CHAPTER VIII. FEDERAL SUPREMACY (1793-1801).
On May 9, 1793, the French ordered the capture of vessels loaded with provisions, although expressly excepted by the treaty of 1778. On June 8 the British issued a similar order; and in November the rule of 1756 was again put in force by the British government. Captures at once began by both powers; but the British cruisers were more numerous, did more damage, and thus inclined public sentiment in the United States against England. The pacific Jefferson now came forward as the defender of American interests: Sept. 16, 1793, he sent to Congress a report in which he set forth the aggressions upon American commerce, and recommended a policy of retaliation. Meantime a new grievance had arisen, which was destined to be a cause of the War of 1812. In time of war the commanders of British naval vessels were authorized to "impress" British seamen, even out of British merchant vessels. The search of American merchantmen on the same errand at once began, and was felt by the United States government to be humiliating to the national dignity. The whole country was outraged by the frequent seizure of native Americans, on the pretext that they were English born. Public feeling rose until on March 26, 1794, a temporary embargo was laid, forbidding vessels to depart from American ports. On April 17, a motion was introduced to cut off commercial intercourse with Great Britain. On April 19, therefore, the President appointed John Jay, Chief Justice of the United States, as a special envoy to make a last effort to adjust matters in England. Nevertheless, the non-inter course bill passed the House, and was defeated only by Adams's casting vote in the Senate.
Fortunately it was a time when communication with Europe was slow. Not until June did Jay reach England. A treaty was negotiated on November 19, but was not received by Washington until after the adjournment of Congress in March, 1795. The treaty had indeed removed some old grievances: the posts were to be evacuated; commissions were to settle the northeast boundary, and to adjust the claims for the British debts; but Jay got no indemnity for the negroes carried away by the British in 1783. The commercial clauses were far less favorable: the discriminating taxes against American shipping were at last withdrawn; but Jay was unable to secure any suitable guarantee for neutral trade, and could obtain no promise to refrain from searching American merchantmen, or seizing English-born sailors found thereon. Above all, the West India trade, which the United States so much desired, was granted only with the proviso that it should be carried on in vessels of less than seventy tons burden. In return for these meagre concessions, granted only for twelve years, the United States agreed not to export to any part of the world "molasses, sugar, coffee, cocoa, or cotton."
[Excitement in the United States.]
A special session of the Senate was summoned in June, 1795. and with great difficulty the necessary two-thirds majority was obtained. The twelfth article, containing the West India and the export clauses, was particularly objectionable, and the Senate struck it out. During the remainder of the year there was the fiercest popular opposition; the commercial and ship-building interest felt that it had been betrayed; Jay was burned in effigy; Hamilton was stoned at a public meeting; State legislatures declared the treaty unconstitutional. Washington was attacked so fiercely that he said the language used "could scarcely be applied to a Nero, to a notorious defaulter, or even to a common pickpocket." When Congress met in 1795 an effort was made to prevent the necessary appropriations for carrying out the treaty. It was only the great personal popularity of Washington that saved the country from a repudiation of the treaty and a war with England. Once in force, the treaty was found moderately favorable. Our commerce increased, and captures were much diminished.
86. THE WHISKEY REBELLION (1794).
[The excise unpopular.] [Outbreak.]
During this year of excitement a serious outbreak had occurred in Pennsylvania. Ever since the first Excise Act in 1791 (sec. 76), there had been determined opposition to the collection of the whiskey tax. The people of southwestern Pennsylvania were three hundred miles from tide- water; and whiskey was the only commodity of considerable value, in small bulk, with which they could purchase goods. The tax, therefore, affected the whole community. In 1792 the policy pursued at the beginning of the Revolution was brought into action: mobs and public meetings began to intimidate the tax-collectors. In 1794 the difficulties broke out afresh, and on July 17 the house of Inspector-General Neville was attacked by a band of armed men; one man was killed, and the house was burned. Great popular mass meetings followed, and a few days later the United States mail was robbed.
As this violence was directed against the revenue laws, Hamilton made it his special task to suppress it. On September 25 the President called out the militia from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, and Virginia. Hamilton himself accompanied the troops, fifteen thousand in number; they marched over the mountains, and reached the disaffected country at the end of October. The insurgents made no stand in the field, and the troops returned, after making a few arrests.
The matter now went to the courts. Six persons were indicted for treason, of whom two, Vigol and Mitchell, were convicted. They were rough and ignorant men, who had been led into the outbreak without understanding their own responsibility, and Washington pardoned them both. In July, 1795, a general amnesty was proclaimed.