A Century of American Diplomacy/Chapter I

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The British North American colonies sought for admission into the family of nations in a transition epoch in the development of international law and diplomacy. These were the offspring of the latter period of the Middle Ages. Diplomacy could have no existence in the Roman Empire, because Rome would permit no relation with any other state, save that of subjection on the part of the other. Diplomatic negotiations necessarily imply a certain equality of relations. It was not until the modern nations began to be evolved from the chaos resulting from the overthrow of the Roman Empire, and they assumed some degree of stability, and recognized in each other an equality in international intercourse, that international law became a formative code of principles controlling the conduct of nations. Although the treatises of Grotius had been written a hundred years, the eighteenth century, which records the revolt of the American colonies, repeatedly witnessed the disregard of this code and its principles set aside by the more powerful nations.

The definition and etymology of the word diplomacy illustrate its history. It may be at this day defined to be the art of conducting the intercourse of nations with each other. A fuller definition is found in the Century Dictionary: " The science of the forms, ceremonies, and methods to be observed in conducting the actual intercourse of one state with another, through authorized agents on the basis of international law; the art of conducting such intercourse, as in negotiating and drafting treaties, representing the interests of a state or its subjects at a foreign court," etc. It is a word of modern origin, not found in Johnson's Dictionary, issued about the middle of the last century, being derived from the word diploma, the significance of which grew out of the practice of sovereigns of the mediaeval period, following the Koman method of preservation of important documents, in having their royal warrants, decrees, and finally their treaties carefully inscribed on parchments or diplomas. The knowledge of these ancient documents became a special study by a class of officials, who, in that period, were intrusted with the framing of treaties. (Encyclopaedia Britannica, " Diplomatics.") The word is said to have been first used in French by Count de Vergennes, Minister of Louis XVI., and in English by Burke, contemporaries in our Revolutionary period.

Diplomacy and its code international law are the outgrowth of the conflict of nations in recent centuries, the slow but steady development and triumph of justice and the principles of humanity over tyranny and force, resulting in the amelioration of the horrors of war and the greater reign of reason. Diplomatic history treats of high motives and the progress of just principles, and in recent times the wars of the nations and their political disputes have resulted in the evolution of a recognized code of universal and impartial justice as applied to the governments of the world. There is no more striking illustration of this fact than the diplomatic history of the United States. A new nation in a new world, untrammeled by the traditions and institutions of past ages, born to power and greatness almost in a day from the beginning of its political existence it made itself the champion of a freer commerce, of a sincere and genuine neutrality, of respect for private property in war, of the most advanced ideas of natural rights and justice; and in its brief existence of a century, by its example and its persistent diplomatic advocacy, it has exerted a greater influence in the recognition of these elevated principles than any other nation of the world.

The study, therefore, of our diplomatic history becomes most important and profitable. In view of its past record, the United States occupies to-day a conspicuous and interesting position among the nations. Called by the fortunes of war and its enlarged wealth and power to great responsibilities, if it shall prove true to its past history, it must not lower its standard of universal justice, or lose its interest in the betterment of the human race. It has been well said that it is impossible to separate the policy of the government from the conscience of the nation.

The diplomatic record which our country has made in the first century of its existence is one in which any American citizen may take just pride, and in the following pages I propose to direct the attention of the reader, although within a brief compass, to the salient features of that record.

In entering upon this review, the first epoch which calls for examination is that which embraces the period from the earliest formation of the union of the colonies to the adoption of the Constitution of 1787. The diplomatic relations of the rising nation were of slow growth, and were gradually developed by the necessities of the struggle for independence. By the Articles of Confederation the Continental Congress was empowered to make peace and declare war, to send and receive ambassadors and make treaties and alliances, but it could only enter upon the latter with the assent of nine of the thirteen States. It is doubtless from this provision that the Federal Constitution took the clause requiring all treaties for their ratification to receive a two-third vote of the Senate.

Originally the Confederation was without executive officers, and all its business, both foreign and domestic, was conducted through committees. In 1775 a "Secret Committee on Foreign Correspondence" was appointed, of which Benjamin Franklin and John Jay were members, and in 1777 it was changed to the " Committee on Foreign Affairs." The personnel of this committee was frequently changed; Thomas Paine acted as its secretary for some time, but he was finally dismissed for misconduct in office. Through these committees all the foreign relations of the Colonies were conducted up to 1781, when the committee was abolished, and a " Department of Foreign Affairs " was established. By that time a considerable diplomatic representation had been sent to Europe, the treaties of alliance and of commerce with France had been negotiated, and important relations with other nations were being established. The conduct of these relations through a committee had proved most unsatisfactory. Mr. Lovell, the only member at that time who seemed to take an interest in its business, wrote in August, 1779, " There is really no such thing as a Committee of Foreign Affairs existing no secretary or clerk further than I persevere to be one and the other. The books and the papers of that extinguished body lay yet on the table of Congress, or rather are locked up in the secretary's private box." (The Department of State, its History and Functions (1893), pp. 7, 15.)

Congress finally took the matter in hand, and appointed a committee which submitted the plan for the organization of the department, and in its report states: " That the extent and rising power of the United States entitle them to a place among the great potentates of Europe, while our political and commercial interests point out the propriety of cultivating with them a friendly correspondence and connection. That, to render such an intercourse advantageous, the necessity of competent knowledge of the interests, views, relations, and systems of those potentates, is obvious. . . . That to answer those essential purposes the committee are of opinion that a fixed and permanent office for the Department of Foreign Affairs ought forthwith to be established as a remedy against the fluctuations, the delays, and indecision to which the present mode of managing our foreign affairs must be exposed." (2 Secret Journals of Congress, 580. a 5 Ib. 93.) The committee thereupon recommended that a Secretary of Foreign Affairs be appointed, and proceeded to set forth his duties. He was to keep an office, employ suitable clerks, and conduct the foreign correspondence of the government. It was provided that all his communications were to be laid before Congress; he was " to transmit abroad such communications, as Congress shall direct, to the ministers of these United States, and others at foreign courts, and in foreign countries; the secretary shall have liberty to attend Congress, that he may be the better informed of the affairs of the United States, and have an opportunity of explaining his reports respecting his department."

