The Worlds Famous Orations. Great Britain: II. (17801861). 1906.
III. The Foreign Policy of Washington
Charles James Fox (17491806)
Born in 1749, died in 1806; son of Lord Holland; entered Parliament as a Tory in 1768; in Lord Norths ministry in 17701774, from which he was dismissed, and then became a Whig, supporting the American cause; Foreign Secretary in 1782, and again in 1783 and 1806.
HOW1 infinitely superior must appear the spirit and principles of General Washington in his late address to Congress2 compared with the policy of modern European courts! Illustrious man! deriving honor less from the splendor of his situation than from the dignity of his mind. Grateful to France for the assistance received from her in that great contest which secured the independence of America, he yet did not choose to give up the system of neutrality in her favor; having once laid down the line of conduct most proper to be pursued, not all the insults and provocations of the French minister, Genet, could at all put him out of his way and bend him from his purpose.
It must, indeed, create astonishment, that, placed in circumstances so critical, and filling a station so conspicuous, the character of Washington should never once have been called in questionthat he should, in no one instance, have been accused either of improper insolence, or of mean submission, in his transactions with foreign nations. It has been reserved for him to run the race of glory without experiencing the smallest interruption to the brilliancy of his career. The breath of censure has not dared to impeach the purity of his conduct, nor the eye of envy to raise its malignant glance to the elevation of his virtues. Such has been the transcendent merit and the unparalleled fate of this illustrious man!
How did he act when insulted by Genet?3 Did he consider it as necessary to avenge himself for the misconduct or madness of an individual, by involving a whole continent in the horrors of war? No; he contented himself with procuring satisfaction for the insult, by causing Genet to be recalled, and thus at once consulted his own dignity and the interests of his country. Happy Americans! While the whirlwind flies over one quarter of the globe, and spreads everywhere desolation, you remain protected from its baneful effects by your own virtues, and the wisdom of your government.
Separated from Europe by an immense ocean, you feel not the effect of those prejudices and passions which convert the boasted seats of civilization into scenes of horror and bloodshed. You profit by the folly and madness of the contending nations, and afford, in your more congenial clime, an asylum to those blessings and virtues which they wantonly contemn, or wickedly exclude from their bosom! Cultivating the arts of peace under the influence of freedom, you advance, by rapid strides, to opulence and distinction; and if, by any accident, you should be compelled to take part in the present unhappy contestif you should find it necessary to avenge insult, or repel injurythe world will bear witness to the equity of your sentiments and the moderation of your views; and the success of your arms will, no doubt, be proportioned to the justice of your cause!
Note 2. A reference to the attitude of neutrality taken toward the French Republic. [back]
Note 3. Edmund Charles Genet, the French minister to the United States, who had treated with defiance and insolence the American declaration of neutrality. He was a brother of Madame Campon. Being recalled as minister, Genet, who was a Girondist, married a daughter of Gov. George Clinton, of New York. Having settled in New York, he died at Schodack, on the Hudson, in 1834. [back]