Editor's Note: This is a continuation of a series of Commentaries, the most recent one of which was section two of Part Six. Links to each of the first five Parts of this series can be found under an Editor's Note atop section one of Part Six.
Washington's Farewell Address (the more significant portions of which were examined in section two of Part Six in this series) was dated 17 September 1796 and was first published- but a couple days later- in the Philadelphia Daily Advertiser, a major competitor to the Aurora (the same paper that had leaked the contents of Jay's Treaty after its ratification in the United States Senate but before the Senate [back then still always meeting in "executive" (that is, closed) session] had had a chance to officially publish same in its own Journal) in what was then still the Temporary National Capital. Given the so obvious pro-Jeffersonian/'Republican' leanings of the Aurora, the Daily Advertiser was deemed (by Alexander Hamilton, here acting as the President's agent) to be a newspaper more- as it were- "Federalist-friendly".
Once the 'Farewell Address' had so appeared in the Daily Advertiser, it was republished- over the ensuing weeks- in many newspapers around the still-seaboard based country (and- eventually [months later, of course]- in Europe). By then, as I myself noted in an earlier part of this series: Washington's star was fading- though it still retained no little "magnitude"!; George Washington (who could not, of course, foresee his future apotheosis as "Father of His Country" after his own death) himself seemed to actually sense this, for he noted- as he came to the close of his 'Farewell Address':
In offering you, my countrymen, these counsels of an old and affectionate friend I dare not hope they will make the strong and lasting impression I could wish- that they will control the usual current of the passions or prevent our nation from running the course which has hitherto marked the destiny of nations. But if I may even flatter myself that they may be productive of some partial benefit, some occasional good- that they may now and then recur to moderate the fury of party spirit, to warn against the mischiefs of foreign intrigue, to guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism- this hope will be a full recompense for the solicitude for your welfare by which they have been dictated ...
Though in reviewing the incidents of my Administration I am unconscious of intentional error, I am nevertheless too sensible of my defects not to think it probable that I may have committed many errors. Whatever they may be, I fervently beseech the Almighty to avert or mitigate the evils to which they may tend. I shall also carry with me the hope that my country will never cease to view them with indulgence, and that, after forty-five years of my life dedicated to its service with an upright zeal, the faults of incompetent abilities will be consigned to oblivion, as myself must soon be to the mansions of rest. Relying on this kindness in this as in other things, and actuated by that fervent love toward it which is so natural to a man who views in it the native soil of himself and his progenitors for several generations, I anticipate with pleasing expectation that retreat in which I promise myself to realize without alloy the sweet enjoyment of partaking in the midst of my fellow-citizens the benign influence of good laws under a free government- the ever-favorite object of my heart, and the happy reward, as I trust, of our mutual cares, labors, and dangers.
With that, George Washington did not quite "ride off into the sunset" (for he still had another nearly six months to serve as Our Nation's Chief Executive), but more and more attention began to be paid to the issue of just who would succeed him in that same High Office he would now so soon be vacating.
Because he died so relatively soon after having left office for good (and, therefore, his apotheosis- very early on thereafter- began to crowd out even nascent Historical Sense amongst average Americans in their due consideration of him), we- to this very day- tend to forget that he was not always that George Washington we carry around on quarter- dollar coins in our pockets or on one-dollar bills in our purses and wallets (I refer here to the "larger than life"- nay, 'superhero'- George Washington: the man who kept a ragtag army together long enough [this being years!] to harass, and then defeat [at least once!], a more experienced professional British Army; the man who, single-handedly, kept the American Revolution itself from turning on itself in a military coup d'etat on that late Winter day in Newburgh; the man who quietly sat before the Convention in Philadelphia as, if nothing else, the living symbol of the Constitution that the delegates to same were so hammering out over the course of more than a few months; the man who set important precedents [and, perhaps more importantly, did not allow the setting of other, perhaps more onerous, precedents] as the first ever President of the United States of America)...
despite such as Parson Weems' "Cherry Tree story"- clearly an early attempt to paint George Washington in a sort of biographical/historical monochrome, as if he were- even going back into his own childhood- ever the man for whom- as he himself said in his own 'Farewell Address'- "honesty is always the best policy" (and what better way to show his truest allegiance to just such a sentiment by having him, as but a mere child, say to his father [even while yet anticipating potential parental retribution] "I cannot tell a lie"?)- the fact is that Washington's adulthood neatly bifurcates into two more or less equal parts: for he came of age (by turning 21 years old and, thereby, legally entitled to all the privileges his admittedly then-middling status within Tidewater planter society might provide him) in February 1753-- he died in December 1799-- and exactly halfway between these two moments in his life is, yes, July 1776 [!!]- the very month in which the United States of America formally approved, and then declared, their (the pronoun that would have been used at the time, by the way) own Independence.