While the Secretary of Foreign Affairs of the Confederation possessed little of the independent action of the Secretary of State under the Constitution, he enjoyed one privilege not granted to the latter, to wit, the right of attending and taking part in the deliberations of Congress.

We learn from a report to Congress in 1782 that the entire force of the department consisted of the secretary, at a salary of $4,000; two assistant secretaries, at salaries of $800 and $700 respectively; and of one clerk at $500; making a total of four officials at a cost of $6,000. 2 The first secretary was Robert R. Livingston, a member of the celebrated Livingston family of New York which rendered such important service to the country during and after the Ee volution. He was a member of the committee which framed the Declaration of Independence, and was later the minister to France who negotiated the purchase of Louisiana. He was succeeded in 1783 by John Jay, whose services we shall have frequent occasion to consider in the succeeding chapters, one of the negotiators of two of the most important treaties of our country's history, and the first Chief Justice of the United States.

Some idea of the peculiar relation existing at that period between the Continental Congress, the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, and our ministers abroad, may be formed from the following extract from a report submitted by the secretary to Congress in 1782:

" Dr. Franklin has a part of Mr. Chamont's house at Passy; he keeps a chariot and pair, and three or four servants, and gives a dinner occasionally to the Americans and others. His whole expense, as far as I can learn, is very much within his income. Mr. Adams lives in lodgings; keeps a chariot and pair, and two menservants. He has hitherto retained a private secretary, who will, in the absence of Mr. Dana, it is presumed, be paid by Congress. I have lately heard that Mr. Adams was about to take a house. Mr. Dana's salary, even if he should assume a public character in a country where the relative value of money is so high, that, if I am well informed, an elegant house may be hired for fifteen guineas a year, is very ample. Of Mr. Jay's manner of living, I have been able to give no account, but I should conclude from the price of the necessaries of life in that part of Spain in which he lives, from the port the court and the people about it maintains, and above all, from its sitting in different parts of the kingdom, that to live in the same style with Dr. Franklin, his expenses must amount to nearly the double of theirs. But as every conjecture of this kind must be very uncertain, all I can do is to lay before Congress the relative expense, as far as I can learn it, between the different places at which the ministers reside, taking Philadelphia for a standard. Paris, if wine, clothing, and wages of servants are included, is about twenty per cent, cheaper than Philadelphia; Amsterdam, ten; and at Madrid the expenses of a family are somewhat higher than at this place. But from the unsettled state of those who follow the court, their traveling equipage and charges must greatly enhance this expense. Congress will make their own deductions from these facts, after allowing for their inaccuracy." (3 Secret Journals, 128.)

It may be said to the credit of the Congress, that though it concerned itself with these petty details, it made liberal allowances to its diplomatic representatives abroad, considering the poverty of its treasury and the large demands upon it for the conduct of the war. The annual allowances to Dr. Franklin and Messrs. Adams and Jay were over $11,000 each a more liberal sum than is granted to our representatives at those capitals to-day, if the relative cost of living is taken into consideration.

The Declaration of Independence was not only a challenge to Great Britain; it was the assertion by the colonies of their right to an independent place among the nations of the earth, and an appeal to the nations to recognize the justice of that claim. It opened up to Congress a new duty, and another field of effort besides the contest of arms in which the Colonies had engaged with the mother country the new relation which they were to sustain towards the governments of Europe. Two views of our foreign intercourse were entertained: the one, that we should not send ministers to foreign courts until some assurance was obtained that they would be received; and the other, that for the attainment of our independence we should seek good relations, if not alliances, with the nations unfriendly to England. These opposing views were well expressed in Congress by Franklin and Adams. Said Franklin: " A virgin state should preserve the virgin character, and not go abroad suitoring for alliances; but wait with decent dignity for the application of others." " I think," said John Adams, " we have not meanly solicited for friendships anywhere. But to send ministers to any great court in Europe, especially the maritime courts, to propose an acknowledgment of the independence of America and treaties of amity and commerce, is no more than becomes us, and in my opinion is our duty to do." (Trescot's Diplomacy of the Revolution, 16, 17.) The latter view so harmonized with the necessities of the situation that it was readily adopted by Congress.

The first representative sent abroad went in strange contrast with our diplomats of later days. Information had been received through friends of Dr. Franklin that France was inclined to render the cause aid in a surreptitious manner, but that it could not appear publicly as our friend. Congress thereupon decided to send to Paris an authorized agent. Silas Deane, a member of that body from Connecticut, has the distinction of being the first named American diplomat. His mission was to ascertain the disposition of the French government, and to obtain much needed material and supplies for the army. His letter of instructions, prepared by the Committee on Secret Correspondence, is an interesting document. It is dated March 3, 1776, and bears the distinguished signatures of Franklin, Benjamin Harrison, Dickinson, Robert Morris, and John Jay. It sets forth the character he is to assume, of a merchant engaged in the West Indian trade, furnishes him the names of various friends of America he is to put himself in contact with, describes the military supplies most needed, how he is to conduct himself towards the French government if he can secure audience with X Count de Vergennes, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and does not omit such details as to how he can secure the best " opportunity of acquiring Parisian French." (2 Diplomatic Correspondence of the American Revolution, Wharton's edition, 78.)

