OTD in History… June 24, 1795, the Senate ratifies Jay’s Treaty establishing trade between America and Great Britain

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OTD in History… June 24, 1795, the Senate ratifies Jay’s Treaty establishing trade between America and Great Britain

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

On this in history June 24, 1795, the Senate ratified Jay’s Treaty, negotiated by Chief Justice of the United States John Jay for President George Washington to resolve the outstanding issues between the United States and Great Britain after the Revolutionary War. The treaty avoided war and established preferential trade with Britain, alienating France, America’s ally in their war for independence. Although residue issues were resolved with Britain, it contributed to tensions over trade between the US, Britain and France that would contribute to the War of 1812. Additionally, the treaty was divisive between the two emerging political parties, the Federalists, who supported the treaty and Democratic-Republicans, led by Thomas Jefferson, who distrusted the British and supported loyalties to France.

The Senate passed “The Treaty of Amity, Commerce, and Navigation, Between His Britannic Majesty and the United States of America” with a vote of 20–10, the two-thirds majority necessary to pass. In 1794, President Washington sent Chief Justice Jay to London to negotiate the outstanding issues from the Revolutionary War that were continually causing tensions between the two nations. The issues involved tariff and trade restriction on American exports, the British refusing to vacate their Northwestern forts although it was party of the 1783 Paris Peace Treaty, which Americans believed were contributing to attacks by natives on American settlers, and the impressments of American ships, sailors and naval supplies, although America was considered neutral on trade.

The issues were putting the two nations at the “brink of war,” and President Washington listened to his Secretary of the Treasury and Federalist Alexander Hamilton about resolving the problems with Britain. Washington sent the pro-British Chief Justice to negotiate. Jay had negotiated on America’s part in 1783. Hamilton advised Jay to use a threat to bargain with Britain, that the US would join the Scandinavians, the Danish and Swedish and would fight against impressments. Hamilton, however, betrayed Jay and told the British that America would not use military force or form the alliance. Jay was left without any advantages in his negotiations. Virginia Senator James Monroe later joined the mission to watch over the Democratic-Republican interests.

Among Washington’s demands, he wanted the British to vacate their army from forts in the Northwest Territories, compensate slaveholders for slaves abducted and ship owners, whose ships were confiscated. Washington also wanted free trade with the British West Indies.

The British were refusing to comply because the US was breaking two articles of the 1783 Paris Peace Treaty, refusing to pay debts to British creditors and keeping loyalists’ confiscated properties from the war.

The agreement Jay negotiated with British Foreign Secretary Lord Grenville in the fall of 1794, hardly favored the US but it would avoid war. In the agreement, Britain would vacate the Northwestern forts, and grant the US “most favored nation” status with trade but severely restrict trade in the British West Indies. The remainder would be resolved by arbitration including the “Canadian-Maine boundary, compensation for pre-revolutionary debts, and British seizures of American ships.” In return, the US would grant Britain preferential trade rights including trade access with the British West Indies, and the US would adhere to Britain’s “anti-French maritime policies” including allowing the British to seize American goods to be traded with France with pay and French goods without pay. The US would also ensure that private British war debts were all repaid. Britain’s King George III signed the treaty on November 19, 1794.

Britain favored Hamilton and the Federalists and that was the reason they negotiated at all with the US. Historian John C. Miller writing in his 1964 biography, Alexander Hamilton and the Growth of the New Nation noted, “The fact that the British were willing to make a treaty with the United States in 1794 was partly owing to their recognition that the strengthening of the ‘well-intentioned Party in America’ led by Hamilton was Great Britain’s best hope of stemming the tide of Jacobinism in the United States and upholding neutrality against the ‘French faction’ headed by Jefferson and Madison.” (Miller, 421)

Jay’s Treaty might have prevented war but it was a failure in American diplomacy, an observation made at the time and by historians. Historian Raymond Walters Jr. in his 1957 biography Albert Gallatin: Jeffersonian Financier and Diplomat writes, “The treaty Jay sent home represented a complete triumph for British diplomacy. The United States won modest concessions at a humiliating price.” More recently, historian Richard Norton Smith remarked, “Indeed, a first reading of the twenty-eight articles suggested that Washington’s experiment in secret diplomacy had blown up in his face. Instructed to secure American rights and open British markets; the chief justice did neither. Although agreeing to evacuate the northwestern posts no later than June 1, 1796, the British retained a share of the lucrative fur trade on both sides of the U.S.-Canadian boundary. In exchange for this concession, no more than a belated promise to carry out the terms of the old peace treaty, Jay had bargained away his country’s wartime rights as a neutral power.”

