt their knowledge and skills were essential to the restoration of the plantations.  General Toussaint would authorize the return of Bayon de Libertat – the manager of the plantation where he had worked.

[During Bayon’s exile in the United States, Louverture had sent him the proceeds from his plantations.]

In July 1797, Sonthonax sent General Toussaint an angry letter, protesting Bayon’s return – with a copy of the law ‘which condemns to death the emigres who return to the territory of the Republic after having been banished, and condemns those who have aided or favored their return to four years in irons’.  General Toussaint would write to the Directory in Bayon’s defense.  However, since no official list of emigres existed for Saint-Domingue, none of these plantations could be legally sold to anyone, but instead were leased to temporary managers – many of them were officers in General Toussaint’s army.

On August 19th and 20th, General Toussaint met with Sonthonax, accusing him of having earlier plotted for independence for Saint-Domingue, and demanded that Sonthonax return to France.  (General Toussaint would relate this conversation to the other commissioners, who wrote it down, and he sent it to the French minister of marine.)

On August 20th, Sonthonax received a letter from General Toussaint and signed by the other generals and officers, telling him that ‘named deputy of the colony to the Legislative Corps, commanding circumstances made it your duty to remain for some time still in our midst; then your influence was necessary, troubles had disturbed us, it was necessary to settle them.  Today, when order, peace and zeal for work, the reestablishment of agriculture, our success against our external enemies and their impotence permits you to present yourself to your function – go tell France what you have seen, the prodigies to which you have been witness.  Be always the defender of the cause which we have embraced, of which we will be the eternal soldiers.’

Sonthonax stalled, to see if he might find any military support among the garrisons at Le Cap Francois.  Meanwhile, General Toussaint gathered his forces outside the town and sent a message to the commissioners that ‘if your colleague has not left before sunrise, I will enter Le Cap with my dragoons and embark him by force.’  Sonthonax sailed for France on August 24th.

General Toussaint wrote to Laveaux, listing his complaints against Sonthonax, and Laveaux would defend him to the French legislature from the accusations by Sonthonax.  He also wrote to the Directory that ‘could men who have once enjoyed the benefits of liberty look on calmly while it is ravished from them!  They bore their chains when they knew no condition of life better than that of slavery.  But today when they have left it, if they had a thousand lives, they would sacrifice them all rather than to be subjected again to slavery.  But no, the hand that has broken our chains will not subject us to them again. France will not renounce her principles … But if, to restore slavery in Saint Domingue, you were to do so, then I declare to you, that would be to attempt the impossible; we knew how to face danger to win our liberty, and we will know how to face death to keep it.’

In March 1798, General Thomas Maitland, who had returned to London with Simcoe last August, now arrived back at Saint-Domingue, with a mandate for a withdrawal, and began negotiations with Louverture.

General Thomas Maitland and Louverture

During the 5 years of the British invasion of Saint-Domingue, while earning more than £500,000 from exports, it had cost more than £7 million!!!  As well as over 20,000 casualties!!!  And, during those 5 years, the British army had purchased 13,400 slaves, to raise African slave regiments to do their fighting for them – which probably made them the largest single buyer of slaves in the Caribbean.

On April 30th 1798, an agreement was signed between General Maitland, commander of the invading British forces in Saint-Domingue, and General Toussaint, commander of the French forces in Saint-Domingue, that the British would withdraw from Port-au-Prince, Saint Marc, Arcahaye, and Croix-des-Bouquets (leaving all military installations intact) and in exchange, General Toussaint would promise to protect the lives and property of those who would remain and not leave with the British.  Within the week, all the British troops had left.  General Toussaint and his troops entered Port-au-Prince in triumph, and now controlled all of West Province.

General Theodore Hedouville

On April 20th, the special agent of the Directory, General Theodore Hedouville – the ‘pacifier of the Vendee’, had arrived in Saint-Domingue at Le Cap Francais, with the Directory’s new plan to lull the Insurgents into an invasion of Jamaica – to export the slave revolt to the British plantations.  General Toussaint realized that such a plan would destroy him and that ‘the old system might then be restored in St. Domingo and slavery re-established’.  Maitland would soon learn of the French plan, and he wanted to stop any attempt of a French invasion of Jamaica, from Saint-Domingue, and launched an offensive to secure the western tip of the peninsula of South Province – the most probable place from which such an invasion might occur.

In June, Maitland’s forces broke through the encirclement of the British-held port of Jeremie, pushing back Rigaud’s mulatto army into Tiburon, and began a naval bombardment of Tiburon.  General Toussaint rushed aid to Rigaud, and at the same time, began attacks on Mole Saint Nicolas, the other remaining British-held port, forcing Maitland to draw off some of his forces from the south, and his offensive soon collapsed.  Maitland now began new negotiations with General Toussaint – the British would withdraw from its remaining ports, surrendering Jeremie to Rigaud and surrendering Mole Saint Nicolas to General Toussaint; Britain would continue to trade with Saint-Domingue; Saint-Domingue’s trade with the United States would have British support; and Britain would promise not to invade the French colony again, if, in return, General Toussaint would promise never to attack Jamaica.

On August 31st the agreement was signed, and by early October, the last of the British troops left Saint-Domingue.  But, General Toussaint (not fully trusting Saint-Domingue’s future to the British Empire) rejected the offer from Maitland – that if Saint-Domingue would declare independence, they would receive the protection of the British navy from the French.

Conflict now arose between General Toussaint and Hedouville – over the remaining emigres and over work policy.  Hedouville declared that all emigres must leave the colony and give up their property, while General Toussaint (as he had promised Maitland) instead pardoned those grand blancs that were left behind after the British withdrawal, because he needed their skills and experience in rebuilding the plantation economy.  Hedouville announced his work policy, that required all field workers to engage themselves to their plantations for 3 years, while General Toussaint said this sounded too much like slavery.

Hedouville’s further plan was to rid himself of General Toussaint, by using the evacuation of the British troops as a pretext for reducing the army down to three small contingents for the three provinces – North  West and South, by naming a commander of each contingent – to be directly responsible to the Directory’s Agent, and by abolishing the post of Commander-in-chief.  Hedouville would begin by trying to disperse the 5th Regiment, commanded by General Toussaint’s adopted nephew Moyse, that was stationed at Fort Liberte, near Cap Francais.

In mid-October, fighting broke out between the 5th Regiment and some of the planters in the area.  Hedouville declared Moyse an outlaw, replaced him with Manigat, and ordered Rigaud to march to the fort, join with the mulatto troops that were there, and seize Moyse.  Instead, General Toussaint amassed his army, and along with the thousands of field workers, marched to Le Cap Francais, and threatened to storm the city.

On October 22nd, Hedouville and his followers left Saint-Domingue in three ships and fled to France.  General Toussaint wrote to the Directory, denying any ambition for independence and blaming all the trouble on Hedouville.  He also wrote to Laveaux that ‘whatever may be the injustices of the agents of the government, I shall be no less constant in my principles and no less obedient to the authorities of the motherland.’

After General Toussaint had opposed the Directory’s plan for an invasion of British Jamaica, Hedouville then nominated Rigaud to carry out the plan – but Hedouville’s sudden departure put a stop to the planned invasion!  But before Hedouville left Saint-Domingue, he sent a letter to Rigaud to ‘hereby relieve you, Citizen General, of the obligation to recognize him (i.e. General Toussaint) as your Commander-in-Chief and instruct you to assume command of the Department of the South’.

10. Toussaint’s Clause, February 9th 1799

General Toussaint was faced with a decision that could decide the fate of Saint-Domingue.  Because the island’s economy was so focused on exports of sugar and coffee, there was almost no foodstuffs grown; and all military equipment also had to be imported.  While the North and West Provinces, under General Toussaint’s command, were in desperate need of food supplies and military supplies for his army, Rigaud in South Province was receiving supplies from British merchants in Jamaica!  This was another reason why General Toussaint did not trust the British – who wanted to isolate Saint-Domingue and to stop any attempt of a rebellion occurring in any of the British plantation islands.  And he could not trust the French – who wished to start slave rebellions in British Jamaica and in the southern United States – an undertaking that General Toussaint thought that he would lose, resulting in the destruction of his army and the loss of their freedom.  He decided that he could trust the Americans!

One week after the departure of Hedouville, General Toussaint deputized a Cap Francais businessman, Joseph Bunel, to go to Philadelphia, accompanied by the American consul at Cap Francais, Jacob Mayer, in order to deliver a letter to President Adams, proposing that American trade with St. Domingue be permitted, writing that “you can be assured, Mr. President, that Americans will find protection and security in the ports of the Republic and St. Domingue, that the flag of the United States will be respected there, as that of a friendly power and ally of France; that orders will be given to our privateers on cruise to act in that manner; and that I will facilitate by all means available to me, their prompt return to their country, and that they will be paid promptly for cargoes that have been brought to us.”

Note: Joseph Bunel was a successful French merchant in Saint-Domingue and was married to Marie Francoise Mouton Bunel, who had been born into slavery, who had gained her freedom and had also become a successful merchant in Saint-Domingue.  This was at a time when inter-racial marriages were illegal in the United States – except for Pennsylvania, that repealed its ban in 1780.  (Virginia would not repeal its ban until it was found unconstitutional by the United States Supreme Court in 1967 !!!)

Bunel arrived at Philadelphia on December 19th, and a few days later, met privately with Secretary of State, Pickering.  On December 26th, Bunel dined with Pickering and with some important Federalist congressman – Otis, Harper, and Dayton – the Speaker of the House.  On December 31st, Bunel met secretly with President Adams, and would later dine with President Adams, Pickering and a few others at the President’s House on January 7th 1799.

Secretary of State, Thomas Pickering

On January 3rd, Otis, from the Committee of Defense, reported a bill entitled ‘an act further to suspend the commercial intercourse between France and the dependencies thereof’, and on January 8th, Gallatin proposed that debate on this bill should not begin until the House had received the dispatches from the President, that he had received during the recess, and that he had promised to communicate to Congress.

The debate finally began on January 18th, but was soon interrupted ‘by a Message from the President, communicating the dispatches which had given rise to this conversation’.  President Adams sent to Congress, Gerry’s letter of October 1st, with his letters of May 12th and 13th; and with the correspondence between Gerry and Talleyrand.  The President also informed them that ‘a report from the Secretary of State on the subject of these dispatches, would be communicated to both Houses on Monday, January 21st’.  Pickering’s report demonstrated the new arret (of July 31st) ‘to be a bold imposture, intended to mislead the citizens of the United States into a belief that the French Government was going to put an end to the depredations of French cruizers on American commerce, while the means proposed are so gross as to be an insult on our understandings.’

The next day, January 22nd, the debate was resumed on this new bill – that contained a new (4th) section, ‘that if, at any time after the passing of this act, the Government of France, or any persons claiming and exercising command and authority, in any island, port or place, belonging to the French Republic, shall clearly disavow, and shall be found to refrain from the aggressions, depredations, and hostilities, which have been, and are by them encouraged and maintained against the vessels and other property of the citizens of the United States, and against their natural rights and sovereignty, in violation of the laws of nations, it shall therefore be lawful for the President of the United States, being ascertained of the premises, if he shall deem it expedient and consistent with the interest of the United States, to remit and discontinue the restraints and prohibitions aforesaid, either with respect to the French Republic, or to any such island, port, or place, belonging to such Republic, with which a commercial intercourse may safely be renewed; and also to revive the said restraints and prohibitions, after the same shall have discontinued, whenever in his opinion the interest of the United States shall require; and he shall be, and hereby is, authorized to make proclamation thereof accordingly’.  This became known as ‘Toussaint’s Clause’.

The ‘republicans’, however, seemed obsessed with securing peace with France (and allying against Britain) and that the original bill had been passed, as Gallatin said, ‘with a view of compelling France, by the loss of our trade to the islands, to come to reasonable terms of settlement with the United States’.

Albert Gallatin

[The ‘republicans’ thought that the bill didn’t stand on its own – to protect the trade and commerce of the United States, but that the bill was simply a form of diplomacy – to be used to influence the way that France would act.]

But that, as Nicholas said, ‘a clause of this kind held out an invitation to agents to abandon their country and set up governments of their own … could anything afford a more lasting cause for war than an act of this kind?  If there be any disposition in the French Government to treat … a conduct of this kind would effectually root it out, and there could be no treaty – no peace between the two countries – for years to come’.

The ’federalists’ were committed to defending the commerce of the nation, and that the bill to suspend commerce with France was agreed to, as Mr. Harper said, ‘to save our commerce from that speculative and hazardous enterprise which the high profits made by successful voyages enticed the merchant to go into, which was a species of gambling by which some made large fortunes, and others sustained heavy losses … and to deter the French government from committing depredations upon our commerce’; but now, ‘we know that these colonies have privateered against us.  Whether they have done what they were not authorized to do, is not for me to inquire.  If they will not give up the privilege of privateering, they cannot have the benefit of our trade.  If they have not the authority to do so, he supposed they would not do it; but if General Toussaint prohibits privateering, we shall suppose he has the right to do it’.

Mr. Gallatin replied that he had voted against the bill in the last session because ‘the trade to the West Indies was even more advantageous to the United States than to France.’  Now he claimed that ‘he was ready to vote for a continuance of it; but the section now under consideration goes entirely upon new ground … This would be to encourage insurrections … If it be the intention of the General (Toussaint) to declare it, the independence of St. Domingo is a very problematic event … Suppose that island, with its present population, under certain circumstances, should become an independent State.  What is this population?  It is known to consist, almost altogether, of slaves just emancipated, of men who received their first education under the lash of the whip, and who have been initiated to liberty only by that series of rapine, pillage, and massacre, that have laid waste and deluged that island in blood; of men, who, if left themselves, if altogether independent, are by no means likely to apply themselves to the peaceable cultivation of the country, but will try to continue to live, as heretofore, by plunder and depredations.  No man wishes more than I do to see an abolition of slavery, when it can be properly effected; but no man would be more unwilling than I to constitute a whole nation of freed slaves, who had arrived to the age of thirty years, and thus to throw so many wild tigers on society.’

If the population of St. Domingo can remain free in that island, he had no objection; but, however free, he did not wish to have them independent, and he would rather see them under a government that would be likely to keep them where they are, and prevent them from committing depredations out of the island … Did not gentlemen recollect what an alarm was sounded last year, with the respect to the probability of an invasion of the Southern States from the West Indies; an alarm upon which some of the strongest measures of the last session were grounded?  (He) could not help hoping, there would be a general wish not to take any measure which may imbody so dangerous a description of men in our neighborhood, whose object may be plunder, and who might visit the States of South Carolina and Georgia, and spread their views among the negro people there, and excite dangerous insurrections among them.  He did not wish, therefore, to see this black population independent’.

In response to Gallatin’s assertion, the ‘federalists’ argued that, as Mr. Smith said, ‘But suppose this independence were to take place, would all the danger to this country actually take place which has been stated?  In his opinion the reverse would be true.  Refuse to these people our commerce, and the provisions of which they stand in need, and you compel them to become pirates and dangerous neighbors to the Southern States; but, so long as you supply them, they will turn their attention to the cultivation of their plantations’.

And also, as Mr. Brace said, ‘Our treaties with the French Government have been declared void, on account of the conduct of that government.  We have proceeded further, and suspended all our commercial intercourse with France and her dependencies … leaving a power, however, with the President, to repeal the suspension, whenever the French shall cease from their depredations.  If we follow this course, and these depredations are discontinued in any of the West India islands, we have a right to relax this suspension with respect to them.  And it is a strange idea to suppose that such a step can give offence … He wished to treat that nation with justice; but could never consent to prostrate the dignity of the country, by supposing that, in doing an act merely to regulate our own commerce, we are about to give offence to the French Government, and that, therefore, we ought not to adopt it.’

The bill was passed by the House of Representatives on January 28th, passed by the Senate on February 6th, and approved and signed by President Adams on February 9th.

Note: Regarding the question of General Toussaint’s authority, it should be recalled that in July 1795 the French National Convention  promoted him to Brigadier-General; that in April 1796 Laveaux promoted him to Lieutenant-Governor; and that in May 1797 Sonthonax appointed him as Governor-general and as Commander-in-chief of all French forces in Saint-Domingue.  And, it should also be recalled that it was General Toussaint who refused the French Directory’s plan (that was sent with Hedouville) to invade the British colony of Jamaica and the southern states of America, in order to instigate a slave rebellion.

10. Hamilton’s Constitution for Saint-Domingue, February 21st 1799

On that same day, February 9th 1799, Pickering wrote to Hamilton, to inform him that ‘the law prohibiting intercourse with the French Dominions is renewed, and extended to the 3rd of March 1800.  The material variation from the former law consists in the authority given to the President to open intercourse with any part of those dominions when the safety and interest of the United States will admit of it.  This authority is comprised in the 4th section, a copy of which I enclose … The President sees the immense advantages of the commerce of that Island, and will undoubtedly give to the act as liberal a construction as will be politically expedient.  Toussaint, if certain of our commerce, will, Meyer assures me, declare the whole island of St. Domingo independent; confident in his power to defend it, provided we will allow of a free commercial intercourse, by which the islanders may exchange their productions for the supplies our vessels will carry to them … Under these circumstances, my great anxiety is, that Toussaint & his Chief (i.e. Rigaud) may fix on a practicable & efficient plan for administering the government of the Island, and settling the right of succession to the Chief command (it cannot be a republic) – and establishing a simple plan of finance that shall insure to him the means of supporting an army & the government.  If you can turn your attention to this subject & favour me with your ideas of the most eligible schemes, I shall be very much obliged.  To what we advise, Toussaint would listen’.

Hamilton replied that same day, to Pickering, that ‘I shall immediately reflect on the most important point & tomorrow give you the result.  The provision in the law is ample.  But in this, my dear Sir, as in everything else we must unite caution with decision.  The United States must not be committed on the independence of St. Domingo – no guarantee no formal treaty – nothing that can rise up in judgement.  It will be enough to let Toussaint be assured verbally but explicitly that upon his declaration of independence a commercial intercourse will be opened & continue while he maintains it & gives due protection to our vessels & property.  I incline to think the declaration of independence ought to precede’.

Pickering again wrote to Hamilton, on February 20th, that ‘since I wrote you on the 9th … Dr. Stevens has been appointed Consul General of St. Domingo, and will probably embark before the close of next week … I must frame Dr. Steven’s instructions in a few days, and wish to furnish him with your ideas on the points I stated.  This cannot be done officially – but he will know how to use it’.

Note: Dr. Edward Stevens was one of Hamilton’s oldest and closest friends, since having known each other as young boys.  Stevens practiced medicine in Philadelphia, and was doctor to Hamilton and his wife, when they caught yellow fever in 1793.  (It was believed that yellow fever was brought to Philadelphia by the 750 emigres that arrived that year from Saint-Domingue.)  Stevens had been sent to Saint-Domingue in February 1798 by Pennsylvania Governor Thomas Mifflin, to try to negotiate the release of the ship ‘New Jersey’ and its cargo and crew, that had been captured by a French privateer.  Although he failed in his attempt to obtain the release of the ship, Stevens had met with some officers in Toussaint’s army and uncovered a French plot to invade the southern United States from Saint-Domingue – the invasion was thwarted by General Toussaint.

The next day, on February 21st, Hamilton answered Pickering, that ‘the multiplicity of my avocations joined to imperfect health, has delayed the communication you desired respecting St Domingo …

‘No regular system of Liberty will at present suit St Domingo.  The Government, if independent, must be military – partaking of the feudal system.   A hereditary Chief would be best but this I fear is impracticable.’

‘Let there be then – A single Executive to hold his place for life.  The person to succeed on a vacancy to be either the Officer next in command in the Island at the time of the death of the predecessor, or the person who by plurality of voices of the Commandants of Regiments shall be designated within a certain time.  In the meantime, the principal military officers to administer.  All the males within certain ages to be arranged in Military Corps and to be compellable to military service. This may be connected with the Tenure of Lands.’

‘Let the supreme Judiciary authority be vested in twelve Judges to be chosen for life by the Generals or Chief Military Officers.  Trial by jury in all Criminal causes not military to be established.  The mode of appointing them must be regulated with reference to the general spirit of the establishment.  Every law inflicting capital or other corporal punishment or levying a tax or contribution in any shape to be proposed by the Executive to an Assembly composed of the Generals & Commandants of Regiments for their sanction or rejection.  All other laws to be enacted by the sole authority of the Executive.’

‘The powers of war & treaty to be in the Executive.  The Executive to be obliged to have three ministers – of finance, war & foreign affairs – whom he shall nominate to the Generals for their approbation or rejection.  The Colonels & Generals when once appointed to hold their offices during good behaviour removeable only by conviction of an infamous crime in due course of law or the sentence of a court martial cashiering them.    Court Martials for trial of officers & capital offence to be not less than 12 & well guarded as to mode of appointment.’

‘Duties of import & export, taxes on lands & buildings to constitute the chief branches of revenue.’

‘These thoughts are very crude but perhaps they may afford some hints.’

Note: It must here be stated, to avoid all the over-inflation and over-complication by many of the issue of the Independence of Saint-Domingue, that Hamilton alone seems to have understood the reality of Saint-Domingue – that there was very little in the way of democratic institutions on which to base a representative government and that law and order was maintained by the army; and to have understood General Toussaint, who had never proposed independence, but had rejected the British attempt to seek independence – as he did not wish to be under the protection and control of the British navy, and who had insisted that he remained loyal to France.  Please remember, how many nations on earth had abolished slavery? To his knowledge, only one – France.  General Toussaint was not committed to independence, he was determined to defend the freedom of his fellow former slaves – at all costs.  Now, he was fighting for freedom, not for independence – he would only fight for independence if it was necessary – in order to defend their newly-won freedom.

Pickering would also write to President Adams on February 20th, that ‘having been more than the other gentlemen in the way of receiving information of the real situation of General Toussaint, and this appearing to be a distressed one, from the want of pay, clothing and provisions for his troops, who thence began to be uneasy; and as this uneasiness unassuaged by any relief might endanger his authority and the peace of the Island of St. Domingo; I felt solicitous by some means compatible with the law, to throw in a partial supply, which would enable the General to comfort and relieve the most distressed, and be a visible evidence and earnest of further & full supplies when his total suppression of privateering should enable the President of the United States to open the trade to the Island.  Without this immediate supply, and proof to the sense, of the uninformed blacks – I considered a main object of the law, – the securing of a full commerce with St. Domingo – to be put in jeopardy.’

‘In this point of view, and as calculated to dispose Toussaint immediately to put down privateering, I considered it as a political measure, necessary to ensure an important commercial intercourse – “a mine of gold,” as General Smith called it.  To delay relief in this moderate degree might render the blacks impatient & unbelieving; especially as Toussaint must for some time past have been feeding them with promises.  Greater distress may compel them to continue, or so far as it has been laid aside, to renew privateering in the hope of procuring some necessary supplies.  To enable Toussaint & the Blacks to give satisfactory evidence of their future good behaviour, the former must possess the means – these are pay, clothing and food, without which the ablest commander cannot restrain his people from aggression.’

On February 18th, President Adams sent to the Senate ‘a document which seems to be intended to be a compliance with a condition mentioned at the conclusion of my message to Congress, of the 21st of June last’ – where he had asserted that ‘I will never send another minister to France without assurances that he will be received, respected, and honored, as the representative of a great, free, powerful, and independent nation.’

[This document was the letter from Talleyrand to Pichon, that Pichon had sent to Vans Murray, and that Vans Murray had sent to President Adams in his letter of October 7th 1798.]

William Vans Murray

(Showing his trust in his protégé – Vans Murray), President Adams then nominated William Vans Murray to be minister plenipotentiary of the United States to the French Republic, and that ‘if the Senate shall advise and consent to his appointment, effectual care shall be taken in his instructions that he shall not go to France without direct and unequivocal assurances from the French Government, signified by their Minister of Foreign Relations, that he shall be received in character; shall enjoy the privileges attached to his character by the law of nations; and that a minister of equal rank, title, and powers, shall be appointed to treat with him, to discuss and conclude all controversies between the two republics by a new treaty’.

The president’s reasoning can be seen in his letter to General Washington, on February 19th, (regarding a letter from Joel Barlow, apologizing for the ‘misunderstanding’ of the French Directory, that General Washington had forwarded to President Adams), that ‘I yesterday determined to nominate Mr. Murray to be Minister Plenipotentiary to the French Republic.  This I ventured to do upon the strength of a letter from Talleyrand himself giving declarations in the name of Government that any Minister Plenipotentiary from the United States shall be received according to the condition at the close of my message to Congress of the 21st of June last.  As there may be some reserves for chicane, however, Murray is not to remove from his station at the Hague until he shall have received formal assurances that he shall be received and treated in Character.  Barlows letter had, I assure you, very little weight in determining me to this measure …’’

‘Tranquility upon just and honourable terms is undoubtedly the ardent desire of the friends of this country; and I wish the babyish and womanly blubbering for peace may not necessitate the conclusion of a treaty that will not be just nor very honourable.  I don’t intend however that they shall. – There is not much sincerity in the cant about peace – Those who snivel for it now, were hot for war against Britain a few months ago; and would be now if they saw a Chance. – In elective governments, peace or war, are alike embraced by parties when they think they can employ either for electioneering purposes.’

The response of the ‘federalists’, however, is seen in a letter Pickering wrote to General Washington on February 21st, that ‘I am sure no officer about the President can be willing to share any part of the responsibility of his nomination of Mr. Murray to negotiate a treaty with the French Republic – it is solely the President’s act – and we were all thunderstruck when we heard of it.  Confidence in the President is lost – the federal citizens thought the thing incredible: the Jacobins alone are pleased.  The honor of the country is prostrated in the dust – God grant that its safety may not be in jeopardy.’

Theodore Sedgwick

The Senate referred the nomination of Vans Murray to a 5-member committee.  Theodore Sedgwick, a member of that committee, then wrote to Hamilton, on February 19th, that ‘this measure, important & mischievous as it is, was the result of presidential wisdom without the knowledge of, or any intimation to, any one of the administration.  Had the foulest heart & the ablest head in the world, been permitted to select the most embarrassing and ruinous measure, perhaps, it would have been precisely, the one, which has been adopted.  In the dilemma to which we are reduced, whether we approve or reject the nomination, evils only, certain, great, but in extent incalculable, present themselves.  This would be true was Mr. Murray the ablest negotiator in christendom – but with all his virtues, he is feeble and guarded, credulous & unimpressive.  I have not yet decided ultimately what I shall do.  At present the nomination must be postponed.’

Hamilton replied to Sedgwick on February 21st, that ‘the step announced in your letter just received in all its circumstances would astonish, if anything from that quarter could astonish.  But as it has happened, my present impression is that the measure must go into effect with the additional idea of a commission of three.  The mode must be accommodated with the President.  Murray is certainly not strong enough for so immensely important a mission.’  The Senate committee then met with President Adams on February 23rd, and thereafter decided that Murray’s nomination should be rejected.

But before the committee made its report, on February 25th, President Adams nominated Oliver Ellsworth, Chief Justice of the United States; Patrick Henry, late Governor of Virginia; and William Vans Murray, Minister at the Hague, ‘to be envoys extraordinary and ministers plenipotentiary to the French Republic, with full powers to discuss and settle, by a treaty, all controversies between the United States and France.  It is not intended that the two former of these gentlemen shall embark for Europe until they shall have received from the Executive Directory assurances, signified by their Secretary of Foreign Relations, that they shall be received in character; that they shall enjoy all the prerogatives attached to that character by the law of nations; and that a minister or ministers of equal powers shall be appointed and commissioned to treat with them’.

The Senate then approved the appointments on February 27th.  (When Henry declined the appointment because of failing health, President Adams nominated William Davie.)  After the Senate adjourned on March 4th, President Adams left Philadelphia (away from the annual threat of yellow fever) to spend the next five months at his home in Quincy, Massachusetts.  His cabinet would later relocate the administration to Trenton, New Jersey.

On March 19th, the armed merchant ship ‘Kingston’ set sail from Philadelphia for Saint-Domingue, with Jacob Meyer (the American consul at Le Cap Francais), Robert Ritchie (the American consul at Port-au-Prince) Edward Stevens (the American consul-general to Saint-Domingue) and with Joseph Bunel.  Stevens carried with him a copy of Hamilton’s ‘practicable and efficient plan’ for Saint-Domingue’s constitution, and a letter from Pickering to General Toussaint, on behalf of President Adams.

[President Adams had always been careful to never openly support Saint-Dominguen independence, maintaining that it was an internal matter for that island’s inhabitants themselves.]

John Adams and Toussaint Louverture

The Kingston also carried $60,000 and a shipment of flour, salted meats, and dry goods – meant to relieve the urgent wants of the people of Saint-Domingue, and that also helped to raise General Toussaint’s reputation among the population.  Meyer, however, was apparently disgruntled at not receiving the appointment as consul general, and so, he mailed a copy of the Kingston’s cargo invoice to the Aurora newspaper; and he also spread rumors that Stevens (along with Pickering and Adams) were profiting from the transfer of these goods!

Also on the Kingston were French spies, sent by Philippe Letombe, the French Consul General, at Philadelphia.  Letombe, ever suspicious of President Adam’s intentions towards France’s colonies, had been able to intercept and read General Toussaint’s messages to Bunel!

At the end of March, President Adams would receive word from Benjamin Stoddert, Secretary of the Navy, that Captain Thomas Truxton, of the USS Constellation (one of the 6 original navy frigates), engaged in battle and captured the French frigate, L’Insurgent, near the island of Nevis on February 9th – the first major naval engagement in the undeclared war with France.

[Stoddert had deployed all three of the then-operating United States Navy frigates to the Caribbean Sea, to protect American commerce from the French privateers and pirates – USS Constellation based out of the British island of St. Kitts, and USS United States and USS Constitution based out of the British-controlled island of Dominica.]


12. The Secret Convention of June 13th 1799

Rufus King

In London, rumors spread about Maitland’s (August 31st 1798) secret agreement with General Toussaint.  Rufus King, United States minister to Britain, inquired of the British ministry whether Maitland had recognized General Toussaint as the head of an independent state?  If so, the United States had equal rights to trade with him.  If not, then the United States couldn’t permit British ships to carry any cargoes from the United States to Saint-Domingue – since American law now banned trade with France and her dominions.  And, provisions that British ships exchanged for Saint-Domingue sugar and coffee might be used to outfit privateers that were attacking American shipping.

The British response was a proposal to set up a joint trade company as an Anglo-American monopoly to trade with Saint-Domingue, allowing only manufactures from Britain and only produce and livestock from the United States.  King replied that this was (constitutionally) impossible for the United States to agree to, and that trade should be open to both American and British merchants.  King and the British ministry agreed that a British agent should be sent to Philadelphia to negotiate with the American government, and that the agent was to be General Maitland himself.  On April 3rd, Sir Robert Liston, the British minister plenipotentiary to the United States, along with General Maitland, arrived at Philadelphia to meet with Pickering and to discuss Saint-Domingue.

On April 5th 1799, Pickering wrote to President Adams that ‘Mr. King’s letters brought by General Maitland, & which I have now de-cyphered, exhibit the tenor of his conversations with the British ministry concerning the commerce of St. Domingo.  It is plain that they contemplate the independence of that French colony, as a very possible – or rather, a very probable event.  They have considered its effects upon the future condition of their own colonies in the West Indies; and viewing those effects as inevitable, are only solicitous to postpone them to as distant a period as possible.  Hence their anxiety to fix some restraints on the commerce with St. Domingo … Their fears are of the poison of French principles among the blacks in their own Islands; and they observe that we have equal cause for apprehension in respect to our southern states; and as I understand them, the main object of imposing some restraints on the commerce with St. Domingo, is to guard against that evil.  They think at the same time, that Great Britain & the United States may very easily and justly enjoy that commerce exclusively of all other nations.’

On April 17th, President Adams replied to Pickering, concerning the British proposals for Saint-Domingue and their implications for America’s foreign policy, that ‘the whole affair leads to the independence of the West Indies islands, & although I may be mistaken, it appears to me, that independence is the worst & most dangerous condition, they can be in for the United States.  They would be less dangerous, under the government of England, France, Spain or Holland all together, and least of all, under the same powers in parcels & divisions, as they are now.  This opinion however is liable to so much uncertainty, that no great dependence can be placed upon it.  Upon the projects proposed by the British Ministry, a great number of questions arise.  Will not the projected, partial, limited & restrained independence of St Domingo, excite alarms & jealousies in Spain & Holland such as will attach them & subject them more entirely to France, & in Denmark & Sweden so as to make them more timid, if not more complaisant to France?  Will it not involve us in a more inveterate and durable hostility with France, Spain & Holland, & subject us more to the policy of Britain, than will be consistent with our interest or honor?  These questions may all be useless, because the independence of St Domingo & consequently of all the other islands in the West Indies, & of the Spanish, Dutch & Portuguese possessions on the continent, may be brought about, without our interference & indeed in opposition to all that we can do to prevent it.’

Further, concerning those British proposals for trade, he wrote that ‘the project of a joint company is certainly liable to all the objections which occurred to Mr. King, & although the English government would meet with no difficulty, we should certainly find it very difficult to manage.  My own ideas are these.

1st. that it would be most prudent for us to have nothing to do in the business.

2nd. that if we should meddle, we had better leave the independence of the island complete & total in commerce as well as legislation to the people who assert it, the inhabitants of the island.

3rd. that if this is not the sense of the English, we had better leave the whole management of the affair to them.

4th. that if they think fit, they may stipulate that we shall have a right to accede to the treaty they make, when we can, within a certain period of one, two, or three years.

5th. that we should accede to it, provided the senate advise & consent as soon as it shall be determined that no negotiation with France is likely to take place with effect.

6th. that we remain faithful to our promise, to open our commerce with the island, as soon as privateering shall cease.

7th. Although these are my prevailing opinions & inclinations, I am by no means fixed in them or bigotted to them.’

The meetings between Maitland and Liston, and Pickering and Wolcott, ended on April 20th and they arrived at an informal agreement (of 7 points) to be proposed to General Toussaint by Maitland, including that –

‘1. It is understood that Great Britain and the United States have a common interest in preventing the dissemination of dangerous principles among the slaves of their respective countries; and that they will mutually and sincerely attend to that interest, to guard against the danger here alluded to in consequence of the proposed intercourse with St. Domingo.

‘2. That any infringement of the contemplated regulations which may be agreed upon with Toussaint, and which will constitute the basis of the determination of the two nations, respectively, to open a commercial intercourse with St. Domingo, or any hostility commenced, or manifestly intended, on his part, against either, shall lead to an immediate suspension of intercourse with that island, on the part of both nations, while the laws of the United States authorize such a suspension on their part …’

On April 23rd, Maitland left Philadelphia for Saint-Domingue with the ‘heads of regulations’ agreement; and Pickering sent to President Adams a paper illustrating the British proposals and a report with Pickering’s observations on the paper (that had been approved by the Heads of the other Departments).  President Adams replied that ‘I can see no rational objections to any of the seven articles ultimately signed by all the heads of departments …’

Stevens had arrived at Cap Francais on April 18th, and had met with General Toussaint and Philippe Roume, the French Directory’s agent, to begin negotiations.  While General Toussaint agreed with Stevens, Roume at first disagreed with Steven’s proposal, but after examining a written copy of Steven’s presentation, agreed to a proclamation.

On May 3rd, Stevens wrote to Pickering on concluding the negotiations with General Toussaint, that

‘1. The most effectual means have been used to call in the privateers of this colony, and annul their commissions.  And I can assure you, with confidence, that methods equally effectual, will be taken to prevent them from being renewed.

  1. The property of the citizens of the United States will no longer be liable to be seized by the government. Both that, and their persons, will in future be considered as sacred, and all their transactions with the Administration, be conducted on the principles of equity, and by mutual consent.
  2. The armed vessels of the United States, both public, and private, as well as mere merchant vessels, will be permitted freely to enter the ports of the island to victual, water, and refit, and will in all respects be received, and treated as friends.
  3. All vessels belonging to the United States, captured and carried into the ports of St. Domingo after the publication of the arret, will be immediately released.

I urged very strongly the necessity of excluding from the ports of St. Domingo all French armed vessels commissioned elsewhere; but it was thought impolitic to insert such an article in a public instrument, which allowed a permission of entering these ports, to the armed vessels of America.  There was no hesitation however in privately granting what I desired … except under circumstances, which would induce any civilized nation, to afford them an asylum, such as stress of weather, want of provisions, etc.’

The next day, May 4th, Maitland arrived at Cap Francais to negotiate with General Toussaint (and Stevens).  While General Toussaint did not trust the British – having fought against their invasion for five years – however, because of the British naval superiority, any agreement with the United States would be useless, without an agreement for protection from the British.

L’Ouverture and Thomas Maitland

A ‘secret’ agreement was reached between General Toussaint and Maitland on May 22nd, and on June 13th, the ‘heads of regulations’ (agreed to between Maitland and Pickering) was added to the secret agreement.  General Toussaint desired that only the ports of Le Cap Francais and Port-au-Prince would be opened to American commerce, and that the vessels should there receive passports to go to the other ports within his jurisdiction – preventing commerce with the ports in the South province, under Rigaud.  The British ships were to be admitted to all ports on the island.

[Despite the pledge of secrecy, Sir Hyde Parker, the Admiral of the British Caribbean fleet, had translated and distributed copies of the ‘secret’ agreement to all his captains so that they would be aware of the new passport rules!   Roume and Rigaud knew of every detail of the negotiations!]

On May 23rd, Stevens had written to General Maitland that new orders from the French Directory had been sent for a planned invasion of Jamaica, and that ‘Rigaud (to acquire their confidence) has, at length, disclaimed the authority of Toussaint, and is, at this instant, busily employed in levying troops for the purpose … Toussaint is determined to prevent this expedition, in conformity to his treaty with you.  He has forbidden Rigaud to continue his preparations, and is resolved to march against him and reduce him to obedience.’

André Rigaud

Rigaud had his agents in Mole St. Nicolas publish a bogus treaty between General Toussaint and the British – claiming that ‘St. Domingo was to be sold to the British Government, and once more brought under the yoke of slavery’; and he also had published a letter sent to him from Hedouville, that ‘as a result of the ambition and perfidy of General Toussaint Louverture, who has sold himself to the British, the emigres, and the Americans, and has violated the most solemn agreements, I find myself obliged to leave the colony.  I hereby relieve you, Citizen General, of the obligation to recognize him as your Commander-in-Chief and instruct you to assume command of the Department of the South, as delineated by the Law of 4 Brumaire.’