A curious statement as to the knowledge possessed by the American envoys in Europe of the language and methods of diplomacy is found in a letter of John Adams three years later. In transmitting his accounts to the Treasury Board, he says: " I found myself in France ill-versed in the language, the literature, the science, the laws, customs, and manners of that country, and had the mortification to find my colleagues very little better informed than myself, vain as this may seem." He thereupon incloses an account for " a large collection of books . . . calculated to qualify one for conversation and for business, especially the science of negotiation." (Ib. 327.) Mr. Deane is said to have acquired a sufficient knowledge of French for conversation only. Dr. Franklin spoke the language imperfectly, and was able " to write bad French."

Deane's departure from the United States was made secretly; he traveled under the assumed name of " Timothy Jones " and in the character of a merchant, and, it is said, carried with him a supply of invisible ink with which to write his reports. His presence and real character were soon discovered by the vigilant British ambassador, and his expulsion from France was demanded, but refused.

He reached France in the summer of 1776, and found the cause of the Revolution in a fair way to receive very substantial aid. Dr. Duborg, the friend and correspondent of Franklin, had been untiring in his efforts, and had secured from the royal arsenals, in a mysterious way, some fifteen thousand stand of arms, and could have obtained brass cannon by the same method, he writes, but " for the circumstance of their bearing the king's arms and cipher, which made them too discoverable."

Among the most important of the early friends of the colonies was Caron de Beaumarchais, an exceptionally unique and fantastic character of the last half of the eighteenth century. He was of lowly origin, by occupation a watchmaker; he developed great talents in business and purchased an office which gave him a certain standing with the nobility; in early years he showed marked taste for music, which was cultivated in his education, and he became one of the first operatic composers and authors of his day; his personal beauty and grace of manner won him a favorable marriage, but the early and sudden death of his wife raised against him the charge of poisoning, which he refuted, only to be renewed on his second marriage with a rich widow and her early demise. He was a daring speculator and at various periods was the possessor of a fortune; his musical talent, his reputation as an author, his boldness of character and chivalrous address made him a great favorite in the court and political circles of Louis XV. and Louis XVI. At the outbreak of the Kevolution he conceived the design of becoming the secret agent of the French government in furnishing material aid to the revolted colonies of the traditional enemy of France. He made journeys to London, where he met Arthur Lee, of Virginia, a young barrister, who had succeeded Franklin as agent for the colony of Massachusetts, and had enlisted Lee in his scheme. How far he had progressed with the French government may in part be seen by the following letter of Count de Vergennes, Secretary for Foreign Affairs, addressed to the king, with the early date of May 2, 1776, two months before the arrival of Deane, which also illustrates the view which the French government entertained of its duty as a neutral:

"SIRE: I have the honor of laying at the feet of your Majesty the writing authorizing me to furnish a million of livres for the service of the English colonies. I add also the plan of an answer I propose to make to the Sieur Beaumarchais. I solicit your approbation to the two propositions. The answer to M. de Beaumarchais will not be written in my hand, nor even that of either the clerks or secretaries of my office. I shall employ for that purpose my son, whose handwriting cannot be known. He is only fifteen years old, but I can answer in the most positive manner for his discretion. As it is important that this operation should not be suspected, or at least imputed to the government, I entreat Your Majesty to allow me to direct the return of the Sieur Montaudoin to Paris. The apparent pretext for that proceeding will be to obtain from him an account of his correspondence with the Americans, though in reality it will be for the purpose of employing him to transmit to them such funds as Your Majesty chooses to appropriate to their benefit, directing him, at the same time, to take all necessary precautions, as if, indeed, the Sieur Montaudoin made the advance on his own account. On this head, I take the liberty of requesting the orders of Your Majesty. Having obtained them, I shall write to the Marquis de Grimaldi [Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs], inform him in detail of our proceedings, and request his cooperation to the same extent." (2 Dip. Cor. Rev. (Wharton) 89.)

Immediately after Deane's arrival in Paris, he came into relations with Beaumarchais, and the relief by way of war materials to the American army was greatly accelerated. In September, 1776, Deane wrote to Robert Morris, " I shall send you in October clothing for 20,000 men, 30,000 muskets, 100 tons gunpowder, 200 brass cannon, 24 mortars, with shot, shell, etc., in proportion." (2 Dip. Cor. Rev. (Wharton) 148.) And in November he obtained credit to the amount of $2,500,000. Meanwhile the scheme of Beaumarchais had taken definite shape. Ever since the revolution of the British Colonies had assumed an organized existence he had been active with his facile pen, and had labored by his personal interviews to bring the French government to the support of the Colonies. He first enlisted Vergennes in his scheme, and French historians of the period give him credit for finally winning the approval of the king to the rebel cause and to the plan which his fertile brain had devised. In a memorial to Louis XVI. as early as February, 1776, he wrote : " If it be replied that we cannot assist the Americans without wounding England and without drawing upon us the storm which I wish to keep off, I reply that this danger will not be incurred if the plan I have so many times proposed be followed that of secretly assisting the Americans without compromising ourselves. ... If Your Majesty has not at hand a more clever man to employ in the matter, I undertake and answer for its execution without any one being compromised, persuaded that my zeal will supply my want of talent better than the talent of another man could replace my zeal." (3 Lomdnie's Beaumarchais and His Times, 122.)

The king having finally approved the scheme, it was agreed with Count de Vergennes that Beaumarchais should establish a mercantile house under the fictitious style of " Roderique Hortalez et C ie," whose business it would be to " sell " to the Colonies the military supplies which France could not, without incurring the charge of a violation of the rules of neutrality. It is held to be a legitimate transaction for a mercantile house to furnish to a belligerent military supplies which have been purchased of a neutral government in the ordinary course of trade. For instance, after our late Civil War the government of the United States disposed at public sale of a large amount of surplus arms, a portion of which went into the hands of the French during the Franco-German war of 1870, but the sale was not made by the United States with that intent. The firm of Hortalez & Co. established itself on a prominent street in Paris in a large residence formerly owned by the Netherlands government as its embassy. The head of the firm was reported to be a Spanish banker, but he never was seen, and Beaumarchais answered all confidential inquiries. One million livres was furnished the house by the French government, and on its indorsement one million more was supplied by the Spanish government, which out of hatred to the British was inclined to aid the Colonies. With this capital the firm was enabled to inaugurate an active business. Deane, who sought to obtain arms and equip- ment for twenty-five thousand men from the French government, was officially refused, but he was semi- officially referred to Beaumarchais, who with the capital acquired procured the arms and equipment from the government arsenals, and delivered them to Deane, who was to repay them by Congressional shipment of cargoes of tobacco and other American products.

