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RELATIONS WITH RUSSIA.
Not originally applied to for aid by Congress of '77–Little known at
that time in Europe-Relations friendly-Armed neutrality—Dana sent to Russia in ’80— Instructed to propose America as a member of the armed neutrality-Not received by the Empress— Russia not disposed to acknowledge independence- Anecdote of Franklin and Count du Nord-Neutrality awakens great anciety—Congress, at return of peace, took earliest steps to prevent a connexion with “ Neutrality” — Instructions to ministers in Europe not to agree to support neutrality by force of arms-- Adams, minister to RussiaPahlen to this country—Daschkoff-No treaty or commercial convention, though great trade.
Russia was originally not one of the European states, to whom an application was made by Congress in '97 for aid, and for the recognition for the independence, though some circumstances, that will presently be mentioned in a subsequent year, appeared likely to give uncommon importance to the first diplomatic connections of the two countries. We may account for this omission of Congress entirely by local considerations. The weight and power of that nation, since become so formidable, had been confined principally to the north, and to wars with the Turks. Little known to Europe, except by her attacks on the Prussian dominions in the time of the great Frederic, and by sharing in the wicked partition of Poland in '72, the consequences of the French revolution
first brought her armies across the Alps and the Rhine, first developed the resources of that country to full view, and in most successful action. No European power has, however, conducted itself in a more friendly manner towards America than Russia; the relations of the two countries having all been of an amicable and satisfactory kind. As early as '91, we had a direct trade up the Baltic, but till 1309 and 10, it was principally confined to imports. It has since been very great, though, as to imports, consisting chiefly of articles that might well be made staples in this country. We have suffered less interruption in our commerce with Russia than with any other continental nation of Europe. The Emperor Alexander did not adopt the French system till after the treaty of Tilsit, in 1807, and he took the first opportunity to release himself from the obligation of enforcing it, by publishing the celebrated Ukase of December, 1810. Indeed, the system had never been executed with much severity in Russia. British goods had never been burnt in that country, as on other parts of the continent, and they were always admitted in neutral bottoms.
Notwithstanding Catharine II. was the author of the armed neutrality of '80, Russia was one of the first parties to the maratime coalition against France in '93. But the declaration of this Empress, in the year just mentioned, concerning the rights and duties of neutrals, immediately attracted the attention of Congress to Russia. The principles, announced in that instrument, though far from being complete or embracing the whole ground,* were such as America would at once espouse ; they were directly hostile to the system of Great Britain, and in that way were likely to produce a favourable influence on the war then waging between the mother country and the colonies. Congress did not delay to send a minister to Russia, for the armed neutrality presented an
* The armed neutrality left contrabands matter of conventional law. nor did it establish any regulations for vessels under convoy.
admirable occasion of attacking England in a vital organ. Another method of expressing their approbation of the principles of that confederacy was, also, adopted. from the Journal of October '80, the following paragraph :“Congress, willing to testify their regard to the rights of commerce, and their respect for the sovereign who hath proposed, and the powers who have approved the said regulations: Resolve, That the Board of Admiralty prepare and report instructions for the commanders of armed vessels commissioned by the United States, conformable to the principles contained in the declaration of the Empress of all the Russias on the rights of neutral vessels.”
Francis Dana, of Massachusetts, was elected, in December '80, minister plenipotentiary to the court of St. Petersburg ; he was authorized to “accede to the convention of the said neutral and belligerent powers for protecting the freedom of commerce and the rights of nations,” and to propose a treaty of amity and commerce. This is the only instance in the history of the country, in which the United States volunteered themselves a party to a league of sovereigns in Europe. But not only was it an effectual mode of hastening the acknowledgment of independence, but the principles adopted by the northern confederacy were exceedingly grateful to the American government. It was a league, in reality, both offensive and defensive, what its name purported it to be, an armed coalition, or in the modern phrase, “ war in disguise.” But even if the United States had been admitted to it, they were not in a condition, at that time, to furnish their quota of armament. England, at war with France, Spain, America, and shortly after Holland, regarded this coalition of the principal states of Europe against her with sullen silence; she replied to the notes of the different northern powers, notifying to her the formation of the confederacy, with uncommon adroitness, and with all possible diplomatic address and formality. With the exception of Portugal, she had not a real friend left in the vear '81, in either hemisphere ; and, with less power and
wealth to conduct and sustain the conflict, she was in a more desperate condition than in 1809.