Note: The Law of 4 Brumaire had enlarged the Department of the South (at the expense of that of the Department of the West) and had placed the important garrison towns of Leogane and Jacmel, and the towns of Petit-Goave and Grand-Goave under Rigaud’s jurisdiction.

After the departure of Hedouville, Toussaint had asked Philippe Roume, the French Commissioner at Santo Domingo City, to replace Hedouville and to become the Agent for Saint-Domingue at Le Cap Francais.  Roume disapproved of Hedouville’s plan of pitting the ‘negroes’ against the ‘mulattoes’ and, wishing to undo the damage, he called a conference at Port-au-Prince between Toussaint and Rigaud, to iron out the difference resulting from the Law of 4 Brumaire.  But the conference settled nothing.

Rigaud now broke off all communication with General Toussaint, and on June 16th sent 4,000 men to attack the towns of Petit-Goave and Grand-Goave, that were held by a garrison of 700 men and loyal to General Toussaint, but who were forced to retreat.  At the same time, before General Toussaint could launch a counterattack, on the signal of Rigaud, a revolt of the mulattoes erupted in the West province – at Port-au-Prince and Saint Marc, and in the North province – at Mole St. Nicolas, Port-au-Paix, Le Cap Francais and Fort Dauphin.  General Toussaint sent a 20,000-man army to Leogane to stop the advance of Rigaud’s army, and then led the rest of his troops in suppressing the mulatto uprisings (that finally ended with his capture of Mole St. Nicolas on October 29th).

On June 25th, a Proclamation was issued by the President of the United States, by an act of Congress passed on February 9th 1799, that ‘the arrangements which have been made at St. Domingo, for the safety of the commerce of the United States, and for the admission of American vessels into certain ports of that island, do, in my opinion, render it expedient, and for the interest of the United States, to renew a commercial intercourse with such ports’ and ‘do hereby remit and discontinue the restraints and prohibitions therein contained …’

‘It shall be lawful for vessels … to enter the ports of Cape Francois and Port Republicain, formerly called Port-au-Prince, in the said island of St. Domingo … (and) to depart from thence to any port in said island between Monte Christi, on the north, and Petit Goave, on the west, provided it be done with the consent of the Government of St. Domingo, and pursuant to certificates or passports expressing such consent, signed by the consul general of the United States … All vessels sailing in contravention of these regulations will be out of the protection of the United States, and be, moreover, liable to capture, seizure, and confiscation’.

On July 11th, Captain Silas Talbot – back from the Caribbean, with the USS Constitution moored in Boston harbor, visited President Adams at his home in Quincy, to discuss the situation in Saint-Domingue, but also to offer President Adams his resignation – if Captain Truxton was made his superior.  After Truxton’s capture of the French frigate, L’Insurgent, Stoddert had awarded Truxton the rank of Commodore – over the other navy captains.  President Adams however agreed, not with his Navy Secretary, but with Talbot, that he should be the senior captain.

Commodore Thomas Truxtun

On July 23rd, President Adams wrote to Stoddert that ‘I have acted in giving Talbot a commission to take rank from the day of his appointment as a Captain in the navy in 1794 … Truxton is a new man in the service of the United States.  Talbot has served them very long.’

That same day, on July 23rd, Commodore Talbot and the USS Constitution sailed from Boston to return to its station at Saint-Domingue.

13. The Coup of the 18th Brumaire, November 10th, 1799

When the Senate had approved the appointment of Murray as one of the three commissioners to France, Pickering sent his instructions to Murray in a letter on March 6th 1799.

When Murray received this letter on May 4th, he wrote to Talleyrand, the next day, informing him that Oliver Ellsworth, Patrick Henry and himself had been appointed ‘to be envoys extraordinary and ministers plenipotentiary of the United States to the French republic, with full powers to discuss and settle by treaty, all controversies between the United States and France; but that the two former will not embark for Europe until they shall have received from the Executive Directory direct and unequivocal assurances, signified by their Minister of Foreign Relations, that the envoys shall be received in character to an audience of the Directory, and that they shall enjoy all the prerogatives attached to that character by the law of nations, and that a minster or ministers of equal powers shall be appointed and commissioned to treat with them.’

On May 12th, Talleyrand replied to Murray that the Executive Directory had been informed of the nomination of the three commissioners and that ‘be pleased to transmit to your colleagues, and accept yourself, the frank and explicit assurance that it will receive the envoys of the United States in the official character which they are invested; that they shall enjoy all the prerogatives which are attached to it by the law of nations, and that one or more ministers shall be duly authorized to treat with them.’

On May 17th, when Murray received Talleyrand’s reply, he sent copies of this letter to both Pickering and to President Adams – who received it on August 5th.

On August 6th, President Adams replied to Pickering that ‘it is far below the dignity of the President of the United States, to take any notice of Talleyrand’s impertinent regrets, and insinuations of superfluities.  You, or the envoys or Mr. Murray may answer them as you please, in your correspondence with one another or with the French Minister.  I will say to you, however, that I consider this letter as the most authentic intelligence yet received in America of the successes of the coalition.  That the design is insidious and hostile at heart I will not say.  Time will tell the truth.  Meantime I dread no longer their diplomatic skill.  I have seen it and felt it and been the victim of it, these twenty-one years.  But the charm is dissolved; their magic is at an end in America …’

‘Our operations and preparations by sea and by land are not to be relaxed in the smallest degree: on the contrary I wish them to be animated with fresh energy.  St. Domingo and the Isle of France and all other parts of the French Dominions are to be treated in the same manner as if no negotiation was going on …’

‘I pray you to lose no time in conveying to Governor Davie his commission and to the Chief Justice and his Excellency, copies of these letters from Mr. Murray and Talleyrand with a request that laying aside all other employment they make immediate preparations for embarking.’

On September 11th, Pickering wrote to President Adams regarding a letter he had received from Murray about the new situation in France, that ‘have suggested to the Heads of Departments some doubts of the expediency of an immediate departure of the envoys.  The men lately in power, who gave the assurances you required, relative to the mission, being ousted in a manner indicative of a revolution in the public mind, and, according to Mr. Murray’s letter, the threats, now first uttered by the military, of a King, show such instability and uncertainty in the government of France, and are ominous if such further & essential changes, probably at no great distance, as made it appear to us a duty to submit to your consideration, the question of a temporary suspension of the mission to that country … or if a revival of the system of terror should first take place, which the last arrival of intelligence at New-York now shows to be probable; still the question of suspending the mission seems to the Heads of Departments to merit serious consideration …’

13.1 A note on the ‘instability and uncertainty’ in France

The elections in France in April 1798 – to replace one-third of the council deputies, and also to replace those deputies that had been expelled after the coup of 18 Fructidor – resulted in gains for the Jacobin ‘opposition’.  The Directory moved to secure its power by annulling the elections in 30 departments and expelling 48 elected deputies; and made (moderate) Jean-Baptiste Treilhard the new Director, replacing Neufchateau.

Jean-Baptiste Treilhard

After the elections in April 1799 again resulted in gains for the Jacobins, (including Lucien Bonaparte, younger brother of Napoleon, who was elected president of the Council of Five Hundred) and the election of Emmanuel Sieyes as the new Director, replacing Rewbell.  The two councils now declared the election of Treilhard illegal, replaced him with (Jacobin) Louis-Jerome Gohier, and then demanded the resignation of two other Directors, Revelliere-Lepeaux and Merlin de Douai.  When Revelliere and Merlin resisted, General Joubert, commander of the 17th army division began moving his troops into Paris, forcing Revelliere and Merlin to resign – to be replaced with Pierre Roger Ducos and Jean-Francois Moulin.  (Talleyrand had to resign as Foreign minister.)

Now, in August 1799, the ‘Second Coalition’ launched both a British-Russian invasion of the Batavian Republic, and an Austrian-Russian attack on the French forces in Italy, capturing Milan and Turin and driving the French back to Genoa, while a ‘royalist’ uprising was begun in western France.

[On September 16th, President Adams would receive the good news from his son, John Quincy Adams, that he had negotiated a treaty of amity and commerce between the United States and the King of Prussia, on July 11th.]

On September 21st, President Adams replied to Pickering that he decided to leave Quincy, and that ‘sometime between the 10th and 15th of October I shall join you at Trenton & will suspend, till that time, the ultimate determination concerning the instructions … we must be all together to determine all the principles of our negotiations with France & England.’

President Adams arrived at Trenton and on October 15th met with the members of his cabinet.  Secretary of State Pickering, Secretary of the Treasury Wolcott and Secretary of War McHenry were in favour of postponing the mission until more was learned about the situation in France, while Secretary of the Navy Stoddert and Attorney General Lee (who was absent, but sent a letter with his views) supported sending the commissioners immediately.  The next day, Present Adams wrote to Pickering to request that he send copies of the instructions ‘as corrected last evening’ to the commissioners, and that he write to Judge Ellsworth & Governor Davie ‘his desire that they would take their passage for France on board the frigate, the United States … by the first of November, or sooner if consistent with their conveniences’.

Coincidentally, General Hamilton, who ‘had no anticipation of the movement of the president’, had previously arranged to travel to Trenton with General Wilkinson, to meet with the Secretary of War about ‘the future disposition of the western Army’.  Also coincidentally, Commissioner Ellsworth had traveled to Trenton to meet with Commissioner Davie – ‘where they would be at the fountain head of information, and would obtain any lights or explanations which they might suppose useful’.

[As Hamilton later wrote ‘yet these simple occurrences were to the jealous mind of Mr. Adams, “confirmations strong”, of some mischievous plot against his independence’.]

Hamilton heard about the president’s decision to dispatch the peace mission to France, and since he was the commanding general of the army, he had a reason to want to consult with the president.  Even though he knew that the president despised him, he met with President Adams to try to convince him to postpone the mission.

Adams and Hamilton

From the correspondence recently received from Murray in the Hague and from King in London, it seemed to him that the changes in the French Directory could result in a restoration of the Bourbons to the throne of France.  President Adams replied that ‘if France is disposed to accommodate our differences, will she be less so under a Royal than a Directorial Government?  Have not the Directory humbled themselves to us more than to any nation or power in contest with her?  If she proves faithless, if she will not receive our envoys, does the disgrace fall upon her, or upon us?  We shall not be worse off than at present.  The people of our own country will be satisfied that every honorable method has been tried to accommodate our differences.’

Hamilton wrote to inform General Washington on October 21st that ‘the President has resolved to send the commissioners to France notwithstanding the change of affairs there.  He is not understood to have consulted either of his Ministers; certainly not the Secy. of War or of Finance.  All my calculations lead me to regret the measure.  I hope that it may not in its consequences involve the United States in a war on the side of France with her enemies. My trust in Providence which has so often interposed in our favor, is my only consolation.’

On October 27th, General Washington replied to Hamilton that ‘The purport of your (private) letter of the 21st, with respect to a late decision, has surprised me exceedingly.  I was surprised at the measure, how much more so at the manner of it?  This business seems to have commenced in an evil hour, and under unfavorable auspices; and I wish mischief may not tread in all its steps, and be the final result of the measure.  A wide door was open, through which a retreat might have been made from the first faux pas; the shutting of which, to those who are not behind the curtain, and are as little acquainted with the secrets of the cabinet as I am, is, from the present aspect of European affairs, incomprehensible.  But I have the same reliance on Providence which you express, and trust that matters will end well, however unfavorable they may appear at present.’


Ellsworth and Davie sailed for Europe on November 3rd and arrived at Lisbon on November 26th, where they wanted to rest for a few weeks to recover from the voyage, before sailing on to the Netherlands.  They also wanted to see what course the new French government would pursue!  While in Lisbon, they heard the news of the coup d’etat against the Directory, of the new French government, and of the new First Consul – Napoleon Bonaparte!  (Bonaparte had said that the revolution was over!)

Bonaparte had returned to Paris, on October 16th, from his campaign in Egypt.  By that time, the British-Russian invasion had been defeated at the battle of Castricum on October 6th and had been forced to withdraw from the Batavian republic; the Russian army was defeated at the Battle of Zurich on September 26th and was forced to retreat from the Helvetic Republic; and the uprisings in western France were crushed by the end of August.

And Director Sieyes was busy planning a coup – with fellow Director Ducos, with police chief Joseph Fouche and with Talleyrand.

Sieyes had been planning on using General Joubert in carrying out the coup, but Joubert had been killed at the battle of Novi on August 15th, and Sieyes had been persuaded by Talleyrand to use Bonaparte.

Bonaparte first met with Talleyrand, who told him that ‘you want the power and Sieyes wants the constitution, therefore join forces.’  On October 23rd Bonaparte met with Sieyes on ‘their respective views of the constitution to be established, and the position that each would take.’  Bonaparte was keeping his options open as he was entertaining other offers – there may have been as many as ten active plots to overthrow the Directory being secretly discussed.

Paul Barras

On October 30th, Bonaparte met with Director Barras, who proposed that General Hedouville (who had just returned/fled from Saint-Domingue) should become President of France to save the republic.  Bonaparte didn’t reply, but after that meeting, he immediately went to see Sieyes and told him that ‘I had made up my mind to act with him.’  On November 1st, Bonaparte met with Sieyes, and with Ducos, Talleyrand and Fouche, to plan the coup.  On November 7th, Bonaparte would dine with Generals Bernadotte, Jourdan and Moreau, to put their minds at rest about the coming days’ events.

On Day 1, November 9th, at a special session of the Council of Ancients, they would be informed that because of new plots against the Republic, they should authorize that the next day’s meeting of both councils should take place at Saint-Cloud (7 miles west of, and outside of, Paris) – so that the Jacobins could not raise the sans-culottes and the faubourgs of Paris against the coup-plotters.  Sieyes would then get the Council of Ancients to appoint Bonaparte as commander of the 17th military district (i.e. Paris).

Then on Day 2, November 10th, Moreau arrested Barras, Gohier and Moulin and demanded their resignations.  Bonaparte went to Saint-Cloud and to persuade the two councils that, because of national emergency, the constitution must be repealed and a new one established, replacing the 5-man Directory with a 3-man Consulate – comprising Sieyes, Ducos and himself, and with new elections to the two councils.  While receiving a respectful audience from the Council of Ancients, the opposition in the Council of 500, however, revolted and tried to block him, forcing him to be hustled out of the chamber.  The two Bonaparte brothers then met outside in the courtyard in order to win over the Corps Legislatif guards – with Lucien claiming that the majority of the Five Hundred were being terrorized by a minority of fanatics in the pay of British gold, and with Napoleon ordering the guards to disperse this assembly of sedition – and the guards evacuated the chambers and the deputies fled.

Emmanuel Joseph Sieyès by Jacques Louis David

At the end of that day, Lucien Bonaparte assembled as many deputies as he could find who supported the coup and decreed the end of the Directory; appointed Sieyes, Ducos and Napoleon Bonaparte as provisional Consuls; adjourned both councils for four months; and ordered the expulsion of 61 (Jacobin) deputies from the councils; and appointed a 50-member interim commission (25 from each council) to draw up a new constitution.  The new government would have a First, Second and Third Consul, a 100-man Tribunate, a 300-man Legislature and a 60-man Senate.

On December 13th, at the final meeting of the constitutional commission, Bonaparte invited Sieyes (who had accepted 350,000 francs, an estate outside Versailles and a house in Paris) to propose the names of the three consuls – he proposed Bonaparte as First Consul, and Cambaceres as second consul and Lebrun as third consul.  Sieyes was made President of the Senate, and Ducos (who accepted 100,00 francs) became vice-president.

On December 22nd the Council of State was inaugurated to advice the First Consul.  (Fouche would become minister of police, Talleyrand would become minister of foreign affairs and Carnot would become minister of war!)  On December 25th, France celebrated the Constitution of Year VIII coming into force.

Lucien Bonaparte

14. The United States Navy and the Capture of Jacmel, February 27th, 1800

With the suppressing of the mulatto uprisings in the north (completed after the capture of Mole St. Nicolas on October 29th 1799), General Toussaint could now launch his offensive into the south.

In early November, General Toussaint launched a two-pronged offensive into the South province – Dessalines led one wing of the 55,000-man army to successfully retake Petit-Goave and Grand-Goave, while Christophe led the other wing of the army in an attempt to seize Jacmel, but the mulatto army there, under Petion, were able to stall that offensive, and a 5-month siege of Jacmel began.

General Toussaint was able to renegotiate the agreement with Stevens, to allow General Toussaint to arm and to expand his navy ships in order to transport men and supplies to his troops in the south – that no vessels are allowed to arm except those that are in his immediate service; that all others found at sea should be liable to capture; that all armed vessels in his service must carry regular passports, signed by the consul general of the United States, by the British agent, and by the General; and that no passports will in future be granted to vessels belonging to the colony of Saint-Domingue that may be sent to other islands.

But, in November, a squadron of six armed vessels, belonging to General Toussaint, sailing from Port-au-Prince with a quantity of ammunition and military stores on board and destined for Jacmel to blockade that port and cooperate with the army, having passports from the British agent, and with General Toussaint having written to Admiral Parker and Governor Balcarres informing them of the real destination of this squadron, was captured by a British frigate, taken to Jamaica, tried, condemned and sold!!!

The British feared that they were designed for use against Jamaica (!!!) or perhaps they really wished to see Toussaint and Rigaud weaken each other to the point that the British could reconquer this lucrative plantation island(!?!)  General Toussaint was now without half of his ships!

[Stevens wrote to Pickering that ‘I am loth to impute the capture of this squadron to the cruel policy, on the part of the British, of continuing the contest between General Toussaint and Rigaud, and of preventing either from gaining the ascendancy, that, by this means, both may be ultimately weakened.’]

Note: Stevens had already informed Maitland on May 23rd that the French Directory had sent plans for an invasion of Jamaica from Saint-Domingue and that General Toussaint had opposed it.  Now (in a September 30th letter to Pickering) Stevens was able to obtain copies of the plans.

‘While T—-t was in town, several schemes were presented to him by a Mulatto General of Brigade called Martial Besse who has been sent out by the Directory for the express purpose of commanding the expedition.  Of all these I have obtained copies.  Some of the most important I now have the honor of enclosing to you as also a plan which was presented by Sas Portas a Jew who for several years carried on a contraband trade between St. Iago de Cuba and Port Antonio in Jamaica and who seems perfectly acquainted with the strength and local situation of the latter island.  The copies I send to you contain the essence of this scheme.  The other papers which are still in my possession are only repetitions of these.  They consist of a plan offered by one Dubuisson an emigrant officer who was in the English service while they were in possession of the western parts of this colony and who to show his gratitude for the kindness they at that time showed him has very generously offered to assist in an expedition for laying waste by fire and sword one of their richest and most flourishing possessions.  I have also an additional plan presented by Martial Besse which is only an amplification of that projected by Sasportas.  He has accompanied it with separate letters of instruction to Dubuisson and Sasportas which contain nothing but what is mentioned in his two plans…’

‘I have given Mr. Charles Douglass the British Agent a copy of the plan and advised him strongly to go down to Jamaica to confer with the heads of the government and take effectual measures to counteract it …’

‘Wild and impracticable as this scheme of invasion may appear in the actual state of this colony it is astonishing with what ardour the particular agent seems to urge it.  Without troops, arms, ammunition, clothing or any of the essentials requisite for raising or equipping an army he strains every nerve and has sent his emissaries to Curacoa, St. Thomas and Guadeloupe to furnish him with the means of effecting his purpose.  Toussaint on the other hand is determined that the invasion shall not take place.  He appears to encourage it that he may the more certainly prevent it.  He has refused to furnish troops urging as a plea that the war in the south requires every man that can be raised.  His confidential officers are of the same opinion with him and are altogether opposed to the expedition.  They have too much penetration not to perceive that the Jamaica invasion is a counterpart of the Egyptian expedition and that were they to quit St. Domingo there is little chance that they would ever return to it.  It was T—–t who furnished me with the plans and he at the same time entreated me to counteract the agent’s operations by every possible means.’

On October 15th, Commodore Talbot and the USS Constitution arrived at Cap Francais in Saint-Domingue.  On December 20th, Stevens met with Talbot to discuss ways they could collaborate on assisting General Toussaint in his war with Rigaud (and with the British) – it seemed that Admiral Parker and Governor Balcarres deliberately worked to undermine the ‘secret’ agreement.

[Captain Murray of the USS Constellation reported that ‘we have no enemy so much to be shunned in this quarter, as the British, for they blockade all the passages, and let few of our vessels pass them.’]

Captain Murray

In early January 1800, Talbot sent Captain Christopher Perry and the USS General Greene to the southern coast of Saint-Domingue to disrupt Rigaud’s shipping – Rigaud’s gunboats had been attacking American merchant ships; to enforce an effective blockade of the considerable clandestine trade carried on between St. Thomas and Jacmel – that was supplying Rigaud; and ‘for the purpose of aiding General Toussaint in the capture of Jacmel.’  The Americans captured a Danish schooner, the William and Mary, that was trying to supply Rigaud’s army.

On February 27th, while General Toussaint launched a 2,000-man assault on Jacmel, USS General Greene ‘engaged three of Rigaud’s forts warmly for 30 or 40 minutes; in which time we obliged the enemy to evacuate the town and two of the forts, and repair to their strongest hold; this fort however soon hauled down its colors … Jacmel, closely besieged on the land side by Toussaint’s army, and blockaded by the General Greene, was reduced to a state of starvation.  As a last effort, they made a desperate sally in the night, with intentions to force Toussaint’s lines, but failing in the attempt, and the whole garrison, of more than 5,000 men, fell into the hands of Toussaint.’

[As a sign of gratitude, General Toussaint gave to the USS General Greene a new anchor and 15 tons of cannon, and he rewarded Perry and his crew with 10,000 pounds of coffee – over 50 pounds per man – that had been captured from the schooner William and Mary!]

While General Toussaint was preparing for a final offensive against Rigaud, news (and rumours) would arrive from France.  He had sent as his representative to Paris, General Vincent, who arrived in time to witness the transfer of power from the Directory to the First Consul.  General Toussaint received information that a French expedition of 15,000 men was sailing to Santo Domingo, to be used as a base from which to launch an invasion of Saint-Domingue.  He instead prepared an offensive for control of Santo Domingo.

[Although by their 1795 treaty, the Spanish had ceded the eastern two-thirds of the island to France, it still remained under Spanish administration, with French approval, with slavery still being maintained – while the Spaniards did a thriving business kidnapping former-slaves in Saint-Domingue and shipping them to be sold in Cuba.]

Note: General Toussaint had also sent secret agents to Paris to gather advance information concerning any decision affecting the colony.  It was reported that Bonaparte had asked his advisers what colonial system had given the best financial results, and he was told that it was the system prevailing before the Revolution.  He answered ‘then, the sooner we return to it the better’.

In March, General Toussaint asked Roume for a decree that would authorize him to occupy (Spanish) Santo Domingo, but Roume refused.  Meetings were held (planned and regulated by the leading chiefs) across the colony that demanded that General Toussaint should take over the government and put a stop to the slave traffic in Santo Domingo, but Roume still refused.  When thousands of cultivators marched to meet with Roume, General Toussaint assured him that it would be impossible for him to restrain the mob, and on April 27th, Roume agreed to the decree.

General Toussaint sent General Age, with a small detachment of 300 men, from Jacmel, to Santo Domingo City to arrange for the transfer of power, but the Spanish Governor, Don Joaquin Garcia, informed Age that he would require a period of six months in which to make arrangements for evacuation and to receive exact orders from the Spanish government – who would, of course, have to consult with the French government, and Age was forced to return.  But when Age arrived back, on June 16th Roume would rescind his decree!

General Toussaint had also sent an armed schooner with 70 soldiers from Le Cap Francais – to serve as a garrison at Santo Domingo when it was delivered, but the British frigate ‘Alarm’ captured the schooner and put the troops on shore!?!  Stevens would write to Pickering that ‘the troops cannot march in safety by land, and as the English have now got intelligence of his designs on the Spanish part of the island, that portion of it will be so closely invested, that nothing will be suffered to pass to it by sea.’

While waiting for Age’s return, a new three-man commission from France arrived at Santo Domingo, travelling overland to Saint-Domingue and met with General Toussaint.  The commissioners (Julien Raimond, General Jean-Baptist Michel and General Vincent – who had been sent to France as Toussaint’s representative and was now sent back) stated that the First Consul has confirmed Toussaint as General-in-Chief of the Army of Saint-Domingue and that Roume was to be maintained as Agent; that he expects that these forces will never be employed against any other than the British, the enemies of France; and that he expects, by the first dispatches, to be informed that he has made peace with Rigaud, and restored tranquility to the colony.

The commissioners also brought a letter from the Minister of Marine, Pierre Forfait, with a decree from the First Consul Bonaparte (that he had issued on December 25th 1799): ‘Citizens, a constitution that wasn’t able to sustain itself against multiple violations has been replaced by a new pact destined to solidify freedom.  Article 91 states that French colonies will be ruled by special laws.  This disposition derives from the nature of things and the differences in climate.  The inhabitants of French colonies located in America, Asia, and Africa cannot be governed by the same laws.  The differences in habits, in mores, in interests; the diversity of soil, crops, and goods produced demands diverse modifications.  Far from being a subject of alarm for you, you will recognize here the wisdom and profundity of vision that animate the legislators of France …’

And also, that the words ‘Remember Brave Blacks, that the French people alone recognize your freedom and the equality of your rights’ should be emblazoned upon the tricolor displayed in the colony!

But General Toussaint refused to place the inscription on his banner, saying that ‘they do not owe their emancipation to France, but to their own valour’.  He also told Vincent that ‘it is not a fortuitous concession of liberty, made to us alone, that we want, but a recognition of the principle that whether a man be red, black, or white, he cannot be the property of any other man.  We are free today because we are strong.  The First Consul maintains slavery in Martinique, which means that he will make us slaves when he feels he is strong enough to do so.’

(Keeping in mind the Consul’s request for peace) on June 20th, General Toussaint issued a proclamation of clemency to the inhabitants of the South Province and sent three peace commissioners (including General Vincent) to Petit-Goave to meet with three agents sent by Rigaud – but Rigaud refused the offer.  General Toussaint then ordered Dessalines to attack Rigaud at Les Cayes, and as the defenses began to crumble, the resistance shattered.  On July 29th, Rigaud, and his family, boarded a ship and fled to France, where he lamented his fate to Consul Bonaparte.  On August 1st, General Toussaint entered Les Cayes in triumph.

With peace being restored in Saint-Domingue, General Toussaint turned to the task of halting the abduction of freed men in Saint-Domingue who were being transported to Santo Domingo to be sold back again into slavery! Also, he must have wondered what the Consul meant by the ‘special laws’ that were to govern the French colonies.

In November, Roume, who had rescinded his decree for authorization to occupy Santo Domingo, was arrested for having ‘sewed discord among us and fomented trouble’.  (After being held for 9 months, Roume was sent away to the United States, where he remained awhile in Philadelphia before returning to France.)

General Toussaint now informed Garcia, the governor of Santo Domingo, that he meant to carry out Roume’s order of April 27th, and to take control of Santo Domingo for France.  Garcia received the order on January 6th 1801, and sent 1500 Spanish troops to protect the border.  In response, General Toussaint sent two columns – Moyse with 3000 men and another 4500 men that he himself led, and as the Spanish defense crumbled, the troops crossed the border into Santo Domingo.

On January 26th 1801, as Governor Garcia left with his remaining Spanish troops for Cuba, General Toussaint accepted the keys to Ciudad Santo Domingo; proclaimed an amnesty to all Spanish colonists who chose to remain and to govern themselves according to their new rights as French citizens; and in accordance with French law, announced the abolition of slavery throughout the entire island of Saint-Domingue.

15. The Disbanding of the Provisional Army, June 14th, 1800

The new session of Congress was to be the last held at Philadelphia, before moving to the new capital in the District of Columbia, and the last session before the next presidential elections took place in November 1800.

Secretary of War James McHenry

In preparing his speech to Congress to open that session, President Adams asked Secretary of War, McHenry, ‘to turn your thoughts to the subject of communications both of information and advice necessary to be made to that body at the opening of the session’.  McHenry replied that ‘… at a time, when numerous and momentous changes are daily occurring on the theatre of war in Europe; when every day is preparing or evolving new events in the political world; and while a great belligerent power still retains, or has not disavowed principles acknowledged to be destructive to all other governments, and to social order, and maintains in full force her hostile decrees against the commerce of the United States, it is decidedly the policy and wisdom of the United States, not to relax in her military or naval preparations, but to preserve or assume an attitude, expressive of her determination to secure her rights and to repel injuries … and that the policy of all nations, has shown, that expected or pending negotiations, so far from justifying a relaxation of warlike preparations, have often imposed a necessity for their extension, attended with the most beneficial effects.’

But, when President Adams gave his address to both Houses of Congress on December 3rd 1799, however, he, again, parted from the advice of his cabinet, and stated that ‘… persevering in the pacific and humane policy which had been invariably professed and sincerely pursued by the Executive authority of the United States, when indications were made on the part of the French Republic, of a disposition to accommodate the existing differences between the two countries, I felt it my duty to prepare for meeting their advances, by a nomination of ministers upon certain conditions, which the honor of our country dictated, and which its moderation had given a right to prescribe.  The assurances which were required of the French Government, previous to the departure of our envoys, have been given through their Minister of Foreign Relations, and I have directed them to proceed on their mission to Paris.  They have full power to conclude a treaty, subject to the Constitutional advice and consent of the Senate …’

‘At a period like the present, when momentous changes are occurring, and every hour is preparing new and great events in the political world, when a spirit of war is prevalent in almost every nation with whose affairs the interests of the United States have any connection, unsafe and precarious would be our situation were we to neglect the means of maintaining our just rights.  The result of the mission to France is uncertain; but, however it may terminate, a steady perseverance in a system of national defense, commensurate with our resources and the situation of the country, is an obvious dictate of wisdom: for, remotely as we are placed from the belligerent nations, and desirous as we are, by doing justice to all, to avoid offence to any, nothing short of the power of repelling aggressions will secure to our country a rational prospect of escaping the calamities of war, or national degradation …’

In response, the House of Representatives resolved ‘that so much of the speech … as relates to a system of national defense, commensurate with our resources and the situation of our country, be referred to a committee’.

While France was celebrating its new constitution, the United States, however, would not be celebrating – the nation would be in mourning at the death of General Washington on December 14th.  Congress resolved that on December 26th in Philadelphia, ‘there would be a funeral procession from Congress Hall to the German Lutheran Church, in honor of the memory of General George Washington’, and an oration on his life was read by Henry Lee.

[While Vice-president Jefferson had been absent from Philadelphia for ten months, and while President Adams’s speech to the opening of Congress was to be read on December 3rd, it was observed that Jefferson had deliberately delayed his departure from Monticello to return to Philadelphia, to avoid the ceremonies in General Washington’s memory, arriving on December 28th.]

Note: One of the last letters that General Washington wrote was to General Hamilton, on December 12th, on his proposal to the Secretary of War for a Military Academy, that ‘the establishment of an institution of this kind, upon a respectable and extensive basis, has ever been considered by me as an object of primary importance to this country … I sincerely hope that the subject will meet with due attention, and the reasons for its establishment, which you have so clearly pointed out in your letter to the secretary, will prevail upon the Legislature to place it upon a permanent and respectable footing’.

Upon General Washington’s death, General Hamilton assumed the responsibility over the provisional army, but he would not become the commanding officer, as President Adams would leave that position unfilled – due to his dislike of him.

But, General Hamilton would become the new President General of the Society of Cincinnati.

With General Washington no longer alive to give support to the Provisional Army, on January 1st 1800, Congressman John Nicholas introduced a resolution to repeal the acts that raised the Provisional Army.  The debate on the resolution began on January 7th, and Nicholas said that ‘… the idea of invasion, the only ground upon which their necessity could be founded, is quite out of the question – an event of that sort in the present state of Europe, is absolutely impossible … If there is not so great a certainty as I believe there is, the improbability of the event is so great that we cannot be justified in keeping up so expensive a preparation for it’.

Congressman John Marshall replied that ‘… but it has been urged, not only that the army is useless, but that there is in the United States a positive inability to maintain it.  To prove this, our revenue and expenditure has been stated.  Suppose this had been the language of ’75?  Suppose, at the commencement of our revolution, a gentleman had risen on the floor of Congress, to compare our revenue with our expenses – what would have been the result of the calculation?  Would not the same system of reasoning which the gentleman from Virginia has adopted, have proved that our resources were totally inadequate to the prosecution of the war?  Yet it was prosecuted, and with success.  If vast exertions were then made to acquire independence, will not the same exertions be now made to maintain it?  The question now is, whether self-government and national liberty be worth the money which must be expended to preserve them.’  The debate lasted 4 days before a vote of 60 to 39 defeated the resolution.

John Marshall

On January 13th, Congressman Otis, from ‘the committee to whom was referred as much of the President’s speech as relates to a system of national defense, commensurate with our resources and the situation of the country’ made a report, that ‘in the opinion of the committee, no such material change in the state of the foreign relations of the United States has happened, as would justify a relinquishment of any of the means of defense heretofore adopted by Congress, but that the national honor and interest, in the present posture of affairs, make it prudent and necessary to continue prepared for the worst event; but while danger still threatens our country, yet circumstances having diminished the probability of an immediate invasion, the attention of the committee has been particularly directed to the state of the military establishment, with a view to reconcile safety with economy, to preserve the establishment, and retrench the expense … it is conceived proper to retain them, but to suspend the recruiting service until the approach of danger shall compel the government to resume it.’

Congressman Harrison Gray Otis

Congress then received from President Adams the report prepared by the Secretary of War – for the establishment of a Military Academy, and for the modification of the two regiments of artillerists and engineers to become one regiment of Foot Artillerists, another regiment of Horse Artillerists, and a third regiment of Engineers.  McHenry also detailed the present state of the Provisional Army – that for the 12 new regiments of infantry, 3,399 men had enlisted, to date.  The House considered the committee’s report and on January 15th, resolved to suspend all new enlistments to the Provisional Army (unless war should break out or in case of imminent invasion).

On January 22nd, during this debate on the bill to suspend enlistments, an amendment was introduced by Congressman Randolph to form the already enlisted men into as many regiments as they are sufficient to complete; and to discharge the supernumerary officers.  But Otis replied that ‘the question the other day was to disband the army.  That was negative.  Now the motion is to disband a part of it – the officers.  If the officers were to be sent home and the staff pulled down and annihilated, he conceived it would be equivalent to disbanding two-thirds of the whole army, because the recruiting could not go on as soon as it probably might be wanted’.

The amendment was defeated by a vote of 38 to 57, and the bill then passed the House on January 24th, passed the Senate on February 11th – (McHenry wrote to General Hamilton on February 18th that ‘the Senate yielded to the supposed momentum of public opinion’) – and was signed into law by President Adams on February 20th.

Then, on April 3rd, the Senate introduced a bill, supplementary to the recent bill to suspend enlistments to the Provisional Army, that would make it lawful for the President ‘to suspend any further military appointments … according to his discretion, having reference to economy and the good of the service’.  The bill was passed and sent to the House of representatives on April 29th.  However, in the House, on May 7th, a resolution was agreed to, that ‘it is expedient to authorize the president of the United States to discharge the additional army thereof, as soon as the state of things between the United States and the French Republic will warrant the measure’.  Then on May 10th, when the House took up the Senate bill on suspending further appointments to the Provisional Army, and passed the bill but with an amendment – that the President be empowered to discharge all officers and privates (except the engineers) ‘as soon as, in his opinion, the situation of affairs between the United States and France shall be such as to render such discharge advisable’.  On May 13th the Senate amended the House’s amendment, so that instead of empowering the president to discharge the Provisional Army ‘in his opinion’, it was changed to read ‘on or before the 15th of June’.  This amendment was agreed to by the House, and Congress then adjourned on May 14th.

[It could be assumed that the Senate reasoned that this would give the President a month, after Congress had recessed, in which he could have received some information from the three American commissioners, that would determine whether there would be a positive change in the affairs with France.]

However, immediately, the very next day, President Adams wrote to McHenry ‘to transmit copies of the law for reducing the twelve regiments which passed yesterday to Major Generals Hamilton & Pinckney … to make immediate arrangements, for reducing those regiments on the 14th of June’.  And without hearing whether or not the three commissioners had arrived in Paris, without reading whether or not they had been received by the new French government, and without knowing what was the response of the French government to the American’s demands, President Adams nonetheless disbanded the Provisional Army !

Note: On May 22nd, Charles Lee, acting as the Secretary of State, wrote to the three commissioners in Paris, that the President had not received any letters from them since April 3rd when three letters were received – a December 7th letter from Lisbon, a January 17th letter from Corunna, and a February 10th letter from Burgos; but that ‘by various European gazettes, intelligence has reached him (the President) of your safe arrival in Paris’.

[After resting for a month at Lisbon, Ellsworth and Davies sailed for France, but due to bad weather, were instead forced to land at Corunna, Spain, and to travel overland to Paris – stopping at Burgos, Spain along the route.]

Lee would also inform them that Congress had continued the prohibition of commerce with France, and had authorized the disbanding of the Provisional Army – ‘this part of the military establishment was not deemed indispensably necessary.  A considerable saving of money would be the immediate consequence; and if your negotiation should fail to restore peace and harmony between the two countries, a greater portion of the resources of the United States would remain to be expended more advantageously than in the support of an army.  This alteration in the defensive system was very generally approved in the Senate and House of Representatives, just before the session was closed.’

Earlier, during those April debates for the dismantling of the Provisional Army, General Hamilton, as well as lobbying for a Military Academy, was involved in another battle in the state of New York – against Aaron Burr.

The Constitution gave each state the right to choose its own method for selecting its presidential electors – Kentucky, Maryland, North Carolina and Tennessee chose their electors by voters in each district; Rhode Island and Virginia chose their electors by voters statewide; all other states had their state legislature appoint their electors.