Historians, however, noted that Jay’s Treaty accomplished what it was supposed to in avoiding war with Britain. Historian Richard Brookhiser in his 1996 book, Founding Father: Rediscovering George Washington observed, “In the day time, your path through the woods is ambushed; the darkness of midnight … The ratification of Jay’s Treaty also assured that the country would not be tugged by sympathies with France into a showdown with Britain it could not afford.” (Brookhiser, 100) While historian Joseph J. Ellis concurred in his 2004 book, Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation, Jay’s Treaty “bet, in effect, on England rather than France as the hegemonic European power of the future, which proved prophetic. It recognized the massive dependence of the American economy on trade with England [and] it linked American security and economic development to the British fleet, which provided a protective shield of incalculable value throughout the nineteenth century.” (Ellis, 136)

The treaty divided the nation, with Hamilton’s Federalists supporting the pro-British deal and the Democratic-Republicans led by Jefferson and James Madison in opposition. Jefferson and Madison found that is favored Britain and put America’s trade interests at risk. With former Secretary of State Jefferson between posts, Madison as a Virginia Congressman was the official voice in opposition. After Washington signed the treaty, Jefferson wrote to Monroe on September 6, 1795, about the public opposition, “So general a burst of dissatisfaction never before appeared against any transaction. Those who understand the particular articles of it, condemn these articles. Those who do not understand them minutely, condemn it generally as wearing a hostile face to France.”

Neither was Washington satisfied with the treaty but he thought it was the country’s best chance to avoid another war with Britain, and opened up trade with Britain. Congress also opposed the treaty, and it was uncertain it would be ratified but the Senate passed it on June 24, and Washington signed it into law on August 18, 1795. Over the next year, Congress would remain divided as they worked on the appropriations bills to fulfill the treaty, and on April 30, 1796, the House passed with a vote of 51–48 the appropriations bills to fund the treaty.

In addition to keeping the nation out of war and increasing trade, it helped form the party-system in American politics. Historians Samuel Eliot Morison, Henry Steele Commager and William E. Leuchtenburg in The Growth of the American Republic, concluded, “The fight over appropriations for the Jay Treaty in the House marked the crystallization of the party system.” (Morison, Commager and Leuchtenburg, 308) Jay’s treaty staved off war as Washington hoped but was not a solution as Jefferson and Madison foresaw. The agreement threatened America’s trade neutrality, with Britain consumed in the Napoleonic Wars; America was caught in the middle. British impressments and blockades would only increase when Jefferson assumed the presidency and again put the country on the brink of war. Finally, Madison would take a stronger nation to war in 1812, to resolve finally British continual trade blockade and impressments.

Over 220 years later, the US is again confronted and divided by party over trade. Republican President Donald Trump’s protectionist and anti-trade America First policies, have his administration renegotiating or pulling out of the country’s free-trade agreements with its allies. Recently, Trump has taken his trade wars further imposing tariffs on trade partners unless they negotiate fair deals with the US. His policies contrast with the Democrats pro-free-trade ideology. Although the Democrats and the news media are treating Trump’s approach to trade as an abbreviation in American history, Jay’s Treaty and the uproar and opposition it caused proves trade agreements have always been controversial for the nation.

SOURCES AND READ MORE

Brookhiser, Richard. Founding Father: Rediscovering George Washington. New York: Free Press, 1996.

Ellis, Joseph J. Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2004.

Miller, John C. Alexander Hamilton and the Growth of the New Nation. New York: Harper and Row, 1964.

Walters, Raymond. Albert Gallatin, Jeffersonian Financier and Diplomat. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1969.

Wood, Gordon S. Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789–1815. New York [etc.: Oxford University Press, 2011.

Bonnie K. Goodman has a BA and MLIS from McGill University and has done graduate work in religion at Concordia University. She is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor, and a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion and news. She has a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.

British-American Diplomacy
Jay Treaty : Senate Resolution June 24, 1795

Resolved, (two-thirds of the Senate concurring therein,) That they do consent to, and advise the President of the United States, to ratify the treaty of amity, commerce, and navigation, between his Britannic Majesty and the United States of America, concluded at London, the 19th day of November, 1794, on condition that there be added to the said treaty an article, whereby it shall be agreed to suspend the operation of so much of the 12th article, as respects the trade which his said Majesty thereby consents may be carried on, between the United States and his islands in the West Indies, in the manner, and on the terms and conditions therein specified.

And the Senate recommend to the President to proceed, without delay, to further friendly negotiations with his Majesty, on the subject of the said trade, and of the terms and conditions in question.