The George Washington that lived through the first half of his life was, in truth, notably different from the man who would live through that same life's second half. The "first half" Washington was, at first, headstrong as much as he was ambitious; even once he had achieved some modest (however ever threatened) financial security (through his marriage to the wealthy widow Martha Custis) and at least no little status within his community as its member of the Virginia House of Burgesses, he was not yet GEORGE WASHINGTON writ large: for he continued to "play political footsie" with his home colony's Royal Governors (or, often as not, their Deputies [as many a Virginia Governor appointed by the British Crown did not even deign to set sail for North America]). Even after voting in favor of a resolution, in the Virginia House of Burgesses, expressing support and prayers for the people of Boston after the news had arrived, in late May 1774, that the Port of Boston was to be shut down by Act of Parliament in response to the previous December's 'Boston Tea Party', he continued to be an invited guest of the very Royal Governor who openly considered that very resolution to be an affront to the very dignity of that Crown said Governor, at the time, constitutionally represented.
Only when- not all that long thereafter- this same Royal Governor undid, by merest fiat, the surveys under which Washington himself thought he had properly (as well as legally) purchased large tracts of land in the Ohio Valley still claimed by Virginia did Washington (suspecting he might now be under direct pressure to become a more visible Loyalist) truly begin his evolution into not only a Patriot but, in due time, the quintessential American Patriot! Thus, he accepted- in August 1774- election to the First Continental Congress met in Philadelphia the ensuing Autumn and, when- in response to the news of the Battles of Lexington and Concord in April 1775- the same Royal Governor of Virginia with whom Washington had been socializing less than a year before seized the gunpowder belonging to the colony and ensconced it aboard a British man o' war anchored in the James River off of the then-colonial capital, Williamsburg, Washington responded by accepting election to a Second Continental Congress and, further, purposely wore his fading Virginia Militia Regimental Colonel's uniform to the proceedings thereof in solidarity with the militiamen of his home colony who might very well soon be called upon to fight as already had the "embattled farmers" besides "the rude bridge that arched the flood" up in Massachusetts...
that it also, albeit quietly, advertised his own willingness to provide his services as a military commander (the Office seeks the man, remember, and not the man the Office!) certainly didn't hurt his becoming the choice of the Continental Congress to be its Army's Commanding General!
As he had so begun his transition to (eventually) National Hero less than two years before Independence, less than two years thereafter he most fully became just that by guiding the Continental Army through the harsh Winter encampment at Valley Forge (though he and his Army would face an even more bitter Winter two years later, at Jockey Hollow outside Morristown, New Jersey). Whether he actually prayed in the snows therein or not, Washington "sealed the deal" as National Hero when he managed to survive that most serious attempt to strip him of his Command (the one during which at least one complainant moaned about having detected "Idolatry" within the way Washington was seen- positively- by so many). And, as far as History be concerned, he never again "looked back".
But, sadly, the man himself so easily gets lost in the myriad attempts, throughout the more than two centuries since his passing, to- somehow- make him more (nay, even much better) than his fellow Founding Fathers. Washington simply has to be a True Believer: the Greatest American Ever cannot simply be just another British American (by-?) product of Enlightenment culture and philosophy, like the much older Franklin and the somewhat younger Jefferson, toying with Deism- or, at least, Rationalism- while yet (at least in Washington's own case) so outwardly professing adherence to traditional Anglicanism cum Episcopalianism...
no, so many Americans of many a generation since that of the Founders have demanded: we simply can't have that!
As a result, we have the regular (one is here sorely tempted to write, instead, "ritualistic") perusal of Washington's public writings and utterances in the search for at least the glimmers of personal Belief and Feeling (even where this might take one far away from that which George Washington himself might have actually felt and/or believed!): his annual Proclamations of Thanksgiving, for instance, have been so parsed so that those doing the parsing can then say 'Thanks be to God George Washington was the truest Christian, after all!'; while his statements of Religion's relation to Morality and Virtue in his 'Farewell Address' have been most thoroughly misapplied by the overzealous- and over a long period of time- in this regard.
One wonders just what Washington himself- somewhere in The Great Beyond (or, perhaps, just beyond the Vales of Karma)- would think of all this: he, the pragmatic Virginia landed gentleman who simply did his duty- whatever duty that might turn out to be- whilst following what was, in the main (as well as in the end), an unstated (where not also understated) code of practical ethics, whether or not it was so scrupulously religiously- based.