On May 1st 1800, elections were held for the state legislature in New York.  General Hamilton organized the ‘federalist’ ticket, while Burr organized the ‘republican’ ticket, using an efficient political machinery to win – the Saint Tammany’s Society.  Burr felt that if he could deliver New York into the republican camp, it would ruin Adams’s chance for re-election and throw the outcome to Jefferson – and he could parlay that feat into a claim for second spot on the ballot under Jefferson.  Burr used the fight against the Alien and Sedition acts as a convincing campaign issue – a sarcastic petition for the repeal of the laws was prepared, and was sent to Jedediah Peck, a former judge and an elected state legislator from Otsego county, who it was decided should be made the instrument of this demonstration of ‘federalist’ tyranny.  Peck made himself extremely active in the securing of signatures, was soon denounced to the federal authorities, arrested by a U.S. Marshal under the Sedition Act (!) and sent to New York in chains – under the sympathetic gaze of the enraged populace.  He would later be released without trial.

After 3 days of balloting, the republicans had swept the city of New York, and now controlled the state legislature, while the federalists still controlled the state senate.  But the republican gains were enough to give them a majority of the combined houses – by one vote – that allowed them to choose 12 republican presidential electors.  Jefferson could now count on 12 electoral votes from New York, where he had received none in the 1796 election.  But President Adams instead blamed this loss on General Hamilton!

On May 20th, Secretary of War, James McHenry wrote to his nephew about the effect that the New York election had upon President Adams, that ‘we have had for some time past a disjointed cabinet … Mr. Wolcott, Mr. Pickering and myself were decidedly of opinion that the mission to France might have been happily dispensed with.  We thought the situation in which the country then was, the most desirable in which it could be placed, or kept, during the existence of the war in Europe … The President disregarding these considerations, from a different view of the subject, or looking only to his own election, and measuring the operation of the mission upon it, could be well with nobody who did not think well of the mission … From that moment, I began to perceive a new set of principles were to be introduced, and that the acts of administration were, as far as practicable to be made subservient to electioneering purposes.  Every day increased his alarm on this subject, and distrust of those gentlemen near him, who did not constantly feed him with news or hopes flattering to his election.  At times he would speak in a manner of certain men and things, as to persuade one that he was actually insane …’

‘He requested to see me on the 5th instant.  The business appeared to relate to the appointment of a Purveyor, and to disembarrass himself of any engagement on that head.  This settled, he took up other subjects, became indecorous and at times outrageous … In short there was no bounds to his jealousy.  I had done nothing right.  I had advised a suspension of the mission.  Everybody blamed me for my official conduct and I must resign.’

McHenry resigned the next day (to be effective on June 1st).  On May 31st, McHenry sent President Adams ‘a statement of the substance and incidents of the conversation which passed between them the evening preceding the resignation of his office, committed to writing immediately afterwards’ that showed his enraged state of mind, his hatred of Hamilton, and the reasons why he wanted McHenry’s resignation, that ‘… Hamilton has been opposing me in New York.  He has caused the loss of the election.  No head of a department shall be permitted to oppose me … I know it, Sir, to be so … you are subservient to him, Sir.  It was you who biased General Washington’s mind (who hesitated) and induced him to place Hamilton on the list of Major Generals, before Generals Knox and Pinckney … even General Washington’s death, and the eulogiums upon him have been made use of as engines to injure and lower me in the eyes of the public, and you know it, Sir …’

‘I cannot overlook your arrogant and dictatorial behavior to me in the comment you made on the anonymous letter I shewed to you some time since.  That letter recommended it to me to take the chief command of the army from General Hamilton, and to give it to some one of the other gentlemen named in it … (you) said, the advice of the letter writer, if followed, would put between Hamilton and me eternal enmity.  I felt at your observation the utmost indignation, and could hardly forbear ordering you out of the room. …’

‘Hamilton is an intriguant – the greatest intriguant in the world – a man devoid of every moral principle – a bastard, and as much a foreigner as Gallatin.  Mr. Jefferson is an infinitely better man; a wiser one, I am sure, and, if President, will act wisely.  I know it, and would rather be Vice–President under him, or even Minister Resident at the Hague, than indebted to such a being as Hamilton for the presidency …’

‘You are subservient to Hamilton, who ruled Washington, and would still rule if he could.  Washington saddled me with three Secretaries who would control me, but I shall take care of that … You are all mere children, who can give no assistance in such matters … You cannot, Sir, remain longer in Office.’

[McHenry also sent a copy of this memo to General Hamilton.]

On May 10th, President Adams wrote to Pickering asking for his resignation, who replied on May 12th that ‘I had, indeed, contemplated a continuance in office until the fourth of March next; when, if Mr. Jefferson were elected President (an event which in your conversation with me last week you considered as certain) I expected to go out of course … Nevertheless, after deliberately reflecting on the overture you have been pleased to make to me, I do not feel it to be my duty to resign.’  President Adams immediately wrote back that ‘diverse causes and considerations essential to the administration of the government, in my judgment requiring a change in the Department of State you are hereby discharged from any further service as Secretary of State.’

President Adams then sent to the Senate, his nominations of ‘the honorable John Marshall Esqr. of Virginia to be Secretary of State’ and of ‘the honorable Samuel Dexter Esqr. of Massachusetts to be Secretary of the Department of War’.  On May 27th, President Adams left to visit the new capitol in the 10-mile square District of Columbia, where he was joined by Marshall and Dexter, before leaving them to return home to Quincy.

16. Letter Concerning the Public Conduct and Character of John Adams, October 24th 1800

With the disbandment of the Provisional Army (and after the firings of his friends Pickering and McHenry), General Hamilton’s thoughts turned to the upcoming presidential elections.  Earlier, after the elections in New York, he had written to Theodore Sedgwick on May 4th, that ‘you have heard of the loss of our election in the City of New York.  This renders it too probable that the Electors of President for this State will be Anti-federal.  If so, the policy which I was desirous of pursuing at the last election is now recommended by motives of additional urgency.  To support Adams & Pinckney, equally, is the only thing that can possibly save us from the fangs of Jefferson.’

Hamilton would write in his ‘Letter concerning the Public Conduct and Character of John Adams’ that (during the first presidential election of 1789) ‘it was deemed an essential point of caution to take care, that accident or an intrigue of the opposers of the Government, should not raise Mr. Adams, instead of General Washington, to the first place … It was therefore agreed that a few votes should be diverted from Mr. Adams to other persons, so as to insure to General Washington a plurality.  Great was my astonishment, and equally great my regret, when, afterwards, I learned from persons of unquestionable veracity, that Mr. Adams had complained of unfair treatment, in not having been permitted to take an equal chance with General Washington, by leaving the votes to an uninfluenced current … It is a fact, which ought not to be forgotten, that Mr. Adams, who had evinced discontent, because he had not been permitted to take an equal chance with General Washington, was enraged with all those who had thought that Mr. Pinckney ought to have had an equal chance with him.’

During the presidential election in 1796, General Hamilton had supported Thomas Pinckney as the Federalists’ candidate for vice-president and had urged all of the federalist electors to vote equally for Adams and Pinckney – as a way of stopping Jefferson from being elected vice-president!  But, some of Adam’s supporters feared that if Adams and Pinckney received the same number of votes in the northern states, and if Pinckney received some additional votes in the southern states, then Pinckney would receive more votes than Adams.  Adams’s supporters urged the Federalist electors in New England to vote for Adams but not for Pinckney.  This led to Adams falsely attributing motives to General Hamilton of trying to get Pinckney elected president instead of him!  ‘Mr. Adams never could forgive the men who had been engaged in the plan’.

In the 1796 election, Adams received 71 electoral votes, Jefferson received 68 electoral votes, and Thomas Pinckney received 59 electoral votes – Pinckney received 8 votes from his home state of South Carolina where Adams received none, but received 18 votes less than Adams in the New England states.

‘The plan of giving equal support to the two Federalist Candidates, was not pursued.  The result was, that Mr. Adams was elected President by a majority of two votes, and Mr. Jefferson Vice-President … but for a sort of miracle, the departure would have made Mr. Jefferson President’.

Some ‘federalists’ (including Pickering) did want General Charles Cotesworth Pinckney (the vice-presidential candidate in 1800, who was the brother of Thomas Pinckney – the vice-presidential candidate in 1796) to become president instead of Adams.  Pickering would later say that he believed that Adams had made a deal with the ‘republicans’ who would ‘support his re-election to the presidency, provided he would make peace with France and remove Mr. McHenry and me from office’.

On May 7th, Pickering had written to William Smith that “The only chance of a federal President will be by General C. C. Pinckney.  It is proposed to run him with Mr. Adams; and as South Carolina & part of North Carolina will vote for him, if the New England States also keep him on their votes, Mr. Pinckney will be elected. The Carolinians it is supposed will vote for Mr. Jefferson as well as Gen. Pinckney.’

Note:  Some federalists, like Pickering, were hoping that Pinckney would either become vice-president, or perhaps even become president – either way, defeating the re-election of the perceived unstable Adams.  ‘At the time we agreed on Mr. Pinckney as a candidate, which was at a meeting of the whole federal party in Congress, we had every assurance which could be given by the members from S. Carolina, that whatever might be the character of their electors, such was the popularity of General Pinckney, that all the votes of that state would be given to him – if federal, of course for Adams and Pinckney, if antifederal, for Pinckney and Jefferson’.  (Letter from Theodore Sedgwick to Rufus King, September 26th 1800)

On June 7th, General Hamilton set out on a three-week trip to New England to review, for the last time before it was disbanded, the brigade of the Provisional Army that had been stationed at Oxford, Massachusetts, but also to conduct a tour of Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island, to lobby the potential ‘federalist’ electors and to campaign for equal support for Pinckney.

On July 1st, after returning to New York, General Hamilton wrote of his trip to Wolcott, that ‘there is little doubt of Federal Electors in all.  But there is considerable doubt of a perfect Union in favor of Pinckney … It is essential to inform the most discreet of this description of the facts which denote unfitness in Mr. Adams.  I have promised confidential friends a correct statement …’

Wolcott replied on July 7th that ‘I will readily furnish the statement you desire from a firm conviction, that the affairs of this Government will not only be ruined, but that the disgrace will attach to the federal party, if they permit the reelection of Mr. Adams … You may rely upon my cooperation in every reasonable measure for effecting the election of Genl. Pinckney’.

Oliver Wolcott

On August 3rd, Hamilton again wrote to Wolcott that ‘I have serious thoughts of giving to the public my opinion respecting Mr. Adams with my reasons in a letter to a friend with my signature.  This seems to me the most authentic way of conveying the information & best suited to the plain dealing of my character.  There are however reasons against it and a very strong one is that some of the principal causes of my disapprobation proceed from yourself & other members of the Administration who would be understood to be the sources of my information whatever cover I might give the thing’.

Wolcott replied on September 3rd that ‘we know that the present humiliation of the federal party, is to be attributed to the violent & inconsistent conduct of the President.  We also know that opinions have been frequently expressed by him, not only unjust to individuals, but highly imprudent & dangerous in relation to the public interests.  It is as I conceive perfectly proper & a duty, to make known those defects & errors which disqualify Mr. Adams, for the great trust with which he is now invested’.  On September 26th, Hamilton sent to Wolcott the draft of his letter to Adams, for Wolcott’s opinion and any corrections that may be needed.

Then, on August 1st, Hamilton wrote directly to President Adams that ‘it has been repeatedly mentioned to me that you have, on different occasions, asserted the existence of a British Faction in this country, embracing a number of leading or influential characters of the Federal Party … and that you have sometimes named me, at other times plainly alluded to me, as one of this description of persons: And I have likewise been assured that of late some of your warm adherents, for electioneering purposes, have employed a corresponding language.’

‘I must, Sir, take it for granted, that you cannot have made such assertions or insinuations without being willing to avow them, and to assign the reasons to a party who may conceive himself injured by them.  I therefore trust that you will not deem it improper that I apply directly to yourself, to ascertain from you, in reference to your own declarations, whether the information, I have received, has been correct or not, and if correct what are the grounds upon which you have founded the suggestion.’             President Adams refused to answer the letter to Hamilton.

Hamilton had intended that his ‘letter’ would be printed in a limited number of copies, to be privately sent to influential ‘federalists’ – after potential electors had been chosen in New England and in the Carolina’s.

But, Aaron Burr was able to obtain a copy of the printed letter and (probably through the help of John Beckley) sent excerpts of it to be published in the Aurora newspaper!

When Hamilton learned of this, and not wanting portions of the letter to be selectively printed by the ‘republican’ press, agreed to have the letter published publicly as a 54-page pamphlet – ‘to permit the letter to be thrown into circulation: deeming it better that it should appear in toto than by piece meal’.

The ‘Letter from Alexander Hamilton, Concerning the Public Conduct and Character of John Adams, Esq. President of the United States’ was published on October 24th – one week before the presidential election began!

Hamilton began that ‘some of the warm personal friends of Mr. Adams are taking unwearied pains to disparage the motives of those Federalists, who advocate the equal support of Gen. Pinckney, at the approaching election of President and Vice-President.  They are exhibited under a variety of aspects equally derogatory.  Sometimes they are versatile, factious spirits, who cannot be long satisfied with any chief, however meritorious: – Sometimes they are ambitious spirits, who can be contented with no man that will not submit to be governed by them: – Sometimes they are intriguing partisans of Great Britain, who, devoted to the advancement of her views, are incensed against Mr. Adams for the independent impartiality of his conduct … not denying to Mr. Adams patriotism and integrity, and even talents of a certain kind, I should be deficient in candor, were I to conceal the conviction, that he does not possess the talents adapted to the Administration of Government, and that there are great and intrinsic defects in his character, which unfit him for the office of Chief Magistrate …’

He wrote of the faults of President Adams during the conflict with France, that ‘it is in regard to our foreign relations, that the public measures of Mr. Adams first attract criticism … (at first) he did all in his power to rouse the pride of the nation – to inspire it with a just sense of the injuries and outrages which it had experienced, and to dispose it to a firm and magnanimous resistance; and that his efforts contributed materially to the end … the latter conduct of the President forms a painful contrast to his commencement.  Its effects have been directly the reverse.  It has sunk the tone of the public mind – it has impaired the confidence of the friends of the Government in the Executive Chief – it has distracted public opinion – it has unnerved the public councils – it has sown the seeds of discord at home, and lowered the reputation of the Government abroad.  The circumstances which preceded, aggravate the disagreeableness of the results …’

‘The circumstance, which next presents itself to examination, is the dismission of the two Secretaries, Pickering and McHenry … It happened at a peculiar juncture, immediately after the unfavorable turn of the election in New York, and had much the air of an explosion of combustible materials which had been long prepared, but which had been kept down by prudential calculations respecting the effect of an explosion upon the friends of those Ministers in the State of New York.  Perhaps, when it was supposed that nothing could be lost in this quarter, and that something might be gained elsewhere by an atoning sacrifice of those Ministers, especially Mr. Pickering, who had been for some time particularly odious to the opposition party, it was determined to proceed to extremities.  This, as a mere conjecture, is offered for as much as it may be worth.  One fact, however, is understood to be admitted, namely, that neither of the dismissed Ministers had given any new or recent cause for their dismission …’

‘The last material occurrence in the administration of Mr. Adams, of which I shall take notice, is the pardon of Fries, and other principals in the late insurrection in Pennsylvania …’

Note: On July 14th 1798, an act was passed to lay and collect a direct tax, to pay for the expenses of the military and naval defenses required in the conflict with France.  A rebellion against the tax began in March 1799 in southeastern Pennsylvania.

On March 12th, President Adams issued a proclamation ‘to call forth military force to suppress such combinations, and to cause the laws to be duly executed’.  500 federal troops were assembled and sent, where they arrested Fries and 14 others for treason, and arrested 13 others for misdemeanor – ending the rebellion.  On May 21st, President Adams issued a proclamation to ‘grant a full free and absolute pardon, to all and every person or persons concerned in the said insurrection’.  The three men, who had already been found guilty of treason – Fries, Haney and Getman, would later receive a special pardon.

Adams used ‘the novel doctrine, disavowed by every page of our law books, that treason does not consist of resistance by force to a public law; unless it be an act relative to the militia, or other military force.  And upon this, or upon some other ground, not easy to be comprehended, he of a sudden departed from all his former declarations, and against the unanimous advice of his Ministers, with the Attorney General, came to the resolution, which he executed, of pardoning all those who had received sentence of death …’

Hamilton ended that ‘if, as I have been assured from respectable authorities, Mr. Adams has repeatedly indulged himself in virulent and indecent abuse of me; if he has denominated me a man destitute of every moral principle; if he has stigmatised me as the leader of a British Faction; then certainly I have right to think that I have been most cruelly and wickedly traduced; then have I right to appeal to all those who have been spectators of my public actions; to all who are acquainted with my private character, in its various relations, whether such treatment of me, by Mr. Adams, is of a nature to weaken or to strengthen his claim to the approbation of wise and good men; then will I so far yield to the consciousness of what I am, as to declare, that in the cardinal points of public and private rectitude, above all, in pure and disinterested zeal for the interests and service of this country …’

‘Yet with this opinion of Mr. Adams, I have finally resolved not to advise the withholding from him a single vote.  The body of Federalists, for want of sufficient knowledge of facts, are not convinced of the expediency of relinquishing him.  It is even apparent, that a large proportion still retain the attachment which was once a common sentiment.  Those of them, therefore, who are dissatisfied, as far as my information goes, are, generally speaking, willing to forbear opposition, and to acquiesce in the equal support of Mr. Adams with Mr. Pinckney, whom they prefer …’

‘Ought they not, by a co-operation in General Pinckney, to give a chance for what will be a safe issue, supposing that they are right in their preference, and the best issue, should they happen to be mistaken?  Especially, since by doing this, they will increase the probability of excluding a third candidate, of whose unfitness all sincere federalists are convinced.  If they do not pursue this course, they will certainly incur an immense responsibility to their friends and to the Government …’

‘To refrain from a decided opposition to Mr. Adams’s re-election has been reluctantly sanctioned by my judgment; which has been not a little perplexed between the unqualified conviction of his unfitness for the station contemplated, and a sense of the great importance of cultivating harmony among the supporters of the Government; on whose firm union hereafter will probably depend the preservation of order, tranquility, liberty, property, the security of every social and domestic blessing’.

Note: Whatever the historians (and the hysterians) may have commented about Hamilton’s letter, the fact remains that in the presidential election, Hamilton’s policy of ‘equal support for Pinckney’ prevailed among the ‘federalists’ – Adams received 65 electoral votes and Pinckney received 64 electoral votes.  (One elector in Rhode Island would cast 1 vote for Adams and 1 vote for Jay – instead of Pinckney.)

The presidential elections took place between October 31st and December 3rd, when the electors for each state were to be chosen.  In a private letter received by Jefferson on December 12th, he was assured that one elector in South Carolina would cast a vote for George Clinton instead of Burr – ensuring that Jefferson would have one more vote than Burr.  But soon it was reported that this did not happen, and that the election might result in a tie.

In a letter to Hamilton on December 17th, Otis wrote that ‘there exists the strongest probability that the electoral votes are equally divided between Messrs. Jefferson and Burr … The question now is, in what mode shall the friends of the federal government take advantage of this casualty?  Can any terms be obtained from Mr. Burr favorable to the true interest of the country and is he a man who will adhere to terms when stipulated?  Is it advisable to attempt a negotiation with him and in what manner & through what channel shall it be conducted?  We are inclined to believe that some advantage may be derived from it but few of us have a personal acquaintance with Mr. Burr.  It is palpable that to elect him would be to cover the opposition with chagrin and to sow among them the seeds of a mortal division.  But whether in any event he would act with the friends of the constitution, or endeavor to redeem himself with his old party by the violence of his measures and the overthrow of the constitution, is a doubt which you may assist us to resolve …’

On December 16th, Hamilton had written to Wolcott that ‘it is now, my dear Sir, ascertained that Jefferson or Burr will be President and it seems probable that they will come with equal votes to the House of Representatives.  It is also circulated here that in this event the Federalists in Congress or some of them talk of preferring Burr.  I trust New England at least will not so far lose its head as to fall into this snare.  There is no doubt but that upon every virtuous and prudent calculation Jefferson is to be preferred.  He is by far not so dangerous a man and he has pretensions to character.  As to Burr there is nothing in his favor.  His private character is not defended by his most partial friends.  He is bankrupt beyond redemption except by the plunder of his country.  His public principles have no other spring or aim than his own aggrandizement …   If he can, he will certainly disturb our institutions to secure to himself permanent power and with it, wealth. He is truly the Cataline of America …’

Hamilton would write similar letters, in support of electing Jefferson and not Burr, to Theodore Sedgwick on December 22nd; to Harrison Otis on December 23rd; to Gouverneur Morris on December 24th; to James Bayard on December 27th; to James Ross on December 28th; and to John Rutledge on January 4th.

Hamilton would again write to Wolcott that ‘if Jefferson is president the whole responsibility of bad measures will rest with the Anti-federalists.  If Burr is made so by the Federalists the whole responsibility will rest with them.  The other party will say to the people.  We intended him only for Vice President.  Here he might have done very well or been at least harmless.  But the Federalists to disappoint us and a majority of you took advantage of a momentary superiority to put him in the first place.  He is therefore their president and they must answer for all the evils of his bad conduct.  And the people will believe them … Alas! when will men consult their reason rather than their passions? … Adieu to the Federal Troy if they once introduce this Grecian Horse into their citadel’.

On February 11th 1801, the President of the Senate, Vice-president Jefferson, opened the certificates of the electors of the several states and read the votes, and afterwards declared ‘that Thomas Jefferson of Virginia and Aaron Burr of New York, having the greatest number, and a majority of the votes of all the electors appointed, and, being equal, it remained for the House of Representatives to determine the choice’.

While the ‘federalists’ swept the vote in New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Jersey and Delaware, the ‘republicans’ swept Virginia, South Carolina, Georgia, Kentucky and Tennessee, and the vote was split in Pennsylvania (federalists 7, republicans 8), in Maryland (federalists 5, republicans 5) and in North Carolina (federalists 4, republicans 8).  But, the ‘federalist’ hope to win some votes in South Carolina was not realized, and the ‘republican’ sweep of New York proved to be the key to victory in the presidential election.  However, the ‘republican’ electors failed to do what the ‘federalist’ electors had done in Rhode Island, and Jefferson and Burr each received 73 electoral votes.

(According to the Constitution) any tie vote would therefore be determined by the present, sitting members of the House of Representatives – controlled by the ‘federalists’, and not the new, recently-elected members – controlled by the ‘republicans’!  During a caucus of the ‘federalists’, it was determined, that in order to stop Jefferson from becoming the president, that they would throw their votes to Burr!?!

The House of Representatives then returned to their chamber, and proceeded, according to the constitution (and by the rules resolved by the House on February 9th) to choose a president.  On the first ballot taken, the votes of 8 states were given for Jefferson, the votes of 6 states for Burr, and the votes of 2 states were equally divided.  But the votes of 9 states were necessary to constitute a choice of president, and it was agreed that another ballot would be taken in an hour.

The balloting was repeated until 12 noon on the following day, February 12th, with the 28th ballot being the same result, and the House was adjourned until 11 o’clock the next day.  On the 13th, the 29th ballot was taken – with the same result; on the 14th, the 30th, 31st, 32nd and 33rd ballots were taken – with the same result; and on the 16th, the 34th ballot was taken – with the same result.  On February 17th, the 35th ballot was taken – again with the same result.

But an hour later, on the 36th ballot, the ‘federalist’ members in the states of Delaware and South Carolina abstained, taking their votes away from Burr, and the ‘federalist’ members in the (tied) states of Vermont and Maryland abstained, giving their votes to Jefferson.  Hamilton’s work in stopping Burr had finally succeeded!

On March 4th 1801, Thomas Jefferson was sworn in as President of the United States in the new federal capital, in the District of Columbia.

Note: On June 13th 1798, the day before President Adams had signed into law the Sedition Act, James Callender left Philadelphia and moved to Richmond, Virginia.  Being broke, Jefferson loaned him $50 to help him get back on his feet and, Callender soon was able to secure a job, writing for the Richmond Examiner, whose editor was Meriwether Jones – Jefferson’s close friend.  [Jefferson and Callender did exchange letters, but without signatures – to keep the correspondence secret.]

Callender began writing essays that attacked Adams and supported Jefferson becoming the next president.  In January 1800, these essays were collected and published as a pamphlet, ‘The Prospect Before Us’, and Jefferson wrote to Callender that they ‘cannot fail to produce the best effect’.  On May 24th, Callender was indicted for publishing the pamphlet in violation of the Sedition Act, and on June 4th, he was found guilt and sentenced to a $200 fine and 9 months in jail.  [The Sedition Act was set to expire on March 3rd 1801.]  Callender was released on March 3rd – the last day of  John Adams’s presidency.

Jefferson would pardon Callender on March 16, 1801.  But, when Callender asked Jefferson to appoint him as the Postmaster for Richmond, Jefferson refused.  Callender then switched horses and became the editor of the Richmond Recorder – a ‘federalist’ newspaper!

In September 1802, Callender would write in his paper about Jefferson that ‘it is well known that the man, whom it delighteth the people to honor, keeps, and for many years past has kept, as his concubine, one of his own slaves.  Her name is Sally …’  Thus began the story of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings!

[Since Jefferson’s wife, Martha, and her slave, Sally Hemings, had the same father, it was said that their looks bore a close resemblance.  At this time, Sally Hemings had a 4 year-old son and a 1 year-old daughter, and would later have 2 more sons.  Sally’s four surviving children were granted their freedom upon coming of age (as agreed to by Jefferson) and Sally was given her freedom by Jefferson’s daughter, after his death.]

17. The Ratification of the Convention with France, February 3rd 1801

The American commissioners, Ellsworth and Davies, finally arrived at Paris on March 2nd, where they met Murray who had arrived on March 1st.  On March 5th, First Consul Bonaparte appointed his three-man commission – his brother, Joseph Bonaparte (commission president), along with Pierre-Louis Roederer and Charles-Pierre Fleurieu (members of the council of state), with Louis-Andre Pichon as the commission secretary, and on March 8th, the three American commissioners were received by Consul Bonaparte and his three commissioners.

On April 2nd, the two commissions held their first negotiating session at the chateau of Joseph Bonaparte.  The American commissioners had been instructed that compensation for the losses of her citizens at the hands of French vessels or agents was ‘an indispensable condition of the treaty’ and that after these claims ‘shall be duly attended to … you may then turn your thoughts to the regulation of navigation and commerce’; and that these treaties, that had been suspended by Congress, ‘be not in whole or in part revived by the new treaty’.

[These were the two treaties signed in 1778 – the Treaty of Amity and Commerce and the Treaty of Alliance.]

The French commissioners had been instructed (by Talleyrand) to re-establish the treaties as before, and to demand a revision so that France could enjoy the same advantages that had been accorded to Britain by Jay’s Treaty; and that the issue of compensation was to be set aside until a new treaty was made.  They took the position that the United States could claim compensation only on the basis of the old treaties – if it wished to annul those treaties, it must abandon all claims based on them!

The negotiations made little progress and were suspended until the French commissioners could receive further instructions from the First Consul.  But Bonaparte was not in Paris – he had left on April 6th with an army to march to northwestern Italy, to stop the advance of the Austrian army which was besieging the French at Genoa.  After defeating the Austrian army at the battle of Marengo on June 14th, and after signing a cease-fire agreement on June 15th (the Convention of Alessandria), Bonaparte returned to Paris on July 2nd, and the negotiations with the commissioners were then resumed on July 11th.  Also arriving was news of a remarkable change in United States – the disbanding of the Provisional Army, the dismissal of Secretary of State Pickering and his replacement with John Marshall, the New York election results and the prospect that Jefferson might become the next American president.

Talleyrand reported to Bonaparte that ‘his (i.e. Jefferson) accession should bring the United States back to us, but we should not forget that we have improved our position by moderation and by complete non-intervention in their internal affairs.  We can make Mr. Jefferson’s administration effective only by proving that we do not desire to abuse his partiality for us and by renouncing the expectations of sacrifice and condescension which would give his policy a character it should not be allowed to assume.  Mr. Jefferson will consider it a duty to unite all true Americans and to resume with full force the system of balance between France and England which alone is wise for the United States.  This policy accords best with our own interests.  We have nothing to desire in the United States except to see them prosper.  Without agitation, without intrigue, jealousy of England and her demands will lead to a rapprochement with us …’

The American commissioners reported that ‘it was the decided opinion of the Premier Consul that the ancient treaties ought to be the basis of negotiation; that the compensation could only be a consequence of the existence of the treaties, and the re-establishment under them of the former privileges and relations; and that he would never consent to make a treaty which would surrender the exclusive rights of France, in favor of an enemy; or, in any event, make a treaty with the United States, which would not place France on a footing of equality at least with Great Britain’.

On July 23rd, the Americans then made a proposal ‘to the effect that the payment of the indemnities should be suspended until the Government of the United States should have offered to France an article, re-establishing her in the exclusive privileges she claimed, under the treaty of 1778’ – ‘stipulating free admission into the ports of each for the privateers and prizes of the other, and the exclusion of those of their enemies’.  The French commissioners again answered ‘either the ancient treaties, carrying with them the privileges resulting from anteriority, together with stipulations for reciprocal indemnity; or a new treaty, promising equality, unattended with indemnities’.

The American ministers would write to Marshall, on August 15th, that ‘it has, however, become manifest, that the negotiation must be abandoned, or our instructions deviated from.  Should the latter be ventured upon, which, from present appearances, is not improbable, the deviation will be no greater than a change of circumstances may be presumed to justify.  The success of the French in Italy has produced an armistice and has since opened with the Emperor a negotiation for peace which is still pending.  The result is daily and anxiously expected’.

On August 20th, the American commissioners made another proposal, that ‘let it be declared that the former treaties are renewed and confirmed, and shall have the same effect as if no misunderstanding between the two Powers had intervened’ … that ‘the articles of commerce and navigation, except the seventeenth article of the treaty, shall admit of modification’ … (and) that ‘there shall be a reciprocal stipulation for indemnities …’.

The French commissioners replied, since the Americans proposed an important modification, that ‘this consisted in offering a new treaty without indemnity’.  They then proposed that ‘if, in the space of seven years, the seventeenth and twenty-second articles shall not be offered and accepted in their original force, the indemnities awarded by the commissioners shall not be paid’ – meaning, to ‘leave it optional with France to reject indemnities, while they secure to her, unconditionally, the treaty of commerce, with a minute exception, which is so limited by time and other circumstances as to render it of little consideration with either party’ (!?!)

Although the position of the French commissioners continued to be that France would refuse to pay indemnities to the Americans without ‘a full and entire recognition of the treaties’, their real purpose was to avoid paying any indemnities whatsoever.  The American commissioners reported that at a conference on September 12th, the French commissioners ‘now openly avowed that their real object was to avoid, by every means, any engagement to pay indemnities, giving as one reason the utter inability of France to pay, in the situation in which she would be left by the present war’ (!!!)

They further wrote that ‘the American ministers being now convinced that the door was perfectly closed against all hope of obtaining indemnities, with any modification of the treaties, it only remained to be determined whether, under all circumstances, it would not be expedient to attempt a temporary arrangement which would extricate the United States from the war, or that peculiar state of hostility in which they are at present involved, save the immense property of our citizens now depending before the council of prizes, and secure, as far as possible, our commerce against the abuses of captures during the present war.’

On September 13th, ‘after mature deliberation’ the American ministers then resolved to make one last proposal that ‘the ministers plenipotentiary of the respective parties, not being at present to agree respecting the former treaties and indemnities, the parties will in due and convenient time further treat on these subjects; and, until they shall have agreed respecting the same, the said treaties shall have no operation.’  This was agreeable to the French commissioners and ‘it was agreed to meet from day to day until the business was finished’.

A provisional treaty was agreed to on September 30th, and it was revised – instead, called a ‘Convention’ – and was signed by both sides on October 3rd.

On October 16th, the commissioners would send a dispatch to Secretary of State, Marshall, outlining their negotiations and also ‘to present to you a journal of their proceedings, and a convention in which those proceedings have terminated’.  Ellsworth also wrote to Hamilton that ‘I enclose for your perusal, but by no means for publication, an extract of a letter I have just been writing for the Secretary of State.  More could not be done than has been, without too great a sacrifice; and I hope, as a reign of Jacobinism in France is over, and appearances are strong in favour of a general peace, that you will think it was better to sign a Convention than to do nothing.’

After the signing, Murray returned to The Hague (as the American Minster to the Netherlands), while Ellsworth, who was ‘not in any condition to undertake a voyage to America at this late season of the year’ sailed to Britain and spent the winter at Bath, and Davies sailed for United States – with the Convention.

Although rumours had appeared that the negotiations had been suspended, a first report that an agreement had been reached, appeared in a Baltimore paper on November 7th, but details of the agreement would have to await the arrival of Davies at Philadelphia on December 13th – 10 days after the end of the presidential election!

Note: ‘The Convention with France, having been published at Paris, immediately found its way into the English newspapers, in which it appeared the day after Mr. Ellsworth’s arrival in London’’  (Letter of Rufus King to John Marshall, October 31st 1800)  King also reported that after conversing with some of the British ministers, Lord Grenville said that ‘he saw nothing in the convention inconsistent with the treaty between them and us, or which afforded them any ground of complaint’.

On December 15th, President Adams would send the Convention to the Senate, along with the 3 manuscript volumes containing the journals of the envoys and would later send his instructions to the commissioners.

And now, at this same time, when discussions were to begin regarding the provisional treaty with France, discussions were also being held concerning the outcome of the states’ electoral voting – and the probable tie between Jefferson and Burr.  But, support for the Convention would come from ‘republicans’, not from ‘federalists’!

On December 17th, Harrison Otis wrote to Hamilton, for advice about the tie in electoral votes between Jefferson and Burr, but he also wrote about the treaty with France that was now before the Senate, that ‘I believe will be found another chapter in the book of humiliation.  All claims for spoliation, it is said, are suspended during the war (i.e. Article 2), all public ships captured by each party are to be surrendered (i.e. Article 3), … it is very doubtful in my mind whether the Senate ratify.’

Hamilton would also receive similar letters (regarding both Jefferson and Burr, and the treaty with France) from Theodore Sedgwick on December 17th, from James Gunn on December 18th, and from Gouverneur Morris on December 19th.

On December 22nd, Hamilton responded to Sedgwick that ‘I am of opinion the Treaty must be ratified.  The contrary conduct would I think utterly ruin the Federal party and endanger our internal tranquillity.  Moreover it is better to close the thing where it is than leave it to a Jacobin Administration to do much worse … At the same time I wish it to be declared by our friends in the Senate that they think the treaty liable to strong objections & pregnant with dangers in the interests of this country; but having been negotiated, they will not withhold their assent’.

On January 6th 1801, the Senate began consideration of the provisional treaty with France – the Convention.  On the 8th, they voted on whether to consent to Article 2, nays 16 to yeas 11 – but not enough for a 2/3 majority to expunge it; and on whether to consent to Article 3, nays 15 to yeas 12 – not enough for a 2/3 majority to expunge it.   The next day, the Senate unanimously voted, yeas 27 to nays 0, on the adoption of an additional article – that ‘nothing in this treaty contained, shall be construed or operate contrary to former and existing treaties with other states or sovereigns’, and on the 12th, they voted, yeas 25 to nays 1, on adoption of a second additional article – that ‘the present convention shall be in full force for a term not exceeding __ years’.

[The ‘federalists’ saw that by this convention, it was certain that France would never indemnify the United States citizens for their losses, and that a mere mention of the former treaties would recognize their continued existence.]

On January 10th, Hamilton again wrote to Morris that ‘I continue of the opinion that it is best upon the whole to ratify it unconditionally … It does not appear to me that on fair construction the existence of the old treaties is recognised … The indemnification for spoliations is, I admit, virtually relinquished as the price of a waver of the treaties; but considering our situation and the immense and growing power of France, that price is not too great … With this view of the subject I do not consider the objections to a simple ratification to be strong enough to countervail the dangers of a qualified one which certainly will leave it in the option of the other party to recede.  It is possible that in the pride of success our backwardness to ratify may be the pretext of a rupture to punish the presumption.  Under existing circumstances such an event would be disastrous – if not for the evils which the arms of France might inflict yet for the hazard of internal schism and discord.  The mania for France has in a great degree revived in our country and the party which should invoke a rupture would be likely to be ruined … If the present Convention be ratified our relations with France will have received a precise shape.  To take up the subject anew and mould it into shape better according with Jacobin projects will not be easy, as finding the whole business open to give it that shape.  I think it politic therefore to close as far as we can … Again, it will be of consequence to the federal cause in future to be able to say – the Federal Administration steered the vessel through all the storms raised by the contentions of Europe into a peaceable and safe port.  This cannot be said if the contest with France continues open …’

Note: Hamilton was repeating the ‘Proclamation of Neutrality’ policy of President Washington in his great Farewell Address to the nation’s citizens – to preserve America’s independence by steering clear of involvement in European wars and conflicts.  While President Adams sought ratification of the Convention for his ambition and as a mark of his legacy as president, Hamilton became the strongest advocate for consenting to ratification because it was in the best interest of the young nation.  While Jefferson and Burr both sought to become president to satisfy their ambitions, Hamilton voiced his support for Jefferson because, again, it was in the best interest of the nation.  While Jefferson and Adams had huge egos to satiate, unlike those two, Hamilton did not let any prior grudges or prejudices determine his words and actions for his country.

On January 15th, the Senate again considered the treaty – voting to consent to Article 2, nays 15 to yeas 10; voting to consent to Article 3, nays 16 to yeas 13; voting unanimously on the 1st additional article, yeas 28 to nays 0; and voting unanimously on the 2nd additional article (for a term not exceeding 8 years), yeas 28 to nays 0.

On January 23rd, after hearing the report of the committee ‘appointed to reduce the several votes on the convention made on behalf of the United States with the republic of France, into the form of a ratification’ – that they do consent to and advice the ratification of the convention… Provided, that the second and third articles be expunged and that two additional articles be added.  Again, the Senate voted to expunge Article 2, Yeas 17 to Nays 13 (not 2/3); voted to expunge Article 3, Yeas 16 to Nays 17 (not 2/3); voted for the 1st addition, Yeas 17 to Nays 13 (not 2/3); and voted for the 2nd addition, Yeas 29 to Nays 6 (has 2/3).  Finally, on whether to agree to the resolution of the committee, the Senate voted Yeas 16 and Nays 14 – not enough to consent to ratification of the Convention.

