Obsession and the Creation of an American Culture (2011)
* Harlow Giles Unger. The Last Founding Father - James Monroe
and a Nation’s Call to Greatness (2009)
Webster (with the help of others) wrote an editorial in the Connecticut Courant in support of President Washington's declaration of neutrality in Europe during the French Revolution. Webster's editorial was designed to support Washington in the political maelstrom that was exacerbated by the French envoy to America, Edmond ("Citizen") Genet; Washington was deeply moved by Webster's efforts.
When Webster traveled to Manhattan for potential publishing ventures (he was constantly searching for better deals for his speller), he found out that Genet was not only in NYC whipping up another political firestorm, but he was also staying at the same location that night as was Webster. Webster and Genet met each other, of course, and after inquiring about Webster's business in NYC, Genet asked Webster to have dinner.
Webster was in NYC by 13 November 1793, and on
9 December the first issue of American Minerva, a four-page daily (except Sunday) Federalist newspaper, was published. Webster believed that his newspaper would be instrumental in spreading democracy in the U.S. (the endorsement from John Adams made Webster even more optimistic). Webster's first task was to take down Genet, whose fortunes were already tumbling. Webster kept up the pressure in his newspaper; by then most members in Congress were against the French Envoy Extraordinaire.
Webster was supportive of the ideals of the French Revolution, but he was absolutely horrified by the violence. Webster was convinced that the absence of religion in France (and in general) promoted violence and lawlessness . . . Webster (as well as many other Americans) was concerned that the mayhem of the French Revolution might reach America.
By early-1796, Webster was finally earning handsome profits; he decided to rename the Minerva to The Commercial Advertiser, and circulation surpassed 1700 (his net profit exceeded $5000/yr). During the Jay Treaty crisis, Webster continuously came to Washington's defense with his publications by writing pro-treaty editorials under the name Curtius. So well-argued and written were the editorials that Thomas Jefferson thought that Curtius was Hamilton. Jefferson even told James Madison that Curtius was a very formidable opponent.
Hamilton would soon enter the fray, writing dozens of editorials in support of the Jay Treaty. Even so, Webster believed that he had "out-Hamiltoned Hamilton" with his editorials.
Rufus King credited Curtius when he was talking to John Jay over who he believed was the most influential advocate for the Jay Treaty. After the Jay Treaty crisis, Webster's newspapers became required reading for America's Elite.
The British and the French refusal to honor U.S. neutrality on the open seas further polarized the national debate. According to John Quincy Adams, France represented the attitude for championing freedom, while Britain represented social order in the Civilized World: the Francophiles and Anglophiles in America were at each other's political throats.
Unwilling to risk his rising political career, James Monroe sought the middle-of-the-road. Monroe supported Jefferson's pro-France views, but he refused to sever ties with Washington. Meanwhile, Washington thought it would be politically advantageous to nominate a Francophile Republican to Paris, and after James Madison refused the nomination, Monroe was selected. At about the same time, Washington also nominated the Federalist Anglophile, John Jay, to go to the Court of St. James in London . . . John Quincy Adams, soon to be America's greatest diplomat of the era, supported both nominations.
The Monroes stepped into a bloodbath of genocidal proportions when they arrived in France: 500,000+ in prison, 17,000 executed by the "government", and 25,000+ executed by mobs. The baggage of the Monroes had been "inspected", and many items were missing. Monroe immediately asserted himself, despite the danger, in a military bearing as the representative of an allied sovereign nation. On the way to Paris (which took 3 days by wagon; he didn't dare sleep much at all), Monroe learned of the execution of Robespierre.
Meanwhile, Gouverneur Morris, the man that Monroe was to replace, was still in Paris, and not very happy at being recalled. Morris took Monroe to Paris to the proper people and buildings, introduced Monroe, and at the same time announced his recall to the U.S. After presenting his credentials to what constituted the government in France, Monroe waited ten days, with no response.
Two weeks later, Monroe approached the Committee of Public Safety in order to try and end French interference with U.S. ships on the Atlantic. By the end of 1794, the French government agreed to all of Monroe's requests on behalf of the U.S., and Monroe was even invited to official government receptions among the French Elite.
As John Jay's negotiations were occurring at the same time in London, Monroe became concerned that he may be blamed for any deterioration of US/French relations. In order to protect himself, Monroe sent duplicate letters to James Madison of what he sent SecState Randolph, which would prove to be very wise when scandal would force Randolph to resign. Elizabeth Monroe, very bravely, personally visited Lafayette's wife in prison, since her Monroe was unable to do so; as a result, after being imprisoned for 16 months, Mrs. Lafayette was freed.
4 July 1795: Monroe became an even bigger celebrity in France by publicly celebrating Independence Day at the US Embassy, which Monroe had purchased with "imaginary money" (e.g. IOU's and land certificates), thinking the U.S. Government would eventually cover the cost . . . that would turn out to be a mistake that would drastically increase Monroe's personal debt. Monroe had become so fluent (and colloquial) in French that he no longer used interpreters, contrary from his instructions from Randolph. Meanwhile, back in America, Monroe was accused of being a sell-out by the pro-British Federalists.
In November 1794, Monroe succeeded in gaining the release of Thomas Paine from a French prison. Paine quickly wore out his welcome with Monroe by attacking Washington with his now-poison pen . . . Monroe finally washed his hands of Paine by Christmas 1795. Early in 1795, Monroe received a letter from Randolph; in effect Randolph apologized for his previous remonstrating letter. Also, Randolph informed Monroe that Washington supported what he was doing in France. However, by the end of 1795, Monroe had created tension with important French officials over his repeated successful efforts of rescuing/protecting "Enemies of the State".
Monroe's troubles really began when the Jay Treaty was announced. In France, the treaty provoked government outrage, and then food shortage riots started. The mini-revolution toppled the French government, which was replaced with the Directory. The Directory, after reading the Jay Treaty, immediately nullified the Treaty of Alliance (1778) between the U.S. and France. The Directory also ordered French warships to seize all U.S. ships and cargoes bound for Britain, imprisoning the crews as well.
Monroe didn't know that after Randolph's forced resignation, there were no longer any sympathetic or supportive ears for Monroe in Washington's 2nd term Cabinet. The new SecState,
Timothy Pickering, wanted to purge the federal government of all Anti-Federalists and Republicans, which included Monroe as far as Pickering was concerned. Washington, convinced by his reshaped Cabinet that Monroe had failed in France, formally recalled Monroe back to the U.S in 1796.