Source:
Treaties and Other International Acts of the United States of America.
Edited by Hunter Miller
Volume 2
Documents 1-40 : 1776-1818
Washington : Government Printing Office, 1931.
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OTD in History June 22, 1807, The Chesapeake-Leopold Affair one of the key events leading to the War of 1812

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OTD in History June 22, 1807, The Chesapeake-Leopold Affair one of the key events leading to the War of 1812

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

On this day in history June 22, 1807, the British ship the HMS Leopold attacked the American frigate the USS Chesapeake on the Chesapeake Bay of the coast of Norfolk, Virginia, as part of British semi-warfare and impressments against American ships during the Napoleonic Wars. The engagement was a key event leading to the War of 1812, the final war between the two countries, but Presidents Thomas Jefferson and successor James Madison were able to stave off declaring war for another five years.

In earnest since 1803, Great Britain engaged in impressments; taking British naval deserters back into the Royal Navy. Most of the men were taken from American ships, many even had American citizenship or papers, but as Frank W Thackeray and John E Findling write in their book Events that changed the world in the nineteenth century, the British policy was “once an Englishman, always an Englishman.” (Thackeray and Findling, 20)

The war between the two countries almost started earlier than in 1812 because of the Chesapeake affair in June 1807. Near the Chesapeake Bay, the British ship the Leopard under Captain Salusbury Pryce Humphreys pursued and then stopped the American warship. Humphreys insisted they come on board to retrieve a deserter. When the Chesapeake’s captain James Baron refused the British ship opened fire, killing three and wounding 18 including the captain, the Chesapeake was only able to get one shot fired in retaliation, after Barron surrendered.

Humphreys still came on board taking four men, three of which were American with citizenship but had served on British ships. The Americans were Daniel Martin, John Strachan, and William Ware, all from HMS Melampus, two were African-Americans. Jenkin Ratford was the only British born on the ship and used to part of the crew of HMS Halifax. The three Americans were sentenced to 500 lashings but they were commuted because Britain later returned the three to the Americans. Ratford, however, was sentenced to death by hanging on the Halifax. Chesapeake’s captain, Barron was court-martialed and suspended from duty for five years. Britain eventually offered to pay for the damages to the Chesapeake.

The incident caused an uproar in America because of the disrespect Britain gave America and humiliation to the nation’s honor. Many wanted the government to respond with force, even Federalists and Democratic-Republicans agreed on the matter. President Jefferson remarked the war fervor for war was more than for the battle that touched off the Revolutionary War. The President expressed, “Never since the Battle of Lexington have I seen this country in such a state of exasperation as at present, and even that did not produce such unanimity.” Madison was Secretary of State under Jefferson, and future President James Monroe was just a foreign minister.

Monroe notified Britain of America’s demands, which included “British disavowal of the deed, the restoration of the four seamen, the recall of Admiral Berkeley, the exclusion of British warships from U.S. territorial waters, and the abolition of impressments from vessels under the United States flag.” Britain would not budge on the impressments. The nation, however, was not prepared for another war. Instead, President Jefferson responded on July 2, with a policy of “peaceful coercion,” which stopped sea trade to Britain and France.

Congress proceeded to pass in December 1807 the highly divisive and unsuccessful Embargo Act of 1807. The incident heightened tensions between the two countries, America demanded respect and would not get it from Britain. Britain’s actions the next five years would cause economic hardships for Americans the humiliation would be enough for America to stand up and declare in what was considered the second war for independence.

READ MORE

OTD in History… June 18, 1812, President Madison signs declaration beginning the War of 1812 against Britain and colonial Canada

Thackeray, Frank W, and John E. Findling. Events That Changed the World in the Nineteenth Century. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 1997.

Tucker, Spencer, and Frank T. Reuter. Injured Honor: The Chesapeake-Leopard Affair, June 22, 1807. Annapolis, Md: Naval Inst. Press, 1996.

 

 

OTD in history… June 18, 1812, President Madison signs declaration beginning the War of 1812 against Britain and colonial Canada

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OTD in history… June 18, 1812, President Madison signs declaration beginning the War of 1812 against Britain and colonial Canada

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

On this day in history, June 18, 1812, the War of 1812 begins after President James Madison signs the Congressionally passed declaration into law, beginning what is often considered the second war for independence. Since 1807, during President Thomas Jefferson’s administration, Great Britain had been engaging in a blockade against America because they were trading with France, their enemy in the Napoleonic Wars. Britain also practiced impressments, taking American seamen and forcing them to join the British Royal Navy. On the land front, Britain had been agitating Native Indians to attack American communities. Two and a half years later America was triumphant putting to rest any more wars with Great Britain as they began diplomatic and trade relations that continue, while America would no longer threaten Canada as they moved towards nationhood.