3 March 1797 was to be President Washington's final full day ever in public office (although he was to be nominated Commander of the Armies with the rank of Lieutenant General- a position he himself formally accepted- by President John Adams in July 1798, he never had to actually exercise military command in the final nearly year and a half of his life during which he would, however technically, hold this position). On that day- in what was still the Temporary National Capital, Philadelphia- he formally received some 25 ministers of the Gospel representing various denominations and congregations throughout the city who had come to thank the outgoing President for his military and political service to the country going back nearly 45 years to the start of the French and Indian War: there was no little hope, among at least some of these, that they might yet elicit- from him, on his final day as President of the United States- a clearer (where not even more specific and firmer) endorsement of Christianity per se.
In response to such entreaties (as well as their heartfelt good wishes), Washington was willing to issue a statement on this occasion- but only via a written letter to the leader of this delegation apparently already penned (as was Washington's always proper [where not also ever-cautious] wont) prior to the event, a document that was to be, as things turned out, his last public utterance on the issue of Religion, in which he wrote:
Believing, as I do, that Religion and Morality are the essential pillars of Civic Society, I view, with unspeakable pleasure, that Harmony and Brotherly Love which characterizes the Clergy of different Denominations- as well in this, as in other parts of the United States: exhibiting to the World a new and interesting spectacle, at once the pride of Our Country and the surest basis of Universal Harmony.
That your Labours for the good of Mankind may be crowned with Success- that your temporal Employments may be commensurate with your merits- and that the future reward of Good and Faithful Servants may be yours, I shall not cease to supplicate the Divine Author of Life and Felicity.
But this was, as I've said, a public utterance (indeed, the reference to Brotherly Love was itself altogether purposeful, given the very name of the city in which it was issued) and, even at its end, Washington appealed to "the Divine Author" and not to God by name (meanwhile, interestingly, the person to whom the above letter was officially addressed was the same man who later, while already Episcopal Bishop of Philadelphia and not all that long after Washington had already died, would emphatically state- and with little, if any, doubt on his part- that Washington had, in fact, been a Deist [though the good Bishop seems to have based this mainly on Washington's refusal to ever become a Communicant: for there is no credible evidence that- although he himself often officiated at worship services Washington had attended while President- he knew Washington's deepest personal religious convictions any more than did Parson Weems!]). Those in attendance who had hoped so to receive a far warmer endorsement, by him, of what they themselves felt called to preach as the True Religion found themselves profoundly disappointed (in fact, one such parson later referred to Washington as that "old fox" who had, as his Presidency ended, so slyly evaded the very gist of their entreaties).
Nonetheless, it cannot be well argued that Washington's firmest belief (indeed, the only real belief the now-outgoing President had allowed himself to publicly state throughout his Presidency) in Morality and Religion, so long as it be tied to enlightened Knowledge, as an important underpinning of best 'republican' society lacked much real importance in his own time: for the contrast between his own Administration and the political/administrative situation in a France that had so readily replaced Judeo-Christian worship with a so-called 'Cult of Reason' (even to the point of abolishing the seven-day week as well!) and then tried to replace even that with something of a "middle way" between traditional worship of God and a new spirituality based on Reason- as already recounted in this series' Part Three - during his own time in office was certainly quite glaring!
All in all, and once again, we have to take the pains necessary to see George Washington, even as he left public life, well within the context of Historical Sense.
The day after he met with those clergymen- the 4th of March, 1797- Washington's own Vice- President, John Adams, was sworn in as the second President of the United States in the hall then used by the Federal House of Representatives; meanwhile, before the very United States Senate of which he was to be constitutional presiding officer, Adams' political archrival- Thomas Jefferson- was sworn in as Vice-President.
The brand new Adams Administration, almost from the very start, was forced to step into something of a diplomatic minefield and the very source of that minefield was, indeed, post-revolutionary France! And the very roots of this difficulty went back into the earliest days of George Washington's Second Administration of which both the new President (John Adams as Washington's Vice-President) and new Vice-President (Thomas Jefferson as Washington's Secretary of State) were, back then, still a part.
As recounted elsewhere in this series of my Commentaries, France became a Republic in September 1792 (under the new so-called 'Convention') and- not long thereafter- dispatched, as the country's Minister Extraordinary to the United States of America, one Edmond-Charles Genet (who became widely known- primarily among those Americans most supportive of France's Revolution [this was all before the ensuing Reign of Terror, mind you]- as "Citizen Genet").
