The Enemy in Our Hands: America's Treatment of Enemy Prisoners of War, from the Revolution to the War on Terror

By Robert C. Doyle | Go to book overview

THREE
The Second American Revolution
Cartel and Enemy Prisoners of the War of 1812

To secure a sufficient number of hostages, to answer in their persons
for the proper treatment of a certain number of American officers
now in possession of the enemy.

—James Madison

When the Revolution ended in 1783, Americans believed the rest of the world would leave them alone. Issues such as banking and fiscal management of the American government commanded center stage; foreign trade and diplomacy fell a long way down the ladder of priorities. America needed a constitution, an army, a navy, taxation, and banking rules. There were other vital issues left on the table when the Revolution came to an end in 1783. Internally, how was the nation going to expand and grow into the Northwest Territories that several colonies had claimed? How was it going to deal with the native Indian populations that lived in the interior and had fought both for and against the Americans in the Revolution?

Externally, the international arena was full too. In an effort to resolve differences with France that had been accumulating since the Treaty of Alliance of 1778, President John Adams dispatched a commission of three men to meet with French Minister of Foreign Affairs Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord in 1797. After many delays, three Talleyrand intermediaries approached the anonymous American commissioners and demanded apologies for Adams’s allusions that were critical of France plus the payment of a bribe of several million dollars before official negotiations could proceed. Convinced that further negotiations were hopeless, the three commissioners returned to the United States, and President Adams released their dispatches to Congress, substituting X, Y, and Z for the names of Talleyrand’s agents. “I will never send another minister to France without assurances that he will be received, respected, and honored, as the representative of a great, free, powerful, and independent nation,” Adams declared. The American public was outraged at the publication of the dispatches, and

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