After over 200 years, the good relations between the three countries seem to be eroding under President Donald Trump again over trade and tariffs. After imposing steel tariffs on Canada claiming national security, Trump recently remarked in a conversation with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau “Didn’t you guys burn down the White House?” when trying to justify the national security reasons. Trump claimed to have been joking but the issue brought up the War of 1812 and the old wounds of the conflict where America unsuccessfully attempted to conquer Canada and the only war where Canada was legitimately an enemy and threat to America in their fight on the side of the British.

Since America won the Revolutionary War, they had been engaging in trade with France, an American ally without any interference from Great Britain shipping from the French West Indies to the US and then to France. With the Napoleonic Wars in Europe, Britain started to make it difficult for America to trade with France. The 1805 Essex case in Britain determined Americans could only trade with France if they paid a tariff and proved the items were not originally meant to go to France. American ships were neutral and usually traded with both countries. French leader Napoleon Bonaparte issued the Berlin and Milan decrees in December 1806 and 1807, which created a blockade around Britain. Britain countered with the Order-in-Council. Both empires essentially ordered that ships trading with either empire would have their goods confiscated, American bore the brunt of the decrees. Until the war, the British captured 1,400 American ships.

In earnest since 1803, Britain also engaged in impressments; taking British naval deserters back into the Navy. Most of the men were taken from American ships, many even had American citizenship or papers, but as Frank W Thackeray and John E Findling write in their book Events that changed the world in the nineteenth century, the British policy was “once an Englishman, always an Englishman.” (Thackeray and Findling, 20) The war between the two countries almost started earlier because of the Chesapeake affair in June 1807. Near the Chesapeake Bay, the British ship the Leopard stopped the American warship and insisted they come on board to retrieve a deserter, when the captain refused the British ship opened fire-killing 21, the British captain still came on board taking a total of four men, three which were American citizenship. President Jefferson responded in December 1807 with a policy of “peaceful coercion,” which stopped sea trade to Britain and France. Congress proceeded to pass the Embargo Act of 1807.

The embargo affected the American economy hitting the Northeast that relied on shipping trade the hardest. As Thackeray and Findling write, the embargo was a “politically divisive issue” in the Presidential election of 1808 between Democratic-Republican James Madison, and Federalist, C. C. Pinckney. Madison won the election. Before Jefferson left office he repealed the Embargo Act, and in its stead, Congress passed the Non-Intercourse Act, which allowed trade with all other countries except Britain and France, unless they “removed their decrees.” Economic conditions did not improve and in May 1810, Congress passed Macon’s Bill №2 resuming trade with the two countries “but if either revoked their decrees, the United States would reinstitute nonintercourse against the other.” (Thackeray and Findling, 31) In November, Napoleon revoked his decrees but still harassed American ships. At the same time, America ceased to trade with Britain and diplomatic relations virtually ended.

On land, the US was facing difficulties with the Indians in the territories. As American removed the Indians further West for settlement, great Shawnee chief Tecumseh decided to fight back by forming an alliance with Southern tribes and attacking settlers. Indiana territorial governor William Henry Harrison instead, attacked the Shawnee when Tecumseh was not there in what became the Battle of Tippecanoe fought in north-central Indiana. Congress widely believed that Britain was behind Tecumseh’s actions, supplying them from their Northern Canadian colonies. Congressmen in the west wanted war declared to capture Canada and end their aid to the Indians.

When Congress met in November 1811, under new Speaker of the House Henry Clay of Kentucky, they passed a number of war preparedness bills, for an army and enlarging the navy. A small battle where the American ship the President beat the British Little Belt pushed the country to war. On June 18, Madison signed the declaration of war. Just two days earlier, on June 16, “Britain’s House of Commons had repealed the Orders-in-Council.” (Thackeray and Findling, 22) Britain thought Madison would revoke the declaration; instead, he made it about the 10,000 American sailors impressed by Britain.

At first, the war was a stalemate, Britain was occupied with the war in Europe until 1814, and America failed to raise the funds and increase enlistment to enlarge to army and navy to capture Canada. In the first six months of the war, America was victorious in six sea battles, while privateers “captured over 150 British merchant ships worth $2 million.” Britain did better in the land war; with Tecumseh, they reacquired the Michigan territory, while in November 1812, America’s attempted unsuccessfully to invade Upper Canada. By April 27, 1813, with Canada not reinforced with supplies, America captured and burned Upper Canada’s capital York now Toronto. In October, Canada lost Tecumseh as a defense, who was killed. Britain successfully applied a blockade by sea to New York and Philadelphia and blocked the Chesapeake and Delaware.