When Genet set off for America, the French Republic was already fighting (for its very life!) the War of the First Coalition against both Austria and Prussia; however, neither land power in Central Europe was a direct threat to the United States and, thus, Washington- when first apprised of Genet's appointment as his First Administration was already winding down- stood ready to receive him as the legitimate ambassador from France. But, while Genet sailed across the Atlantic, France went on to execute its former King, Louis XVI (by then merely 'Louis Capet'), and then- in something of a "fit of pique" less than a fortnight thereafter- also declared war on Great Britain, Holland and Spain!
For his own part, Genet disembarked in Charleston, South Carolina (not the Temporary National Capital at Philadelphia, where a new ambassador to the United States would have been expected to go first in order to present his credentials to the President!) on 8 April 1793 and, almost immediately, began to recruit privateers amongst the local citizenry who would (once news arrived from France- not all that long after Genet himself had arrived in America- that France was now at war with Britain and Spain, both of which had colonial possessions that bordered the United States) attack British and Spanish territory in ships setting out from American ports (and there were more than a few Americans- "localists" all- willing to do just that!: for up till now, there had been much support for France's Revolution within the still post-revolutionary United States- largely on the grounds that France's revolution had been inspired by the Americans' own- as well as simmering ill-feeling towards Great Britain left over from both America's successful revolt against its Empire and Britain continuing to not honor the Second Peace of Paris by keeping forts on American soil in the Great Lakes region and, in addition, using these as bases from which to stir up Native American 'Indians' against traders and settlers in the Territory Northwest of the River Ohio).
President Washington, of course, had received the same news from France (that of that country's now being at war with both Britain and Spain) at just around the same time Genet himself had and he was greatly concerned: for, back on 6 February 1778, the United States of America had formally adhered to a Treaty of Alliance with "The Most Christian King"- the now (in 1793) late 'Louis Capet' himself- who, back in 1778, had been the very personification of the French State (after all, it was Louis XVI's own great-great-great grandfather, Louis XIV, who had famously declared L'Etat c'est moi: "I am the State"-- well, ok: literally, "The State, it is me"-- but I digress). It was, quite literally, the treaty that had saved the American Revolution (consider, for example, the important role the French fleet played in the Siege of Yorktown back in the Fall of 1781!) and was one of the more brilliant achievements of 'Big Six' Founding Father Benjamin Franklin (who had already died some three years earlier by 1793): however, this treaty contained a problematic 'Article XII' which read as follows:
In order to fix more precisely the sense and application of the preceding article [Article XI contained a provision for French recognition of American Independence "at the moment of the cessation of their present war with England" as well as provisions for each party to this treaty recognizing the territorial possessions of the other, even those that might yet be acquired in future], the contracting parties declare, that in case of a rupture between France and England the reciprocal guarantee declared in the said article shall have its full force and effect the moment such war shall break out; and if such rupture shall not take place, the mutual obligations of the said guarantee shall not commence until the moment of the cessation of the present war between the United States and England shall have ascertained their possessions.
Simply put: the United States of America (their independence already declared back in early July 1776 and at least provisionally recognized by France per this very treaty) would- should France and Great Britain go to war, even after the end of the War for American Independence- guarantee not only French territory at the time such a war might break out but also any subsequent gains France might make at British expense...
in other words: the United States of America could, conceivably, now find itself fighting Britain in defense of French colonies (say, in the West Indies)! President Washington now found himself on the proverbial "horns of a dilemma": for the Constitution of the United States itself declares (in clause 2 of its own Article VI) that, among "the Supreme Law of the Land", were all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States. Those attending the Constitutional Convention of 1787 in Philadelphia had specifically worded this provision in this way in order to make it most clear that the new Federal Government they were creating would honor all treaties still in force that had already been negotiated and ratified by the Congress operating under the soon to be supplanted Articles of Confederation (indeed, the Sixth Continental Congress had formally ratified the treaty in question with France on 4 May 1778 and ratifications were officially exchanged between France and the United States on 17 July 1778: there was no question that the Treaty of Alliance of 1778 was, indeed, a treaty already "made... under the authority of the United States" which the Federal Constitution's very wording declared to still be binding).
Thus, there was no constitutional way out- on the American side- of such a binding agreement: for President Washington could- given the Federal Constitution's own Article VI, clause 2- hardly argue that the Federal Government having taken over, as it were, national governance of the United States from the old Confederation Congress as of 4 March 1789 in and of itself rendered the 1778 Treaty of Alliance with France null and void!