After discussions and negotiations between the ‘republicans’ and the ‘federalists’, a compromise was reached.  On February 3rd, the previous vote was re-considered, and the Senate voted to expunge Article 2, Yeas 30 to Nays 1 (2/3 agreeing); and voted to expunge Article 3, Yeas 18 to Nays 13 (2/3 not agreeing).

The Senate then voted again on a resolution to ratify the Convention – provided that the 2nd article be expunged and, in an additional article, that it be in force for 8 years, Yeas 22 to Nays 9!!!  The Senate had ratified the Convention with France and it now had to be sent back to France, for the First Consul to agree with the amendments.  The Senate ratification was done in time for the results of the Electoral College votes to be opened by the Senate the following week on February 11th.

After the Senate had consented to the Convention, the act suspending commercial intercourse with France was allowed to expire, and the brig, Herald, was sent to the West Indies with orders to recall the U.S. Navy fleet.

On March 3rd, his last day in office, President Adams signed into law an act for a Naval Peace Establishment, that authorized the President to sell any or all of the Navy’s ships and vessels – except the 13 frigates that were to be retained, and to lay up the frigates – except for 6 of them that were to be kept in constant service, in time of peace.  Of the Navy’s 34 ships, the 13 frigates and 1 schooner were retained and the rest were sold off. President Jefferson would send three frigates – the President, the Philadelphia and the Essex, and the schooner, the Enterprise, to the Barbary coast, where the Bashaw of Tripoli had declared war against the United States, unless the tribute paid to him was increased.

Burning of the USS Philidelphia in the first Barbary War

Note: One year later, a similar act would be passed to reduce the size of the Army to 2 infantry regiments, 1 artillery regiment and a corps of engineers, reducing it from its projected force of 5,438 men to 3,289  – that was roughly its current actual size.

President Jefferson would waste little time in dealing with the ratification of the Convention with France.   On February 24th 1801 (a week after the House of Representatives voted to elect him as president) Jefferson wrote to Robert Livingston, asking him if ‘you might be willing to undertake the mission as minister plenipotentiary to France … the time period of your departure cannot be settled til we get our administration together, and may perhaps be delayed til we receive the ratification of the treaty which would probably be 4 months, consequently the commission would not be made out til then’.  A week before Livingston would receive the letter and agree to the mission, President Jefferson sent the nomination of Livingston to the Senate on March 5th (on his 2nd day in office) and it was quickly approved.

Robert Livingston

On March 18th, Levi Lincoln (on behalf of Jefferson) wrote to Oliver Ellsworth and William Vans Murray that the Senate had ‘advised and consented to the ratification of it with the suppression of the 2nd article, and the addition of an article limiting its duration.  The term of change in the Administration being then approaching, this matter has rested to the present moment.  Tho’ the day agreed on for the exchange of ratifications will from these unavoidable causes have passed over, yet we apprehend that that exchange, being only a matter of form, will suffer no difficulty, and then it will take place on your receipt of this as a matter of course, if the modifications of the Senate meet no objection as we hope they will not … The honorable Mr. Dawson, member of the late Congress from the state of Virginia, will deliver you this with the treaty which is committed to his care.’

On March 28th, President Jefferson would again write to Livingston that ‘with respect to the time of your departure, it will depend on the return of Mr. Dawson with the ratification of the convention’.  John Dawson left the United States on March 31st and arrived at Paris on May 13th.  Since Ellsworth had already left Britain to return to the United States, Murray was now the sole person appointed to negotiate with the French commissioners, and he left The Hague to return to Paris, arriving on May 28th and meeting Bonaparte on June 6th.

Part 3 – The Louisiana Frontier

18. President Jefferson’s New Policy with France, July 1801

Consul Bonaparte and his foreign secretary Talleyrand wished to restore France’s North American colonies – by re-colonizing Saint-Domingue and by re-acquiring Louisiana (that France had given to Spain at the end of the French and Indian War).  Saint-Domingue was the ‘goose that laid the golden egg’ of France’s West Indien islands.  Because Britain controlled the Caribbean seas, Saint-Domingue couldn’t be reliably supplied from France, but, through its port of New Orleans, Louisiana could supply the needed food stuffs to Saint-Domingue and Guadeloupe.

North America and some Caribbeans in 1800

In August 1800, Bonaparte has sent General Berthier (who had assisted him in the coup d’etat of 18 Brumaire) on a mission to Spain, resulting on October 1st – one day after the Convention had been agreed to by the French and American commissioners, in a secret agreement to return Louisiana to France, in exchange for territory in Italy.  When France and Austria signed the Treaty of Luneville on February 9th 1801, that awarded the Grand Duchy of Tuscany to France, this now allowed Bonaparte to give Tuscany to Spain in exchange for Louisiana, when France and Spain signed their Treaty of Aranjuez on March 21st.

Note: Spanish officials would remain to administer Louisiana until French officials could arrive to assume the administration of the territory, and although preparations were begun for a French expedition to Louisiana, the expedition never sailed!

Although the cession of Louisiana was kept secret from the United States, Rufus King, their minister to Britain, wrote to Secretary of State, James Madison,  on March 29th 1801, that ‘in confirmation of the rumours of the day … in all probability … the cession of Tuscany … adds very great credit to the opinion which at this time prevails both at Paris and London, that Spain has in return actually ceded Louisiana and the Floridas to France’.

But before both Bonaparte and Talleyrand could begin to rebuild France’s colonial empire in the West Indies, they first must know the intentions of United States and of their new president, Jefferson, towards Saint-Domingue.  Talleyrand now sent Louis Pichon, as France’s charge d’affaires to the United States, ‘to fathom what is going on with respect to our colonies’ – i.e. Saint-Domingue.

On May 11th 1801, Tobias Lear was appointed general commercial agent to Saint-Domingue, replacing consul general Dr. Stevens, who wished to return to the United States due to his ill health, suffering from malaria.  [note the down-grading of the position by Madison and Jefferson].

After arriving at Cap Francois on July 4th, Lear wrote to Madison, that ‘a new and important era has commenced here.  A Constitution has been formed for the government of this island, by Deputies called together for that purpose by the General in Chief.  It was read in public, with great parade, on the 7th instant.  It is not yet printed for the public.  It declares General Toussaint Governor for life, with the power of naming his successor.  It is to be submitted to the French Republic for approbation; but in the meantime, it is to have effect here in the island.’

Note: After abolishing slavery in Spanish Santo Domingo and after uniting the entire island under his command, General Toussaint called for an election.  Ten men were to be chosen for a Central Assembly – two from each of the five departments of the island: the North, West and South Provinces; and the Engana and the Samana Departments in the former Spanish part.  Of the ten chosen, six were white, three were mulatto, and one died before the first meeting on February 4th.  A new constitution for Saint-Domingue (using Hamilton’s draft as a model) was agreed to in May, and on July 7th it was proclaimed into law.

In late July, President Jefferson met with Pichon.  President Jefferson, by this time, knew of the probability of the French acquiring Louisiana, but had not yet received any reports from Lear.  Pichon would report on the meeting in his letter to Talleyrand on July 22nd.  According to Pichon’s dispatch, the President asked Pichon if he had any news from Saint-Domingue, since he had not yet heard of these recent developments from Lear.  Pichon said no, but then asked the president whether or not the United States favored the plans of Toussaint.

President Jefferson hastened to assure him that his administration did not approve, but so long as France remained powerless to act, nothing could be done; the trade of the island was extremely important to the United States, and if the government considered prohibiting this traffic, it would unnecessarily get into difficulties with Toussaint and seriously compromise itself in public opinion.  Pichon then expressed his belief in the utility to both nations of this commerce, which, if interrupted, would cause Toussaint to turn to the British, and he asked, if France were in a position to act, would it not be possible to arrange a concert with the United States, in order to accomplish more quickly the conquest of the colony?  President Jefferson replied that ‘without difficulty; but in order that this concert may be complete and effective, you must first make peace with Britain; then nothing would be easier than to furnish your army and fleet with everything, and to reduce Toussaint to starvation’.  He continued, that Pichon should not think there was a sentiment in the United States favorable to Toussaint – was not the negro a menace to two-thirds of the states? – did not Britain herself have everything to fear from him? – ‘she would doubtless participate in a concert to suppress this rebellion, and independently of her fears for her own colonies, I am sure, she is observing like us how St. Domingo is becoming another Algiers in the seas of America’.

President Jefferson also had in his mind the slave rebellion that had occurred in Virginia the previous summer.  It was claimed that black slaves, who had come to the United States with their French masters as refugees from Saint-Domingue ‘had been infected with the malady of insurrection’ and, as these island slaves mingled with Virginia’s slaves and bondmen, they would have passed on word of the revolution and freedom from slavery taking place there.  As Monroe would write in March 1802, ‘The scenes which are acted in St. Domingo must produce an effect on all the people of colour in this and the states south of us, more especially our slaves, and it is our duty to be on guard to prevent any mischief resulting from it.’

Gabriel’s Rebellion involved (perhaps) a thousand of rebelling slaves in the counties of Henrico, Chesterfield, Louisa, Caroline and Hanover, that would plan to march on the capital city of Richmond – one group would set fire to the warehouse district, as a diversion, while another group would seize the guns stored in the Capitol and take the governor, James Monroe, hostage ( but leave him unharmed).

[There was also a promise from two French army veterans (Quersey and Beddenhurst) to help them in the rebellion, but this information was NOT to be brought up during the trials – perhaps due to rumours that Jefferson, if elected, would call upon France to aid in a planned civil war. Any evidence was sent directly to Governor Monroe, and was never turned over to the courts, or was ever found.]

The uprising was set to occur on the night of August 30th, but due to a ‘most terrible thunder storm, accompanied with an enormous rain’, most of the rebels were unable to reach the appointed meeting place.  The plot was discovered, and Governor Monroe removed the guns from the capitol and placed them in the penitentiary, and called into service the militia – that would roam the countryside searching for any conspirators – in all, 65 were arrested.  Those arrested would be tried in special courts – in the county where they were arrested, not where their masters resided; with no juries, but in a court of at least 5 justices of the peace; and with no appeal, except to the Governor.  And, by law, the owners of the guilty slaves were to be compensated by the state for their loss!

The trials began on September 11th, and the hangings of the guilty began on the 12th!  While some were found not guilty and acquitted, and while some were found guilty but were pardoned by the governor, 27 were found guilty – to be hanged.  On October 10th, Gabriel became the 25th person to be hanged (ironically, 8 days earlier, a slave named Nathaniel Turner was born who led a major slave rebellion 30 years later).  The last to be hanged was Peter on October 24th in Petersburg.

But, since the condemned slaves had died at the hands of the court, the owners had to be compensated in full – totaling $8,899.91!!!  Militia duties had cost another $5,431, plus the penitentiary and jail bills!  The financial impact provided an effective brake on further hangings – given the immense numbers who are implicated in the plot, failure to stop the hangings not only would bankrupt the state but also produce the annihilation of Virginia’s black working class.  If subjected to ‘transportation’ outside of the country, rather than hanged, they could be sold to a trader and the proceeds could be placed back in the state treasury!

In regards to this resolution on ‘transportation’, President Jefferson would later propose the use of Saint-Domingue as a dumping ground for Virginia’s (slave) conspirators – much like Britain did in Australia.

Note:, Jefferson wrote to Monroe on November 24th 1801, about whether to purchase lands in the ‘country, north of the Ohio’ to send the conspirators – this purchase ‘might perhaps be a more expensive provision than the House of Representatives contemplated’ or ‘whether beyond the limits of the US’ – ‘the West Indies offer a more probable & practicable retreat for them: inhabited already by a people of their own race & colour; climates congenial with their natural constitution; insulated from the other descriptions of men; nature seems to have formed these islands to become the receptacle of the blacks transported into this hemisphere … the most promising portion of them is the island of St. Domingo, where the blacks are established into a sovereignty de facto, & have organised themselves under regular laws & government.’

‘I should conjecture that their present ruler might be willing, on many considerations, to receive even that description which would be exiled for acts deemed criminal by us, but meritorious perhaps by him.  The possibility that these exiles might stimulate & conduct vindictive or predatory descents on our coasts, & facilitate concert with their brethren remaining here, looks to a state of things between that island & us not probable on a contemplation of our relative strength, and of the disproportion daily growing: and it is over-weighed by the humanity of the measures proposed, & the advantages of disembarrassing ourselves of such dangerous characters’.

In July, while Pichon was meeting with President Jefferson in the American capital, William Vans Murray was in Paris meeting with Talleyrand and Bonaparte concerning the ratification of the Convention with France that had been agreed to but amended by the Senate.  The French commissioners were not pleased with the provisional ratification.  They did not object to the Senate placing a limitation of 8 years on the convention but would not accept a suppression of the 2nd article because France could still be held liable for payment of indemnities.  They thought that France should agree to the removal of the article only if the United States would renounce its indemnities claim – that would bring the negotiations back to where it had been before the convention was agreed to – at an impasse.  It was at this time that ‘the ill health of Talleyrand has obliged him to go to the baths an hundred and eighty miles from Paris.  He will be absent a month.’  But, also at this time, a British emissary arrived in Paris!!!

19.The Leclerc Instructions, October 31st 1801

Bonaparte had earlier proposed discussions for peace with Britain that were refused, but this would change.  On January 1st 1801, the Act of Union took effect that created the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and abolished the Irish parliament.  British Prime Minister Pitt, with the approval of the majority of his cabinet, wished to bring in a bill that would change the oath for members of parliament to the oath of Allegiance – that would therefore not bar Catholics in Ireland from parliament.  But this was opposed by King George III and Pitt resigned, and on March 14th Henry Addington became the new prime minister.

Note: This had earlier been done in Canada in 1791 – allowing French Catholics to be elected to the new legislative assembly.

At this time, the British government feared the danger of war with the Czar of Russia over the island of Malta – and the Order of the Knights Hospitallers of Saint John!

Czar Paul the 1st

Earlier, in July 1798, when General Bonaparte was on his expedition to Egypt, he had captured the island of Malta, forcing the Grand Master, Hompesch, to surrender.  Czar Paul I of Russia had initially wanted to send the Russian navy to return Malta to the Order but was persuaded against the idea.  (After Paul became Czar in 1796, he moved the Priory of Poland, that had fallen into disrepair and had not given any revenue to the Order for over a century, to St. Petersburg in Russia, and was rewarded with the title of Protector of the Order.)

Supported by the Czar, the Knights declared that Hompesch had betrayed the Order when he surrendered, he was subsequently deposed, and Paul was nominated to be the new Grand Master!  (This was quite controversial – since Paul was not single, he was married; he was not Roman Catholic, he was a Russian Orthodox Christian; and he was not a Knight.)  Czar Paul now sought to reclaim the island of Malta for the Order, but, by September, the British navy had taken control of Malta from the French and the British refused to return the island to the Order.

On November 16th 1800, Sweden, Norway and Denmark signed conventions with Russia ‘to maintain the inalienable rights of neutral nations’ – forming a (second) League of Armed Neutrality – that would have frozen all British trade with northern Europe, while, at the same time, France was closing British trade with southern Europe.  On November 18th, Czar Paul ordered that an embargo be placed on all British ships in Russian ports, and that those British ships already in Russian ports were to be seized.

On January 14th 1801, Britain responded with an embargo on all Swedish, Danish and Russian ships in British ports.  Britain would send a large fleet to demand the detachment of Denmark, and then Russia from the League.  But before the fleet arrived, on the night of March 23rd, Czar Paul I was assassinated – with British support and using some of the Knights of St. John.  The new Czar Alexander I removed the embargo on British ships, and began negotiations on a new convention, that would be more favorable to the British.  Alexander declined to become the Grand Master of the Order, accepting instead to be only a Protector of the Knights!  Plans would be made to relocate the Order’s headquarters from St. Petersburg, to the Priory of Clerkenwell, in London!!!

On April 2nd, the British fleet bombarded the Danish navy at Copenhagen, forcing the Danes to surrender and to withdraw from the League.  Sweden would later also withdraw from the League.

The new British foreign secretary, Lord Hawkesbury, now began negotiations with the French commissary in London, Louis-Guillaume Otto, about the possibilities for peace, and in July, sent their diplomat Anthony Merry to Paris to meet with Talleyrand – at the same time that Talleyrand was meeting with Murray (and Jefferson was meeting with Pichon).  And Talleyrand would soon read from Pichon about his conversation with Jefferson – concerning Saint-Domingue and the need for a peace with Britain – a peace that was now within reach.

Lord Hawkesbury

Returning from the baths, Talleyrand now proposed to Murray that France would agree to a ratification of the convention with the removal of the 2nd article, if the American government would interpret the removal of the article as ‘an abandonment respectively of the pretensions under that 2nd article’ – meaning that France would accept the abrogation of the old treaties and the United States would give up its claim for indemnities.  Murray wrote to Madison on July 23rd, that ‘convinced sir as I am that nothing better can be gained & confiding in a liberal judgement in Government upon the situation in which I am placed, I shall exchange upon these terms’.

Note: On July 27th, Murray would receive a Letter of  Recall, as Minister Resident to the Bavarian Republic, from Madison that ‘the President being desirous of diminishing expense whenever economy can be reconciled with the public good and thinking it expedient also that our diplomatic connections with Europe should be limited to cases indispensably requiring them, has concluded to discontinue the establishment of a Public Minister at The Hague.’  Murray replied that ‘it was my intention to ask leave to return as soon as the negotiation with which I alone am now charged here has been finished’.

Jefferson would reduce the American missions to only three – Great Britain, France and Spain.  He was also considering letting the Convention lapse – it will ‘begin the work of placing us clear of treaty with all nations.’  Jefferson wished to isolate the United States politically by simply avoiding any treaties at all that might involve it in European affairs – ‘the day is within my time as well as yours when we may say by what laws other nations shall treat us on the sea.  And we will say it.  In the meantime, we wish to let every treaty we have drop off without renewal.’

The ratifications were exchanged on July 31st, with Bonaparte agreeing to the Senate’s proviso with his own proviso that ‘the Government of the French Republic consents to accept, ratify, and confirm the above convention, with the addition importing that the convention shall be in force for the space of eight years, and the retrenchment of the second article: Provided, that by this retrenchment the two states renounce the respective pretensions which are the object of the said article’.

On September 30th, a preliminary peace agreement was reached between the French Republic and Britain, whereby Britain would recognize the French Republic, and Malta would be restored to the Knights of St. John!  France would withdraw from Egypt, which would be returned to the Ottoman Empire, and Britain would restore the French colonial possessions – Tobago, Martinique and Saint Lucia (that Britain had seized in 1794-96).

Note: While France and Britain were negotiating the withdrawal of French forces from Egypt, the siege of Alexandria had forced the French commander, Menou, to surrender Egypt (and the Rosetta Stone) to Britain on August 30th.

With their plans for a French colony in Egypt now ended, Bonaparte and Talleyrand would return to their plan to restore France’s colonial empire in France’s North American colonies.  On October 8th, Bonaparte issued orders to assemble a fleet to be sent to Saint-Domingue.  At this time, General Vincent had arrived in Paris with the new Saint-Domingue constitution, and at his interview with Bonaparte, he defended the actions of General Toussaint and spoke out against the expedition.  But Bonaparte was committed to send the expedition, and he banished Vincent to the isle of Elba.  On October 23rd, Bonaparte placed General Charles Victor Leclerc (who was married to Pauline, Bonaparte’s sister) in command of the expedition.

General Charles Victor Leclerc

On October 16th, Talleyrand wrote to Otto that if the British would question the French naval preparations, he should answer without hesitation that they are intended for Saint-Domingue, since the British would ‘regard with pleasure an expedition whose aim is to restore the colony of Saint-Domingue to a state of organization such as it will no longer be a dangerous neighbor to the European colonies in the Antilles’.

On October 20th, Talleyrand again wrote to Otto that he should inform Lord Hawkesbury that two fleets were being assembled, one at Brest and the other at Rochefort ‘in order to carry ten or twelve thousand troops to Saint-Domingue for the purpose of re-establishing order there’.  Otto was told by Prime Minister Addington that ‘the interest of the two governments is absolutely the same, namely, the destruction of Jacobinism and that of blacks in particular’.  The British ministry, he said, didn’t care how many troops were sent; it merely hoped that they would be sufficient to re-establish order in the French colonies.

On October 30th, Talleyrand, on instructions from Bonaparte, again wrote to Otto that ‘I should like to have the British government give orders at Jamaica to supply him (i.e. Leclerc) with all the provisions he may need, it being the interest of civilization to destroy the new Algiers which is organizing itself in the midst of America’.

[note how Talleyrand used the same expression as Jefferson – referring to Saint-Domingue as a new Algiers.]

The next day, October 31st, Talleyrand prepared the secret instructions for Leclerc – the plans to subdue General Toussaint’s army and then to re-colonize the island.  In chapter 1, Leclerc was told that he would command over 20,000 troops and that the expedition should be divided into three periods – ‘the first period shall comprise the first 15 or 20 days necessary for occupying the strongholds, organizing the National Guard (all the whites, the mulattoes and the loyal blacks shall be armed and organized) … the second period shall be when the two armies being prepared, the rebels shall be pursued to the death; they shall be hunted out first in the French and then in the Spanish part … the third period shall be that when Toussaint, Moyse, and Dessalines no longer exist, and when 3,000 to 4,000 blacks, retired to the hills of the Spanish part, shall form what are called ‘marrons’ in the islands, and who can be destroyed with time, perseverance, and a well contrived system of attack’

Dessalines and Louverture

In chapter 2, he was instructed that ‘the Spaniards, the English, and the Americans view with equal anxiety the black republic … the captain-general shall write circulars to the neighboring colonies for the purpose of acquainting them with the object of the government, (explaining) the common advantage to the Europeans in destroying this rebellion of the blacks and (expressing) the hope of being assisted (in crushing it).  If necessary, provisions should be sought in America, in the Spanish islands, and even Jamaica … All the merchandise found in the ports belonging to the blacks should be sequestered to the profit of the army … Declare in a state of blockade all the ports containing rebels, and confiscate every vessel leaving or entering.  Jefferson has promised that from the moment that the French army arrives, every measure shall be taken to starve Toussaint and to aid the army’.

In chapter 3, it asserted, as French policy, that ‘never will the French nation give chains to men whom it has once recognized as free.  Therefore, all the blacks shall live at Saint-Domingue as those in Guadeloupe today …’

Note: After the British invaded Guadeloupe in April 1794, France appointed a new governor, Victor Hugues, who arrived at Guadeloupe with a small 1150-man force in May 21st, proclaimed the end of slavery and rallied the former slaves and mulattoes, forcing the British to surrender on October 6th.  While trying to revive a post-slavery economy, he also authorized privateers to attack ships in the Caribbean Sea to bring added wealth to the island – creating tensions with the United States.

[Guadeloupe was the only other remaining French colony, with Saint-Domingue, in the Caribbean, at that time, until Tobago, Martinique and Saint Lucia would be restored by Britain.]

‘It continued that ‘in the first period, only the blacks who are rebels will be disarmed.  In the third, all will be so treated.  In the first period, the policy should be exigent.  Toussaint should be treated with; he should be provided with everything he may ask for – in order to make possible the occupation of the principal points and to establish French control in the country … All Toussaint’s principal agents, white or colored, should, in the first period, be indiscriminately loaded with attentions and confirmed in their rank; in the last period, all sent to France – with their rank if they have behaved well during the second, as prisoners if they have acted ill during the same period … Toussaint, Moyse, and Dessalines should be well treated during the first period; sent to France at the last, in arrest or with their rank according to their conduct during the second …’

‘Toussaint shall not be held to have submitted until he shall have come to Le Cap or Port-au-Prince in the midst of the French army, to swear loyalty to the Republic.  On that very day, without scandal or injury but with honor and consideration, he must be put on board a frigate and sent to France … If, after 15 or 20 days, it has been impossible to get Toussaint, proclaim that if within a specified time he does not come to take the oath to the Republic, he shall be declared a traitor, after which period a war to the death will begin …’

And, ‘all those who have signed the constitution should in the third period be sent to France; some as prisoners, others at liberty as having been constrained.’

‘During the first, second, and third periods, trade must necessarily be carried on with the Americans but after the third period only French ships shall be admitted, and the old pre-Revolutionary regulations put into force.’

[In other words, Talleyrand’s (and Bonaparte’s) plan was to deceive everyone at first, and after re-conquering Saint-Domingue and shipping Toussaint and his generals off to France, and, secondly, to re-acquire Louisiana – and then, they would have no more use of the Americans.]

On December 14th 1801, Leclerc left France, from the ports of Brest and Rochefort, with a fleet of 45 ships (that included 22 ships-of-the-line) and with 12,000 troops, and sailed for Saint-Domingue.

20. President Jefferson’s Message to Congress, December 8th, 1801

On September 28th 1801, James Madison wrote to Robert Livingston that he had learned that France’s ratification of the Convention had taken place on July 31st and that Mr. Appleton was on his way with it to the United States.  Without waiting for its arrival, Madison informed Livingston that it was ‘the intention of the President that your departure for France should be hastened’.  Livingston left Boston on October 15th and arrived at Paris on December 3rd.  Appleton would arrive at the District of Columbia on November 4th, and on December 11th, President Jefferson sent the convention to the Senate, and received their advice and consent on December 19th.

In Madison’s letter of September 28th, Livingston read in his instructions that the President wished for friendly relations with France, but if it was true that France had been ceded the mouth of the Mississippi (i.e. New Orleans), then the American citizens may instead desire an alliance with Britain, and that Livingston should attempt the cession of the Floridas to the United States, as a way to restore their friendship.

Note: (Madison to Livingston, September 28th) ‘… the  President authorizes and charges you to give the fullest assurances of the friendship of the United States towards the French Republic, of their disposition as well as his own to cultivate a perfect harmony and good correspondence between the two nations, and of the sincere pleasure resulting from a termination of the late painful differences, in a manner that promises a return of mutual confidence, and beneficial intercourse …’

‘From different sources, information has been received that by some transaction concluded or contemplated between France and Spain, the mouth of the Mississippi with certain portions of adjacent territory is to pass from the hands of the latter to the former nation.  Such a change of our neighbours in that quarter, is of too momentous concern not to have engaged the most serious attention of the Executive …’

‘You may perhaps find it eligible to remark on the frequent recurrence of war between France and Great Britain, the danger to which the Western settlements of the United States would be subject of being embroiled by military expeditions between Canada and Louisiana, the inquietude which would be excited in the Southern States, whose numerous slaves have been taught to regard the French as the patrons of their cause, and the tendency of a French neighbourhood, on this and other accounts, to inspire jealousies and apprehensions which may turn the thoughts of our citizens towards a closer connection with her rival, and possibly produce a crisis in which a very valuable part of her dominions would be exposed to the joint operation of a naval and territorial power …’

‘Should it be found that the cession from Spain to France has irrevocably taken place, or certainly will take place, sound policy will require, in that state of things, that nothing be said or done which will unnecessarily irritate our future neighbours, or check the liberality which they may be disposed to exercise in relation to the trade and navigation through the mouth of the Mississippi …’

‘In the next place it will deserve to be tried whether France cannot be induced to make over to the United States the Floridas, if included in the cession to her from Spain, or at least West Florida, through which several of our rivers, particularly the important river Mobile, empty themselves into the Sea.  Such a proof on the part of France of good will towards the United States would contribute to reconcile the latter to an arrangement in itself much disrelished by them, and to strengthen the returning friendship between the two countries …’

‘Should the Floridas neither have been ceded to France, nor be an acquisition contemplated by her, still it will be material, considering her intimate and influential relations to Spain, to dispose her to favor experiments on the part of the United States, for obtaining from Spain the cession in view. The interest which the latter has in cultivating her friendly dispositions, and the obligation she is under to satisfy our claims for spoliations, for doing which no other mode may be so convenient to her, are motives to which an appeal may be made with no inconsiderable force …’

Also, regarding Saint-Domingue, Livingston was instructed that ‘the peculiar and equivocal attitude taken by the island of Saint Domingo, makes it proper that you should fully understand the present relations of the United States to it.  For this purpose you are herewith furnished with copies … of the Commission and instructions under which Mr. Lear went to that island as successor to Doctor Stevens.  It may be proper to remark that no letter was addressed to the Chief of the island, either from the President or from this Department; it being thought right to avoid every form of intercourse that could excite suspicion or give offence to the French Republic.  A strict and honorable neutrality has guided the President in this case, as it has done and will continue to do, in all his other decisions and transactions relating to foreign nations …’

Note: This is similar to Madison’s letter to Lear on February 26th 1802, that ‘it is particularly the wish of the president that no just ground or specious pretext may be left for complaint or suspicion on the part of the French republic of a want of due respect for its authority in the government of the United States … it will, as has been intimated to you, be better to leave the island altogether than to remain under circumstances which might hazard the confidence or good will of the French government … reports, as you well know, have long prevailed that a cession of Louisiana has been made to France by Spain.  It is now conjectured by some that a part of the force allotted for St. Domingo is directly or eventually destined to take possession of that territory.  Should any discoveries be made by you with respect to either of these points, you will be so good as to communicate them, and in cypher if the nature of the communication require that precaution’.

On December 8th, President Jefferson gave his first Message to Congress to his secretary, Meriwether Lewis, to deliver to Congress and to be read.  His message contained his vision of less government –

‘I lay before you the result of the census lately taken of our inhabitants, to a conformity with which we are now to reduce the ensuing ratio of representation and taxation … Other circumstances, combined with the increase of numbers, have produced an augmentation of revenue arising from consumption, in a ratio far beyond that of population alone; and, though the changes in foreign relations now taking place, so desirably for the whole world, may for a season affect this branch of revenue, yet, weighing all probabilities of expense, as well as of income, there is reasonable ground of confidence that we may now safely dispense with all the internal taxes – comprehending excise, stamps, auctions, licenses, carriages, and refined sugars; to which the postage on newspapers may be added, to facilitate the progress of information; and that the remaining sources of revenue will be sufficient to provide for the support of Government, to pay the interest of the public debts, and to discharge the principals within shorter periods than the laws or the general expectation had contemplated …’

‘These views, however, of reducing our burdens, are formed on the expectation that a sensible, and at the same time a salutary, reduction may take place in our habitual expenditures.  For this purpose, those of the civil government, the army, and navy, will need revisal.  When we consider that the Government is charged with the external and mutual relations only of these States; that the States themselves have principal care of our persons, our property, and our reputation, constituting the great field of human concerns, we may well doubt whether our organization is not too complicated, too expensive; whether offices and officers have not been multiplied unnecessarily, and sometimes injuriously to the service they were meant to promote …’

‘Agriculture, manufactures, commerce, and navigation, the four pillars of our prosperity, are then most thriving when left most free to individual enterprise …’

General Hamilton would respond to the President’s Message to Congress by writing a series of 18 essays – ‘The Examination’, signed Lucius Crassus, and printed in the New-York Evening Post, starting December 17th 1801 and continuing until April 8th 1802.  (It would also be reprinted as a pamphlet, containing all 18 essays.)

Note: The New York Evening Post was started by General Hamilton and his supporters during the summer of 1801, printing its first issue on November 16th – ‘to diffuse among the people correct information on all interesting subjects, to inculcate just principles in religion, morals, and politics; and to cultivate a taste for sound literature’.  The first editor, William Coleman, would also be entrusted by Hamilton to be the editor of the first edition of ‘The Federalist’ in 1802.

Unfortunately, within a week after its founding, the Evening Post announced the death of 20-year-old, Philip Hamilton, (Alexander’s eldest son) who was killed in a duel by George Eacker, at Weehawken, New Jersey on November 23rd.  Philip had confronted Eacker about a speech he had given to the Tammany Society, where he had said that Alexander Hamilton would not be opposed to overthrowing Jefferson’s presidency by force.

Philip Hamilton

General Hamilton criticized the President’s message – ‘the bewitching tenets of that illuminated doctrine, which promises man, ere long, an emancipation from the burdens and restraints of government; giving a foretaste of that pure felicity which the apostles of this doctrine have predicted’, that ‘the Message of the President, by whatever motives it may have been dictated, is a performance which ought to alarm all who are anxious for the safety of our Government, for the respectability and welfare of our nation.  It makes, or aims at making, a most prodigal sacrifice of constitutional energy, of sound principle, and of public interest, to the popularity of one man.’ [Examination #1].

He viewed the Message as an attack on the American system of public credit – ‘the proposal to abandon at once the internal revenue of the country.’ [Examination #2]  Instead, he insisted, it should be spent on ‘military and naval preparations’; ‘the improvement of the communications between the different  parts of our country … to provide roads and bridges … (and) especially in the Western Territory … aqueducts and canals’; and ‘institutions to promote agriculture and the arts …’

‘To suggestions of the last kind the adepts of the new-school have a ready answer: Industry will succeed and prosper in proportion as it is left to the exertions of individual enterprise.  This favorite dogma, when taken as a general rule, is true; but as an exclusive one, it is false, and leads to error in the administration of public affairs.  In matters of industry, human enterprise ought, doubtless, to be left free in the main, not fettered by too much regulation; but practical politicians know that it may be beneficially stimulated by prudent aids and encouragements on the part of the Government.  This is proved by numerous examples too tedious to be cited; examples which will be neglected only by indolent and temporising rulers, who love to loll in the lap of epicurean ease, and seem to imagine that to govern well, is to amuse the wondering multitude with sagacious aphorisms and oracular sayings’ [Examination #3]  ‘What then are we to think of the ostentatious assurance in the Inaugural Speech as to the preservation of Public Faith?  Was it given merely to amuse with agreeable, but deceptive sounds?  Is it possible that it could have been intended to conceal the insidious design of aiming a deadly blow at a System which was opposed in its origin, and has been calumniated in every stage of its progress?’

‘Alas!  How deplorable will it be, should it ever become proverbial, that a President of the United States, like the Weird Sisters in Macbeth, “Keeps his promise to the ear, but breaks it to the sense”!’ [Examination #4]

Note: Essays 2, 3 and 4 should be read as a continuation of General Hamilton’s fight for a system of public credit, as he had earlier written, in his ‘Report Relative to a Provision for the Support of Public Credit’, presented to Congress in January 1790; and, again in his ‘Report on a plan for the Further Support of Public Credit’, presented to Congress in January 1795.

General Hamilton also undertook a defense of the justice system –

‘In the rage for change, or under the stimulus of a deep-rooted animosity against the former administrations, or for the sake of gaining popular favor by a profuse display of extraordinary zeal for economy, even our judiciary system has not passed un-assailed.’ [Examination #5]

‘Perhaps it may be contended, that the Circuit Courts ought to be abolished altogether, and the business for which they are designed, left to the State Courts, with a right of appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States.  Indeed, it is probable that this was the true design of the intimation in the Message.  A disposition to magnify the importance of the particular States, in derogation from that of the United States, is a feature in that communication, not to be mistaken.’ [Examination #6]

He criticized President Jefferson’s ‘proposal to abolish all restriction on naturalization’ – a policy that contradicted his earlier thoughts from his own ‘Notes on Virginia’.  In 1781, in ‘Notes on Virginia’, Jefferson had written that ‘we are to expect the greatest number of emigrants.  They will bring with them the principles of the governments they leave, imbibed in their early youth; or if able to throw them off, it will be in exchange for an unbounded licentiousness, passing as is usual, from one extreme to another.  It would be a miracle were they to stop precisely at the point of temperate liberty.  Their principles with their language, they will transmit to their children.  In proportion to their numbers, they will share with us in the legislation.  They will infuse into it their spirit, warp and bias its direction, and render it a heterogeneous, incoherent, distracted mass.’ [Examination #7]

General Hamilton instead proposed that ‘some reasonable term ought to be allowed to enable aliens to get rid of foreign and acquire American attachments; to learn the principles and imbibe the spirit of our government; and to admit of at least a probability of their feeling a real interest in our affairs.  A residence of at least five years ought to be required.’ [Examination #8]

And he next wrote of the biggest problem – ‘a disposition in our Chief Magistrate, far more partial to the state governments, than to our national government; to pull down rather than to build up our Federal edifice – to vilify the past administration of the latter – to court for himself popular favor by artifices not to be approved of, either for their dignity, their candor or their patriotism.’ [Examination #9]

In the final essay [Examination #18], General Hamilton warned ‘citizens of America – mark the sequel and learn from it instruction!  You have been since agitated to the center, to raise to the first station in your Government, the very man who, at a conjuncture when your safety and your welfare demanded his stay, early relinquished a subordinate, but exalted and very influential post, on a pretense as frivolous as it has proved to be insincere!’

[i.e. ‘the hollow pretense of a dislike to public office and a love of philosophic retirement’]

‘Was he, like the virtuous Washington, forced from a beloved retreat, by the unanimous and urgent call of his country?  No: he stalked forth the Champion of Faction, having never ceased in the shade of his retreat, by all the arts of intrigue, to prepare the way to that elevation, for which a restless ambition impatiently panted.’

21. The Surrender of General Toussaint, May 1st 1802

On January 29th 1802, Leclerc arrived at the bay of Semana, on the far east side of the island of Saint-Domingue.  With the fleet re-assembled (except for 2 lost vessels) Leclerc convened a council-of-war where it was decided to assault Saint-Domingue immediately, rather than to parley with General Toussaint – Kerverseau with 1400 men was sent to occupy Santo Domingo city, Boudet with 3500 men was sent to Port Republicain and Rochambeau with 2000 men was sent to Fort Dauphin, while Leclerc with 5000 troops sailed to Le Cap Francois.

At Santo Domingo, Kerverseau easily captured the town, due to the confusion there.  (General Toussaint had sent two letters to his commanders – one, a decoy, to surrender the town, and a second, an order to resist the invasion; the French captured and killed the courier and sent only the decoy message to the commanders.)  Rochambeau easily captured Fort Dauphin and then ordered the massacre of all the prisoners that were taken.

[For General Toussaint, to defend the entire coast meant to scatter his army over a vast territory, but then, the French landings could not be prevented, since the French would have numerical superiority at the points of attack and would also have their naval guns!  General Toussaint’s strategy would have to be that when the town was attacked, the garrison would set fire to it and fall back to the interior.]