In 1814, when Napoleon abdicated, Britain turned its attention to the Americans assaulting the country by land and by sea. At the Battle of Lundy’s Lane in July 25, 1814, near Niagara Falls at the New York-Canada border, America lost its last chance to invade Canada. On August 24, Britain captured under Maj.-Gen. Robert Ross from Rostrevor, County Down, Ireland captured the capital Washington, DC burning down the Capital, Library of Congress, Treasury and the White House in retaliation for an attack on York, which forced President Madison to flee to Virginia. Britain thought these defeats would prompt America to fold but Madison would not. Francis Scott Key would be inspired to write the poem the Star Spangled Banner when he saw the American flag still flew above Fort McHenry outside Baltimore Harbor on September 14. On September 11, the US had a resounding victory pushing back Britain at Lake Champlain near the border. America had its most decisive victory after the ceasefire with the Andrew Jackson leading the Battle of New Orleans on January 8, 1815.

The war officially ended with a ceasefire on December 24, 1814, when both parties signed the Treaty of Ghent in Belgium. The war officially ended on February 16, 1815, Madison signed the ratified peace treaty. America had staved off the mighty British forces, and although Britain had hoped for American concessions, they could not acquire them. Prime Minister Lord Liverpool concluded, “We might certainly land in different parts of their coast, and destroy some of their towns, or put them under contribution; but in the present state of the public mind in America it would be in vain to expect any permanent good effects from operations of this nature.”

Historians popularly view the War of 1812 as the second war for independence cementing America’s status as a nation. Britain was pleased they were able to contain America. Canada might have been the big victors, British historian Amanda Foreman writes, “For Canadians, the war was, and remains, the cornerstone of nationhood, brought about by unbridled U.S. aggression.” Johns Hopkins University professor and historian Eliot Cohen writing in his book Conquered into Liberty: Two Centuries of Battles along the Great Warpath that Made the American Way of War believes Canada benefited the most, “ultimately, Canada and Canadians won the War of 1812… Americans at the time, and, by and large, since did not see matters that way.” Cohen speaking of Canada’s gains in the war explains, “Not only did the colony remain intact: It had acquired heroes, British and French, and a narrative of plucky defense against foreign invasion, that helped carry it to nationhood.”

Historian Sally E. Hadden claims the War of 1812 often called “forgotten conflict” had far-ranging effects for America. Hadden explains, “Surprisingly, the war had a tremendous long-term impact on international law of the sea, American foreign and domestic policies, and America’s plans for expansion to the south and west, which altered American-Indian relations for the rest of the century. The war elevated men like Andrew Jackson, Henry Clay, and John C. Calhoun to power in American politics; all would affect momentous decisions in the years before the American Civil War.” Historian Alan Taylor in his book The Civil War of 1812: American Citizens, British Subjects, Irish Rebels, and Indian Allies concludes, “The ultimate legacy of the war was that the empire and the republic would share the continent along a more clearly defined border more generous to the Americans and more confining to the British — but most ominous to the Indians.” (Taylor, 439)

The issues that brought upon the war would be resolved years later with the 1817 Rush-Bagot Agreement, which demilitarized the Great Lakes.” The Convention of 1818 determined the Canada US border; the border would be along the forty-ninth parallel until the Rocky Mountains, while both would share the Oregon Territory for 10 years, and the US secured fishing rights off Newfoundland. Politically, the war destroyed the Federalist Party, when they supported the Hartford Convention’s plan for the Northeastern states to secede if Congress did not give them more influence. In contrast, it saw the rise of influence of the South and West, with two war heroes Andrew Jackson and William Henry Harrison later elected president.

SOURCES

Cohen, Eliot A. Conquered into Liberty: Two Centuries of Battles Along the Great Warpath That Made the American Way of War. New York, NY: Free Press, 2011.

Hickey, Donald R. The War of 1812: A Forgotten Conflict. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2012.

Thackeray, Frank W, and John E. Findling. Events That Changed the World in the Nineteenth Century. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 1997.

Taylor, Alan. The Civil War of 1812: American Citizens, British Subjects, Irish Rebels, & Indian Allies. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2011.

Bonnie K. Goodman BA, MLIS (McGill University), is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor. She is a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion and news. She has a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.

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