During the existence of this firm, from 1776 to 1783, it is said that its disbursements amounted to over 21,000,000 livres, and a considerable part of this amount was used in the purchase and shipment of military stores for the American army. Beaumarchais, however, had much difficulty in obtaining a settlement of his accounts from the Continental Congress, mainly because of the uncertainty as to what portion of his capital was intended by the French government as a gratuity to the Americans. Arthur Lee, who, as we shall see, was appointed by Congress one of its diplomatic representatives at Paris, conceived a bitter enmity to Beaumarchais and Deane, and sent such reports to Congress as cast doubts upon the correctness of the accounts as rendered. Beaumarchais sought in vain a settlement up to his death, in 1799. During every administration and almost every Congress for many years this claim was the subject of investigation and discussion, in which figured prominently what was called the "lost million" a part of the capital of Hortalez & Co., and it was finally settled by the treaty of 1831, it being agreed that out of the sum paid by the United States under that convention 800,000 francs should go to the heirs of the claimant. Beaumarchais was a product of the peculiar diplomacy of the period, which sought to accomplish its purposes through duplicity and indirection. His fictitious firm was such a thin disguise that it was soon penetrated by the active British ambassador, with the aid of his corps of spies, but it answered the purpose as a temporary expedient of the French government until it suited the ends of that


THE REVOLUTIONARY PERIOD. 17

government to enter into an open alliance with the Colonies. At this day the fame of this fantastic per- sonage is divided between his disguised services to the cause of America and his authorship of those charming plays Figaro " and " The Barber of Seville."

Another important personage of the French nation, who tendered his services to the Americans a little later, inspired by the most exalted sentiments, dis- tinguished by gallantry on the field, and by a lifelong devotion to the cause of liberty, was the Marquis de Lafayette, who stands at the head of the roll of hon- ored foreigners who have contributed to the greatness of our country. His services lie almost wholly beyond the scope of diplomacy, but it will be of interest to read an extract from the letter of the American envoys in Paris, Messrs. Franklin and Deane, to Congress, an- nouncing his departure for America :

" The Marquis de Lafayette, a young nobleman of great family connections here and great wealth, is gone to America in a ship of his own, accompanied by some officers of distinction, in order to serve in our armies. He is exceedingly beloved, and everybody's good wishes attend him; we cannot but hope he may meet with such a reception as will make the country and his ex- pedition agreeable to him. Those who censure it as imprudent in him do nevertheless applaud his spirit, and we are satisfied that the civilities and respect that may be shown him will be serviceable to our affairs here, as pleasing not only to his powerful relations and to the court, but to the whole French nation. He has left a beautiful young wife, enceinte, and for her sake


18 .

particularly we hope that his bravery and ardent desire to distinguish himself will be a little restrained by the general's prudence, so as not to permit his being haz- arded much, but on some important occasion." l

Deane had no direct intercourse with the French court for some time after his arrival in Paris, but his reports to Congress show that he was not neglectful of the high court influences. In his letter of December 3, 1776, he writes : " The queen is fond of parade, and, I believe, wishes for war, and is our friend. She loves riding on horseback. Could you send me a fine Narragansett horse or two ? The money would be well laid out. Eittenhouse's orrery, or Arnold's collection of insects, a phaeton of American make, and a pair of bay horses, a few barrels of apples, walnuts, cran- berries, butternuts, etc., would be great curiosities." 2

I find no record of the action of Congress on this recommendation of its representative, and our diplo- matic history is silent as to whether the Naragansett pony, the American phaeton, the bays, the insects, the apples, the cranberries, or the butternuts ever reached their august destination, but the incident suggests that Deane might have enjoyed the acquaintance of the donor of the diamond necklace, so notorious in French society of that day.

The not very creditable relations established with the French government through Beaumarchais were not long to be maintained. It became apparent to Congress that France was so fully inclined to the Kevo- lution that she must ere long openly espouse its cause.

i 2 Dip. Cor. Rev. (Wharton) 324. 2 Ib. 214.


THE REVOLUTIONARY PERIOD. 19

John Adams had, soon after the outbreak, urged that steps be taken to effect a treaty with that nation, and was persistent in advocating the policy. " Some gentle- men," he wrote, " doubted of the sentiments of France, thought she would frown upon us as rebels, and be afraid to countenance the example. I replied to these gentlemen, that I apprehended they had not attended to the relative situation of France and England; that it was the unquestionable interest of France that the British continental colonies should be independent; that Britain, by the conquest of Canada and her naval triumphs during the last war, and by her vast posses- sions, . . . was exalted to an height and preeminence that France must envy and could not endure. But there was more than pride and jealousy in the case. Her rank, her consideration in Europe, and even her safety and independence, were at stake." (2 Works of John Adams, 504.)