But what about an argument- to be made by Americans- as regarded the French side of things?: after all, the treaty had been made with "The Most Christian King" of France, but he was now quite dead and, in any event, his Kingdom was no more (therefore, there was- in 1793- no successor "Most Christian King" [the current Dauphin, 7 year old Louis Charles (called by recalcitrant French neo-monarchists 'Louis XVII') was, by early 1793, already a pawn in the hands of an ever more radicalizing Republican government]). In the end, however, it was simply that- under the Law of Nations (that is: International Law, such as it was at the time) the King of France had been but the personification of France itself (thus, "The Most Christian King" was but a term of art akin to "the Crown" in Britain or [in treaties with the Great Britain of that era] "His Britannic Majesty"), a France now personified by the very 'Convention' that had sent Genet to America in the first place (and, since President Washington was still disposed to receive Genet as France's official representative to the United States, this- in and of itself- was recognition of said personification)...
no, France having become a Republic was a distinction as made no difference: thus, it was quite clear that the 1778 Treaty of Alliance with France was still in force in early 1793.
But President Washington certainly did not want to now have to go to war with Great Britain (or, for that matter, any other Power- neither Spain nor Holland either!) so soon (less than a decade) after the formal conclusion of the War for American Independence-- and, for what? In defense of the interests of France rather than those of the United States themselves?!
Washington's Secretary of State, Thomas Jefferson, certainly thought that a Republic should- even if only "when 'push' came to 'shove' "- defend the prerogatives of another Republic against a Monarchy such as Great Britain (in addition, there were already at least some of those nagging issues Chief Justice John Jay would, as it turns out, eventually be sent to Westminster to rectify [as recounted in Part Four of this series]) but Anglophile- and Washington's Secretary of the Treasury- Alexander Hamilton was vehemently opposed to such a thing.
For his own part, President Washington decided to "split the baby" and formally declare America's neutrality in the conflict between France and Great Britain in particular, but also between France and any other Power. In this regard, the President issued his Neutrality Proclamation of 22 April 1793- the only concession made to Secretary of State Jefferson being that nowhere would the word "neutral" or "neutrality" even appear therein. Washington, therefore, proclaimed that the duty and interest of the United States require that they should with sincerity and good faith adopt and pursue a conduct friendly and impartial toward the belligerent powers:
I have therefore thought fit by these presents to declare the disposition of the United States to observe the conduct aforesaid toward those powers respectively, and to exhort and warn the citizens of the United States carefully to avoid all acts and proceedings whatsoever which may in any manner tend to contravene such disposition.
And I do hereby also make known that whosoever of the citizens of the United States shall render himself liable to punishment or forfeiture under the law of nations by committing, aiding or abetting hostilities against any of the said powers, or by carrying to any of them those articles which are deemed contraband by the modern usage of nations, will not receive the protection of the United States against such punishment or forfeiture; and further that I have given instructions to those officers to whom it belongs to cause prosecutions to be instituted against all persons who shall, within the cognizance of the courts of the United States, violate the law of nations with respect to the powers at war or any of them.
Washington would, in due time, come to regard this very Proclamation as the linchpin of his entire Foreign Policy and, in fact, specifically referred to it in his 'Farewell Address' published some three and a half years later, in which he would state:
How far in the discharge of my official duties I have been guided by the principles which have been delineated [throughout his 'Farewell Address'] the public records and other evidences of my conduct must witness to you and the world. To myself, the assurance of my own conscience is that I have at least believed myself to be guided by them.
In relation to the still subsisting war in Europe my proclamation of the 22d of April 1793, is the index to my plan. Sanctioned by your approving voice and by that of your representatives in both Houses of Congress, the spirit of that measure has continually governed me, uninfluenced by any attempts to deter or divert me from it.
After deliberate examination, with the aid of the best lights I could obtain, I was well satisfied that our country, under all the circumstances of the case, had a right to take, and was bound in duty and interest to take, a neutral position. Having taken it, I determined as far as should depend upon me to maintain it with moderation, perseverance, and firmness.
The considerations which respect the right to hold this conduct it is not necessary on this occasion to detail. I will only observe that, according to my understanding of the matter, that right, so far from being denied by any of the belligerent powers, has been virtually admitted by all.
The duty of holding a neutral conduct may be inferred, without anything more, from the obligation which justice and humanity impose on every nation, in cases in which it is free to act, to maintain inviolate the relations of peace and amity toward other nations.
The inducements of interest for observing that conduct will best be referred to your own reflections and experience. With me a predominant motive has been to endeavor to gain time to our country to settle and mature its yet recent institutions, and to progress without interruption to that degree of strength and consistency which is necessary to give it, humanly speaking, the command of its own fortunes.
However, back in the late Spring into Summer of 1793, while President Washington may well have been so "uninfluenced by any attempts to deter or divert" him from his position as regarded American Neutrality, 'Citizen Genet' was certainly going to try to so deter or divert him!