General Henri Christophe

On February 2nd, Leclerc, and his fleet of 14 ships and 9 frigates, arrived at Le Cap, and were informed by General Christophe, that Governor-General Toussaint was not here, but was absent on a tour of inspection in the Spanish part of the colony, and that without his permission, warships could not enter the harbour.

An emissary was sent to parley with Christophe, bringing with him a bundle of proclamations from Bonaparte that ‘no matter what your origin, you are Frenchmen, equal before God and the Republic … all nations have now become reconciled with France and have vowed to maintain peace and friendly relations with her … it is now your turn to welcome the French and to rejoice at the arrival of your brothers from Europe.  The Government sends you Captain-General Leclerc … whoever dares to separate himself from the Captain-General is a traitor to his country, and the anger of the Republic will devour him as fire devours dry sugar-cane’.  But Christophe replied again, that he must wait for orders from General Toussaint.

The next day, a delegation (including the mayor, parish priest and Tobias Lear, the agent of the United States) was sent with the emissary to talk with Leclerc, to seek a delay of 48 hours, by which time General Toussaint would return.  Leclerc refused and sent the delegation back, with a reply refusing to grant a delay and that if he did not receive assurances immediately that he would be welcomed, he would resort to force.  The next day, Christophe’s soldiers went from door to door warning the people to leave the city.

That evening, when a frigate drew to shore to effect a landing, a canon was fired from the fort as the signal, and squads of soldiers set fire to all the public buildings, followed by the shops and private dwellings – Christophe set fire to his own mansion!  Leclerc later entered a city of smoking ruins.

On February 3rd, General Boudet and his ships arrived at Port-au-Prince, and asked that the French be allowed to land.  General Age, in command while General Dessalines was away with General Toussaint, would have agreed, Colonel Lamartiniere, the second in command, demanded that the request be denied, until the return of Dessalines, and that Boudet be informed that at the first sign of a landing, the city would be torched.

Notwithstanding the threat, Boudet led a landing party of 1200 grenadiers at a distance from the city, and marched to the fort, where the captain informed him that if the French advanced another step, the fort would fire on them.  Boudet ordered his troops ‘keep your muskets on your shoulders and let them kill you if they wish, so that those who come after you, may have reason to avenge your death and the dignity of France’ and he then told the captain ‘tell your battalion what you have just heard and fire on us if you dare.  But if you do, defend yourselves well, sell your lives dearly, for you are lost’.  The captain surrendered the fort.

Boudet’s troops then continued their advance until they reached the breastworks protecting the city and demanded the right to pass.  But here, they were met with a deadly salvo, the grenadiers re-formed and took the breastworks at the point of the bayonet.  The coast defenses opened fire on the naval squadron, but it was no match for the fleet’s guns, and the batteries were silenced and a fresh landing was made.  Lamartiniere tried to set fire to the city, but the French advance was too swift for him to succeed, but he was able to retreat.  (Age, eluded his subordinate, and went over to meet the French conquerors.)

At Port-de-Paix, the French finally captured the ruined city, after fierce resistance from General Maurepas, who was able to retreat with his Ninth Regiment intact.  General Dessalines raced his troops all over the South province, trying to block the path of the French invaders, leaving a trail of burnt plantations.

With so much of Saint-Domingue’s supplies and provisions having been burnt or destroyed, Leclerc now looked to the Americans for his needed provisions – in the American ships lying in harbour or in the American-owned warehouses on shore.

In a letter of February 28th, Lear wrote to Madison that Leclerc had informed him ‘that finding there was no probability of the Americans who had provisions &c. for sale, which were wanted for the army, coming to any terms for them, excepting the most extravagant, he was determined to make an offer, fixing the prices, from which there should be no deviation: adding that if these were not complied with he would not permit the vessels to unload or depart.’

Lear had ‘pressed on the subject every argument favouring the liberty of commerce, and shewing that to let the market be free for every one to sell at the best prices he could, would be the means of ensuring plentiful supplies – and that thus fixing the prices would bear the appearance of compulsion.’

Leclerc responded ‘that in the situation in which he found himself, he should be justified, by the law of nations, in taking vessels and cargoes and accounting for them to the Government of the U. S., as he was in a situation that made the measure necessary.’  Leclerc had said that ‘orders had been given to prevent vessels going into any ports of the island excepting this and Port Republican (i.e. Le Cap Francois and Port-au-Prince) and that all vessels found entering any other ports, would be sent into one of them’.  He also said he had dispatched a frigate to the United States with this information, and that ‘if any American vessels should be found bringing military stores of any kind to the island, even to the two ports of admission, after this proclamation should be made known in the U. S., they would be seized and confiscated.’

The next day, the American merchants and Captains met at Lear’s office where they declined Leclerc’s proposal and made their own offer.  The offer was rejected by Leclerc and said that ‘if his propositions were not accepted … that should the Americans persisted in their extravagant demands – he would shut every port in the island against them, however inconvenient it might be to himself.’  Upon further consultation, the American merchants and Captains ‘agreed to accept the conditions.’

Leclerc now wished to avoid having the whole colony laid waste.  Accompanying Leclerc had been General Toussaint’s sons, Isaac and Placide, who had been studying in France for the past 6 years, and who had been ordered by Bonaparte to return to Saint-Domingue on Leclerc’s expedition.  Leclerc told them that there had been an unfortunate misunderstanding with their father, and he was sending them to deliver a letter from Bonaparte.

The letter read that ‘the peace with England and all the European powers, which has established the Republic in the highest degree of power and grandeur, now allows the government to occupy itself with the colony of Saint-Domingue.  We are sending there, Citizen Leclerc, our brother-in-law, in his quality as General, to serve as first magistrate of the colony.  He is accompanied by a considerable force, in order to ensure the respect of the sovereignty of the French people …’

‘The constitution you made, while including many good things, contains some that are contrary to the dignity and sovereignty of the French people, of which Saint-Domingue forms only a portion.  The circumstances in which you found yourself, surrounded on all sides by enemies without the metropole being able to either assist or revictual you, rendered articles of that constitution legitimate that otherwise would not be.’

‘But today, when the circumstances have changed for the better, you should be the first to render homage to the sovereignty of the nation that counts you among its most illustrious citizens thanks to the services you have rendered it and by the talents and the force of character with which nature has graced you.  A contrary conduct would be irreconcilable with the idea we have conceived of you.  It would have you lose the many rights to recognition and the benefits of the republic, and would dig beneath your feet a precipice which, in swallowing you up, could contribute to the misfortune of those brave blacks whose courage we love, and whose rebellion we would, with difficulty, be obliged to be punished …’

General Toussaint’s two sons tried to persuade him to accept Leclerc’s offer to come and confer with him at Le Cap.  But he replied that the First Consul’s words in the letter are in direct contradiction with Leclerc’s conduct – the one talks to me of peace, the other one wages war upon me.  He sent his sons back to Leclerc with a proposal for an armistice while he reached a decision concerning his future course.  Leclerc sent the two sons back, replying that ‘no matter what forces you may have at your disposal, the final result cannot be doubted.  But what should influence a man of your generous spirit even more is the thought of the misery which is bound to result from war … come and talk things over with a comrade in arms.’  His sons also were told to tell him that the office of Lieutenant-Governor was being reserved for him, if he would lay down his arms, but he would have to make a decision within four days or be declared an outlaw!  General Toussaint asked his sons to choose between France and Saint-Domingue; Isaac said he would not bear arms against France, while Placide wished to remain with his father.

General Toussaint sent his reply to Leclerc that he would not report to Le Cap to meet because ‘his conduct did not inspire me with sufficient confidence’, that ‘I was ready to transfer command to him in conformity with the orders of the First Consul’ but that ‘I would not be his Lieutenant-Governor’.  He added in conclusion that ‘if he persisted in his invasion, he would force me to defend myself’.

On February 15th, two squadrons that had sailed from the ports of Toulon and Cadiz – 13 ships with 3,800 troops arrived at Le Cap (along with the 2 missing ships that finally arrived with 1,400 men).  Leclerc soon issued a proclamation declaring Generals Toussaint, Dessalines and Christophe to be ‘out of the protection of the law’ – outlaws!  On February 18th, Leclerc launched his next offensive – Boudet and Rochambeau were to converge on Gonaives to attack General Toussaint’s headquarters, while additional troops were sent to surround Maurepas and force his surrender.  Dessalines harassed Boudet’s advance, burning towns and plantations on the way, before retreating to the interior, and General Toussaint troops ambushed Rochambeau and then burned Gonaives, before they too retreated to the interior.  On February 25th, Leclerc entered the ruins of Gonaives.

Leclerc continued his advance into the interior towards Crete-a-Pierrot – one of General Toussaint’s supply depots and the gateway to the Cahos mountains.  Dessalines tried to draw the French forces away, leaving Lamartiniere to defend the depot against overwhelming odds.  Leclerc was forced to retreat with serious losses, in charge after charge.  Before General Toussaint could arrive to help Dessalines lift the siege, Lamartiniere finally broke through the French lines to escape, and Crete-a-Pierrot fell to Leclerc on March 25th.  General Toussaint, Dessalines and Christophe would use guerrilla tactics to attack the French forces and to push them back to the coast.

But soon, General Toussaint would receive word of the official peace treaty between Britain and France, that was signed at Amiens on March 25th.  General Toussaint knew that with peace between France and Britain and peace between France and the United States, France could now deal with her colonies, without concern of any interference.  And by April 7th, arriving at Saint-Domingue was a fleet of 3 ships-of-the-line and 7 frigates, from Brest and Le Havre and from Holland, with 5,500 more troops.

Peace Treaty of Amiens signed

Fearing that even more troops would be sent from France, and that the war could never be won, some of General Toussaint’s best generals had already begun to defect to Leclerc’s army.  Provided that the French Republic – the only nation that had abolished slavery – remained true to that conviction, General Toussaint continued his belief that the only path for freedom for Saint-Domingue, was as a part of France.

And, Leclerc’s instructions (in chapter 3) had been that if ‘it has been impossible to get Toussaint, proclaim that if within a specified time he does not come to take the oath to the Republic, he shall be declared a traitor, after which period a war to the death will begin’.

Fearing the disintegration of his army in France’s ‘war to the death’, on April 26th Christophe agreed to surrender, on May 1st General Toussaint agreed to surrender and soon also Dessalines.  General Toussaint met with Leclerc on May 6th, and was allowed to retire, with his staff, to his plantation – provided that Leclerc accepted all the officers into the French army with no reduction of rank, and that he guaranteed freedom to all the inhabitants of Saint-Domingue.

On May 6th, General Richepanse arrived at Guadeloupe, like Leclerc, to reassert French control of the island.  The French were now in command of all their North American colonies – at Saint-Domingue, Guadeloupe, and at Tobago, Saint Lucia and Martinique.

On May 20th, First Consul Bonaparte proclaimed that ‘in the colonies returned to France in execution of the treaty of Amiens’ – i.e. Tobago, Martinique and Saint Lucia – ‘slavery will be maintained’ and ‘the slave trade and their importation into the colonies will take place … in accordance with the laws and regulations prior to 1789’!!!

Note on Guadeloupe: On April 19th 1801, Bonaparte issued a decree that Guadeloupe would be governed by three magistrates: a Captain-general, a prefect and a civil commissioner, who arrived at Guadeloupe on May 29th.  But, when Captain-General Bethancourt died on August 5th, Commissioner Lacrosse assumed command – imprisoning or threatening with deportation his opponents and allowing slaveholders (who fled with the British in 1794) to reclaim their plantations.  A revolt against his rule occurred under Pelage and Delgres, and on November 1st, Lacrosse was taken prisoner, and a Provisional Council of Government was formed.  On April 1st 1802, Bonaparte dispatched General Richepance with a fleet of 26 ships and 3500 troops, who arrived on May 6th, and by May 28th had defeated Delgres and put down the revolt, restoring Lacrosse and French rule on the island.

[Richepance would die of yellow fever on September 3rd.]

Note on Martinique: When slavery was kept on Martinique by Bonaparte, some blame this on the influence of his wife.   Josephine Bonaparte had been raised on a sugar plantation in Martinique, and her first husband, the Marquis de Beauharnais, owned a plantation in Saint-Domingue, to which she had fallen heir.  General Toussaint had the Beauharnais plantation cultivated at government expense and had the revenues sent to her.  Josephine was very friendly towards Toussaint’s son, Isaac, who was living in Paris.  She writes in her memoirs that she told Bonaparte to ‘keep Toussaint Louverture at the head.  He is the man you need to govern the blacks.  Now that the Negroes have established their supremacy over the colony, they will be dissatisfied when they see the reins of power torn from the hand of their foremost general.  They will constantly fear a renewal of slavery.’

[Like any reasonable man, he should have listened to his wife!]

Leclerc would accuse General Toussaint of encouraging the guerrilla leaders (who had not laid down their arms) and of maintaining a private military force.  General Toussaint replied with a denial of these charges and with a charge that the soldiers at the nearby garrison were terrorizing the inhabitants and were committing depredations upon his plantations, and that unless these annoyances ceased, he would leave and take up residence on a property he owned in the Spanish part of the island.  Leclerc was already anxious to carry out Bonaparte’s order to arrest Toussaint if this could be done without great hazard, and now decided that he had no time to lose.

Leclerc instructed General Brunet to invite General Toussaint to a meeting, that ‘we have, my dear General, to reach an understanding concerning measures  which it is impossible to take up by correspondence, but which an hour’s conference will settle … you will not find in my house all the comforts I should like to put at your disposal, but you will find a frank and honest man, whose only ambition is to promote the welfare of the colony and your happiness.’

On June 7th, General Toussaint, his son and his aide, departed for Brunet’s headquarters.  When he arrived that evening, he met Brunet, who asked him to be seated, and then excused himself for a moment as he left the room.  Soon, soldiers with bayonets entered the room and arrested him, brought him to a French warship and immediately sailed for Le Cap Francois, where it waited until his family was brought there and they were all shipped to France.

When they arrived at Brest on July 9th, General Toussaint was kept a prisoner at the citadel, and his family was dispersed.  Leclerc wrote to Bonaparte that ‘he should be put in a fortress in the centre of France, so he will never have the opportunity to escape and return to Saint-Domingue, where his influence is that of a religious chief.  If this man were to return after three years, he could still undo all that has been accomplished’.

Toussaint’s jail cell in Fort de Joux

General Toussaint was not allowed a hearing or a trial, and was sent to Fort de Joux, in the Jura mountains, near the Swiss frontier.  Bonaparte sent his aide-de-camp, Caffarelli, to interview General Toussaint in his prison cell.  He made 7 visits between September 15th and 27th – asking him to confess that he had sought for independence, but General Toussaint would only reply truthfully that he had always been faithful to the Republic and was loyal to the First Consul.  While in prison, he dictated his memoirs to the commandant’s secretary, but his health worsened – severe headaches, stomach disorder, rheumatism, infected lungs, and teeth that had to be pulled, until he died on April 7th 1803, and was buried in the basement of the fort’s chapel, in an unmarked grave.

On June 11th 1802, Leclerc would write to Decres, the Minister of Marine, that ‘after the deportation of Toussaint, a few men attempted to start trouble.  Since then some of the colonial troops have shown a disposition to revolt.  I have ordered the ringleaders shot, and at present, these troops hide their discontent’.  But daily the situation became more ominous, and Leclerc reported of nightly meetings but was unable to discover the leaders – ‘scarcely a night passed that plantations, even in the vicinity of the Cape, were not destroyed, and the wretched owners sacrificed to the resentment of the persecuted Africans’.

Death of Toussaint Louverture

Now fully alarmed, Leclerc acted upon his instructions from Talleyrand and Bonaparte, and set out to disarm the colonial (i.e. freed black) soldiers.  On August 6th, Leclerc reported that ‘when I wished to disarm the North, a general insurrection broke out’.  The situation became even worse when news reached Saint-Domingue that slavery had been restored in Guadeloupe!  Leclerc reported that ‘now that our plans with respect to the colonies are perfectly known, if you wish to retain Saint-Domingue, send here a new army.  However disagreeable my position, I am making some terrible examples, and since the only thing left me is terror, I continue to employ it’ – disarming, arresting, shooting and drowning.

On July 16th, Bonaparte issued a decree that annulled the law of February 4th 1794 – when the National Assembly had abolished slavery in France’s colonies – and re-established slavery in Guadeloupe and Saint Domingue!  Along with his decree of May 20th, that maintained slavery in Tobago, Saint Lucia and Martinique, Bonaparte had now returned slavery and the slave trade to all of France’s North American colonies – and that included Louisiana!

Earlier, on June 14th, Decres had written to Leclerc that ‘when they have learned the difference between the yoke of a tyrant and usurper, and that of their legitimate masters, interested in their welfare, then the time will have arrived to bring them back to their former state, from which they never should have been allowed to depart.  As for the slave traffic, it is more necessary than ever, since the gaps caused by ten years of disorder and non-replacement must be filled’.

Chef de musique et soldats de la garde du général Leclerc à Saint-Domingue, 1802. Illustration de Job pour les Tenues des troupes de France.

But, on August 25th Leclerc would reply to Decres that ‘don’t count on re-establishing slavery here for the present.  I hope to have everything in readiness so that my successor will be able to put the Government decree into effect.  However, in view of the endless proclamations I have issued guaranteeing liberty to the blacks, I don’t want to contradict myself.  But you can assure the First Consul that my successor will find everything prepared.’

In late August, Charles Belair, General Toussaint’s nephew and heir-apparent, rebelled and he led his 8th Colonial Regiment to join forces with the guerrillas.  But Belair was soon arrested and given the death sentence.  During September and October, there were few places that were left untouched by the fury of rebellion.  Leclerc reported that ‘the greater part of my colonial troops have deserted me’, that ‘every day the forces of the rebels grow stronger, mine weaker’ and that ‘the blacks are leaving me every day’.  Leclerc sent Dessalines against the rebels, but he always contrived to leave, on every retreat, his stores and ammunition in possession of the rebels!  Christophe was now ordered to act against the rebels, but he too contrived to let them into the possession of his camp-stores!

On the night of October 13th, Petion and Clairveaux mutinied with 2 regiments and seized Haut-du-Cap.  The next day they were joined by Christophe.  Their 6,000 soldiers now seized Fort Liberte and Port-de-Paix and then marched on Le Cap Francois – the only major town still under French control in all of the North Province.  Dessalines now mutinied with his army, and undertook the conquest of the Artibonite Valley, and soon all of the West Province – except Port-au-Prince was under his control.  Thousands of rebels in the South province besieged Les Cayes – the only town left under French rule.

On November 2nd, a conference of all the rebel generals, meeting at the small village of Arcahaye, selected Dessalines as their commander-in-chief – uniting all of the rebel groups together (blacks, maroons, and mulattoes).  That same day, Leclerc died of yellow fever, and Rochambeau assumed command of the remaining French army.

By mid-November, an additional 1,000 soldiers sent by Bonaparte, would arrive at Saint-Domingue, bringing Rochambeau’s army to a total of 16,000 French regulars and another 5,000 colonial volunteers.  Rochambeau continued Leclerc’s campaign of terror – to get rid of the ‘freedom-infected’ rebels.  Captured rebels were brought out to ships, bayoneted, and their bodies throw into the sea; using noxious fumes, one ship was converted to a gas chamber; and gallows were placed in marketplaces, where prisoners were marched one after the other, to their death.

22. Livingston’s Memoir concerning Louisiana, August 10th 1802

Livingston arrived at Paris and presented himself to Talleyrand and Bonaparte on December 6th – a week before Leclerc’s expedition departed for Saint-Domingue.

On December 10th, Livingston wrote to Madison that ‘I found from a variety of sources here, and some I think I can depend on, the business of Louisiana had been concluded and it was understood it had been given in exchange for the Spanish part of St. Domingo to be restored to its old master.  Several circumstances concurred to induce me to believe this report was not void of truth.  I therefore took the earliest opportunity to touch upon that subject with the minister (Talleyrand) and to hint at the reasons of policy (as it respected the French government as well as ourselves) that made the object interesting to us.  He seemed at first inclined to wave the subject but when he found I pressed more closely he admitted that it had been a subject of conversation but that nothing had been concluded or even resolved on in the affair.  I left him with a hint that perhaps both France and Spain might find a mutual interest in ceding the Floridas to the United States …’

On January 13th 1802, Livingston sent Madison a copy of the treaty that ceded Louisiana to France, and wrote that ‘my former letters left you little doubt on the subject of the cession of Louisiana, by the enclosed copy of the late treaty between France & Spain you will find that it is a transaction of pretty long standing.  The absence of the minister (Talleyrand), prevents my applying to him for the former treaty, which he will hardly know how to give me after absolutely denying that any had been formed on the subject.  By the secrecy and duplicity practised, relative to this object, it is clear to me that they apprehend some opposition on the part of America, to their plans.’             On March 26th, Madison replied to Livingston that he had received his letter with the copy of the treaty, but that on March 24th ‘the copy of the Treaty between France and Spain had been republished, as you will find, in the National Intelligencer of this city, from a Paris Gazette’ (from the Journal des Debats of Paris, January 17th).  However, Madison continued that ‘the date of this instrument with some verbal accounts from Spain, leave it possible yet, that the Cession of Louisiana may have been suspended, if not revoked, by some subsequent transaction between the parties; to say nothing of the language held to you on that subject by the French Minister of Foreign relations.  The appearance in the Paris papers of the Treaty above referred to, will lead, no doubt, to further conversations in which it will be difficult to avoid a disclosure of the real state of the matter.’

On April 18th, President Jefferson sent Pierre Du Pont to France with a letter for Livingston (Du Pont was allowed to read the letter before sealing it) that ‘there is on the globe one single spot, the possessor of which is our natural & habitual enemy.  It is New Orleans, through which the produce of three eighths of our territory must pass to market, and from its fertility it will ere long yield more than half of our whole produce and contain more than half our inhabitants.  France placing herself in that door assumes to us the attitude of defiance … the day that France takes possession of New Orleans fixes the sentence which is to restrain her forever within her low water mark … from that moment we must marry ourselves to the British fleet & nation …’

‘This is not a state of things we seek or desire.  It is one which this measure, if adopted by France, forces on us, as necessarily as any other cause, by the laws of nature, brings on it’s necessary effect … she may say she needs Louisiana for the supply of her West Indies.  She does not need it in time of peace, and in war she could not depend on them because they would be so easily intercepted.  I should suppose that all these considerations might in some proper form be brought into view of the government of France.’

‘Tho’ stated by us, it ought not to give offence; because we do not bring them forward as a menace, but as consequences not controllable by us, but inevitable from the course of things.  We mention them not as things which we desire by any means, but as things we deprecate; and we beseech a friend to look forward and to prevent them for our common interests …’

‘If France considers Louisiana however as indispensable for her views, she might perhaps be willing to look about for arrangements which might reconcile it to our interests.  If any thing could do this, it would be the ceding to us the island of New Orleans and the Floridas.  This would certainly in a great degree remove the causes of jarring & irritation between us, and perhaps for such a length of time as might produce other means of making the measure permanently conciliatory to our interests & friendships …’

‘The idea here is that the troops sent to St. Domingo, were to proceed to Louisiana after finishing their work in that island.  If this were the arrangement, it will give you time to return again & again to the charge.  For the conquest of St. Domingo will not be a short work.  It will take considerable time and wear down a great number of soldiers.  Every eye in the US. is now fixed on this affair of Louisiana …’

Madison wrote again to Livingston on May 5th that ‘no hope remains but from the accumulating difficulties of going thro’ with the undertaking, and from the conviction you may be able to impress, that it must have an instant and powerful effect in changing the relations between France and the United States …’

‘If a possession of the mouth of the Mississippi is to be added to other causes of discord, the worst events are to be apprehended.  You will consequently spare no efforts that will consist with prudence and dignity, to lead the Councils of France to proper views of this subject, and to an abandonment of her present purpose.  You will also pursue by prudent means the enquiry into the extent of the Cession, particularly whether it includes the Floridas as well as New Orleans; and endeavour to ascertain the price at which these, if included in the Cession, would be yielded to the United States …’

In June 1802, an article appeared in the Gazette de France, that perhaps best showed the thinking of Talleyrand, complaining that Leclerc’s army had found guns and ammunition in American ships which were intended for General Toussaint’s army [this had been true prior to the ratification of the Convention].  The Gazette suggested that this showed that it was the ambition of the United States ‘to rule over the new world and to place under its yoke all the West-India colonies.’  Therefore ‘France’s acquisition of Louisiana would create an impenetrable barrier to American expansion’ and be a ‘counterpoise to the domination of the United States.’

[Perhaps this was one of the reasons for the peace between Britain and France – the intention of the British Empire to stop the expansion of the United States, first at the Appalachian mountains, and then at the Mississippi river?  However, it is apparent that Jefferson’s intent was not to acquire Louisiana, but simply to, at least, acquire the east bank of the Mississippi in West Florida – to ensure the free navigation of the Mississippi river for the United States – while the intention of the British Empire would inevitably lead into a second war for independence, in 1812!]

Note: (Letter of Madison to Livingston, July 6th 1802, to disprove Pichon’s ‘charge against this country of supplying or attempting to supply the party of Toussaint with the implements of war’)  ‘With respect to supplies of military articles to the party of Toussaint, the answer is obvious and must be satisfactory.  Without admitting the fact that any such articles were at any time so supplied, it may be observed that the French Government can have no desire to recur to past periods as criteria of present dispositions; and that it is the duty and the interest of both countries not to remove the veil which the reconciliation so happily concluded, has thrown over preceding occurrences.  The conduct of the American Administration since that event cannot be even suspected of the slightest irregularity or unfriendliness on this subject; nor, as is believed, has a single instance happened since the arrival of the French armament, and the regulations by General LeClerc, adapted to the revolt which ensued, in which an American citizen has engaged in commerce of any sort, with Toussaint or his adherents.  The precautions taken by the French Commanders were a sufficient bar to such an attempt; and had it been otherwise, it was explicitly declared to the French Minister here and to Admiral Villaret, as you will have seen by communications already made to you, that our offending citizens would be considered by the President as fairly subjected to the penalties of their illegal conduct.’

On July 30th, after receiving the dispatches both from President Jefferson and from Madison, Livingston answered that ‘I was now very much engaged in preparing a lengthy memoir on the subject of the mutual interest of France and the United States, relative to Louisiana, by which I hope to convince them that, both in a commercial and a political view, the possession of it would be disadvantageous to France … In the present state of things, until the point is settled, I think it probable the expedition to Louisiana will be postponed.  In the mean time, all that can be done here will be to endeavor to obtain a cession of New Orleans, either by purchase, or by offering to make it a port of entry to France, on such terms as shall promise advantages to her commerce, and give her hopes of introducing her manufactures and wines into our western country …’

On August 10th, Livingston wrote to Madison that ‘I have had several conferences on the subject of Louisiana – but can get nothing more from them than I have already communicated … I have written the enclosed essay which I have had translated and struck off 20 copies … I have placed some of them in such hands as I think will best serve our purposes.  Talleyrand has promised to give it an attentive perusal after which when I find how it works, I will come forward with some proposition.  I am very much however at a loss as to what terms you would consider it as allowable to offer if they can be brought to a sale of the Floridas either with or without New Orleans – which last place will be of little consequence if we possess the Floridas because a much better passage may be formed on the east side of the river.  I may perhaps carry my estimate of them too high but when I consider first the expense it will save us in guards and garrisons, the risk of war, the value of duties and what may be raised by the sale of lands I should think them a cheap purchase at twenty millions of dollars.’

His memoir tried to disprove ‘Whether it will be advantageous to France to take possession of Louisiana?’  – ‘it will readily be admitted that trans-marine colonies add nothing to the strength of a nation’ (?!?).

– ‘experience has proved that the inhabitants of warm climates are never led by their necessities to labor.  Force alone can supply those taskmasters (cold and hunger) which nature has placed under northern skies.  Hence the necessity of slaves in rendering the West Indies productive.’ (?!?)

– ‘persons that settle in remote and unhealthy climates seldom possess much.  (Capital) must, then, be drawn either from France, or from some other country that possess superfluous capital.  If drawn from France, it must, to a certain degree, injure the manufactures of France at home.’ (?!?)

– ‘commodities, not raised in the islands, and which might be found in Louisiana, are only wood, and, perhaps, rice; but it is certain that these productions, when attended with the expense of procuring them in a warm and unhealthy climate, will not compensate the expense, or, at least, furnish the same profit to labor that might be obtained, were it employed, as in the islands, in raising more valuable commodities.’ (?!?)

– ‘experience has evinced that no two nations can border upon each other, without having the spirit of rivalry excited … will endeavor to anticipate the hostilities it dreads; it will recriminate; and the nations will be plunged into a war before explanations can take place.  If there is a situation in the world that would lead to these melancholy consequences, it would be that of France in possession of New Orleans.’ (?!?)

He then goes on to reiterate the threats of Jefferson and Madison, that ‘the resentments of the people will be sharpened against each other; the ties of friendship will be broken, and the Government of the United States, which always partakes of the feelings of the people, will find itself unavoidably placed in such a situation as to change its connection, and to guard against the hostility of its old ally, by forming cautionary connections with Britain, who will court their alliance and stimulate their resentments against France; because by this connection she will hope to retain the commerce of America, which she almost exclusively possesses, give security to her colonies, and, in case of war, facilitate her attempts to conquer the French islands; and, above all, prevent that commercial and maritime union between France and the United States, on which alone France can hope to engraft a naval superiority.’

‘It may be asked why these jealousies, that appear so greatly to apprehend with respect to France, do not prevail with respect to Britain in possession of Canada.  First, because Britain has, very prudently, separated her territory by a natural boundary, which keeps the inhabitants of the respective nations from coming into contact … Second, because the natural export of the United States being by their own rivers, there is no communication of any moment between them and Canada; but thirdly, because Upper Canada is principally settled by emigrants from the United States, who, in case of a rupture, would probably join them if the spirit of the American Government did not  prohibit an extension of their limits.’

‘And, after all, what advantages, political or commercial, can France obtain by the possession of New Orleans and the east side of the Mississippi, that can compensate for the losses she will sustain in both respects, by placing herself in a state of rivalry with the United States? …’

‘The cession of Louisiana is, however, very important to France if she avails herself of it in the only way that sound policy would dictate … Since, by this cession, she may acquire a right to navigate the Mississippi, and a free trade; and if she knows how to avail herself of this circumstance by a perfect understanding with the United States, she will find a vent through it for a vast variety of her commodities …’

‘These objects can only be obtained by a cession of New Orleans to the United States, with a reservation of a right of entry, at all times, free of any other duties than such as are exacted from the vessels of the United States; together with a right to navigate the Mississippi.  This will give her ships an advantage over those of every other nation, will retain and increase the capital of New Orleans, from which her supplies for her islands will be purchased on the easiest terms, will carry the fabrics of France into all the Western territory, which the United States will have no interest in checking, as all rivalry between the two nations would then be removed.’

‘France will then command the respect, without exciting the fear of the two nations whose friendship is most important to her commerce, and to the preservation of her islands; and all this without the expense of establishments that would drain the national treasury, and divert the national capital from its proper objects; while, on the other hand, should France retain New Orleans, and endeavor to colonize Louisiana, she will render herself an object of jealousy to Spain, the United States, and Britain, who will not only discourage her commerce, but compel her to make expensive establishments for the security of her rights.’

[To men like Talleyrand and Bonaparte, it must have seemed like a very timid threat by the Americans – that they would contemplate an alliance with their hated enemy (Britain) and sever relations with their dear friend (France).  But it did show their great desire to somehow acquire New Orleans (or at least West Florida – to gain possession of the east bank of the Mississippi at its mouth), and that if France could arrange this, then all their troubles would immediately disappear.]

On October 24th, Livingston wrote to President Jefferson that he had a conversation with Joseph Bonaparte – ‘having put into his hands a copy of the memoir on Louisiana … I then asked him whether he had read my notes on Louisiana.  He told me he had & that he had conversed upon the subject with the first Consul, who he found had read them with attention, that his brother had told him that he had nothing more at heart than to be upon the best terms with the U.S. …  Wishing to know with certainty whether the Floridas were excluded (which however I had pretty well ascertained before), I told him that the only causes of difference that might arise between us being the debt and Louisiana.  I conceived that both might be happily & easily removed by making an exchange with Spain & returning them Louisiana retaining New Orleans & giving the latter & the Floridas for our debt.’

Note: Livingston was referring to the debt that France owed to the United States for spoliation claims according to the Convention.  President Jefferson estimated that it ‘will be a considerable sum, several millions’.

‘He asked me whether we should prefer the Floridas to Louisiana.  I told him that there was no comparison in their value but that we had no wish to extend our boundary across the Mississippi or give colour to the doubts that had been entertained of the moderation of our views.  That all we sought was our security & not an extension of territory. He replied that he believed any new cession on the part of Spain would be extremely difficult that Spain had parted with Trinidad and Louisiana with great reluctance.’

23. The Closing of the Port of New Orleans, October 16th 1802

On October 9th 1802, Ferdinand of Parma died.  France, which had militarily occupied Parma since 1796, now officially annexed Parma – by the treaty of Aranjuez, Ferdinand would cede Parma to France upon his death.  On October 15th 1802, the King of Spain, officially proclaimed the transfer of the colony of Louisiana, including the island of New Orleans, to the French Republic – as part of the treaty of Aranjuez.  Spain would continue the administration of the colony until the French expedition arrived.  General Victor, the commander of the French army in the Batavian Republic, had been appointed by Bonaparte to lead the expedition, and the other 17 military officers and 14 administrators, along with their staff and servants, had been appointed on October 9th.

On November 26th, Victor was sent his official instructions to proceed to the Dutch port of Helvoet Sluys, to take command and to depart without delay, and he was also sent his secret instructions from Consul Bonaparte – to secure and garrison the port of New Orleans, to be defended from any possible attack by either the British or Americans; to regulate all immigration into Louisiana; and to assume alliances with the natives and construct a Franco-Indian front against American advances – while maintaining friendly relations with the United States!

Note: However, because of the demands for the Saint-Domingue expedition, a shortage of transports delayed the preparations, and then, because winter weather caused the port to be icebound, the expedition was delayed until spring.  At the end of March, the British blockade of the Dutch coast stopped the departure.  By May 1803, all preparations for the expedition were halted!

On November 10th, Livingston wrote to Madison that ‘France has cut the knot.  The difficulties relative to Parma and Placentia that stopped the expedition to Louisiana have ended by their taking possession of the first.  As you see by the enclosed paper, orders are given for the immediate embarkation of troops (two demi brigades) for Louisiana, they will sail in about twenty days from Holland.  The government here will give no answer to my notes on the subject. They will say nothing on that of their limit or of our right under the Spanish treaty.’  But before this letter would reach Madison, far more ominous news would soon arrive at the nation’s capital – at Washington City.

Note: The city of Washington, in the county of Washington, in the District of Columbia, was incorporated on May 3rd 1802, and Robert Brent was appointed as its first mayor, by President Jefferson on June 1st 1802.  Mayor Brent’s mother, Ann Carroll, was the sister of Bishop John Carroll, and she was the cousin of Charles Carroll, who had been a member of the Commission to Canada, with Dr. Benjamin Franklin.

On October 16th, one day after the King of Spain officially ceded Louisiana to France, the Intendant at New Orleans, Morales, issued a proclamation that ended the right of deposit for the United States at New Orleans!!!

Note:  On July 13th 1801, the Spanish Intendant at New Orleans, Juan Morales, had written to Miguel Soler, the Spanish Secretary of the Treasury, that the Americans were using the right of deposit as a means of smuggling and of avoiding the customary duties.  On April 26th 1802, Soler would forward this letter to Pedro Cevallos, the Spanish Secretary of State.   (Also, on April 16th, Valentin de Forondo, the Spanish consul general to the United States at Philadelphia, wrote to Cevallos complaining of the lack of consideration shown to Spanish sailors in American ports and suggesting reprisals in the form of sterner measures at New Orleans.)  On May 2nd, Cevallos asked Soler to make known his response in regard to the abuses arising from the right of deposit and the losses resulting therefrom to the treasury.  On July 2nd, Soler informed Cevallos that he had approved the restrictions imposed by Morales at New Orleans – requiring the presentation by the American shippers of clearance papers obtained from the United States custom officials.   On July 11th, Cevallos announced to Soler, that it was the intention of the king to close New Orleans to American shipping.

On November 25th, Madison received the news of the loss of the American right to deposit, and of the closing of the port of New Orleans to Americans, along with an extract of the Spanish proclamation, in an (October 18th) letter from William Hulings, the American vice consul at New Orleans.  Madison also received an (October 29th) letter from William Claiborne, the Governor of the Mississippi territory, that he had written to the Spanish Governor of Louisiana to request information on ‘whether or not another place on the banks of the Mississippi had been assigned by His Catholic Majesty, (in conformity to our treaty with Spain) for an equivalent establishment’.

Note: In his letter to Salcedo, Claiborne noted that in article 22 of the Treaty of San Lorenzo, Spain agreed to assign ‘an equivalent establishment’ elsewhere on the banks of the Mississippi should permission to deposit American produce at New Orleans be withdrawn.  He asked if the king had indeed withdrawn this permission and whether and where he had assigned a new location.

On November 25th, Madison wrote to Carlos Martinez de Yrujo, the Spanish minister to the United States, who was also married to the daughter of Thomas McKean, Governor of Pennsylvania, ‘that the port of New Orleans has been shut against the commerce of the United States from the ocean into the Mississippi; and that the right of American citizens to deposit their merchandizes and effects in that port has also been prohibited, without the substitution of any equivalent establishment on the banks of the Mississippi … It is impossible to see in either of these measures, any thing less than a direct and gross violation of the terms as well as spirit of the Treaty of 1795 between his Catholic Majesty and the United States …’

Martinez de Yrujo replied that he could ‘only attribute the intendant’s action to an ill-advised zeal or to a poor interpretation of some general ordinance’ and that he would dispatch a ship as soon as possible with messages for the governor and intendant to find out what happened and the reasons for their conduct.