Congress finally yielded to the arguments of Adams, and in June, 1776, a committee consisting of Dickinson, Franklin, John Adams, Benjamin Harrison, and Robert Morris, was appointed to prepare a form of treaty to be proposed to foreign powers, and in September, 1776, the committee submitted its report in the shape of an elaborate draft of a treaty, mainly the work of John Adams, consisting of thirty articles. This draft is an early indication of the advanced views of international law entertained by American statesmen. It sets forth principles which had not up to that time been incorporated in any treaty, but which have since been recognized by all nations. By practical articles it defined neutrality more perfectly and correctly than had been done before, and assigned to commerce guarantees not theretofore enjoyed. It was almost exclusively a commercial treaty, and asked no military aid or support. It was drawn up in consonance with the views of Adams, from which I have just quoted. In the report he said: " Our negotiations with France ought to be conducted with great caution, and with all the foresight we could possibly obtain; we ought not to enter into any alliance which should entangle us in any future wars in Europe; ... it never could be our interest to unite with France in the destruction of England. . . . Therefore, in preparing treaties to be proposed to foreign powers, and in the instructions to be given to our ministers, we ought to confine ourselves strictly to a treaty of commerce; such a treaty would be ample compensation to France for all the aid we should want from her." (2 Secret Journals of Congress, 7.)

Congress approved the plan of treaty reported, and Franklin, Deane, and Thomas Jefferson were commissioned to represent the United States at the court of Versailles, but Jefferson being compelled by family afflictions to decline, Arthur Lee was named in his place, As they were the first diplomatic representatives commissioned by the United States, it will be of interest to quote in full their letter of credence:

"The Delegates of the United States of New Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, Ehode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia, to all who shall see these presents; send greeting; Whereas a trade, upon equal terms, between the subjects of his most Christian Majesty, the King of France, and the people of these States, will be beneficial to both nations; Know ye, therefore, that we, confiding in the prudence and integrity of Benjamin Franklin, one of the Delegates in Congress from the State of Pennsylvania, and President of the Convention of the said State, etc., Silas Deane, now in France, late a Delegate from the State of Connecticut; and Arthur Lee, barrister at law, have appointed and deputed, and by these presents do appoint and depute them, the said Benjamin Franklin, Silas Deane, and Arthur Lee, our Commissioners, giving and granting to them, the said Franklin, Deane, and Lee, or any two of them, and in the case of the death, absence or disability of any two, or any one of them, full power to communicate, treat, agree and conclude with his most Christian Majesty, the King of France, or with such person or persons, as shall by him be for that purpose authorized, of and upon a true and sincere friendship, and a firm, inviolable and universal peace for the defense, protection and safety of the navigation and mutual commerce of the subjects of his most Christian Majesty, and the people of the United States, and to do all other things, which may conduce to those desirable ends, and promising in good faith to ratify whatsoever our said Commissioners shall transact in the premises. Done in Congress, in Philadelphia, the thirtieth day of September, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and seventy-six."

1 2 Secret Journals of Congress, 32.

As I have already stated, Deane was then in Paris, discharging the duties of private agent, and Lee, being compelled to leave London, had joined him. When the news of Franklin's landing in France reached Paris, Lord Stormont, the British ambassador, threatened to leave the country if the "chief of the American rebels" was permitted to enter the city. Vergennes, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, contented himself with assuring the ambassador that a courier had been sent to meet Franklin and forbid his coming to the capital; but he added that if, perchance, the Doctor should reach Paris without encountering the messenger, the government would not like to send him away, "because of the scandalous scene this would present to all France, should we respect neither the laws of nations nor of hospitalities."

Benjamin Franklin was such a unique character in diplomatic history, that, at this stage of our narrative, he calls for more than a passing notice. He was our first, and, by all odds, our greatest American diplomat. His work began at the very outset of our career as a nation, as he was commissioned by the Continental Congress in October, 1774, to lay its address before the king of Great Britain; and his services as such continued all through the struggle for independence and until some time after he had signed the treaty of peace in 1783. Of the numerous agents and representatives who were sent abroad by the Continental Congress, he was the only one who possessed any experience in diplomatic affairs. His training in this branch of the public service began as early as 1757, when he was sent to London to represent the Assembly of Pennsylvania before the British government, and later was also made the agent for Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Georgia. He was then fifty-one years of age and already a fully developed man. He had flown his kite and made himself famous in the wondrous field of electricity. He had also attained such celebrity as an essayist that a volume of his treatises had been translated into French, German, Italian, and Latin. At that time he was the most widely known American. His residence in England, extending over more than fifteen years, brought him in personal and intimate contact with the most distinguished men in government, literature, and science.

It will not be possible for me to give even the brief- est epitome of his public service in England, but two events may be mentioned as illustrative of his diplomatic conduct. One of the important measures he had in hand for the colony was what is known as " The Affair of the Grant " the placing upon the market of an immense tract of public lands in Pennsylvania. The minister of the cabinet, by whom it had to be acted upon, a personal enemy of Franklin, decided against it, and it was appealed to the privy council. To aid in overcoming the opposition, Franklin induced three members of the council to take a personal pecuniary interest in the enterprise. He supplemented the pecuniary interest he had awakened in that body by an able argument before the privy council, won his appeal, and brought about the resignation of the defeated minister. Lobbying was not unknown in the early days of our history.

Some years later Franklin was again before the privy council, but under adverse circumstances. The Colonies were on the eve of their revolt and excitement and prejudice ran high against them in London. Franklin was arraigned for the surreptitious publication of "The Hutchinson Letters/' the details of which need not here be given. It was a trying ordeal through which he had to pass, standing in the full view of the council, listening to the abuse of the solicitor-general and the vote of censure of the council. Lord Shelburne, in a letter to the Earl of Chatham, referred to "the indecency of the behavior" of the judges of the council, and characterized the solicitor;general's speech as the "most scurrilous invective." Lord Campbell, in his "Lives of the Lord Chancellors," says of this affront, "It mainly conduced to the civil war which soon followed, and to the dismemberment of the empire, by exciting overweening arrogance on the one side, and rankling revenge on the other." Franklin records: "I made no justification of myself from the charges brought against me ... but held a cool, sullen silence, reserving myself to some future opportunity."

