Poor Genêt! Arriving in the United States thinking that his task is to bring the French Republic's steadfast ally the American Republic into the common war against Britain, and finding that everyone in the American government is lying to him save Alexander Hamilton: Edmond-Charles Genêt (1797): To Thomas Jefferson: "...and when the Minister to whom he [Washington] had delegated the executive power during his absence, I imparted to you the resolution I had formed to open my heart to him with frankness, and try to put an end to disputes that were every day becoming more serious...
...You represented to me that this procedure would be contrary to established usage; that all communication of Foreign Ambassadors with the Executive should pass through the Secretary of State, and that probably I would not be admitted. But resolved to attempt everything that might conciliate matters, I went the same evening to the President's house; I found him with Mrs. Washington and Senator Morris. After some very polite and obliging discourse on the part of Mrs. Washington, I arose, and approaching the chair of the President, said to him, that I desired to have a private interview with him. He at first made me the answer that you foresaw; but insisting and assuring him that it was of the highest importance for the maintenance of good understanding between our two countries; that we were per haps both of us deceived and that it was necessary to understand one another, he passed with me in to the next room.
After being seated, I spoke to him as a man who sincerely meant well. I protested to him, that I had received and not given the impulse which served to disturb the government, and that I did not believe it to be any thing more than the simultaneous effect of the honesty and up-rightness of the people. I protested what is entirely true: that I had been entirely amazed on reading in the public journals, certain articles which they attributed to me relative to his conduct towards France; but in which I had no participation; that my correspondence was indeed animated, but if he would condescend to put himself in my position, and consider that by his Proclamation of Neutrality, and the interpretation that had been given to it, he had annulled the most sacred treaties, deprived the French people, at a moment when they were in the greatest need of it for the defence of their colonies, of the alliance which they considered as property dearly bought, he would acknowledge that unless I was a traitor I could not act otherwise.
But that just as much as I had shown myself punctillious and inexorable on the strict execution of our old treaties, I would show myself quite as generous being well informed of the magnanimity of France, if he would trample under the feet of liberty, the old treaties, and form a new pact, which would only contain principles of eternal truth, and a basis founded in the nature of things; after which, having never despaired of the French people, I added with confidence, that the Republic would disembarrass itself with glory, from all her difficulties; that her armies repulsed at some points by the infamous manoeuvres of the hypocrites to whom the inexperience of the government had confided it, would soon under the orders of Commanders truly Republican, repair all its losses, multiply its victories, and force Europe to sue for peace on conditions that France herself should see proper to dictate, when she would not forget the United States.
The President listened to all I had said and simply told me that he did not read the papers, and that he did not care what they said concerning his administration. We left the room, he accompanied me as far as the staircase, took me by the hand and pressed it. This silent response filled me with flattering thoughts.
I hastened to your office the next morning; you blushed on hearing that I had had a private interview, and you were expressing your astonishment at it, when the door was opened. It was the President himself. I arose looked at you alternately to see if I could read in your looks an invitation to remain, for which I would have voluntarily given a part of my life, but a very imperative sign on your part obliged me to withdraw. I saw you afterwards and used every proper means to know whether the President had spoken to you respecting the step I had taken, but you maintained an imperturbable silence.
A short time afterwerds, the squadron of the Republic, proscribed and flying from the calamities of St. Domingo, came, of their own accord, to the United States to put themselves under my direction. I formed the design of making them serviceable to the cause of liberty in the new world and in formed you of it. I fixed upon New York as one of the most convenient and best supplied ports in the Union as the place of its rendezvous and reorganization. I embraced that opportunity of getting rid of all the Privateers, by attaching them as advice boats and tenders to the service of the squadron. I took leave of you and the President, who received me very politely, took wine with me, and a number of officers whom I presented to him, and came to New York, where the republicans of that city gave me a very honorable reception, and very useful in the circumstances in which I found myself placed face to face with a squadron in insurrection.
I learned a few minutes after my arrival that the emissaries of the government had neglected nothing to prevent that reception, by publishing that I had insulted the President, and that I had threatened to appeal from his decisions to the people. This was the first intelligence I had ever had of that fiction, certified to by Messrs. Jay and King. I laughed at it and thought it needed no answer.