On November 27th, Madison wrote to Charles Pinckney, American Minister to Spain, that ‘this proceeding is so direct and palpable a violation of the Treaty of 1795, that in candor it is to be imputed rather to the Intendant solely, than to instructions of his Government.  The Spanish Minister (Martinez) takes pains to impress this belief, and it is favoured by private accounts from New Orleans, mentioning that the Governor did not concur with the Intendant. but from whatever source the measure may have proceeded the President expects that the Spanish Government will neither lose a moment in countermanding it, nor hesitate to repair every damage which may result from it … whilst you presume therefore in your representations to the Spanish Government, that the conduct of its officer is no less contrary to its intentions, than it is to its good faith, you will take care to express the strongest confidence, that the breach of the Treaty will be repaired in every way which justice and a regard for a friendly neighbourhood may require’.

Note: As a reward for his work in South Carolina during the last presidential election, Pinckney was appointed to be the United States Minister to Spain by President Jefferson.

Unfortunately, Minister Pinckney was not in Spain – (with the President’s permission) he had left Spain on November 14th and arrived at Italy on the 28th, before returning to Spain on January 28th 1803.

News of the events at New Orleans would be published in the New York Evening Post on November 25th.  And, the new session of Congress was due to open in 2 weeks – on December 6th.

Note: At this time, President Jefferson was being ridiculed in the ‘federalist’ newspapers.  In September 1802, James Callender wrote an article in the Richmond, Virginia ‘Recorder’ on the ‘Sally Hemings affair’.  Also in September, Henry Coswell wrote an article in the Hudson, N.Y. ‘Wasp’ that Jefferson had paid Callender to attack General Washington, calling him ‘a traitor, robber, and perjurer’.  [Coswell was found guilty of libel and General Hamilton would be his attorney in appealing his case.]

On December 15th, President Jefferson sent his secretary, Meriwether Lewis, with his second Message to Congress to be read, that ‘another year has come around, and finds us still blessed with peace and friendship abroad; law, order, and religion, at home; good affection and harmony with our Indian neighbors; our burthens lightened, yet our income sufficient for the public wants, and the produce of the year great beyond example … and we remark, with special satisfaction, those which, under the smiles of Providence, result from the skill, industry, and order, of our citizens, managing their own affairs in their own way, and for their own use, unembarrassed by too much regulation, unoppressed by fiscal exactions.’

However, concerning the crisis in the western states and territories, the President’s message only said that ‘the cession of the Spanish province of Louisiana to France, which took place in the course of the late war, will, if carried into effect, make a change in the aspect of our foreign relations, which will doubtless have just weight in any deliberations of the legislature connected with that subject.’  But nothing was said in the Message about the crisis at New Orleans!?!  General Hamilton would describe this as Jefferson’s ‘lullaby message’.

On December 17th, the ‘National Intelligencer’ of Washington City, published a memorial and two resolutions that had been unanimously adopted by the Senate and House of Representatives of Kentucky on December 1st.  The first resolution declared that removing the American right to deposit at New Orleans was ‘a direct violation of the treaty of friendship limits and navigation, concluded in October 1795, between the United States and the King of Spain’.  The second resolution asked Governor James Garrand to send them to their representatives in Congress, to be presented to the President and to Congress.  The memorial ended that ‘we rely with confidence on your wisdom and justice, and pledge ourselves to support, at the expense of our lives and fortunes, such measures as the honor, and interest of the United States require’.

Also on December 17th, Madison wrote to Livingston (including with the letter, some newspapers containing the President’s message, but also the proceedings from Kentucky) that ‘the excitement however which it has produced ought to admonish the holders whoever they may be, of the mouth of the Mississippi, that justice, ample justice to the western citizens of the United States, is the only tenure of peace with this country.  There are now or in two years will be, not less than 200,000 militia on the waters of the Mississippi, every man of whom would march at a minutes warning to remove obstructions from that outlet to the sea, every man of whom regards the free use of that river as a natural & indefeasible right, and is conscious of the physical force that can at any time give effect to it.  This consideration ought not to be overlooked by France, and would be alone sufficient, if allowed its due weight, to cure the phrensy which covets Louisiana.  Other considerations however seem likely to co-operate for the same purpose.  According to the latest account. from St Domingo & her other W. I. Islands, they must be lost to her without large & speedy reinforcements.’

24. The Secret Mission of Meriwether Lewis, January 18th 1803

On that same day, on December 17th, John Randolph (Virginia), quickly moving to stay in control of the crisis, moved a resolution in the House of Representatives ‘that the President of the United States be requested to cause to be laid before this House such papers as are in the possession of the Department of State, as relate to the violation on the part of Spain, of the Treaty of Friendship, Limits, and Navigation, between the United States of America and the King of Spain’, and it was agreed to unanimously.

On December 22nd, President Jefferson sent to the House a message that ‘I was led … to lose not a moment in causing every step to be taken which the occasion claimed from me …’, with a report from the Secretary of State, and with the information they requested – the letters from Claiborne and Hulings.  Madison wrote in his report that ‘whether, in these violations of treaty, the officer of Spain at New Orleans has proceeded with or without orders from his government, cannot as yet be decided by direct and positive testimony …’

On December 31st, President Jefferson sent an additional, but ‘confidential’, message to the House, along with the (November 15th) reply of Salcedo to Claiborne, but he implied that its content should not be made public – ‘although an informal communication to the public, of the substance of the enclosed letter, may be proper for quieting the public mind, yet I refer to the consideration of the House of Representatives, whether a publication of it, in form, might not give dissatisfaction to the writer, and tend to discourage the freedom and confidence by communications between the agents of the two Governments.’

Note: In his November 15th reply, Salcedo stated that though the king had not suspended the deposit, the intendant had ended neutral commerce because the three years allowed for the deposit under the treaty had expired and because he meant to stop the many frauds and abuses committed by American traders.  He remarked that Morales had doubtless told the king of his actions, and there was reason to hope the king would either restore the deposit at New Orleans or assign a new location.

A motion was made that both of the two messages from the President and the accompanying documents be sent to a select committee, but it was defeated.  Another motion was made that these papers should be printed for the use of the members, but this too was defeated.  A motion was then made that these papers should be sent to a Committee of the Whole House on the State of the Union (where it could be kept secret), and it was agreed to.

On January 4th 1803, Roger Griswold (Connecticut), citing the part of President Jefferson’s message to Congress that referred to Louisiana, moved a resolution ‘that the President of the United States be requested  … to lay before this House copies of such official documents as have been received by this government, announcing the cession of Louisiana to France, together with a report explaining the stipulations, circumstances, and conditions, under which that province is to be delivered up; unless such documents and report will, in the opinion of the President, divulge to the House particular transactions not proper at this time to be communicated’.

Randolph then moved to commit this motion to the same Committee of the Whole on the State of the Union to whom had been committed the messages of the President respecting New Orleans.  Griswold would argue that he ‘did not wish that a resolution so important should be referred to a secret committee’ but should be decided in public.  This was debated until Griswold’s motion was defeated on January 6th.

[Since one of the messages from the President had been ‘confidential’, any discussion of any of the messages or any of the accompanying documents would have to be behind closed doors.  Even though it seemed quite innocent, to send Griswold’s resolution to this same Committee of the Whole would also place it behind closed doors.  The ‘republicans’ wanted to keep the (forthcoming) actions on New Orleans and Louisiana out of the public’s view.]

On January 7th 1803, after meeting in secret session, the House resolved to ‘receive with great sensibility the information of a disposition in certain officers of the Spanish Government, at New Orleans, to obstruct the navigation of the river Mississippi, as secured to the United States by the most solemn stipulations.  That, adhering to that humane and wise policy which ought ever to characterize a free people, and by which the United States have always professed to be governed; willing, at the same time, to ascribe this breach of compact to the unauthorized misconduct of certain individuals, rather than to a want of good faith on the part of His Catholic Majesty; and relying, with perfect confidence, on the vigilance and wisdom of the Executive, they will wait the issue of such measures as that department of the Government shall have pursued for asserting the rights and vindicating the injuries of the United States; holding it to be their duty, at the same time, to express their unalterable determination to maintain the boundaries and the rights of navigation and commerce through the river Mississippi, as established by existing treaties’.

On January 11th, Griswold again moved to have the House resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole to present his resolution, but it was objected to by Randolph.  Samuel Dana (Connecticut) said that the resolution was objected to because it ‘may irritate the Court of Spain, and this will be improper’, but compare it to Randolph’s resolution – ‘is there anything in this calculated to gratify the courtly delicacy of a Castilian?’  And the motion was again defeated.

On January 11th, President Jefferson sent to the Senate a message that ‘the cession of the Spanish province of Louisiana to France, and perhaps of the Floridas, and the late suspension of our right of deposit at New Orleans, are events of primary interest to the United States.  On both occasions, such measures were promptly taken as were thought most likely amicably to remove the present and to prevent future causes of inquietude.  The objects of these measures were to obtain the territory on the left bank of the Mississippi, and the eastward of that, if practicable, on conditions to which the proper authorities of our country would agree; or, at least, to prevent any changes which might lessen the secure exercise of our rights …’

‘I therefore nominate Robert R. Livingston to be Minister Plenipotentiary, and James Monroe to be Minister Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, … to enter into a treaty or convention with the First Consul of France, for the purpose of enlarging, and more effectually securing, our rights and interests in the river Mississippi, and in the territories eastward thereof.’

‘But as the possession of these provinces is still in Spain, and the course of events may retard or prevent the cession to France being carried into effect, to secure our object … I therefore nominate Charles Pinckney to be Minister Plenipotentiary, and James Monroe to be Minister Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary … to enter into a treaty or convention with His Catholic Majesty, for the purpose of enlarging, and more effectually securing, our rights and interests in the river Mississippi, and the territories eastward thereof.’

President Jefferson had written to Monroe on January 10th, the day before, that ‘I have but a moment to inform you that the fever into which the Western mind is thrown by the affair at New Orleans stimulated by the mercantile, & generally the federal interest, threatens to overbear our peace.  In this situation we are obliged to call on you for a temporary sacrifice of yourself, to prevent this greatest of evils in the present prosperous tide of our affairs.  I shall tomorrow nominate you to the Senate for an extraordinary mission to France, & the circumstances are such as to render it impossible to decline; because the whole public hope will be rested on you.’

He wrote to Monroe again on January 13th, that ‘… you possessed the unlimited confidence of the administration & of the Western people; & generally of the republicans every where; and were you to refuse to go, no other man can be found who does this.  The measure has already silenced the feds here.  Congress will no longer be agitated by them; and the country will become calm as fast as the information extends over it.  All eyes, all hopes are now fixed on you; and were you to decline, the chagrin would be universal, and would shake under your feet the high ground on which you stand with the public.  Indeed I know nothing which would produce such a shock.  For on the event of this mission depends the future destinies of this republic …’  The President also added that ‘as to the time of your going, you cannot too much hasten it, as the moment in France is critical.  St. Domingo delays their taking possession of Louisiana, and they are in the last distress for money for current purposes.’

[That was putting a lot of pressure on Monroe’s shoulders.  Plus, recall that Monroe had earlier been the Minister to France, but had been recalled by President Washington.  This made his appointment resentful to the ‘federalists’.]

On January 12th, the House met in secret session, was presented with the committee’s report that ‘the object of the resolution is to enable the Executive to commence, with more effect, a negotiation with the French and Spanish governments relative to the purchase from them of the island of New Orleans, and the provinces of East and West Florida’, and resolved ‘that a sum of two millions of dollars … be appropriated to defray the expenses which may be incurred in the relation to the intercourse between the United States and foreign nations …’

On January 18th, President Jefferson sent a second ‘confidential’ message to Congress, ‘as the continuance of the act for establishing trading houses with the Indian tribes will be under consideration of the Legislature at its present session … The Indian tribes residing within the limits of the United States, have, for a considerable time, been growing more and more uneasy at the constant diminution of the territory they occupy … and the policy has long been gaining strength with them, of refusing absolutely all further sale, on any conditions …’

‘In order peaceably to counteract this policy of theirs, and to provide an extension of territory, which the rapid increase of our numbers will call for, two measures are deemed expedient.  First, to encourage them to abandon hunting, to apply to raising stock, to agriculture, and domestic manufactures; and thereby prove to themselves that less land and labor will maintain them in this, better than in their former mode of living.  The extensive forests necessary in the hunting life, will then become useless; and they will see advantage in exchanging them for the means of improving their farms, and of increasing their domestic comforts.’

‘Secondly, to multiply trading houses among them, and place within their reach those things which will contribute more to their domestic comfort, than the possession of extensive, but uncultivated wilds … While the extension of the public commerce among the Indian tribes may deprive of that source of profit such of our citizens as are engaged in it, it might be worthy the attention of Congress, in their care of individual as well as of the general interest, to point, in another direction, the enterprise of these citizens, as profitably for themselves, and more usefully for the public.’

‘The river Missouri, and the Indians inhabiting it, are not as well known as is rendered desirable by their connexion with the Mississippi, and consequently with us.  It is, however, understood, that the country on the river is inhabited by numerous tribes, who furnish great supplies of furs and peltry to the trade of another nation, carried on in a high latitude, through an infinite number of portages and lakes, shut up by ice through a long season.  The commerce on that line could bear no competition with that of the Missouri, traversing a moderate climate, offering, according to the best accounts, a continued navigation from its source, and possibly with a single portage, from the Western ocean, and finding to the Atlantic a choice of channels …’

‘An intelligent officer, with ten or twelve chosen men, fit for the enterprise, and willing to undertake it … might explore the whole line, even to the Western ocean, have conferences with the natives on the subject of commercial intercourse, get admission among them for our traders, as others are admitted, agree on convenient deposits for an interchange of articles, and return with the information acquired, in the course of two summers …’

‘While other civilized nations have encountered great expense to enlarge the boundaries of knowledge, by undertaking voyages of discovery, and for other literary purposes, in various parts and directions, our nation seems to owe to the same object, as well as to its own interests, to explore this, the only line of easy communication across the continent, and so directly traversing our own part of it … The nation claiming the territory, regarding this as a literary pursuit, which it is in the habit of permitting within its dominion, would not be disposed to vie it with jealousy, even if the expiring state of its interests there did not render it a matter of indifference.’

‘The appropriation of two thousand five hundred dollars, “for the purpose of extending the external commerce of the United States”, while understood and considered by the Executive as giving the Legislature sanction, would cover the undertaking from notice, and prevent the obstructions which interested individuals might otherwise previously prepare in its way.’

This secret mission to discover a route to the western ocean was motivated by the British discovery of 1793.  From British North America, Alexander Mackenzie had travelled from Fort Chipewyan, the Northwest Company trading post at the western tip of lake Athabasca, and had arrived at the mouth of the Bella Coola river upon the Pacific Ocean, on July 20th 1793.  The journals of his exploration were later published in London in 1801.

Alexander Mackenzie reaches the Pacific in 1793

While at home at Monticello in the summer of 1802, President Jefferson obtained a copy of the book(s), which he and his private secretary, Meriwether Lewis, devoured.  They also would study Jefferson’s map collection.  Gallatin, another avid map collector, would have a special map made for Lewis, with details on what was known of the Missouri river up to the Mandan villages.  (There were 3 certain points on the map – the latitude and longitude of St. Louis, the Mandan villages, and the mouth of the Columbia river.)  Sometime, during that summer and autumn, President Jefferson decided that Captain Lewis would lead the mission to reach the western ocean.

Note: In August 1794, 20-year old Meriwether Lewis volunteered to join the Virginia militia, in order to help quell the Whiskey Rebellion, remaining in the militia for another 6 months, before joining the regular army of the United States, under General Anthony Wayne, in May 1795. In November 1795, he was transferred to the (elite) Chosen Rifle Company, under Captain William Clark, the younger brother of General George Rogers Clark. In November 1796, he was transferred to the 1st Infantry Regiment, and in December 1800, was promoted to Captain.  In February 1801 he was asked by President-to-be Jefferson to accept the position as his private secretary.

President Jefferson’s policy towards the natives was again repeated in a letter to William Henry Harrison, Governor of the Indiana Territory, on February 27th – ‘this letter being unofficial, & private, I may with safety give you a more extensive view of our policy respecting the Indians’, that to be prepared against the occupation of Louisiana by a powerful & enterprising people, it is important that setting less value on interior extension of purchases from the Indians, we bend our whole views to the purchase and settlement of the country on the Mississippi from it’s mouth to it’s Northern regions …’

‘the Cahokias being extinct, we are entitled to their country by our paramount sovereignty.  The Piorias we understand have all been driven off from their country, & we might claim it in the same way; but as we understand there is one chief remaining, who would, as the survivor of the tribe, sell the right, it will be better to give him such terms as will make him easy for life, and take a conveyance from him.  The Kaskaskias, being reduced to a few families, I presume we may purchase their whole country for what would place every individual of them at his ease … we should proceed to the settling their boundaries with the Poutewatamies & Kickapoos; claiming all doubtful territory, but paying them a price for the relinquishment of their concurrent claim, and even prevailing on them if possible to cede for a price such of their own unquestioned territory as would give us a convenient northern boundary … the occupation of New Orleans, hourly expected, by the French, is already felt like a light breeze by the Indians.  You know the sentiments they entertain of that nation.  Under the hopes of their protection, they will immediately stiffen against cessions of land to us.  We had better therefore do at once what can now be done.’

25. General Hamilton’s Response, February 8th, 1803

On February 8th, in the New York Evening Post, General Hamilton would answer the President’s message for the nomination of Monroe (note, that everything else was ‘confidential’) that ‘since the question of Independence, none has occurred more deeply interesting to the United States than the cession of Louisiana to France.  This event threatens the early dismemberment of a large portion of our country: more immediately the safety of all the Southern States; and remotely the independence of the whole union …’

‘The strict right to resort at once to war, if it should be deemed expedient cannot be doubted.  A manifest and great danger to the nation: the nature of the cession to France, extending to ancient limits without respect to our rights by treaty; the direct infraction of an important article of the treaty itself in withholding the deposit of New-Orleans; either of these affords justifiable cause of war and that they would authorize immediate hostilities, is not to be questioned by the most scrupulous mind.’

‘The whole is then a question of expediency.  Two courses only present.  First, to negotiate and endeavour to purchase, and if this fails to go to war.  Secondly, to seize at once on the Floridas and New-Orleans, and then negotiate … To secure the better prospect of final success, the following auxiliary measures ought to be adopted.  The army should be increased to ten thousand men, for the purpose of insuring the preservation of the conquest.  Preparations for increasing our naval force should be made.  The militia should be classed, and effectual provision made for raising on an emergency, 40,000 men.  Negotiations should be pushed with Great-Britain, to induce her to hold herself in readiness to co-operate fully with us, at a moment’s warning.  This plan should be adopted and proclaimed before the departure of our envoy …’

On February 14th, Senator James Ross (Pennsylvania) rose and stated that ‘… he would not consent to go home, without making one effort, however feeble or unsuccessful, to avert the calamity which threatened the western country … He would not say that it was unwise in this state of our affairs to prepare for remonstrance and negotiation, much less was he then about to propose any measure that would thwart negotiation, or embarrass the President.  On the other hand, he was convinced that more than negotiation was absolutely necessary, that more power and more means ought to be given to the President, in order to render his negotiations efficacious … The experience of all time has proved that with nations, as well as with individuals, submission to aggression and insult, uniformly invites a repetition and aggravation of the mischief.  To repel at the onset is more easy, as well as more honorable to the injured party … He declared it therefore to be his firm and mature opinion, that so important a right would never be secure, while the mouth of the Mississippi was exclusively in the hands of the Spaniards … From the very position of our country, from its geographical shape, from motives of complete independence, the command of the navigation of the river ought to be in our hands …’

‘But, sir, I have heard it suggested that another mode has been contemplated for getting rid of this crisis in our affairs.  If we remain perfectly quiet and passive, show no symptoms of uneasiness or discontent; if we give no offence to the new and probable masters of the Mississippi; may be they will sell! … But when we have no army, no military preparations, no semblance of resistance, what would induce them to sell?  Sell, sir!  For how much?  Why sir, although there is no information before this House, of any terms, yet I have seen it stated in the newspapers, that those who now pretend to claim that country may be persuaded to sell, by giving two million of dollars to certain influential persons about the Court – …’

At this point, Wright (Maryland) said that he thought it improper to debate upon confidential information which should be kept secret.  But Ross denied that there was any confidential information in the House!  The Vice President, as Speaker of the Senate, ordered the galleries and lobby cleared, and the doors closed for debate.

The next day, the House of Representatives sent a ‘confidential’ message to the Senate along with the two ‘confidential’ bills: ‘an act making further provision for the expenses attending the intercourse between the United States and foreign nations’ – to  appropriate $2 million for the purchase of the island of New Orleans and the provinces of East and West Florida, and ‘an act for extending the external commerce of the United States’ – to appropriate $2500 dollars for the secret mission to explore the Missouri river in the Louisiana territory.

On a motion, the galleries were cleared and the doors were closed again, and it was ordered ‘that the message and the bills just received from the House of Representatives be considered as confidential, and that secrecy be observed by the members and officers of the Senate’.

On February 16th, Ross continued to state his opinions and then read his resolution –

‘that the United States have an indisputable right to the free navigation of the river Mississippi, and to a convenient place of deposit for their produce and merchandise in the island of New Orleans’

‘that the late infraction of such, their unquestionable right, is an aggression hostile to their honor and interest’

‘that it does not consist with the dignity or safety of this Union to hold a right so important by a tenure so uncertain’

‘that it materially concerns such of the American citizens as dwell on the western waters, and is essential to the union, strength, and prosperity of these States, that they obtain complete security for the full and peaceable enjoyment of such their absolute right’

‘that the President be authorized to take immediate possession of such place or places, in the said island, or the adjacent territories, as he may deem fit and convenient for the purposes aforesaid; and to adopt such other measures for obtaining that complete security as to him in his wisdom shall seem meet’

‘that he be authorized to call into actual service any number of the militia of the States of South Carolina, Georgia, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, or of the Mississippi Territory, which he may think proper, not exceeding fifty thousand, and to employ them, together with the military and naval forces of the Union, for effecting the objects above mentioned’, and,

‘that the sum of five millions of dollars be appropriated to the carrying into effect the foregoing resolutions …’

On February 22nd the Senate ‘confidentially’ passed both of the ‘confidential’ bills sent from the House.  The bill for the appropriation of $2 million for the purchase of New Orleans and the Floridas was signed into law by the President on February 26th, and the bill for appropriation of $2,500 for the Missouri exploration was signed into law by the President on February 28th.  On February 23rd, the Senate considered Ross’s resolutions and agreed that the discussion shall be public, and also agreed that no member, during debate, shall directly or indirectly disclose the secrets of the Senate – no discussion of the $2 million appropriation or the $2500 appropriation.

Three days of lengthy debate followed, until an amendment by Breckenridge (Kentucky) to strike out everything after the word ‘resolved’ (meaning everything!?!) was agreed to (by a vote of 15 to 11), and it was unanimously agreed to new resolutions by Breckinridge that ‘whenever he (the President) shall judge it expedient, to require of the Executives of the several States to take effectual measures to arm, and equip, according to law, and hold in readiness to march, at a moment’s warning, 80,000 effective militia, officers included’.

‘An act directing a detachment from the militia of the United States and for erecting certain arsenals’ was passed by the Senate on February 26th ‘that $1,500,000 be appropriated for paying and subsisting such part of the troops aforesaid, whose actual service may be wanted; for the purchase of ordnance and other military stores; and for defraying such other expenses as, during the recess of Congress, the President may deem necessary for the security of the territory of the United States …’ and ‘that $25,000 be appropriated for erecting, at such place or places on the western waters, as the President may judge most proper, one or more arsenals; and that the President cause the same to be furnished with such arms, ammunition and military stores as he may deem necessary.’

This bill was promptly sent to the House, was passed, and on March 3rd was signed into law by the President.  Ross didn’t get the $5 million that he proposed, but the ‘republicans’ did appropriate $1.5 million; and instead of Ross’s proposed 50,000 militia, the ‘republicans’ were panicked into mobilizing 80,000 militia!  [Because Ross was a ‘federalist’ from Pittsburgh, the ‘republicans’ did not want to be seen as less concerned about the western states than the ‘federalists’.]

On March 2nd, Madison issued his instructions to Monroe and Livingston that ‘the object in view is to procure by just and satisfactory arrangements, a Cession to the United States, of New Orleans, and of West and East Florida, or as much thereof as the actual proprietor can be prevailed on to part with … to seek by just means the establishment of the Mississippi down to its mouth as their boundary … On the supposition that the French Government does not mean to force, or to court war with the United States; but on the contrary, that it sees the interest which France has in cultivating their neutrality and amity, the dangers to so desirable a relation between the two countries which lurk under a neighbourhood modified as is that of Spain at present, must have great weight in recommending the change which you will have to propose  …’

Madison also included a plan for a draft treaty, that included ‘the pecuniary consideration to be offered for the territories … the President has made up his mind to go as far as fifty millions of livres tournois, rather than lose the main object.’  The payment however would also take into consideration ‘the payment of claims which have been or may be acknowledged by the French Republic to be due to American citizens’.

On March 7th, Monroe wrote to President Jefferson that he had received his instructions from Madison and that ‘the resolutions of Mr. Ross prove that the federal party will stick at nothing to embarrass the administration and recover its lost power.  They nevertheless produce a great effect on the public mind and I presume more especially in the western country … The consequences of a disappointment are not easily calculated.  If it restored the federal party to power and involved us in war, the result might be fatal.  It therefore highly merits consideration whether we should not take that ground as the ultimatum in the negotiation which must in every possible event preserve the confidence & affection of the western people.  While we stand well with them, we shall prosper.  We shall be most apt to avoid war, taking ten years ensuing together; and if we are driven by necessity into it, it is much better that it be under the auspices of a republican than a monarchic administration.’

Note: Monroe did not rule out the issue of war, he simply (and honestly) stated that if there was to be war, it should be under a ‘republican’ government and not a ‘federalist’ one.  He was more worried of losing power than of a war.  This confirms General Hamilton’s opinion of the ‘republicans’, and why he disagreed passionately with their ‘Jacobin’ ideology.  But he never doubted their patriotism or would call them traitors.  This can be seen in the question of Jefferson or Burr for president.  While General Hamilton greatly disagreed and distrusted Jefferson, he found him infinitely preferable to Burr. This could also be seen among the ‘republicans’ – when a dinner was held on the eve of Monroe’s departure from Washington City, and every ‘republican’ congressman and senator attended, along with Pichon and Yrujo, but Burr was not invited!!!

On March 9th, James Monroe left New York City to travel to France as the Minister Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States.

On March 10th, Madison again wrote to the Spanish minister, Yrujo, that ‘the latest information from New Orleans makes it certain that altho’ your letters to the Governor & the Intendant of Louisiana had been received, the Edict of the latter against our right of deposit had not been rescinded’ … and that ‘the season is arrived when the stipulated outlet for the produce of the Western Citizens of the United States [is] essential …’

Yrujo replied later that day that he now declares most positively that Morales’s proclamation was a personal decision made without royal sanction or knowledge. … Neither one (Morales and Salcedo) disputes the right of citizens of the western states to a place of deposit on the Spanish banks of the Mississippi, but Morales thinks it incumbent on him to suspend the deposit as the three-year term allowed by treaty has expired and much prejudice to the royal interests has been experienced from the deposit in the city … Morales did not venture to assign an equivalent  location, because he believed such an act exceeded his authority.

On March 11th, Yrujo would write to Morales that the U.S. government was doing its utmost to prevent Americans from attacking Spanish territory in response to the illegal closure of the deposit and ordered Morales to reopen the deposit or designate another location for it immediately, lest he be responsible for the loss of the Floridas and Louisiana.  And he would write to Salcedo that Morales must revoke his decree if the territory was to be preserved.

26. The Treaty to Purchase Louisiana, May 2nd 1803

On March 3rd, Livingston wrote to Madison that he had received his letter notifying him of Monroe’s appointment.  Livingston also enclosed a copy of a letter that he had sent to Consul Bonaparte (before he had heard of Monroe’s appointment.  In his February 27th letter to the First Consul, Livingston wrote, first of all, concerning the payment of the claims of American citizens – that the United States ‘respected the rights of foreigners and paid their contracts, with the most scrupulous exactitude, in specie’, while their own citizens are made to wait for payment of their debts from France.  He wrote also that Britain ‘ever attentive to the preservation of her interest in the United States … is, of late, very amply compensating by full payment of principal, interest, and damages, for any capture made during the war …’

Next he wrote of ‘the change that is about to take place in the situation of Louisiana, heightened, as they are, by the silence which the Governments of France and Spain have observed, and still observe, with respect to their treaty, and the rights that the United States claim, and have long exercised, at New Orleans.  I have pressed the minister to some pointed declaration on the subject of our right of depot at New Orleans, on the limits as settled with Spain, and on the navigation of the Mississippi …’

‘The Intendant of New Orleans having thought it proper to withdraw the right of depot, secured to the citizens of the United States by the treaty of Madrid, a spirit of resentment has been manifested from one end of the Union to the other, and nothing but the interposition of the Spanish minster, the disavowal of the act by the Governor of New Orleans, and the extreme solicitude of the American Government to avoid every thing which might have a tendency to interrupt the harmony which at present so happily subsists between the United States and every power in Europe, could have prevented an immediate recurrence to arms; nor am I now without apprehensions that, if nothing is done to calm their anxiety before the season for bringing down the produce of the country occurs, the Government will be compelled to follow the impulse of the people …’

‘That France will never derive any advantages from the colonization of New Orleans and the Floridas, is fairly to be presumed, from their having been possessed, for more than a century past, by three different nations.  While the other colonies of these nations were increasing rapidly, these have always remained weak and languid, and an expensive burthen to the possessor …’

‘I cannot, then, citizen First Consul, but express my doubt of any advantage to be derived to France from the retaining of that country in its whole extent; and I think I could show that her true interest would lead her to make such cessions out of them to the United States, as would at once afford supplies to her islands, without draining the money of France, and rivet the friendship of the United States, by removing all grounds of jealousy relative to a country of little value in itself, and which will be perpetually exposed to the attacks of her natural enemy, as well from Canada as by sea … The savages on the east side of the Mississippi are numerous and brave; considerable sums of money are annually expended by Spain in purchasing their friendship.  Should these supplies be withheld, through neglect or misapplication, a universal massacre of all the planters will ensue.  Their detached situation renders it impossible to protect them …’

Livingston was warning Bonaparte about the danger of war with the United States, unless the situation at New Orleans was solved; and about the expense that would be involved in colonizing New Orleans and the Floridas, and the expense that would be required to protect the settlers from both the ‘savages’ and the British (from Canada as by sea).  While Livingston was arguing this, in favor of the cession of the Floridas, Bonaparte (who didn’t have possession of the Floridas) could view this instead, as an argument (of the expense and of the war dangers) against the French colonization of Louisiana!!!  And instead of the cession of the Floridas, perhaps the cession of Louisiana!

Talleyrand’s (March 10th) answer to this memo was that ‘it is the intention of the First Consul that this convention shall be executed, in every particular, with scrupulous exactness … you may rest assured, sir, that, upon being furnished with such a statement, every claim will be promptly and fully discharged … The First Consul … has come to the determination to send immediately to the United States a minister plenipotentiary …’

Livingston answered Talleyrand on March 16th that the deposit at the port of New Orleans ‘must remain shut till the envoy of France shall have arrived in America, and made the necessary inquiries, and transmitted the result of those inquiries to the First Consul.  In the meanwhile, all the produce of five states is left to rot upon their hands.  There is only one season in which the navigation of the Mississippi is practicable.  This season must necessarily pass before the envoy of France can arrive and make his report.  Is it supposable, sir, that the people of the United States will tranquilly wait the progress of negotiations when the ruin of themselves and their families will be attendant on the delay?  Be assured, sir, that, even were it possible that the Government of the United States could be insensible of their sufferings, they would find it as easy to prevent the Mississippi from rolling its waves into the ocean, as to control the impulse of the people to do themselves justice …’

Talleyrand answered Livingston on March 21st, that I see, with pleasure, by the last letters from the French legation in the United States, that the excitement which had been raised on the subject of Louisiana has been allayed by the wisdom of your Government, and the just confidence which it inspires, to that state of tranquility which is alone proper for discussion … in announcing to me, moreover, the speedy departure of Mr. Monroe, who has been appointed a minister plenipotentiary to discuss this matter, you give me reason to conclude that your government desires that this minister should be received and heard; because every point susceptible of contradiction should be completely and definitively discussed …’

Livingston would write to Madison on March 24th to describe Talleyrand’s response, that while he was waiting for Talleyrand’s answer ‘unfortunately at that moment, dispatches arrived from Mr. Pichon informing them that the appointment of Mr. Monroe had tranquillized every thing & that conceiving then that they might safely wait his arrival, they determined to see whether the storm would not blow over, in which case they will treat with more advantage. They accordingly substituted for the first note which as the minster told me arranged every thing, that … which contains nothing.’

Note: The storm that Livingston was referring to, was the threat of war re-starting between France and Britain.  On March 1st a message from the King of Britain was received by Parliament concerning the ‘distrust of the armaments in the French ports, and, in fact, preparing them for war’.  When this message was delivered to the French Government, Bonaparte issued a paper ‘… that the expedition preparing in the Dutch ports was, as all the world knew, destined for America (for Louisiana); but, in consequence of the message, that it had been recalled and would not proceed’.

Monroe landed at Le Havre on April 8th and immediately wrote to Livingston who received it on April 10th, expecting Monroe to be in Paris on the 12th.

Livingston wrote to Madison on April 12th that ‘Mr. Talleyrand asked me this day, when pressing the subject, whether we wished to have the whole of Louisiana.  I told him no, that our wishes extended only to New Orleans & the Floridas … He said that if they gave New Orleans the rest would be of little value, & that he would wish to know “what we would give for the whole,” I told him it was a subject I had not thought, but that I supposed we should not object to twenty millions provided our citizens were paid.  He told me that this was too low an offer, that he would be glad, I would reflect upon it and tell him to morrow.  I told him that as Mr. Monroe would be in town in two days, I would delay my further offer until I had the pleasure of introducing him.  He added however that he did not speak from authority, but that the idea had struck him.  I have reason however to think that this resolution was taken in council on Saturday.  On Friday I received Mr. Ross’s motion.  I immediately sent it to Mr. Talleyrand with an informal note expressive of my fears that it would be carried into effect …’

[Livingston’s own reason for the change in Talleyrand’s decision – to sell Louisiana to the United States, appears to be in response to the Ross resolutions – resolutions that were inspired by General Hamilton’s February 8th letter in the New York Evening Post!  General Hamilton and Ross did not get their mission to occupy New Orleans, but they were about to get Louisiana!]

Cession of Louisiana by Constantino Brumidi. François, marquis de Barbé-Marbois (standing), French minister of the treasury, showing a map to U.S. minister Robert Livingston (right) and U.S. minister plenipotentiary James Monroe (centre).

Earlier, on April 10th, First Consul Bonaparte held a meeting with Decres, minister of the navy, and Barbois, minister of finance, to announce that he was thinking of selling Louisiana to the United States for 50 million livres.  Bonaparte was contemplating the inevitable, coming war with Great Britain and the need for money to finance it.  And why did France need Louisiana?  To supply the provisions for Saint-Domingue?  But France had already lost 50,000 men there – to the fighting and to the disease of yellow fever.  And Rochambeau wanted another 35,000 men!  Bonaparte could not afford to lose that many more men and more money to the quagmire of a war in Saint-Domingue – that could be used in the coming war against Britain, if France would simply cut their losses in Saint-Domingue.  And he knew that the first thing that Britain would do overseas, would be to seize Louisiana.

Note: Bonaparte’s sister, Pauline, arrived back in France on January 1st 1803, and after spending several weeks in quarantine, she arrived at Paris on February 11th, along with the full story of Leclerc’s death and of the dire situation at Saint-Domingue.  And at that time, it was also learned that on April 7th General Toussaint had died in his Jura prison.

Pierre Laussat had been appointed and sent by Bonaparte, as interim governor of Louisiana, to prepare the transfer of Louisiana from Spanish control to the French administrators, and arrived at New Orleans on March 26th.  But now came news that the United States was planning to invade Louisiana to seize the isle of New Orleans!  And maybe ally themselves with the British, against the French!  Without New Orleans, Louisiana would be worthless – while selling New Orleans and Louisiana to the Americans would keep them from becoming allies with the British.  Besides, a victorious France could have all the colonies in the world that it wanted, after it had defeated Britain.

Not to be outdone however, the British ambassador, Whitworth was offering up to 2 million francs as bribes, to both Joseph and Lucien Bonaparte, as well as to Talleyrand, if they would persuade the first Consul against war and to prolong the peace.  Talleyrand was convinced that the key to war or peace (and their continuing bribes) was Louisiana, and they argued against its cession and tried to persuade Bonaparte to change his mind.

The British, like Talleyrand, realized that Louisiana kept the Americans confined to the eastern half of the continent (and earlier plots to separate the western states from the union could be started again!), and prolonging the peace gave them more time to prepare for war.  The British Empire’s plan was, in case of war with France, to seize Louisiana, and the Empire would surround the United States – from Canada, through Louisiana, to New Orleans!!!

On April 15th, Monroe and Livingston began bargaining with Marbois – the Americans offering 40 million francs and Marbois claiming that Bonaparte was demanding 100 million francs (even though Bonaparte had earlier said 50 million).  On April 29th, the Americans then ‘proposed to offer 50 million to France & 20 on account of her debt to the citizens of the United States, making 70 in the whole’.  But Marbois ‘declared that he would not proceed in the negotiation on a less sum than 80 Million’.  Monroe and Livingston agreed to this offer, and on May 2nd the treaty was signed.

Of the treaty Livingston would say to Monroe and Marbois that ‘we have lived long, but this is the noblest work of our lives.’  But Bonaparte would say that ‘the sale assures forever the power of the United States, and I have given England a rival who will humble her pride’.

On May 3rd, the day after the Louisiana treaty was signed, the British ministry ordered its minister to France, Whitworth, to leave France unless France agreed to withdraw from Holland and agreed to British occupation for 10 years.  The American minister in London, Rufus King, quickly wrote to Monroe and Livingston that in case of war between Britain and France, that Britain intended to send a force and to occupy New Orleans!