From that day British official circles regarded Franklin as a traitor, and his usefulness in London was ended. The treatment he received greatly embittered his sentiments towards England, and for the moment he lost his better judgment, as evinced by the preparation of an indiscreet official document, which, however, through the advice of friends, was never delivered. On the occasion of his arraignment before the council it was noticed that he appeared in "a full-dress suit of spotted Manchester velvet." It will be seen hereafter how important a part this velvet suit played in his later diplomatic career.

He returned to America in May, 1775, but, as already stated, before the end of the next year he was in Paris, sent by Congress as a member of a commission to represent the cause of American independence before the governments of Europe, and to this work for the next nine years he devoted himself with unflagging loyalty to his country. He had quitted England with angry farewells, but the French received him in a furor of welcome. His writings, his scientific research, his philosophic turn of mind, his republican simplicity, and his peculiar dress contributed to make him the most noted man of the gay and learned French capital. The shop windows were full of his venerable portraits, the people made way for him in the streets, and he was always sure of a demonstration in public assemblies. He lived in comfortable style, with house, carriage, and retinue of servants, such as became his office and the times. John Adams, who was for a while his colleague, characterized his method of living as luxurious and extravagant, but the latter' s ideas of life were severe if not parsimonious. His statement of Franklin's reputation in Europe is both curious and interesting. He wrote, "His name was familiar to government and people, to kings, courtiers, nobility, clergy, and philosophers, as well as plebeians, to such a degree that there was scarcely a peasant or a citizen, a valet de chambre, coachman, or footman, a lady's chambermaid, or a scullion in a kitchen, who was not familiar with it, and who did not consider him a friend to the human kind. When they spoke of him they seemed to think he was to restore the golden age." (1 John Adams's Works, 660.)

Franklin and his colleagues did not find the work before them an easy task. They were confronted with many embarrassments. Not the least of these was the difficulty of maintaining communication with Congress and the agents of their government in other parts of Europe. We have seen that Deane brought over with him a supply of invisible ink. He was accustomed to write his dispatches to Congress between the lines of illusory business letters which the home committee on correspondence was enabled to bring out by the aid of an acid. (1 Jay's Correspondence and Papers, 84.) The following was one of the instructions as to correspondence: "When you write to me, please to write upon common post paper, to fold your letters as nearly the size and after the manner of this as may be to seal them with wafers instead of wax, and to send them by way of Holland to the care of Mr. Adams, or to Messrs. De Neufville & Sons, or Messrs. Ingraham & Bromfield, of Amsterdam, and to be careful not to swell them unnecessarily above the size of common mercantile letters. If these particulars are not attended to, all the precautions I can take will not keep them out of the hands of the ministry." This injunction arose out of the fact that when letters from America, suspected of being official, reached a European postoffice they were opened, and, if judged politic to do so, they were detained. Mr. Jay states that during his residence in Madrid he received no letters that did not bear the marks of having been opened, and that those he received he supposed to form but a fraction of those kept back.

Added to the espionage of the mails was the hazard of capture by the British cruisers and blockading ves- sels. It was the practice of the committees of Con- gress and the diplomatic agents abroad to prepare at least four copies, and sometimes seven, of every com- munication, and dispatch them by successive vessels or by vessels from different ports, and the envelopes con- taining them bore the indorsement, " To be sunk in case of danger from enemy." And yet with all these precautions often not a single copy reached its desti- nation. When Congress had as many as twelve agents in Europe, there was once a period of eleven months during which Congress did not receive a line from any one of them. The papers taken when Mr. Laurens, minister to Holland, was captured were the cause or pretext on which England declared war against that country. The British had a clue to the cipher used by Congress and its correspondents, and captured dis- patches were often distorted and dishonestly deciphered and then used to the injury of the writers and their governments. This we shall see is believed to have been the case with an important dispatch of the French representative in America, M. Marbois, which played such a conspicuous part in the peace negotiations of 1782. 1

The American envoys had also to contend with the

1 1 Dip. Cor. Rev. 461-463.


28 .

British system of bribery, corruption, and a large corps of spies which watched their every movement in Paris and elsewhere in Europe. Deane in his first interview with Vergennes was warned by him to be on his guard against Lord Stormont, the British ambassador, whose spies would be aware of his conduct. 1 Walpole's sys- tem of politics, to which is attributed the aphorism, " Every man has his price," had permeated the British diplomatic service, and bribery was a common method of attaining the ends of the representatives. One of the most noted British diplomatists of that period, the Earl of Malmesbury, then ambassador at St. Peters- burg, was not only lavish in the corrupt use of money to reach the interior secrets of that court, but unblush- ingly records them. The abundant use of money for such purposes is often the subject of comment by Brit- ish historians of the time, and by none was it more freely used than by the ambassador in Paris. It is now known that more than one secretary of the American envoys was in the pay of the British government. 2 A deliberate attempt to allure Dr. Franklin from the cause, by tempting offers of pecuniary reward and titles of nobility, was made during his residence in the French capital, and his reply to these offers was one of the most notable productions of his pen; in Adams's homely style it is described as " a dose which will make them sick." 3

Soon after Franklin's arrival in Paris the American commissioners were received in private audience by the French Minister of Foreign Affairs, M. de Vergennes.

1 2 Dip. Cor. Rev. 115. * 1 Ib. 264, 539, 54L 8 2 Ib. 633.