Accordingly, on 18 May 1793, Genet (finally!) arrived in Philadelphia to be formally received by President Washington: for his own part, Washington (having been apprised of Genet's activities down in Charleston) received Genet most coldly. Genet did formally ask that the United States suspend (or, at the very least, exempt France from) Washington's recently issued Neutrality Proclamation but he was turned down flat (by, of all people, Secretary of State Jefferson in person), after which Genet simply continued recruiting privateers amongst the more Francophile Americans (while, at the same time, privateers already so recruited were successfully capturing British ships-- it was this, as much as anything else, that then caused Great Britain to invoke its 'Rule of 1756' against the United States [again, as recounted in Part Four of this series]) .
The situation had now become untenable, for the United States of America- now officially a 'neutral' in all but name- could not very well have an accredited representative of a belligerent power wandering about its countryside recruiting mercenaries from amongst the American citizenry! Both Jefferson and Hamilton (in rather rare agreement between the two otherwise political adversaries sitting in Washington's Cabinet of the time) urged President Washington to issue a formal letter of complaint to Genet: indeed, Washington did just that. But Genet's reply to the Administration was not the least bit conciliatory (indeed, it was rather insistent, where not also demanding) and, on 1 August 1793, Washington formally asked France to recall Genet.
There was, of course, a several month-long "turnaround"- given the trans-Atlantic communications technology of the day (that is: sailing ship)- and, by the time Washington's recall request had actually arrived in Paris, the Jacobin-dominated Committee of Public Safety (itself already becoming more and more dominated by Maximilien Robespierre at the expense of its ostensible Director, Georges Danton [soon enough to actually be replaced by Robespierre]) was busily executing Girondists with the aid of France's "National Razor", the guillotine-- the Terror was, by then, already so well underway. In reply to Washington's request (which was granted), the Committee of Public Safety also sent an arrest warrant for Genet, a Girondist himself!
It was, by the beginning of 1794 (when the Washington Administration actually received the arrest warrant for Genet), quite clear that- should Genet be sent home- he would likely be (and most summarily) executed; so, with entreaties on Genet's behalf by (of all people!) Alexander Hamilton (Thomas Jefferson had, as will soon be seen, left the Cabinet by then), Washington decided not to extradite Genet and, instead, granted him what we today would call 'political asylum', provided he cease and desist from the very activities that had resulted in the United States' request for his recall to begin with. Genet agreed and, ultimately, settled in the upper Hudson Valley of New York (where he would become a son-in-law of then- New York Governor [and future Vice-President of the United States] George Clinton): Genet, who would eventually become a naturalized American citizen (thus, truly "citizen Genet"), would live until 1834.
But this whole " 'Citizen Genet' affair" would not be the last time the (First) French Republic would so attempt to meddle in American domestic politics!
On 27 May 1794, President Washington appointed a new American Minister to France- a 36 year old U.S. Senator from his own State of Virginia (and a future President of the United States himself) named James Monroe. The choice of Monroe was very much within Washington's own efforts, throughout his Presidency, to stay above the developing partisan fray: for Monroe was already clearly identified with the 'Opposition' in the upper house of Congress, yet he was not so connected to the Jeffersonian 'Republican' cause (in fact, Monroe had lost his first attempt to serve in the new Federal Congress, by losing an election for the U.S. House of Representatives to James Madison himself!). For his own part- and anticipating sure confirmation by the Senate (which, indeed, came the very next day)- Monroe resigned his seat and, soon enough, was off to Paris.
The French Republic to which Monroe would now be serving as official representative from the United States was certainly undergoing major changes (as outlined in Part Three of this series): at the time Monroe had been nominated, the Terror in France was still ongoing (though the news that Georges Danton had already been executed by the Maximilien Robespierre-dominated Committee of Public Safety had yet to reach American shores); however, by the time Monroe would arrive in France's capital (2 August 1794), Robespierre himself had so recently met his own demise thanks to that country's "National Razor" and the 'Thermidorean Reaction' was itself already underway (the date of Robespierre's death- 28 July 1794- happened to be 10 Thermidor Year II in the new French Republican Calendar, thereby giving that month's very name to this synonym for "counter-revolution"). The reconfiguration of French politics which would soon lead to the so-called 'Thermidoreans' gaining control of the 'Convention' at the expense of the Jacobins and the Paris commune that had once been the source of Robespierre's own power delayed Monroe's even being able to present his credentials to the Convention until 15 August.