On May 9th, Monroe and Livingston wrote to Rufus King in London, asking him to inform the British government that in case of war, that New Orleans and Louisiana had been ceded to the United States, and that British navigation rights on the Mississippi river had been preserved.

On May 13th, Monroe and Livingston wrote to Madison and sent him the treaty and two conventions that had been concluded with the French Republic for the purchase and cession of Louisiana.  They wrote that ‘before the negotiation commenced, we were apprised that the first Consul had decided to offer to the United States by sale the whole of Louisiana, & not a part of it.  We found in the outset that this information was correct; so that we had to decide as a previous question whether we would treat for the whole, or jeopardize, if not abandon the hope of acquiring any part.  On that point, we did not long hesitate, but proceeded to treat for the whole … We found, however, as we advanced in the negotiation, that Mr. Marbois was absolutely restricted to the disposition of the whole; that he would treat for no less portion, and of course that it was useless to urge it.  On mature consideration therefore, we finally concluded a Treaty on the best terms we could obtain for the whole.’

[It was most fortunate that they didn’t hesitate long.]

On May 16th, King George sent a message to parliament to announce a war with France.  With the outbreak of war, Britain launched an attack on the remaining French West India colonies.  The British squadron at Barbados, under Commodore Hood, forced the surrender of the French at Saint Lucia on June 22nd and at Tobago on July 1st.

In July, the British squadron at Jamaica, under Admiral Duckworth, cruised around the island of Saint-Domingue to capture any French ships, and also blockaded the ports of Cap Francois and Mole Saint Nicolas to prevent any supplies from reaching the French forces.  The Saint-Domingue forces under Dessalines now attacked the French army, forcing Rochambeau to retreat from the interior back to the coast, where he faced the British navy that was bombarding the French positions.

On November 30th, having no supplies left, Rochambeau finally agreed to surrender to the British navy – the remaining 8000 French troops were sent to Jamaica and 10,000 French refugee planters were sent to Cuba.  France had lost almost 50,000 troops to war and yellow fever at Saint-Domingue!

At Gonaives, Dessalines and his generals met and decided to change the name of Saint-Domingue to Haiti – the original Arawak name, and to make Dessalines governor for life.  On January 1st 1804, Haiti declared its independence from France – becoming the second republic in the Americans.

[Unfortunately, General Toussaint was not there to lead the reconstruction of the new nation’s economy.]

Early manuscript copy of the Haitian declaration of independence. Photograph by (c) Philippe Girard.

27. The News of the Louisiana Purchase, July 4th 1803

On April 19th, Yrujo was finally able to write to Madison that he had just received documents from Spain in a warship dispatched solely for that purpose (a March 1st dispatch from Cevallos to Morales) and that he sees confirmed all the assurances he gave on previous occasions regarding the intendant’s orders rescinding the right of deposit at New Orleans.  The king has ordered that the deposit be continued until the two governments come to an agreement about another location.  So that this decree may be effected promptly, suitable orders have been communicated to the intendant and captain general of Louisiana.  (Yrujo asked Madison to forward the dispatch to Morales at New Orleans!)  On May 17th, Morales issued a proclamation to re-open the right to deposit for the Americans.  News of the proclamation was published in the National Intelligencer in Washington City on June 2nd.

On June 25th, after receiving letters from Monroe and Livingston, Madison wrote a private letter to Monroe that ‘the purchase of the country beyond the Mississippi was not contemplated in your powers because it was not deemed at this time within the pale of probability … it is presumed that the defect will not be permitted either by yourself or by the French government to embarrass much less could suspend your negotiations on the enlarged scale and on that calculation with the momentary hope of further information from you no additional powers are forwarded.’

And concerning the Floridas, Madison wrote that ‘should the proposition you had concluded to make be accepted, your fund will be exhausted and the question will arise as to the Floridas and a trip to Madrid.  The President concurs in the opinion that it will be best to take time for deciding this question.  The Floridas can easily be acquired especially in case of a war, and perhaps by arrangements involving little or no money.  According to our latest accounts from England, the match was ready to be put to the train laid for war … The deposit at New Orleans was re-established within an hour after the arrival of the orders from Spain.  Aided by the hope from your negotiations, it will give general & lively satisfaction …’

Rufus King left Britain and sailed for the United States on May 18th, and arrived at New York on July 2nd – bringing the news of the American purchase of Louisiana – no one yet knew the extent or the price of the purchase!    President Jefferson received the news on July 3rd and announced it to the nation the next day, at the celebrations for the Fourth of July, held at Washington City.   (The official letter from Monroe and Livingston arrive on July 14th.)

After the ‘confidential’ appropriation was made by Congress, Meriwether Lewis had left Washington City on March 15th, and traveled to Harper’s Ferry, to the United States Army’s arsenal, to obtain arms and ammunition for the expedition, and to supervise the construction of a collapsible iron-frame boat.  On April 19th, he arrived at Lancaster to study with Andrew Ellicott, learning how to make celestial observations, using a sextant, a chronometer and other instruments.  On May 7th, he traveled to Philadelphia to continue his celestial studies with Robert Patterson.  While in Philadelphia, he studied with some of the leading American scholars and professors – Dr. Benjamin Rush (medicine), Dr. Benjamin Barton (botany) and Dr. Caspar Wistar (anatomy and fossils), before returning to Washington City by the middle of June.

On June 19th, Lewis wrote to his old commander, William Clark, then living at Clarksville, in the Indiana Territory, offering him a co-command of the expedition, and telling him that he’d be in Clarksville to meet him by August 10th.  By July 4th, Lewis had finally completed all his preparations and was ready to leave, when news arrived that same day, that Bonaparte had sold Louisiana to the United States.  On July 5th he left for Pittsburgh to prepare for the first part of his expedition – travelling down the Ohio river to the Mississippi, and St. Louis.

On July 5th, in the New-York Evening Post, General Hamilton would immediately write of his endorsement of the Louisiana purchase, that ‘at length the business of New-Orleans has terminated favourably to this country.  Instead of being obliged to rely any longer on the force of treaties, for a place of deposit, the jurisdiction of the territory is now transferred to our hands and in future the navigation of the Mississippi will be ours unmolested.  This, it will be allowed is an important acquisition, not, indeed, as territory, but as being essential to the peace and prosperity of our Western country, and as opening a free and valuable market to our commercial states.’

He also added his opinion of the Jefferson administration that ‘this purchase has been made during the period of Mr. Jefferson’s presidency, and, will, doubtless, give eclat to his administration.  Every man, however, possessed of the least candor and reflection will readily acknowledge that the acquisition has been solely owing to a fortuitous concurrence of unforeseen and unexpected circumstances, and not to any wise or vigorous measures on the part of the American Government.  As soon as we experienced from Spain a direct infraction of an important article of our treaty, in withholding the deposit of New-Orleans, it afforded us justifiable cause of war, and authorized immediate hostilities.  Sound policy unquestionably demanded of us to begin with a prompt, bold and vigorous resistance against the injustice: to seize the object at once; and having this vantage ground, should we have thought it advisable to terminate hostilities by a purchase, we might then have done it on almost our own terms.  This course, however, was not adopted, and we were about to experience the fruits of our folly …’

He wrote concerning the real reasons for France to cede Louisiana, that ‘on the part of France the short interval of peace had been wasted in repeated and fruitless efforts to subjugate St. Domingo; and those means which were originally destined to the colonization of Louisiana, had been gradually exhausted by the unexpected difficulties of this ill-starred enterprise.  To the deadly climate of St. Domingo, and to the courage and obstinate resistance made by its black inhabitants are we indebted for the obstacles which delayed the colonization of Louisiana, till the auspicious moment, when a rupture between England and France gave a new turn to the projects of the latter, and destroyed at once all her schemes as to this favourite object of her ambition …’

‘It was made known to Bonaparte, that among the first objects of England would be the seizure of New-Orleans, and that preparations were even then in a state of forwardness for that purpose.  The First Consul could not doubt, that if an English fleet was sent thither, the place must fall without resistance; it was obvious, therefore, that it would be in every shape preferable that it should be placed in the possession of a neutral power; and when, besides, some millions of money, of which he was extremely in want, were offered him, to part with what he could no longer hold, it affords a moral certainty, that it was to an accidental state of circumstances, and not to wise plans, that this cession, at this time, has been owing …’

‘The real truth is, Bonaparte found himself absolutely compelled by situation, to relinquish his darling plan of colonising the banks of the Mississippi: and thus have the Government of the United States, by the unforeseen operation of events, gained what the feebleness and pusillanimity of its miserable system of measures could never have acquired.  Let us then, with all due humility, acknowledge this as another of those signal instances of the kind interpositions of an over-ruling Providence, which we more especially experienced during our revolutionary war, & by which we have more than once, been saved from the consequences of our errors and perverseness …’

‘Provided therefore we have not purchased it too dear, there is all the reason for exultation which the friends of the administration display, and which all Americans may be allowed to feel …’

Note: Compare this to Hamilton’s letter to Pickering on March 27th 1798 – ‘If Spain would cede Louisiana to the United States I would accept it, absolutely if obtainable absolutely, or with an engagement to restore if it cannot be obtained absolutely.’ Also, during the Quasi-war, Hamilton established a ‘reserve corps’ to seized New Orleans and the lower Mississippi river valley in the event of war with France.

On July 9th, President Jefferson wrote to Gallatin and enclosed an amendment to the constitution that he had written and that he wished to propose to Congress when they reconvened, in order to be able to incorporate Louisiana into the United States; and also to have the authority to exchange Indian lands on the east side of the Mississippi, for lands of the white inhabitants on the west side.

Note:  In 1791, in Secretary of State Jefferson’s Opinion on the Constitutionality of a National Bank, he wrote ‘consider the foundation of the Constitution as laid on this ground: That “all powers not delegated to the United States, by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States or to the people.”  To take a single step beyond the boundaries thus specially drawn around the powers of Congress, is to take possession of a boundless field of power, no longer susceptible of any definition.’

President Jefferson had been described as a strict interpreter of the Constitution, in order to prevent the federal government from having too much power – in reality, he was a literalist, but as a way of asserting state rights over federal rights.

In Hamilton’s Opinion on the Constitutionality of a National Bank, he writes ‘that every power vested in a government is in its nature sovereign, and includes, by force of the term, a right to employ all the means requisite and fairly applicable to the attainment of the ends of such power, and which are not precluded by restrictions and exceptions specified in the Constitution, or not immoral, or not contrary to the essential ends of political society … It is not denied that there are implied as well as express powers, and that the former are as effectually delegated as the latter … It will not be doubted, that if the United States should make a conquest of any of the territories of its neighbors, they would possess sovereign jurisdiction over the conquered territory.  This would be rather a result, from the whole mass of the powers of the government, and from the nature of political society, than a consequence of either of the powers specially enumerated …’

‘It may be truly said of every government, as well as of that of the United States, that it has only a right to pass such laws as are necessary and proper to accomplish the objects entrusted to it. For no government has a right to do merely what it pleases … The degree in which a measure is necessary, can never be a test of the legal right to adopt it; that must be a matter of opinion, and can only be a test of expediency.  The relation between the measure and the end; between the nature of the mean employed toward the execution of a power, and the object of that power must be the criterion of constitutionality, not the more or less of necessity or utility.’

[i.e. ‘It’s the intention, stupid!’ – or, to properly rephrase an old saying – ‘Intention, not Necessity, is the mother of Invention!’]

On July 16th, President Jefferson issued a proclamation to recall Congress on October 17th since the treaty with France would need to be ratified within 6 months of its signing in Paris – by October 30th!

28. The Ratification of the Louisiana Treaty, October 20th, 1803

However, on August 18th, President Jefferson wrote to Madison that he had just received a (June 2nd) letter from Livingston who wrote that Bonaparte was ‘less pleased’ with the treaty now, and that ‘if he could conveniently get off he would’ because he insists that ‘our whole debt does not exceed four millions and that we have got twenty’ and that ‘if the stock is not delivered in the time prescribed the treaty is void’.

Livingston warned that ‘you will see the object of this is to guard you against any delays but above all against any change in the form of the ratification, for be assured that the slightest pretense will be seized to undo the work … it is necessary you should know this.  It is equally necessary that those who oppose the administration should not know it as it will be a trump card in their hands’.

Livingston blamed Talleyrand, who had wanted that instead of Marbois, that he had negotiated the treaty, (and also had taken more bribes).  He wrote that ‘this has not been forgiven by … (Talleyrand) and I doubt not that every possible objection and insinuation has been made use of to disgust the first Consul with it’.

The President wrote Madison that ‘I infer that the less we say about constitutional difficulties respecting Louisiana the better, and that what is necessary for surmounting them must be done sub silentio.’

[The constitutional amendment (as well as his principles) got thrown out the window – because of necessity !?!]

To complicate matters, Madison received two letters from Yrujo (on September 4th and 27th) that insisted that France did not have the power ‘to sell or alienate’ the province of Louisiana ‘without the approbation of Spain’.  Madison replied on October 4th that he had a (May 4th) letter from Cevallos that ‘the United States can address themselves to the French government to negotiate the acquisition of territories which may suit their interest.’  That same day, at a cabinet meeting with President Jefferson, it was unanimously agreed that the United States would take forcible possession of New Orleans if Spain refused, and that a force should be prepared ‘so as to have it ready the moment Congress authorises it’.

On October 17th, President Jefferson sent a message to Congress that he had recalled them earlier because ‘matters of great public concernment have rendered this call necessary … Congress witnessed, at their late session, the extraordinary agitation produced in the public mind by the suspension of our right of deposit at the port of New Orleans … but, reposing just confidence in the good faith of the Government whose officer had committed the wrong, friendly and reasonable representations were resorted to, and the right of deposit was restored …’

‘The enlightened government of France saw, with just discernment, the importance to both nations of such liberal arrangements as might best and permanently promote the peace, interests, and friendship of both; and the property and sovereignty of all Louisiana, which had been restored to them, has, on certain conditions, been transferred to the United States …’

On October 20th, the Senate (needing a 2/3 majority) gave their advice and consent to the treaty –  by a vote of 24 to 7, with only one ‘federalist’ senator (Dayton, New Jersey) voting in favor – including the two senators from Ohio, that entered into the Union as the 17th state on March 1st 1803. (Louisiana would become the 18th state.)

Note: John Quincy Adams had been appointed the United States Senator from Massachusetts, in the spring of 1803.  ‘A series of unavoidable delays prevented the new Senator’s arrival at Washington in time to vote on the Louisiana treaties in the special session of Congress … he was the only Federalist member from New England in either house of Congress to support the acquisition of Louisiana.’

On October 22nd, the President sent a message to Congress to inform them that with the advice and consent of the Senate, the treaty and conventions made with France had been ratified, and that ‘some important conditions cannot be carried into execution, but with the aid of the Legislature; and that time presses a decision on them without delay’.

Senator Breckenridge (Kentucky) brought in a bill ‘to enable the President of the United States to take possession of the territories ceded by France to the United States, by the treaty concluded at Paris, on the 30th of April last, and for the temporary government thereof’ – employing any part of the Army and Navy, which he may deem necessary.

On October 26th, this bill passed by a vote of 26 to 6, (Adams voting nay) and it was sent to the House, amended, and passed by both houses on October 31st.

On October 24th, the debate on Louisiana began in the House of Representatives, when R. Griswold (Connecticut) proposed a resolution that the President provide the House with a copy of the treaty between France and Spain of October 1st 1800; a copy of the deed of cession conveying Louisiana from Spain to France; any correspondence between the United States and Spain that showed Spain’s assent or dissent to the purchase; and any documents in any department that showed whether the United States had, in fact, acquired any title to Louisiana.

Mitchill (New York) argued that ‘graver subjects demanded our immediate attention, and there might be danger in delay.  The operation of the resolution, if adopted, would certainly be to procrastinate and embarrass …’

Randolph (Virginia) wondered ‘how are we to reconcile this reluctant caution to the doctrine of forcible possession … At one time it was necessary to possess ourselves of the key of the Mississippi, on any terms, and in any way.  There was no waiting to examine into the title of other nations, or scarcely into our own.  The Mississippi must be had at every hazard, and in any mode.  Now that it was offered to us, gentlemen can devise no mode of getting it …’

But Goddard (Connecticut) pointed out that ‘is it … of no importance to learn whether or not France has a good title?  Are we to be satisfied with the mere declaration of France to this effect?  Suppose we pay France the fifteen millions, and Spain afterwards demands the territory, and we call on France to refund the money – France will assuredly say, you made the purchase with your eyes open, we recited to you the title under which we ceded the territory, and you accepted it at your peril …’  The resolution was narrowly defeated 59 to 57, even though the ‘republicans’ controlled over three-fourths of the House.

On October 25th, the debate began on the treaty’s constitutionality, when G. Griswold (New York) asked ‘where was to be found the Constitutional power of the Government to incorporate the territory, with the inhabitants thereof, in the Union of the United States’ (i.e. article #3) and he contended that ‘the power to incorporate new territory did not exist.’

Elliot (Vermont) stated that ‘it is a rule of law, that in order to ascertain the import of a contract, the evident intention of the parties, at the time of forming it, is principally to be regarded … if the treaty be extremely pernicious, or has not been made by sufficient authority, or has been made for unjust purposes, it is void by the laws of nation.’

Griswold (Connecticut) replied that the reason why he was opposed to the treaty was that ‘a new territory and new subjects may undoubtedly be obtained by conquest and by purchase; but neither the conquest nor the purchase can incorporate them into the Union.  They must remain in the condition of colonies, and be governed accordingly … the vast and unmanageable extent which the accession of Louisiana will give to the United States; the consequent dispersion of our population, and the destruction of that balance which is so important to maintain between the Eastern and the Western States, threatens, at no very distant day, the subversion of our Union …’

Rodney (Delaware) stated that ‘by the Constitution, Congress have power to … provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States.  To provide for the general welfare! … I cannot perceive why, within the fair meaning of this general provision is not included the power of increasing our territory, if necessary for the general welfare or common defense …’

Mitchill (New York) pointed out that ‘we are constantly in the practice of receiving territory by cession from the red men of the West, the aborigines of our country … and the sovereignty acquired by treaty or purchase to our Government was derived from the title which the natives transferred to them as grantees in a fair bargain and sale’.

The House resolved, by a vote of 90 to 25, that a provision ought to be made for carrying into effect the treaty.  Randolph brought in a bill ‘authorizing the creation of a stock to the amount of $11, 250,000 for the purpose of carrying into effect the convention of the 30th of April 1803, between the United States and the French Republic’ and it was passed by the House on October 29th, and passed by the Senate (Adams voting aye) on November 2nd.

In voting for the bill, Adams said that ‘when the country has been formally surrendered to us, when all the military posts are in our hands, and when all the troops, French or Spanish, have been embarked, what possible adverse conditions can there be to contend against ours?  Until all these conditions shall have been fulfilled on the part of France, neither the convention nor the bill before us requires the payment of money on ours; and we may safely trust the execution of the law to the discretion of the President of the United States … his own interest and the weight of responsibility resting upon him, are ample security to us, against any undue precipitation on his part, in the payment of money … and I see no purpose of utility that can be answered by postponing the determination on the passage of this bill …’

‘But it has been argued that the bill ought not to pass, because the treaty itself is an unconstitutional, or to use the words of the gentleman from Connecticut, an extra constitutional act … But, allowing even that this is a case for which the Constitution has not provided, it does not in my mind follow, that the treaty is a nullity, or its obligations, either on us or on France, must necessarily be cancelled.  For my own part, I am free to confess, that the third article and more especially the seventh, contain engagements placing us in a dilemma, from which I see no possible mode of extricating ourselves but by an amendment, or rather an addition to the constitution … Such is the public favor attending the transaction which commenced by the negotiation of this treaty, and which I hope will terminate in our full, undisturbed and undisputed possession of the ceded territory, that I firmly believe if an amendment to the Constitution, amply sufficient for the accomplishment of everything for which we have contracted, shall be proposed, as I think it ought, it will be adopted by the legislature of every state in the Union.  We can therefore fulfil our part of the conventions, and this is all that France has a right to require of us …’

Adams would meet with Madison on October 28th and again on December 9th, when he made a motion to appoint a committee ‘to inquire whether any … further measures may be necessary for carrying into effect the treaty between the United States and the French Republic’, where he intended to introduce an amendment to the Constitution that ‘Congress shall have the power to admit into the Union the inhabitants of any territory which has been or may be hereafter ceded to or acquired by the United States’, but only 2 other senators supported him, and the motion was defeated.  The ‘republicans’ felt there was no need for an amendment, but in truth, that ‘the tedious process of adopting an amendment could not be completed before the time within which the purchase money must be paid to France’.

On October 31st, Madison wrote to William Claiborne, governor of the Mississippi Territory, authorizing him and General James Wilkinson to hasten to New Orleans and to receive or take possession of Louisiana from the French Commissary, Pierre Laussat.  After receiving this letter, on December 1st, Claiborne left Natchez with 100 militia and sailed about 40 miles down the Mississippi to Fort Adams, where he met up with Wilkinson.

On December 8th, Claiborne wrote to Madison that yesterday he had received a letter from Laussat announcing the peaceful transfer of Louisiana from Spain to France, and urging the American commissioners to hasten their arrival so that he could convey the territory from France to the United States.  Claiborne and Wilkinson left the next day, with 200 militia and 450 regular army troops and arrived at New Orleans on December 17th.

On December 20th, Claiborne and Wilkinson wrote to Madison that ‘we have the satisfaction to announce to you, that the province of Louisiana was this day surrendered to the United States by the commissioner of France; and to add, that the flag of our country was raised in this city amidst the acclamation of the inhabitants’; and enclosed a proclamation by Claiborne that Congress had enacted that all military, civil, and judicial powers be vested and exercised as the President shall direct, and that the President had charged him with maintaining and protecting the inhabitants of Louisiana in the free enjoyment of their liberty, property, and religion; ‘and I do hereby exhort and enjoin all the inhabitants, and other persons within the said province, to be faithful and true to the allegiance to the United States, and obedient to the laws and authorities of the same, under full assurance that their just rights will be under the guardianship of the United States, and will be maintained from all force or violence from without or within.’  This news would reach Washington City on January 14th 1804.

On December 19th, the Senate received a bill that was passed by the House ‘giving effect to the laws of the United States within the territories ceded to the United States’ and on December 30th, Breckinridge (Kentucky) introduced a bill to divide Louisiana into two territories and to provide the territories with a temporary government.

On January 10th 1804, Adams (Massachusetts) made a motion to adopt the resolutions ‘that the people of the United States have never in any manner delegated to this Senate the power of giving its legislative concurrence to any act for imposing taxes upon the inhabitants of Louisiana without their consent’ and ‘that, by concurring in any act of legislation for imposing taxes upon the inhabitants of Louisiana without their consent, this Senate would assume a power unwarranted by the Constitution, and dangerous to the liberties of the people of the United States’.  The Senate voted against both resolutions by a vote of 22 to 4.

On January 24th, the Senate debated whether to include the Louisiana territories in the act of February 1803, that prohibited the importation of slaves into the United States.  While Jackson (Georgia) claimed that ‘slaves must be admitted into that territory, it cannot be cultivated without them’, and while Dayton (New Jersey) stated that ‘slavery must be tolerated, it must be established in that country, or it can never be inhabited’, Smith (Ohio) said that ‘I have traversed many of the settlements in that country.  I know that white men labour there – they are capable of cultivating it.’  Other southern senators favored banning the foreign importation of slaves but wished to keep the importation of slaves from other states within the United States.  Hillhouse (Connecticut) introduced an amendment that banned the bringing slaves into Louisiana ‘except by a citizen of the United States, removing into said territory for actual settlement’ that passed by 18 votes to 11.

Adams (Massachusetts) voted against the provisions introduced to prohibit and lessen slavery.  Although he said he was opposed to slavery, he was opposed to legislating at all for that country, that ‘this bill is to establish a form of government for the extensive country of Louisiana.  I have from the beginning been opposes to it – and I still am.  It is forming a government for that people without their consent and against their will.  All power in a republican government is derived from the people.  We sit here under their authority.  The people of that country have given no power or authority to us to legislate for them … the first thing Congress ought to have done in relation to that country, should have been to propose an amendment to the constitution, to the several states to authorize Congress to receive that country into the Union – we ought to have applied to the inhabitants of Louisiana to recognize our right to govern them.  This we ought to have done, and there is no doubt that the States and that territory would have given the authority before the next session.’  The bill to provide a government for Louisiana passed by 20 votes to 5.

On February 24th, President Jefferson signed into law ‘an act for laying and collecting duties on imports and tonnage within the territories ceded to the United States’ and on March 26th, President Jefferson signed into law ‘an act erecting Louisiana into two Territories and providing the Temporary Government thereof’.

Note: At that time, the estimated population of all of Louisiana was under 20,000 people: 8000 in New Orleans – 4000 whites (French, Spanish and Americans), 2700 slaves and 1300 free persons of colour; and 9500 in the rest of Louisiana (from the Arkansas river to the Missouri river) – 8000 whites and 1500 slaves.

On March 9th & 10th, another ceremony was conducted in St. Louis, to transfer ownership of Upper Louisiana from Spain to the French Republic, and to the United States.  Present as the chief official witness for the United States of America was Meriwether Lewis.

Ceremony to transfer control over Louisiana to America

After leaving Washington City on July 4th 1803, Lewis arrived at Pittsburgh on July 15th and checked on the arrival of his supplies from Philadelphia and the arrival of his arms and weapons from Harpers Ferry.  But he had to wait, because of the delay in the completion of his keel boat, that he had personally designed and that he now oversaw the construction of, until it was finally ready to sail on August 31st.  The expedition proceeded slowly due to the low level of the Ohio river and the need for portages and finally reached Louisville on October 15th.

At Louisville, Lewis met and shook hands with William Clark, who was living with his brother General George Rogers Clark.  Clark agreed to ‘cheerfully’ join in the undertaking and ‘partake of the dangers, difficulties, and fatigues’ and ‘anticipate the honors and rewards of the result of such an enterprise’.  They left Louisville on October 26th and arrived at the junction of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers on November 13th, where they remained a week, making measurements of the rivers and conducting celestial observations.

On November 20th, the expedition headed out into the Mississippi river and turned upstream, proceeding up the Mississippi river until it arrived at the U.S. army post at Kaskaskia, on the east side of the river, 60 miles south of St. Louis.  Lewis travelled by horseback to Cahokia, then crossed the river to reach St. Louis on December 8th and met the Spanish Lieutenant-governor of Upper Louisiana, Colonel Carlos Dehault Delassus.  But Delassus denied Lewis permission to travel up the Missouri river until the official transfer of sovereignty had occurred.  Lewis then crossed back to Cahokia, met up with Clark and the boat party and proceeded upstream a few miles to the mouth of Wood river – directly opposite the mouth of the Missouri river, where they made winter camp.

On March 9th, Colonel Delassus, acting as the representative for Spain, transferred Upper Louisiana to Captain Stoddard, the American representative, who was also acting as the agent for France.  The mostly French-Canadien population of St. Louis asked Stoddart if the French flag could fly for one night.  Stoddard agreed and the next day, March 10th, the transfer was made from France to the United States, and Stoddard assumed command as the governor of Upper Louisiana.

On May 21st, Captain Lewis and Captain Clark would begin their expedition up the Missouri river, with their Corps of Discovery – consisting of 3 sergeants and 22 privates, George Drouillard, a French-Canadien Metis interpreter, and York, Clark’s slave.

29. General Hamilton’s Defense of the Truth, February 14th – 15th, 1804

On February 13th, the New York State Supreme Court was meeting in the state capital of Albany, to hear Henry Coswell’s appeal for a new hearing, and one of Coswell’s attorneys was General Hamilton, who agreed to present his appeal, without fee.

Note: Henry Croswell had started a small ‘federalist’ news sheet, The Wasp, to counter-attack a small ‘republican’ news sheet, The Bee, run by Charles Holt, in Hudson, New York.  On September 9th 1802, Croswell repeated a charge that had also appeared in the New York Evening Post that Jefferson had paid James Callender to attack President Adams and his administration.  Croswell added that Jefferson had also paid Callender to attack General Washington, calling him ‘a traitor, robber, and perjurer’.

Although the ‘republicans’ opposed the Sedition Act, they were not opposed to targeting the press by using similar state laws.  On January 11th 1803, Croswell was arrested and charged with ‘being a malicious and seditious man, and of depraved mind and wicked and diabolical disposition, and deceitfully, wickedly and maliciously devising, contriving and intending, toward Thomas Jefferson, Esquire, President of the United States of America, to detract from, scandalize, traduce and vilify, and to represent him, the said Thomas Jefferson, as unworthy of the confidence, respect and attachment of the people of the said United States …’

The trial began on July 11th, with the Attorney General, Ambrose Spencer, prosecuting and with the Supreme Court Judge, Morgan Lewis, presiding.  Croswell’s attorney wished to bring Callender from Richmond, Virginia to testify on the truth of the allegations, but before this could be done, Callender died (mysteriously) on July 17th – he drowned in the James river, in 3 feet of water, apparently too drunk to be able to save himself.  The jury was instructed by Justice Lewis that they ‘were judges of the fact and not of the truth or intent of the publication’, and Croswell was found guilty.

The appeal began on February 13th with Spencer defending the charge to the jury that truth was irrelevant in a public trial, dismissing an opinion by former chief justice, John Jay, that the jury in a libel trial could consider the motives and facts of the case, and citing examples from English common law including the opinion of Lord Mansfield!  General Hamilton spoke for 6 hours over two days – February 14th and 15th, not as a defense of the freedom of the press (as some people have asserted) but speaking of the limits of freedom of the press.  He began his defense that ‘in speaking thus for the freedom of the press, I do not say there ought to be unbridled licence or that the characters of men who are good, will naturally tend eternally to support themselves.  I do not stand here to say that no shackles are to be laid on this licence.  I consider this spirit of abuse and calumny as the pest of society.’

Instead, General Hamilton spoke in defense of admitting truth as defense in libel cases – in defense of publishing the truth, but, most importantly, to use truth and freedom of the press to defend President Washington!

He continued that ‘I know the best of men are not exempt from the attacks of slander.  Though it pleased God to bless us with the first of characters (i.e. Washington), and though it has pleased God to take him from us, and this band of calumniators, I say, that falsehood eternally repeated would have effected even his name.  Drops of water in long and continued succession will wear out adamant.  This therefore cannot be endured.  It would be to put the best and the worst on the same level.  I contend for the liberty of publishing truth, with good motives, and for justifiable ends, even though it reflect on government, magistrates, or private persons.  I contend for it under the restraint of our tribunals – when this is exceeded, let them interpose and punish …’

[He was inferring that in a new trial, it should be the right of Croswell to prove the truth of his writing that Jefferson had paid Callender to slander General Washington – and that it may include the testimony of President Jefferson!!!]

General Hamilton next spoke to show that it is intention that must be considered in the crime, that ‘my definition of a libel is … a slanderous or ridiculous writing, picture, or sign, with a malicious or mischievous design or intent, towards government, magistrates, or individuals … when we come to investigate, every crime includes an intent.  Murder consist in killing a man with malice propense.  Manslaughter, in doing it without malice, and at the moment of an impulse of passion.  Killing may even be justifiable if not praise-worthy, as in defense of chastity about to be violated.  In these cases, the crime is defined, and the intent is always deemed the necessary ingredient … killing therefore is not a crime, but it becomes so in consequence of the circumstances annexed …’

‘The law contemplates the intent … it is impossible to separate a crime from the intent … It may, as a general and universal rule, be asserted, that the intention is never excluded in the consideration of a crime.  The only case resorted to, and which is relied on by the opposite side (for all the others are built upon it) to show a contrary doctrine, was a star chamber decision … Unless therefore it can be shown that there is some specific character of libel, that will apply in all cases, intent, tendency, and quality, must all be matters of fact for a jury.  There is therefore nothing which can be libel, independent of circumstances; nothing which can be so called in opposition to time and circumstances …’

‘This then is a decision, as we contend, that not only the intent, but the truth is important to constitute a crime, and nothing has been shown against it … Its being a truth is a reason to infer, that there was no design to injure another … falsehood must be the evidence of the libel … for, whether the truth be a justification, will depend on the motives with which it was published …’

‘Personal defects can be made public only to make a man disliked.  Here then it will not be excused: it might however be given in evidence to shew the libellous degree.  Still however it is a subject of enquiry.  There may be a fair and honest exposure.  But if he uses the weapon of truth wantonly; if for the purpose of disturbing the peace of families; if for relating that which does not appertain to official conduct, so far we say the doctrine of our opponents is correct.  If their expressions are, that libellers may be punished though the matter contained in the libel be true, in these I agree.  I confess that the truth is not material as a broad proposition respecting libels.  But that the truth cannot be material in any respect, is contrary to the nature of things.  No tribunal, no codes, no system can repeal or impair this law of God, for by his eternal laws it is inherent in the nature of things …’

General Hamilton continues to show the constitutionality of admitting truth as evidence, that ‘we find not only the intent, but the truth may be submitted to the jury, and that even in a justificatory manner.  This, I affirm, was on common law principles.  It would, however, be a long detail to investigate the applicability of the common law, to the constitution of the United States.  It is evident, however, that parts of it, use a language which refers to former principles … such is the general tenor of the constitution of the United States, that it evidently looks to antecedent law.  What is, on this point, the great body of the common law?  Natural law and natural reason applied to the purposes of society … What have the court done here?  Applied moral law to constitutional principles, and thus the judges have confirmed this construction of the common law, and therefore, I say, by our constitution it is said, the truth may be given in evidence … Never can tyranny be introduced into this country by arms; these can never get rid of a popular spirit of inquiry; the only way to crush it down is by a servile tribune.  It is only by the abuse of the forms of justice that we can be enslaved …’

General Hamilton would end his defense by again defending General Washington, that ‘it is desirable that there should be judicial grounds to send it back again to a jury.  For surely it is not an immaterial thing that a high official character should be capable of saying anything against the father of this country.  It is important to have it known to the men of our country, to us all, whether it be true or false; it is important to the reputation of him against whom the charge is made, that it should be examined.  It will be a glorious triumph for truth, it will be happy to give it a fair chance of being brought forward; an opportunity in case of another course of things, to say, that the truth stands a chance of being a criterion of justice …’

‘But the Attorney General has taken vast pains to celebrate Lord Mansfield’s character.  Never till now did I hear that his reputation was high in republican estimation; never till now did I consider him as a model for republican imitation.  I do not mean however to detract from the fame of that truly great man, but only conceived his sentiments were not those fit for a republic.’

At the end of May, Judges Kent and Thompson agreed with General Hamilton’s argument and the need for a new trial, but Judge Lewis and Livingston disagreed – with a tie vote, the conviction stood.  Livingston had at first agreed with Kent (and Croswell was released on $500 bail and told to appear for a new trial at the next Circuit Court) but then he suddenly reversed his opinion and agreed with Lewis (who was running for Governor and did not wish this case to interfere with his chances) – Livingston would later be appointed to the United States Supreme Court by President Jefferson in November 1806.

Although the court ruled against a new trail, no attempt was ever made to punish Croswell for the guilty verdict in the original trial, and the matter was quietly dropped.  Van Ness, another member of the defense team and a member of the Assembly, introduced a bill modeled on General Hamilton’s speech.  In May 1805, the New York Legislature enacted a law allowing truth as a defense to a libel charge ‘where published with good motive for justifiable ends’ and so Croswell was awarded a new trial, but the prosecution never attempted to retry.

30. The New York Governor Election, April 24 – 26, 1804

While General Hamilton was speaking before the Court, on February 14th, a caucus of the ‘republican’ state legislators were also meeting in Albany to nominate George Clinton to be their candidate for Governor in the upcoming state elections.  But Clinton declined the nomination, having been assured that he would be accepted as the ‘republican’ candidate for vice-president, running with President Jefferson.

1804 was an election year – and the ‘republicans’ were anticipating the re-election of President Jefferson.  New York was a key battle ground in the election of 1800 and would be a battle ground of a different kind in 1804.

George Clinton had been New York’s Governor for 18 years from 1777 until 1795, when John Jay was twice elected governor before retiring from all public service.  In 1801, Clinton again was elected New York governor – defeating Stephen Van Rensselaer (who had been Jay’s Lieutenant-Governor and was Alexander Hamilton’s brother-in-law).  In 1803, DeWitt Clinton, nephew and secretary of George Clinton, was appointed mayor of New York City, and together with his uncle, controlled fifteen thousand civil and military patronage appointments.  DeWitt Clinton wished to have his aging 64-year-old uncle become the ‘republican’ vice-presidential candidate with Jefferson in 1804, and therefore wished to remove any potential rivals for his future control of the Clinton political machine in New York – which meant eliminating any support for Aaron Burr.

To attack Burr, DeWitt Clinton would use the newspaper ‘The American Citizen’, edited by James Cheetham.  President Jefferson was a subscriber to the American Citizen (as well as Hamilton’s New-York Evening Post) throughout his presidency, writing to Cheetham, on April 23rd 1802, that ‘I shall be glad to receive your daily paper by post, as usual … it is proper I should know what our opponents say and do; yet really make a matter of conscience of not contributing to the support of their papers.  I presume Coleman (i.e. editor of the Evening Post) sends you his paper, as I understand the printers generally do to one another.  I shall be very glad to pay you for it, & thus make my contribution go to the support of yours instead of his press.  If therefore, after using it for your own purposes you will put it under cover with your American Citizen to me, it shall be paid for always with yours’.

In June 1802, Cheetham published the pamphlet ‘A View of the Political Conduct of Aaron Burr’, accusing Burr of having secretly schemed to steal the presidential election away from Jefferson in 1800, and of plotting to gain ‘federalist’ support to run against Jefferson in 1804.  In October, Burr and his supporters answered Cheetham’s accusations by founding their own newspaper the Morning Chronicle, edited by Dr. Peter Irving; and by publishing their own pamphlet, ‘An Examination of the Various Charges Exhibited Against Aaron Burr, signed by Aristides’, that was written by William Van Ness.

Note: Peter Irving’s younger brother, Washington Irving, would write a series of letters – satires on the current culture of New York City, signed by Jonathan Oldstyle, that were printed in the Morning Chronicle in 1802-03.