Mr. Dana was neither received by the Russian court, nor was it officially known that he was at St. Petersburg, and as the empress had proposed to act a principal part in the mediation already mentioned, she could not consent to admit a minister from the United States. M. de Vergennes advised Mr. Dana not to appear in an official character, but to keep his commission secret, and to represent himself as a common traveller. He was well recommended to the Marquis de Verac, the French envoy at St. Petersburg, who rendered him essential services. M. de Verac, by the direction of his court, communicated all the proceedings of the American Congress to the Russian government, concerning the armed neutrality. Russia does not seem, at that time, to have been much disposed to acknowledge the independence of the United States, or to take any measures that should bring the war to a close. It appears to have been her policy to weaken France and England, on account of the ambitious designs Catharine had on Poland, and to render them incapable of counteracting her projects concerning the Turks. Mr. Dana in a letter, dated April '82, observes that the acknowledgment of the independence by the United Provinces was ill received at St. Petersburg; and Franklin relates an amusing story of the Count du Nord, afterwards the emperor Paul, that affords some illustration of the views of the empress, though an affair of mere etiquette
The Compte du Nord, who is son of the empress of Russia, on arriving at Paris, ordered, it seems, cards of visit to be sent to all the foreign ministers. One of them, on which was written, Le Compte du Nord et le Prince Bariatinski, was brought to me. It was on Monday evening last. Being at court the next day, I inquired of an old minister, my friend, what was the etiquette, and whether the Compte received visits. The answer was, Non, on se fait écrire. Violà tout. This is done here by passing the door, and ordering your name to be written in the porter's book. Accordingly, on Wednesday, I
passed the house of prince Bariatinski, ambassador of Russia, where the Compte lodged, and left my name on the list of each. I thought no more of the matter. But this day, May 24, comes the servant who brought the card, and in a great affliction, saying he was like to be ruined by his mistake in bringing the card here, and wishing to obtain from me some paper, of I know not what kind, for I did not see him. In the afternoon came my friend, M. Le Roy, who is, also, a friend of the prince's, telling me how much he, the prince, was concerned at the accident,—that both himself, and the Compte had great personal regard for me and my character, but that our independence not yet being acknowledged by the court of Russia, it was impossible for him to permit himself to make me a visit as a minister. I told M. Le Roy, it was not my custom to seek such honours, though I was very sensible of them when conferred on me; that I should not have voluntarily intruded a visit, and that in this case I had only done what I was informed the etiquette required
But if it would be attended with any inconvenience to prince Bariatinski, whom I much esteemed and respected, I thought the remedy was easy,-he had only to erase my name out of his book of visits received, and I would burn their card."
Peace having been made with England, Congress discovered at once, that they were about to be entangled in a very troublesome alliance, likely to lead to fresh quarrels. The project of a Russian treaty, and of acceding to the armed neutrality, was soon brought under consideration. The country had just accomplished its own independence, but it was not at all in a condition to enter into other wars, and though the doctrines of the northern league were cheerfully and readily adopted, the nation was not prepared to defend them by force of arms. It is true, all the powers of Europe were opposed in this business to Great Britain, and if circumstances had compelled the parties to proceed to hostilities, America could hardly have expected much share in it, or much disaster or disgrace. Not only America required a long rest at this moment; but the prospect of a general war, from which she should be exempted, gave her hopes of immediately appropriațing to herself a valuable and profitable commerce. She