THE REVOLUTIONARY PERIOD. 29

They reported to Congress : " It was evident that this court, while it treated us privately with all civility, was cautious of giving umbrage to England, and was, therefore, desirous of avoiding open reception and ac- knowledgment of us, or entering into any formal nego- tiations with us, as ministers from the Congress." 1 The treaty which Congress had drawn up they soon found was an impossibility. As a purely commercial treaty it was, in great part, unobjectionable, but if France was thereby to recognize the independence of the United States, it would by that act incur the hostil- ity of England, and, hence, would require the United States to enter into an offensive and defensive alliance. Besides, matters in America were going badly for the Colonies. Diplomacy can do little in the face of mili- tary reverses. The winter of 1776-77 was a gloomy one for the cause of the Revolution. The authority of Congress was not respected, the forces were depleted by desertions, the officers dissatisfied, and new levies came slowly. The spring of 1777 opened with the British arms everywhere triumphant; Howe in Phila- delphia, Clinton in New York, and Burgoyne moving down from the north with an apparently irresistible army. In France the tone of the government was changed, supplies did not come with freedom, privateers were seized in its ports, and even Beaumarchais became alarmed for his safety. " My government," he said to Franklin, " will cut my throat as if I was a sheep."

The year wore on towards its close with nothing but gloom and discouragement for the American envoys;

1 2 Ib. 283.


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but one night early in December a dinner party in Franklin's home at Passy was interrupted by the arrival of a courier with important news. Bourgoyne and his entire army had surrendered to the Continental forces. Beaumarchais, one of the dinner party, rushed off with such precipitation to carry the news to the court at Versailles that he upset his coach and dislocated his arm. As the news spread throughout Europe, a great change came over political circles, especially in France. Within a few days the king's minister, M. Gerard, waited on the American envoys, and informed them that his Majesty had resolved to make the treaties which had been discussed, and their terms were easily agreed upon, but from military considerations they were not signed till February 6, 1778. The one was a commercial treaty, following largely the draft pre- pared by Congress, but the other was in direct antago- nism to the views of Adams already quoted, and not authorized by the instructions of Congress both a military and political alliance with France. It recog- nized the independence of the United States, and de- clared the object of the alliance to be the achievement of that independence; provided for combined military movements; made the negotiations for peace con- ditional on joint consultation and approval; stipulated for the division of probable conquests; and mutually guaranteed the possessions in America of the respec- tive parties.

This treaty has importance and interest in that it was the first celebrated by the new nation; but it has the added importance and interest that it was both the first


THE REVOLUTIONARY PERIOD. 31

and the only treaty of alliance ever negotiated by this country. It is an interesting speculation whether with- out it the independence of the United States could have been achieved. Assuredly it shortened the contest, and saved much bloodshed and treasure; and, under the circumstances, its wisdom cannot be questioned. But its subsequent history and early abrogation or repudia- tion have made of it a red beacon of warning against similar conventions in the future. We shall see that in the peace negotiations with England its spirit had to be violated, and that in the administrations of Washington and the elder Adams it brought us to the verge of another war with Great Britain, which we only escaped by denying its binding obligations in a manner little creditable to our international reputation. It would be hazardous to say that its lesson is that no future treaties of alliance should be made, but it does teach that such compacts bring future embarrassments, and that they should be entered upon only in times of extreme neces- sity.

At the ceremony of signing the treaties, it is said that Franklin donned the " spotted Manchester velvet suit " which he had worn at the session of the privy council in London when he was so severely censured. The celebration of the treaties was followed by the public reception of the American envoys by the king and the court; they were entertained at dinner by the Minister of Foreign Affairs; and in the evening of the same day they attended a fete of the queen, where the plain Republicans found the royal family and nobility seated at play round a large table, with, as the contem-


32 .

poraneous account says, " A considerable heap of louis (Tors between each of the players, and from the number of these, which, from time to time, were shovelled by the losers to the winners, the gaming appeared to be high." Dr. Franklin was specially honored by being called by the queen, and stood beside her chair as the game went on. The month following the treaty the king dispatched as his minister plenipotentiary to America, M. Gerard, the Minister of State, who had negotiated the treaties with the American envoys. The king, in his letter of credence, addressed to his " Very dear, great friends and allies," the Congress, said: "He is better acquainted with our sentiments towards you and the more capable of testifying the same to you, as he was intrusted on our part to negotiate with your commissioners, and signed with them the treaties which cement our union." 1

The coming of the first foreign minister plenipoten- tiary was an important event, and Congress appears to have been fully impressed with its gravity, for we find that the subject of the ceremonial to be observed in the reception of M. Gerard was regularly referred to a special committee composed of such eminent men as Richard Henry Lee, Samuel Adams, and Gouverneur Morris, who presented an elaborate report which was discussed five days by Congress. The matter was finally arranged with uncommon care, as is shown in the lengthy resolution adopted and formally entered upon the Journal, prescribing the order to be observed on all such occasions. Every step to be taken, from the

i 2 Dip. Cor. Rev. 521.


THE REVOLUTIONARY PERIOD. 33

moment the envoy lands till he reaches the place where Congress is in session, is carefully indicated. As to further proceedings, I extract from the resolutions of Congress : " Two members of Congress shall then be deputed to wait upon him, and inform him when and where he shall receive audience of the Congress. At the time he is to receive his audience, the two members shall again wait upon him in a coach, belonging to the States, and the person first named of the two, shall return with the minister plenipotentiary or envoy in the coach, giving the minister the right hand, and placing himself on the left with the other member on the first seat. When the minister plenipotentiary or envoy is arrived at the door of the Congress hall, he shall be introduced to his chair by the two members, who shall stand at his left hand. When the minister is introduced to his chair by the two members, he shall sit down. His secretary shall then deliver to the President the letter of his sovereign, which shall be read and trans- lated by the secretary of Congress. Then the minister shall be announced, at which time the President, the House, and the minister shall rise together. The min- ister shall then bow to the President and the House and they to him. The minister and the President shall then bow to each other, and be seated, after which the House shall sit down. The minister shall deliver his speech standing. The President and the House shall sit while the minister is delivering his speech. The House shall rise and the President shall deliver the answer standing. The minister shall stand while the President delivers his answer. Having spoken, and being answered, the min-


34 .

ister and President shall bow to each other, at which time the House shall bow, and then the minister shall be conducted home in the manner in which he was brought to the House." 1

In 1783 Congress modified the above so as to allow foreign representatives, having the grade of ambassadors, to sit covered in its presence, and the President rose not only when he was introduced, but also when he read his address. It was further prescribed that after the audi- ence, the members of Congress should be first visited by the minister plenipotentiary.