After reading Aristides’ pamphlet, George Clinton wrote to the President to claim his innocence, because the pamphlet charged Clinton with expressing ‘sentiments highly derogatory to your political character and inconsistent with private friendship’.  On December 31st 1803, after also reading the pamphlet, President Jefferson answered that ‘little hints & squibs in certain papers had long ago apprised me of a design to sow tares between particular republican characters.  But to divide those by lying tales whom truths cannot divide, is the hackneyed policy of the gossips of every society’.

On January 26th 1804, Aaron Burr arranged for a meeting with President Jefferson in order to tell him (according to Jefferson’s Anas) that since becoming vice-president ‘those great families (i.e the Livingstons and Clintons) had become hostile to him … (and) he believed it would be for the interest of the republican cause for him to retire; that a disadvantageous schism would otherwise take place; but that were he to retire, it would be said he shrank from the public sentence, which he would never do; that his enemies were using my name to destroy him, and something was necessary from me to prevent and deprive them of that weapon, some mark of favor from me which would declare to the world that he retired with my confidence’.   Jefferson replied that ‘I had never interfered directly or indirectly with my friends or any others, to influence the election either for him or myself; that I considered it my duty to be merely passive … that in the election now coming on, I was observing the same conduct, held no councils with anybody respecting it, nor suffered anyone to speak to me on the subject, believing it my duty to leave myself to the free discussion of the public … (but) that I had myself contemplated his appointment to one of the great offices, in case he was not elected Vice-President …’

Further on, President Jefferson wrote that ‘I had never seen Colonel Burr till he came as a member of the Senate.  His conduct very soon inspired me with distrust.  I habitually cautioned Mr. Madison against trusting him too much … with these impressions of Colonel Burr, there never had been an intimacy between us, and little association.  When I destined him for a high appointment, it was out of respect for the favor he had obtained with the republican party, by his extraordinary exertions and successes in the New York election in 1800.’

[Jefferson was diplomatically washing his hands of Burr and was not having anything to do with his future.]

After Clinton had declined the nomination for governor, the ‘republican’ legislators in Albany met again the next day, on February 15th, and nominated John Lansing, New York State Chancellor, to be their candidate.

On February 16th, a group of leading ‘federalists’ in Albany, who were in such disarray that they had not fielded a candidate of their own, met to discuss what role, if any, they should play in the campaign for governor.

Being in Albany, General Hamilton attended the meeting and presented his ‘reasons why it is desirable that Mr. Lansing rather than Col. Burr should succeed’.  He spoke against the expected campaign of Burr for governor, that ‘Col. Burr has steadily pursued the track of democratic policies.  This he has done either from principle or from calculation.  If the former he is not likely now to change his plan, when the federalists are prostrate and their enemies predominant.  If the latter, he will certainly not at this time relinquish the ladder of his ambition and espouse the cause or views of the weaker party … The effect of his elevation will be to reunite under a more adroit, able, and daring chief the now scattered fragments of the democratic party … if Lansing is governor his personal character affords some security against pernicious extremes, and at the same time renders it morally certain, that the democratic party already much divided and weakened will smoulder and break asunder more and more …’

He touched on his real reason for opposing Burr – his fear of secession of New England from the Union, that ‘a further effect of his elevation by the aid of federalists will be to present to the confidence of New England a man already the man of the democratic leaders of that country, and towards whom the mass of the people have no weak predilection as their countryman – as the grandson of President Edwards, and the son of President Burr.’

Note: Aaron Burr’s father, Rev. Aaron Burr Sr. was born in Connecticut and was president of New Jersey College (later, Princeton University) 1748-57.  Burr’s mother, Esther Edwards, was also from Connecticut and was the daughter of Rev. Jonathan Edwards of the ‘Great Awakening’, who became president of New Jersey College, after the death of Burr Sr. in 1758.

He warned that ‘the ill opinion of Jefferson and jealousy of the ambition of Virginia is no inconsiderable prop of good principles in that country.  But these causes are leading to an opinion that a dismemberment of the Union is expedient.  It would probably suit Mr. Burr’s views to promote this result to be the chief of the northern portion and, placed at the head of the state of New York, no man would be more likely to succeed.’

A number of New England ‘federalists’ in Congress, called the ‘Essex Junto’, disillusioned from their defeat over the constitutionality of the Louisiana treaty, began discussing the idea of seceding from the Union.  But for their plan to work, they needed the agreement of New York – and so they sought out Burr as part of their plan.  While General Hamilton had not received any letters concerning this plan, he obviously knew what was being discussed – and his reason for opposing any federalist support for Burr!

30.1. Note on the plan for secession of New England

(from Pickering to Richard Peters on December 24th 1803) – ‘Although the end of all our Revolutionary labors and expectations is disappointment, and our fond hopes of republican happiness are vanity, and the real patriots of ’76 are overwhelmed by the modern pretenders to that character, I will not yet despair: I will rather anticipate a new confederacy, exempt from the corrupt and corrupting influence and oppression of the aristocratic Democrats of the South.  There will be – and our children at farthest will see it – a separation.  The white and black population will mark the boundary.  The British Provinces, even with the assent of Britain, will become members of the Northern confederacy.  A continued tyranny of the present ruling sect will precipitate that event.  The patience of good citizens is now nearly exhausted …’

Essex Junto leader George Cabot

(from Pickering to George Cabot, January 29th 1804) – ‘But when and how is a separation to be effected? … (if) federalism is crumbling away in New England, there is no time to be lost, lest it should be overwhelmed, and become unable to attempt its own relief.  Its last refuge is New England; and immediate exertion, perhaps, its only hope.  It must begin in Massachusetts.  The proposition would be welcomed in Connecticut; and could we doubt of New Hampshire?  But New York must be associated; and how is her concurrence to be obtained?  She must be made the center of the confederacy.  Vermont and New Jersey would follow of course, and Rhode Island of necessity … We suppose the British Provinces in Canada and Nova Scotia, at no remote period, perhaps without delay, and with the assent of Great Britain, may become members of the Northern League.  Certainly, that government can feel only disgust at our present rulers.  She will be pleased to see them crestfallen.  She will not regret the proposed division of empire.  If with her own consent she relinquishes her provinces, she will be rid of the charge of maintaining them; while she will derive from them, as she does from us, all the commercial returns which her merchants now receive.  A liberal treaty of amity and commerce will form a bond of union between Great Britain and the Northern confederacy highly useful to both …’

(from Pickering to Rufus King, March 4th 1804) – ‘The Federalists here in general anxiously desire the election of Mr. Burr to the chair of New York; for they despair of a present ascendancy of the Federal party.  Mr. Burr alone, we think, can break your Democratic phalanx; and we anticipate much good from his success.  Were New York detached (as under his administration it would be) from the Virginia influence, the whole Union would be benefited.  Jefferson would then be forced to observe some caution and forbearance in his measures.  And, if a separation should be deemed proper, the five New England States, New York, and New Jersey would naturally be united.  Among those seven states, there is a sufficient congeniality of character to authorize the expectation of practicable harmony and a permanent union, New York the centre …’

(from the journal of Plumer) – in the winter of 1803-04, Pickering, Hillhouse and Plumer dined with Burr, and that Hillhouse ‘unequivocally declared that it was his opinion that the United States would soon form two distinct governments’; that ‘Burr conversed very freely on the subject … and the impression made on his mind was, that Burr not only thought a separation would not only take place but that it was necessary’.  He further wrote that ‘yet, on returning to my lodgings and critically analyzing his words, there was nothing in them that committed him in any way.’

Aaron Burr- leader of the Essex Junto

The question arises as to how Pickering knew that Britain would assent to ceding her North American colonies to a northern confederacy.  Meetings among New England ‘federalist’ congressmen to discuss secession (beginning by at least December 1803) must have included Anthony Merry, the British minister to the United States.  This became the future plan of the British Empire – to use Canada as part of the plan to split the United States.

On February 18th, fifteen dis-satisfied ‘republicans’ met and nominated Burr as their candidate for governor.  Although the number of Burr’s supporters was much smaller than those of Lansing, they had hoped to gather support from the dismayed ‘federalists’.  Adding to the turmoil, that evening, after having been ordered to issue a statement that he would be a model republican for his three-year term as governor (i.e. be obedient to DeWitt Clinton), Lansing withdrew his name from the race – not wishing to lose his independence.  The next day, the ‘republicans’ now nominated as candidate for governor, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Morgan Lewis – who had presided over the Croswell trial and who had heard the appeal for a new trial from General Hamilton!

And on February 25th, a caucus of ‘republicans’ in Congress met to nominate their candidates for president – President Jefferson won unanimously, and for vice-president – George Clinton won with 67 votes over John Breckinridge with 21 votes, while Burr received not one vote – showing his ouster from the ‘republican’ party.

On February 24th, General Hamilton wrote to Rufus King, that ‘you will have heard, before this reaches you, of the fluctuations and changes which have taken place in the measures of the reigning party, as to a candidate for Governor; and you will probably have also been informed that pursuant to the opinions professed by our friends, before I left New York, I had taken an open part in favour of Mr. Lansing …  but now that Chief Justice Lewis is the competitor, the probability of success in my judgment inclines to Mr. Burr … thus situated two questions have arisen.   1. – whether a federal candidate ought not to be run as a mean of defeating Mr. Burr and of keeping the federalists from becoming a personal faction allied to him.  2. – whether in the conflict of parties ⟨as⟩ they now stand, the strongest of them disconnected and disjointed, there would not be a considerable hope of success for a Federal candidate … it is agreed that if an attempt is to be made, You must be the candidate.’

King replied to Hamilton on March 1st that ‘after maturely reflecting upon the subject, and consulting one or two of our friends here, I am confirmed in the sentiment that I ought not to consent to be a candidate for the Governor.’  After that, General Hamilton would remain neutral and would not interfere in the election as it became a bitter battle between the Morning Chronicle (pro-Burr) and the American Citizen (pro-Clinton) newspapers.

Rufus King

Judge Kent later wrote in his memoirs of a meeting with General Hamilton on April 21st, shortly before the elections, that ‘the impending election exceedingly disturbed him, and he viewed the temper, disposition, and passions of the times as portentous of evil, and favorable to the sway of artful and ambitious demagogues.  His wise reflections, his sober views, his anxiety, his gentleness, his goodness, his Christian temper, all contributed to render my solitary visit inexpressibly interesting.  At that time he revealed to me a plan he had in contemplation, for a full investigation of the history and science of civil government, and the practical results of the various modifications of it upon the freedom and happiness of mankind.  He wished to have the subject treated in reference to past experience, and upon the principles of Lord Bacon’s inductive philosophy.  His object was to see what safe and salutary conclusions might be drawn from an historical examination of the effects of the various institutions heretofore existing, upon the freedom, the morals, the prosperity, the intelligence, the jurisprudence, and the happiness of the people.  Six or eight gentlemen were to be united with him in the work, according to his arrangement, and each of them was to take his appropriate part and to produce a volume … The conclusions to be drawn from these historical reviews, he intended to reserve for his own task, and this is the imperfect outline of the scheme which then occupied his thoughts.’

The New York elections took place over April 24th to 26th, and while Burr carried New York City, he could not carry the northern counties, losing the election – with 28,000 votes to 35,000 votes for Lewis.  According to the Evening Post, Burr lost because of Cheetham and the American Citizen and ‘the very extraordinary attacks on his private character, which were circulated with an industry and an expense hitherto unexampled’.  With the ‘republican’ Lewis as Governor, New York would again insure the election of Jefferson as president.

The plot for a northern confederacy was temporarily set back, but on May 2nd, the Evening Post reprinted an essay from the Boston Repertory, that the way to stop the aristocratical power of Virginia and the southern states was an amendment to the constitution that eliminated their representation in Congress for the three-fifths of its slave population.

Timothy Pickering of the Essex Junto

On June 20th, the Massachusetts General Court passed a ‘resolve for proposing an amendment to the constitution of the United States respecting an equal representation in Congress’ that ‘… whereas the said provisions have been rendered more injurious, by important political changes, introduced during the present administration, in the purchase of Louisiana, an extensive country, which will require great numbers of slaves for its cultivation, and when admitted into the Union, agreeably to the cession, will contribute by the number of its slaves, to destroy the real influence of the Eastern States in the National Government …’  This resolution was introduced in the United States Senate by Pickering on December 7th, where it was read and ordered to lie for consideration.

31. The Burr-Hamilton Duel, July 11th, 1804 

After France had ceded Louisiana to Claiborne and General Wilkinson for the United States, while still in New Orleans, Wilkinson met with Vincente Folch, the Spanish governor of Florida, and tried to collect on $20,000 in arrears he claimed Spain owed him for providing them with written reports and for promoting Spanish interests in the American west.  Wilkinson would eventually receive $12,000, and he would provide them with a written report – his ‘Reflections on Louisiana’.  Wilkinson also wrote another version of his ‘reflections’ for President Jefferson, and left in April 1804 to visit Washington City to advice the President on Louisiana (through his extensive travels through the southwest, Wilkinson knew more than anyone about the new territory); but also to learn what were the government’s plans for the future – and what information he could forward to the Spanish.

Arch spy and traitor Gen. Wilkinson

Note: A good picture of Wilkinson is that – ‘he almost always cut the cloth of his personal enterprises to fit the pattern of orders that he had received from the federal government.  Perhaps Washington, Adams and Jefferson understood his method, believing that he would never go so far as to commit open treachery, although he might use his office as an aid to fattening his purse’ – from Tarnished Warrior, by James Jacobs.

Arriving at New York, and before proceeding to Washington City, on May 23rd Wilkinson arranged to stay at Burr’s house that evening ‘if it can be done without observation or intrusion’.  There is no written record of what was discussed that night, but most probably Wilkinson explained that he had the Spanish problem taken care of – they were ready to believe anything that he told them, and that there was a ready opportunity for an enterprising man to lead an expedition into Spanish territory and to seize a large chunk of their empire.

[Also, perhaps the influence of the vice-president might be used to secure the appointment of Wilkinson as the Governor of the Louisiana Territory.]

Note: A good approximation of Wilkinson’s plan can be shown in a letter from Andrew Ellicott to Secretary of State, Pickering on November 14th 1798.  Ellicott had been commissioned by President Washington in 1796 to survey the southern border of the United States with Spain.  In the letter, Ellicott was complaining that General Wilkinson and others received annual stipends from Spain, and that ‘the first object of these plotters is to detach the States of Kentucky and Tennessee from the union and place them under the protection of Spain … the design of detaching the western country from the union is but a small part of the general plan which is very extensive and embraces objects of immense magnitude; nevertheless, to ensure success, this point must be first carried; which being effected and by the system of promotion adopted by the court of Madrid, Governor (of Louisiana) Gayoso will be at Quito and the Baron Carondelet at Mexico about the same time: so soon as this arrangement takes place or sooner if the necessary officers can be corrupted a general insurrection will be attempted, and cannot fail of success if the first part succeeds.  General Wilkinson is to proceed from Kentucky with a body of troops through the country by the way of the Illinois into New Mexico which will be a central position – the route has been already explored.  Nine tenths of the officers of the Louisiana regiment are at this time corrupted and the officers of the Mexican regiment which is now in this country are but little better.  The apparent zeal of the Spanish officers on the Mississippi for the dignity of the Crown, is only intended to cover their designs till the great plan which is the establishment of a new empire is brought to maturity …’

While contemplating Wilkinson’s plan, Burr received another visitor, his friend Charles Williamson.  Williamson had been the agent for the Pulteney Associates – owners of over 1 million acres in the Genesee valley in western New York, and was transferring his responsibility to Robert Troup, and was preparing for his new career in the British Diplomatic Service – thanks to his friend, Henry Dundas.  Williamson’s assignment was to recruit recent arrivals to the United States from Britain for an enterprise against the French island possessions in the West Indies; and (if Spain joined with France in the war against Britain) possibly for attacks against Spanish possessions in Florida and Mexico.  Burr and Williamson probably discussed merging the two plans, and Williamson would try to persuade the British government to back this enterprise.  But they needed a war with Spain for their plan to succeed, (and perhaps, Burr could become the leader of a national army to fight the Spanish!)

Charles Williamson

But there was one problem with his plan that Burr foresaw would occur – the reaction of General Hamilton, who had been the senior ranking officer in the Provisional Army, and would be, in case of a war.  Burr decided that he would demand an answer from General Hamilton regarding remarks that he had made against Burr, and if General Hamilton were to write a humble apology, it would destroy his remaining influence with the ‘federalists’ in New York, and would remove his leadership from a national army in opposing the threat of secession of the northern or the western states.

Burr chose a letter from Dr. Charles Cooper, that had appeared in the Albany Register on April 24th, that referred to a dinner that he had attended in February, at the home of Judge Tayler (his father-in-law) with General Hamilton and others, and that read ‘I could detail to you a still more despicable opinion which General Hamilton has expressed of Mr. Burr.’

[Cheetham would later claim that three of Burr’s supporters had supposedly spent weeks combing newspapers for something that would entitle Burr to issue a challenge.  After all of the many attacks he had received from Cheetham in the American Citizen, Burr was offended by the word despicable – attributable to General Hamilton?]

Note: On April 12th, Cooper wrote to Andrew Brown that ‘you will receive some election papers … I presume that you will make use of them to the best advantage.  Have them dispersed and scattered as much as possible – the friends of Col. Burr are extremely active and will require all our exertion to put them down – it is believed that most of the reflecting Federalists will vote Lewis.  General Hamilton, the Patroon’s (Stephen Van Rensselaer) brother-in-law it is said has come out decidedly against Burr, indeed when he was here he spoke of him as a dangerous man and ought not to be trusted …’

(This letter was printed as an anonymous handbill.)

On April 21st, Philip Schuyler (General Hamilton’s father-in-law) wrote to the chairman of the Albany Federal Republican Committee that ‘having seen a letter subscribed with the name of Charles D. Cooper … making sundry assertions relative to the part that General Hamilton … and others would act in the approaching election: I think it proper to mention, that while Chancellor Lansing was considered as the candidate, General Hamilton was in favour of supporting him; but that after the nomination of Chief Justice Lewis, he declared to me that he would not interfere …’

Philip Schuyler

On April 23rd, Cooper responded to Schuyler in a letter that ‘admitting the letter published to be an exact transcript of the one intended for Mr. Brown, and which, it seems, instead of being delivered according to promise, was embezzled and broken open; I aver, that the assertions therein contained are substantially true, and that I can prove them by the most unquestionable testimony.  I assert that General Hamilton and Judge Kent have declared, in substance, that they looked upon Mr. Burr to be a dangerous man, and one who ought not to be trusted with the reins of government.  If, Sir, you had attended a meeting of federalists, at the city tavern, where General Hamilton made a speech on the pending election, I might appeal to you for the truth of so much of this assertion as relates to him … I could detail to you a still more despicable opinion which General Hamilton has expressed of Mr. Burr.’

(This letter was published in the Albany Register on April 24th – the  New York elections took place from April 24th to 26th.)

On April 25th, the New-York Evening Post criticized Cooper for ‘the most palpable falsehood and misrepresentation’; that he knew that ‘few or none of the reflecting Federalist would give their vote to Judge Lewis’; that General Hamilton had ‘repeatedly declared’ that he would not oppose the election of Colonel Burr in favor of Lewis ‘or any other candidate nominated by the prevailing tyrannical faction, after they drove the Honorable Chancellor Lansing to decline’; and that Cooper had been ‘personally told so in plain and pointed terms by a highly respected Federal character and near connection of General Hamilton (Schuyler).

Burr wrote to General Hamilton on June 18th – almost 2 months after the New York elections and the publishing of Cooper’s letter (to Schuyler)!  He asked for ‘a prompt and unqualified acknowledgment or denial of the use of any expressions which could warrant the assertion of Dr. Cooper’.

General Hamilton replied that ‘… I deem it inadmissible, on principle, to consent to be interrogated as to the justness of the inferences, which may be drawn by others, from whatever I may have said of a political opponent in the course of a fifteen years competition … I stand ready to avow or disavow promptly and explicitly any precise or definite opinion, which I may be charged with having declared of any gentleman.  More than this cannot fitly be expected from me; and especially it cannot reasonably be expected, that I shall enter into an explanation upon a basis so vague as that which you have adopted’.

However, Burr insisted in an answer that ‘… the common sense of mankind affixes to the epithet adopted by Dr. Cooper the idea of dishonor: it has been publicly applied to me under the sanction of your name. The question is not whether he has understood the meaning of the word or has used it according to syntax and with grammatical accuracy, but whether you have authorized this application either directly or by uttering expressions or opinions derogatory to my honor’.

General Hamilton replied with the same reasoning that ‘… if by a “definite reply” you mean the direct avowal or disavowal required in your first letter, I have no other answer to give than that which has already been given.  If you mean any thing different admitting of greater latitude, it is requisite you should explain’.

Burr now replied that ‘…at the close of your letter I find an intimation, that if I should dislike your refusal to acknowledge or deny the charge, you were ready to meet the consequences … yet, as you had also said something … of the indefiniteness of my request; as I believed that your communication was the offspring, rather of false pride than of reflection, and, as I felt the utmost reluctance to proceed to extremities while any other hope remained, my request was repeated in terms more definite.  To this you refuse all reply, reposing, as I am bound to presume on the tender of an alternative insinuated in your letter.  Thus, Sir, you have invited the course I am about to pursue, and now by your silence impose it upon me’.

Burr continued to insist on a ‘general disavowal’ that General Hamilton had ever intended to impugn his honor in any letter or conversation – something that General Hamilton could not do without appearing to be a coward and liar in the eyes of every man that he had written to or talked to, concerning his principled opposition to Burr.  As Burr had written in his second letter that ‘I relied with unsuspecting faith that from the frankness of a soldier and the candor of a gentleman I might expect an ingenuous declaration’, he was not only challenging him as a ‘public opponent’, but also as a ‘soldier’.

Note: General Hamilton’s distrust of Burr originated in his admiration and dedicated defense of General Washington.

When General Washington court-martialled General Charles Lee in 1778, Burr wrote a letter to the court-martial defending Lee.  Burr became associated with a minority of the officers who disliked and disparaged General Washington’s ability and leadership.  In November 1783, after the British had finally evacuated New York, General Washington said farewell to his officers – but Burr was not invited to attend.  In December 1783, when General Washington was elected President of the Society of the Cincinnati, some officers refused to join – including Burr.

In 1798, during the Quasi-war with France, Burr was nominated as brigadier-general, but was rejected by General Washington who considered him as too prone to intrigue.  General Washington may also have heard the rumours of Burr’s private opinion of him as ‘a man of no talents’ who ‘could not spell a sentence of common English’.

After General Washington’s death, Burr would join the Society of Cincinnati in 1803, at the time that he was courting ‘federalist’ support for his candidacy for governor, and was being courted for his support for the northern confederacy plot.

On June 28th, General Hamilton began writing ‘some remarks explanatory of my conduct, motives and views’ that ‘… my religious and moral principles are strongly opposed to the practice of duelling, and it would even give me pain to be obliged to shed the blood of a fellow creature in a private combat forbidden by the laws … I am conscious of no ill-will to Col. Burr, distinct from political opposition, which, as I trust, had proceeded from pure and upright motives.  Lastly, I shall hazard much, and can possibly gain nothing by the issue of the interview (i.e. the duel) … I have resolved, if our interview is conducted in the usual manner, and it pleases God to give me the opportunity, to reserve and throw away my first fire, and I have thoughts even of reserving my second fire – and thus giving a double opportunity to Col. Burr to pause and effect.  It is not however my intention to enter into any explanations on the ground.  Apology, from principle I hope, rather than pride, is out of the question.’

General Hamilton would end his thoughts with the true reason for accepting Burr’s challenge, that ‘to those, who with me abhorring the practice of duelling, may think that I ought on no account to have added to the number of bad examples – I answer that my relative situation, as well in public as private aspects, enforcing all the considerations which constitute what men of the world denominate honor, impressed on me (as I thought) a peculiar necessity not to decline the call.  The ability to be in future useful, whether in resisting mischief or effecting good, in those crises of our public affairs, which seem likely to happen, would probably be inseparable from a conformity with public prejudice in this particular.’

[by ‘resisting mischief’, General Hamilton was referring to the part he would be called upon to play in stopping the threat of northern secession.]

On July 10th, in what would be his last letter, General Hamilton wrote to Sedgwick that ‘I have had in hand for some time a long letter to you, explaining my view of the course and tendency of our politics, and my intentions as to my own future conduct.  But my plan embraced so large a range that owing to much avocation, some indifferent health, and a growing distaste for politics, the letter is still considerably short of being finished.  I write this now to satisfy you, that want of regard for you has not been the cause of my silence.  I will here express but one sentiment, which is, that dismemberment of our empire will be a clear sacrifice of great positive advantages, without any counterbalancing good; administering no relief to our real disease; which is democracy, the poison of which by a subdivision will only be the more concentrated in each part, and consequently the more virulent.’

[General Hamilton had agreed to attend a meeting in Boston in the fall where the proposition of secession would be debated by representatives from all of the New England states.]

Since duelling was illegal in New York, but legal in New Jersey, the duel was set for Wednesday, July 11th across the river from New York at the duelling ground at Weehawken, New Jersey and they would use John Church’s duelling pistols – the same place where, in 1801, Philip Hamilton had fought (and died), and had used the same pistols.  Burr came with his second, Willian Van Ness, and General Hamilton was accompanied by his second, Nathaniel Pendleton, and with Dr. Hosack.

When all was ready, both men leveled their pistols, and as General Hamilton pointed his pistol upward, Burr fired, hitting General Hamilton above the hip on his right side, that caused his pistol to fire as he fell forward.  He was rowed back to New York, and brought to the home of his friend, William Bayard, where he lay until he died the next afternoon.

American politician Aaron Burr (1756 – 1836) fatally wounds Alexander Hamilton (1757 – 1804) with a shot from his pistol during a duel in Weehawken, New Jersey, July 11, 1804. Former Secretary of the Treasury Hamilton and Burr, who served as Vice President under Thomas Jefferson, were personal and political rivals for several decades, from Burr’s 1791 defeat of Hamilton’s uncle for a seat in the US Senate to Hamilton’s 1804 public slandering of Burr’s character at a political dinner. When Hamilton refused to recant his injurious statements, Burr challenged him to the fatal duel. (Photo by Kean Collection/Getty Images)

General Hamilton’s funeral took place on July 14th, and New York’s Common Council decided to shut down all business that day and that the funeral would be at public expense.  The procession was led by New York’s 6th Regiment of Militia and by members of the Society of the Cincinnati to Trinity Church, where Gouverneur Morris gave the oration.

While being attacked by both the ‘federalist’ and ‘republican’ newspapers, and not wanting to wait until the coroner’s jury indicted him for murder, on the night of July 21st, Burr boarded a boat and was rowed to Perth Amboy, in New Jersey, and then made his way to Philadelphia to stay with friends, and to again meet with Williamson (!) before he was to sail back to Britain.

Williamson would meet with Anthony Merry, the British ambassador, who wrote to the British Foreign Secretary, Lord Harrowby, on August 6th, that ‘I have just received an offer from Mr. Burr, the actual vice president  of the United States (which situation he is about to resign) to lend his assistance to His Majesty’s Government in any manner in which they may think fit to employ him, particularly in endeavouring to effect a separation of the western part of the United States from that which lies between the Atlantic and the mountains, in its whole extant. – His propositions on this and other subjects will be fully detailed to your Lordship by Col. Williamson who has been the bearer of them to me, and who will embark for England in a few days. – It is therefore only necessary for me to add that if, after what is generally known of the profligacy of Mr. Burr’s character, His Majesty’s Ministers should think proper to listen to his offer, his present situation in this country where he is now cast off as much by the democratic as by the federal party, and where he still preserves connections with some people of influence, added to his great ambition and spirit of revenge against the present administration, may possibly induce him to exert the talents and activity which he possesses with fidelity to his employers …’ !!!

On August 2nd, the coroner’s jury found Burr guilty of the misdemeanor of duelling and the felony of murder, but when it was sent to the Grand Jury, it dropped the murder charge (since it had happened in another state) and instead indicted Burr, Van Ness and Pendleton for participating in a duel.  Later, on October 23rd, he would be indicted for murder by a grand jury in Bergen county, New Jersey.

[On November 13th 1807, the indictment was quashed, since General Hamilton ‘did actually die in the City of New York in the State of New York, out of the jurisdiction of this state and a trial upon the said indictment would be totally ineffectual’.]

At the end of August, Burr then embarked on a journey south, with Samuel Swartwout, to stay with Pierce Butler at his plantation on Saint Simon’s island in Georgia, and for ten days they explored parts of Florida by horseback and canoe, before returning north to visit his daughter in South Carolina.  His reception in the southern states was different, he was ‘overwhelmed with all sorts of attention and kindness – presents are daily sent’.  While he was away, his house and furniture in New York City had been sold to satisfy his creditors.

Upon his return to Washington City, both Madison and Gallatin made a point of greeting him, and he would also be invited for dinner with the President.  On November 5th, he took his seat in the Senate, where he would stay – immune from subpoenas, until the end of this session of Congress and the end of his term as vice-president.

On March 2nd 1805, Burr gave his farewell speech to the Senate, and left Washington City before the inauguration of Thomas Jefferson for a second term as president, and also before his immunity from arrest expired.  Burr secretly travelled to Philadelphia where he held talks with British Minister Merry – about Burr’s plans to become the ‘Napoleon’ of a new empire – of Kentucky, Tennessee, Louisiana and Spanish Texas.

On April 10th, Burr left Philadelphia to travel to Pittsburgh, and by the first of May, he was travelling by boat down the Ohio river on his way to New Orleans, on his path of ‘treason in America’!

At the same time, Lewis and Clark were about to depart Fort Mandan – on their way to the source of the Missouri river and across the continental divide to the western ocean, on their path of great discovery for America!

32. The Discovery of the Western Ocean, November 17th 1805

On August 12th 1805, a large shipment arrived at President Jefferson’s residence in Washington City, that had been sent by Captain Meriwether Lewis and Captain William Clark from Fort Mandan, in the Louisiana territory, consisting of four boxes and one large trunk that contained 67 specimens of earths, salts and minerals, and 60 specimens of plants, to be presented to the Philosophical Society of Philadelphia; along with skeletons and furs of numerous animals; artifacts and clothes from the Mandan natives (some he kept and some he sent to Charles Peale’s museum); and three cages of live animals.  On April 7th Lewis and Clark had sent this shipment on their keelboat that was returning to St. Louis – to be forwarded to New Orleans and on to Washington City.

Earlier, on July 13th, President Jefferson had received the April 7th letter from Lewis describing the expedition as far as the Mandan villages, and a note detailing the contents of the shipment he would be receiving.  He also received Clark’s private journal of the expedition since leaving St. Louis; Clark’s map of the Missouri from St. Louis to Fort Mandan; along with dispatches for the Secretary of War containing ‘every information relative to the geography of the country which we possess, together with a view of the Indian nations, containing information relative to them, on those points with which, I conceived it important that the government should be informed’.

That same day, April 7th at Fort Mandan, Lewis wrote in his journal that ‘our vessels consisted of six small canoes, and two large pirogues.  This little fleet, although not quite so respectable as those of Columbus or Capt. Cook, were still viewed by us with as much pleasure as those deservedly famed adventurers ever beheld theirs; and I dare say with quite as much anxiety for their safety and preservation.  We were now about to penetrate a country at least two thousand miles in width, on which the foot of civilized man had never trodden; the good or evil it had in store for us was for experiment yet to determine, and these little vessels contained every article by which we were to expect to subsist or defend ourselves.  However, as this the state of mind in which we are, generally gives the coloring to events, when the imagination is suffered to wander into futurity, the picture which now presented itself to me was a most pleasing one.  Entertaining as I do, the most confident hope of succeeding in a voyage which had formed a darling project of mine for the last ten years, I could but esteem this moment of my departure as among the most happy of my life.’

Note: Captain Robert Gray was the first American to circumvent the globe in 1787–1790, during which he explored the north-west coast of North America, while on his trip to China.  On a return voyage to the north-west coast in 1790–1793, he explored the mouth of a great river, naming it the Columbia river – making a chart of the bay and taking measurements of the latitude and longitude.  Because of this discovery, Thomas Jefferson proposed to the American Philosophical Society of Philadelphia that a subscription be taken to engage an explorer to undertake an overland expedition to the Pacific – George Washington and Alexander Hamilton subscribed.  Meriwether Lewis had unsuccessfully solicited Jefferson ‘to obtain for him the execution of that object’.  The expedition was aborted in June 1793, when it was discovered that the man chosen, Andre Michaux, turned out to be an agent of the French republic – whose real mission was to raise an army of American militia to attack the Spanish possessions beyond the Mississippi.

The expedition was now to proceed from Fort Mandan to the headwaters of the Missouri river, then over the Rocky mountains to the Columbia river and the Pacific ocean.  During that winter at Fort Mandan, they had met and hired on as an interpreter another French-Canadien trader, Toussaint Charbonneau, who was living at the Hidatsa village with his wife Sacagawea – a Shoshone who had been captured by a Hidatsa raiding party.

By August 12th, Lewis and Clark had reached ‘the most distant fountain of the waters of the mighty Missouri’, crossed the Lemhi pass over the Beaverhead mountains, took the first steps on the western side of the continental divide, and finally met with the Shoshone natives.

[When Lewis and Clark met with the Shoshone, they would speak English to Private Labiche, who would translate it into French to Charbonneau, who would translate it into Hidatsa to Sacagawea, who would then translate it into Shoshone to Chief Cameahwait – who, most fortunately, turned out to be her brother.]

On August 18th at Camp Fortunate, Lewis wrote in his journal that ‘this day I completed my thirty-first year and conceived that I had in all human probability now existed about half the period which I am to remain in this sublunary world.  I reflected that I had as yet done but little, very little, indeed, to further the happiness of the human race, or to advance the information of the succeeding generation.  I viewed with regret the many hours I have spent in indolence, and now sorely feel the want of that information which those hours would have given me had they been judiciously expended.  But since they are past and cannot be recalled, I dash from me the gloomy thought, and resolved in future, to redouble my exertions and at least endeavor to promote those two primary objects of human existence, by giving them the aid of that portion of talents which nature and fortune have bestowed on me; or in future, to live for mankind, as I have heretofore lived for myself.’

On November 17th 1805, the Lewis and Clark expedition would successfully reach the Pacific Ocean, carving into a tree at the mouth of the Columbia river – ‘by land from the U. States in 1804 & 1805’.

Epilogue: The American System of Hamilton, Adams, and Lincoln

General Hamilton had once written to Gouverneur Morris (February 29th 1802) that ‘mine is an odd destiny.  Perhaps no man in the United States has sacrificed or done more for the present Constitution than myself – and contrary to all my anticipations of its fate, as you know from the very beginning, I am still labouring to prop the frail and worthless fabric.  Yet I have the murmurs of its friends, no less than the curses of its foes, for my rewards.  What can I do better than withdraw from the scene?  Every day proves to me more and more that this American world was not made for me.’

The death of General Hamilton threw the ‘federalist party’ further into such political disarray that it assured the re-election of Thomas Jefferson, and perhaps also, of all the following ‘republican’ presidents, until that most fortunate election of John Quincy Adams – ‘the real father of the American System’.


[The following is from ‘John Quincy Adams and the Foundations of American Foreign Policy’ by Samuel Flagg Bemis,

Chapter 6 – The Young Senator and the Louisiana Purchase, page 127.]

‘How important it is in politics, when proposing such a thing as a constitutional amendment, or even a constitutional innovation, or a bill, or a resolution, on anything important, to work up in advance some support for it, above all to give it an attractive name!  Henry Clay, for example, was not the real father of the American System; neither of the American System in foreign relations – that was John Quincy Adams – nor of the American System in domestic politics – protective tariff, internal improvements, scientific disposal of public lands, all supplementing each other to bind the nation together in stable power, union, and prosperity – that was John Quincy Adams too.

‘Young Senator Adams, original sponsor of the American System, did not get any farther with his scheme for a Federal plan of internal improvements, proposed in the Senate in February 1807, than he had with his proposals for constitutional amendments. The Senate voted down his resolution without a record vote and without trace of debate.  Senator Henry Clay, present, made no move to support it.  Yet it is Henry Clay, the eloquent champion in later decades, whose name is indissolubly associated with the American System.’

“Resolved, That the Secretary of the Treasury be directed to prepare, and report to the Senate at their next session, a plan for the application of such means as are constitutionally within the power of Congress, to the purposes of opening roads, for removing obstructions in rivers and making canals; together with a statement of the undertakings of that nature now existing within the United States, which as objects of public improvements, may require and deserve the aid of Government”.

(Monday, February 23, 1807)

During what was to be his final term as a congressman, an 80 year-old John Quincy Adams would have met and passed in the corridors of Congress, a 39 year-old Abraham Lincoln, who was serving his first (and only) term as congressman, perhaps, as if to pass the baton – passing on the responsibility to preserve the union.

On February 21st 1848, Congressman Lincoln, was present when Congressman Adams voted a loud ‘No’ to a resolution giving thanks to several generals for their service in the Mexican war.  A few minutes later he collapsed and was taken into the Rotunda and placed on a sofa in front of the east door in the hope that fresh air would revive him.  Seeing no improvement, he was taken into the speaker’s office where he died two days later.  His funeral was held in the House Chamber.  Lincoln was named to a committee which organized the funeral arrangements and was one of the honorary pallbearers for the great American statesman and President.

In 1848, Elizabeth Hamilton (widow of General Hamilton) had taken up residence with her daughter in Washington D.C., where she struck up a friendship with Dolly Madison, the wife of former president James Madison, and who proposed that they promote the construction of the long-delayed Washington Monument.  Along with Louisa Adams (wife of John Quincy Adams) they led a women’s committee to raise the needed funds to start building.  As an ardent admirer of General Washington, Lincoln became active as one of the managers for the Birth Night Ball that had been planned to raise funds for the monument.

With the widows’ support, the fund raising was successful enough to lay the corner-stone on July 4th 1848 – 40-year old Abraham Lincoln and 90-year old Elizabeth Hamilton both attended.

It’s the intention, stupid!

Intention, not Necessity, is the mother of Invention!