On the American side of things, France's greatest champion in the United States Government was no longer even serving in said Government by then: on 31 July 1793, the very day before then-President Washington would formally ask the French Republic to recall 'Citizen Genet', Thomas Jefferson formally submitted his resignation as Secretary of State (effective at the end of that year, so as to give the President time to name a successor). Jefferson had been locking horns with Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton within the Cabinet for some time now and, with the Washington Administration (to no small extent due to Hamilton's own counsel) now so unwilling to more directly aid what was now a fellow Republic under siege, it was time for Jefferson himself to leave (although, as noted in Part Four, Jefferson would still be allowed- as one of his last official acts as Secretary of State- to issue what we today would call a 'White Paper' [this in mid-December of 1793] harshly critical of Great Britain as regarded American grievances in large part related to the British having invoked its 'Rule of 1756' against American shipping).
Some three years after Jefferson had so submitted his resignation- while Hamilton was already helping Washington prepare his 'Farewell Address' for eventual publication- Jefferson himself had already become the champion of the "localist" 'Republicans' against the presumed favorite of the "cosmopolitan" 'Federalists', Vice-President Adams, in the next election- that which would choose Washington's successor in the Presidency. [NOTE: An examination of the development of the differences between so-called "cosmopolitans" and "localists"- as well as from where I myself have gotten these very terms- is to be found in Part Two of this series and an admittedly summary account of the events leading up to, as well as the outcome of, the 1796 Presidential Election itself is to be found in Part Five.]
In the meantime, the French Republic itself was going through even more changes during James Monroe's tenure as America's ambassador to France: for the Thermidorean "counter-revolution" continued apace. The so-called "Bread Riots" broke out in Paris in early April 1795; the so-called 'White Terror' ensued; an attack, in retaliation, by remaining Radicals on the Convention was well repulsed and those supportive of the attackers (the remnants of an ever diminishing 'Mountain' in the Convention) suppressed; neo-monarchism on the Right now rose (fueled, in part, by victories by French forces in the field of battle [what is now the Netherlands and Belgium was conquered and reorganized as 'the Batavian Republic' (Great Britain began its occupation of Dutch colonies overseas in response); France's territory now reached the Rhine after Prussia was knocked out of the war with France; peace was made with Spain not all that long thereafter] and the victorious generals tended to favor a return to monarchy [though the most key military leaders yet refused to turn on the Republic]); the Dauphin- 10 year old Louis Charles ('Louis XVII' to the neo-monarchists)- died in what we might term "protective custody" on 8 June 1795 (which, conveniently for the ongoing French Republic, put a rather serious- and immediate- crimp in neo-monarchist pretensions; though its being a little too convenient would itself give rise to what is, arguably, the world's first major Conspiracy Theory); yet another Constitution (that of 'Year III') was adopted on 22 August 1795; now-General Napoleon Bonaparte (at the time committed to the Republic) led the victorious forces defending the Convention against an attempted neo-monarchist coup known as the "Day of the Sections" [5 October 1795]; and, come 27 October 1795, the Convention had been replaced- as per the recently adopted Constitution of Year III- by that five-man collective executive known as the 'Directory' (although a new bicameral legislature- consisting of the 'Ancients' [its upper house] and 'the Five Hundred' [its lower house, with twice the number of seats as had the 'Ancients'], two-thirds of each were required to have been members of the former Convention [in order to prevent the radicalization that had ensued when the Legislative Assembly, the immediate predecessor of the Convention, itself was not allowed to have, as members, those who had been serving in the predecessor National Assembly: lesson learned!]- was also, thereby, instituted- real power was ever to be in the hands of this Directory [just in case!]).
Much as had the Convention which- soon after its first becoming organized- had sent 'Citizen Genet' as France's official representative to the United States, this new Directory now sent their own official representative from France to its fellow Republic across the sea, one 'Citizen Adet' ...
Pierre-Auguste Adet, a brilliant scientist who had already assisted the great chemist Antoine-Laurent de Lavoisier (who himself would be executed by the "National Razor" during the Terror, about a month after Danton but- unfortunately for Lavoisier- not before Robespierre himself could meet the same fate) in the latter's most important discoveries, had come to America with specific (secret) instructions from his Government to find ways to weaken strict American adherence to Jay's Treaty (the American ratification of which- in the Summer of 1795- France regarded as a violation of its own Treaty of Alliance with the United States of 1778 [already referred to above]: news of constitutional adherence to Jay's Treaty by the United States had arrived in Paris just before the Directory had officially replaced the Convention as masters of the French Republic). Once in the United States, Adet found much sympathy for France's position (as had Genet two and a half years before) among many a supporter of Thomas Jefferson and his 'Republicans'; indeed, Adet's American counterpart- the Americans' own Minister to France, James Monroe- had strongly suggested to the Directory that good relations between the two countries would be far more likely were Jefferson to be elected President, especially were his 'Republicans' to gain firmest control of both houses of Congress in the 1796 Elections.