Some true friends who had not put themselves forward as many had done, and whose attachment to me increased in proportion to my misfortunes, thought differently upon the subject. I reflected more upon it and perceived that such an imposture must have been fabricated with some deep design. I recollected a conversation that Mr. Hamilton, Secretary of the Treasury, had with me, in which after having told me that the United States would commit "an act of hostility" if they were to pay the whole of the debt due to France, endeavored to prove that the cassus foederis did not exist between France and the United States; and that the latter would give us no manner of assistance, because we had acted in a hostile manner to Great Britain, by our irruption into the low countries, by our projects upon Holland, by our correspondence with the popular societies of England: by the connections of M. Chauvelin and of his mentor, with the opposition party; and of the appeal to the people with which they threatened the cabinet of his Britainic Majesty in the National Convention.
I compared these observations which at least had the merit of candor, with what was going on with respect to myself, and suspecting that they were seeking for pretexts either to strengthen the arguments of Mr. Pitt, by corroborating them with the testimony of the United States or to give color to the ingratitude of the Federal Government to discard our alliance and to cement one with England, I wrote directly to the President, to know if it was true that I had threatened to appeal from his decisions to the people. You answered me in his name in an evasive manner.
Not being able through this channel to obtain satisfaction, I addressed myself to the Attorney General of the United States the famous Randolph. He made a dilatory reply and dragged the matter along, until the arrival of my successor, who, in compliance with his orders enjoined me from pursuing the matter further, and from continuing the proceedings I had taken in the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania.
My successors, Fauchet, was rendered impotent, by the organization which had been given to his mission, by disguised royalists, who served by their talents the stupid ambition, the political ferocity of Robespierre, to re-establish despotism upon the sullied and disgusting ruins of liberty, after they should have accomplished the ruin of that wicked man. He was obliged, therefore, to throw himself into the arms of the enemies of his country, to disavow all I had done and to demand my arrest before he had seen me, so that I might be executed on board the fleet at Brest.
Robespierre on your sole denunciation, having given the order not to let me arrive alive at Paris; although he had not read my reports nor awaited my defence as citizen Adet has since officially informed me. This, sanguinary requisition was rejected by Washington, who declared that he had demanded my recall and not my punishment. But Randolph, your friend, the man of precious confessions, added in confidence that I had still many friends. That it was necessary to wait, but that if France insisted, they would examine if the power of the President, which on this point was questionable, might not still afford some expedient to do what France desired.
All these infamies have fully justified in the tribunal of my conscience the course I have taken, not being recalled, to remain in America after rendering my accounts and placing my papers in the hands of my successor in an honorable manner; and although with little fortune, to bury myself in retirement and silence; to meditate upon the great revolutions of the world; to try to penetrate the secrets of nature, and above all, to isolate myself from the detestable intrigues of courts and the discouraging cabals of the people.
I would to God, sir, that doing more justice to your talents you had likewise consecrated to the cultivation of the sciences the balance of your life, after having labored in establishing the independence of the United States. I wish that all the other envoys of the Federal Government had done the same. France would then perhaps have passed without any suspended motion from one energetic government to another.
The blood of the Bourbons, banished like that of the Tarquins, would not have flowed upon the scaffold. The French people, powerful and formidable, would have restrained Europe and found allies; millions of men would still be living for agriculture and the arts; Poland would not be destroyed, and the United States having conducted themselves strictly as an association of industrious merchants and peaceable farmers, who prefer the horn of plenty to the trumpet of fame, would not have drawn upon themselves the resentment of all parties who have succeeded each other in France, and who have been all equally deceived—of Spain, which the late retrocession to Great Britain of a favor granted to the United Slates must have singularly alarmed; also of some of the neutral northern powers, who neither, like your commentaries on Vattel, nor the refusal made in line with those principles to the Court of Denmark, to co-operate to maintain the principles of the armed neutrality, that solid basis of the freedom of the seas laid down at St. Petersburg, through the intervention of France and Spain.
Finally, of that man whose name to-day represents the collective idea of all perfidy, I mean Pitt, who discontented, as is always the case, with tergiversation and half measures, seems to have approximated himself to the United States only to spit upon them his last venom, to punish them for having first raised the standard of liberty which crushed him, to set them on tire, tear them to pieces and make their blindness serve for the destruction of the treaties which guarantee their independence.