Wednesday, December 26, 2007

WWWD: Washington and Talleyrand

I came across an interesting account of why a meeting between Washington and Talleyrand never happened when Talleyrand spent a time in exile in Philadelphia in the 1790s--and the relevance and implications for today are interesting to ponder.

When Talleyrand left France, and after he was expelled from Britain, he arrived in the United States and there was pressure on Washington to meet with him, as a leading French "moderate" and supporter of ordered liberty.

Washington said he could not meet with an opposition figure of a country with whom the United States had good and friendly relations in his capacity as president of the United States. Some tried to propose a version of the "drop-in"--have Talleyrand "accidently" meet Washington while perhaps meeting with someone else in the government. Talleyrand himself refused, saying that if he could not go in by the front door he would not climb in via the back--in other words, either he and the president should be able to meet openly, or not at all.

What I found most interesting was Washington's request that American "civil society" take up the cause of receiving exiles from the Terror and that in so doing they could convey the sentiments of the American people. In other words, a separation of powers and responsibility between the executive branch having to carry on diplomacy and civil society defending and promoting American ideals.

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