Monroe's comments would get back to President Washington and result, at least in part (Washington already being unhappy at Monroe's failure to well justify- as not at all an abrogation of the 1778 Treaty of Alliance- Jay's Treaty to the French), in his own recall- on 22 August 1796- by the then-outgoing President (Monroe, meanwhile, would not first hear of his own recall until November and would not officially take leave his diplomatic post until the end of that same year).
On this side of "the Pond"-and, more than likely, bolstered by Monroe's own intemperance- 'Citizen Adet' ('Federalist's also calling him this in order to well [and, of course, negatively] make a direct connection to 'Citizen Genet''s rather similar activities three years earlier) went about openly interfering in American elections! In fact, at one point, Adet purposely leaked secret diplomatic messages sent by the French Government to President Washington and his then-Secretary of State Timothy Pickering for publication in the Philadelphia Aurora (again, the same pro- Jeffersonian 'Republican' paper that had, a year earlier, leaked the contents of Jay's Treaty soon after it had been ratified by the United States Senate in executive [that is: closed] session well before the Senate itself had gotten a chance to publish them as part of that body's official Journal), messages which clearly implied that France was on the verge of breaking off diplomatic relations and that only the election of Jefferson as President could keep war from breaking out between the two countries. In addition, Adet wrote essays published in American periodicals friendly to Jefferson's presidential candidacy (including the Aurora) in which he argued that France had the right to seize American merchant ships bound for Britain (effectively fighting Great Britain's own 'Rule of 1756' with fire).
For his own part, Washington was (to put it most mildly) none too happy about Adet's activities and there is no doubt that much of Washington's vehemence- however tempered by Alexander Hamilton's editing and redacting- as regarded "foreign influence" on "the spirit of party" seen in his 'Farewell Address' (and as quoted, by me, in section two of Part Six of this series of my Commentaries) was itself motivated by the activities of 'Citizen Adet' (as well as- to at least a certain extent- the machinations of James Monroe while [as he still was at the time] serving as United States Minister to France); but Hamilton, for himself, well saw a chance to use Adet's so injecting himself into domestic politics here in the United States as a way of painting Jefferson as a dangerous radical "democrat" (in an era when, to the average "cosmopolitan" 'Federalist', the very word "democracy" itself implied demagoguery, possible rule by the mob through disorder in the streets and even such as France's only recently concluded 'Terror'). In the main, Hamilton was using Jefferson's- as it were- 'French connection(s)' to argue that 'Federalists' were, in fact, better 'republicans' than those who were now describing themselves with that term: indeed, the origins of the notion often expressed- by many an American conservative to this very day- that the United States of America "is a Republic, but not a Democracy" can be well discerned herein.
Historians still debate just how much, or how little, what 'Citizen Adet' did- through his so meddling in the 1796 Election campaign- might have helped John Adams (or, at least, hurt Thomas Jefferson) as regarded the choosing of Presidential Electors in 1796 going into 1797. But even Adams' and Jefferson's own contemporaries so debated this: James Madison (by 1797, a political ally of Jefferson's and an avowed 'Republican', despite his major role- nearly a decade before- in framing the very Federal Government the 'Federalists' now believed to be well under siege from French agents and their American 'Republican' dupes) considered Adet's actions to have been a major factor in Adams now having been elected President (despite Jefferson also having been elected Vice-President, thanks to the original workings of a so-called 'Electoral College' system that- less than a decade after it had first been crafted- was already not working as its crafters had actually intended).
No matter, however, as- by the time John Adams had taken office as President of the United States- the French relationship with the Americans was already approaching a dangerous boiling point. In truth, neither President Adams nor his 'Federalists' were ever as Anglophilic as the Jeffersonian 'Republicans' had, during the most recent election campaign, claimed (even Alexander Hamilton- he who had once hoped that the United States Senate could become the American equivalent of the British "House of Lords"; he who had once [as Washington's first Secretary of the Treasury] believed his then-position might yet become that of an American "Chancellor of the Exchequer cum Prime Minister"- was rather lukewarm in his perceived Anglophilia [indeed, as relations with France seemed to deteriorate as George Washington's Presidency was coming to its end, Hamilton himself was among the first to propose a three-man 'commission' be sent to Paris to work out an equivalent of Jay's Treaty with France!]) and- like Washington himself- the last thing newly-sworn President Adams wanted was a war with France which would, by very definition, force the United States to then side with Great Britain!
The Year Anno Domini 1797 would certainly begin an altogether eventful period for both the United States and France!
to be continued...