M. Gerard was received after this elaborate ceremonial, Richard Henry Lee and Samuel Adams being deputed by Congress, and bringing him in a coach and six pro- vided by Congress; and, in order that I may be true to history, I should add that Mr. Lee rode on the back seat on the left of the minister, and Mr. Adams on the front seat facing them. The audience was followed by a banquet given by Congress, at which were present several foreign gentlemen of distinction and gentlemen of public character. It is recorded that " The enter- tainment was conducted with a decorum suited to the occasion, and gave perfect satisfaction to the whole company." It will thus be seen that the fathers of the republic did not disdain careful attention to the con- ventional details of official life.

No other foreign minister was received by the United States until October, 1783, when Mr. Van Berckel, minister from the Netherlands, presented his creden- tials. The ceremony of his reception by Congress was somewhat simplified. As in the case of the French

1 2 Secret Journal of Congress, 94, 96.


THE REVOLUTIONARY PERIOD. 35

minister, a dinner was ordered by Congress to be given him at the public expense. 1

Throughout the war the French minister occupied a peculiar and intimate relation to the Continental Con- gress. His communications were addressed to the president of Congress, and after being reported upon by a committee, were considered by the whole Con- gress. On most important questions the minister was present when they were considered; he claimed the right to attend when foreign affairs were discussed; and his views were usually stated verbally. They were always received with great respect, and often had a controlling influence on the action of that body.

The triumvirate of American envoys had other diffi- culties in their negotiations and business than those occasioned by the vigilant British ambassador and the caution of the French government. Almost from the beginning there was a lack of harmony in their coun- sels, which grew into distrust and bitterness of feeling. Franklin's two colleagues were his compeers in rank, but immeasurably below him in talent and personal stand- ing. Deane was a commonplace man, of mediocre abilities, and a not very exalted sense of patriotism. Lee was young, energetic, and ambitious, of influential family connection, and inspired by patriotic sentiments, but possessed of a very malevolent disposition. Frank- lin described him to Adams as " a man of an anxious, uneasy temper, which made it disagreeable to do busi- ness with him; that he seemed to be one of those men, of whom he had known many in his day, who went on through life quarreling with one person or another, till

1 Ib. 409, 410, 426.


36 .

they commonly ended with the loss of their reason." Even before Franklin reached Paris, Lee had become offended at Deane because of Beaumarchais's more inti- mate relations with the latter. In letters to Congress, he charged Deane with dishonesty; and, as we have seen, made such representations respecting the fictitious firm of Hortalez & Co. as prevented Beaumarchais's accounts from being settled till long after his death. His charges against Deane led to the latter' s recall, his open quarrel with Congress, his disgrace, and his ulti- mate abandonment of the cause of his country. Lee represented to his friends in Congress that Franklin had no capacity for business, having reached the age of senility, and he was actively plotting for the doctor's removal and his own appointment as sole minister in Paris. Mr. Jefferson, who succeeded Franklin as min- ister at Paris, narrates an anecdote respecting this quarrel. He says that Franklin received a very intem- perate letter from Lee. He folded it up and put it in a pigeon-hole. A second, third, and so on to a fifth he received and disposed of in the same way. Finding no answer could be obtained by letter, Mr. Lee paid him a personal visit, and gave a loose to all the warmth of which he was susceptible. The doctor replied : " I can no more answer this conversation of yours than the several letters you have written me (taking them down from the pigeon-hole). Call on me when you are cool and good-humored and I will justify myself to you." Mr. Jefferson adds that they never saw each other afterwards. 1

i 1 Dip. Cor. Rev. 538.


THE REVOLUTIONARY PERIOD. 37

Lee was seconded in his unworthy work by Kalph Izard, who had been accredited as minister to Tuscany, but not being received, was staying in Paris. Franklin represents him as " a man of violent and ungoverned passions/' and states that he and Lee " had a number of Americans about them, who were always exciting disputes, and propagating stories that made the service very disagreeable." John Adams, who, some weeks after the treaties had been signed, arrived in Paris to replace Deane, makes the following entry in his diary : " It is with much grief and concern that I have learned, from my first landing in France, the disputes between the Americans in this Kingdom; the animosities be- tween Mr. Deane and Mr. Lee; between Dr. Franklin and Mr. Lee; between Mr. Izard and Dr. Franklin; between Dr. Bancroft and Mr. Lee; between Mr. Car- michael and all." He adds he had heard that Deane and Bancroft had made fortunes by " dabbling in the English funds, and in trade, and in fitting out priva- teers. ... I am sorry for these things; but it is no part of my business to quarrel with anybody without


cause." 1


We can well understand how very distasteful such a state of affairs would be to one so little inclined to controversy and so much above deceit and intrigue as Franklin. The situation finally became so intolerable that he made it the subject of a communication to the president of Congress, which is so characteristic of the man that I give from it the following extract :

" Speaking of Commissioners in the plural, puts me 1 3 J. Adams's Works, 138.


38 .

in mind of inquiring, if it can be the intention of Con- gress to keep three Commissioners at this Court. We have, indeed, four, with the gentleman intended for Tuscany, who continues here, and is very angry that he was not consulted in making the treaty, which he could have mended in several particulars and, perhaps, he is angry with some reason, if the instructions to him do, as he says they do, require us to consult him. We shall soon have a fifth, for the envoy to Vienna, not being received there, is, I hear, returning hither. The necessary expense of maintaining us all is, I assure you, enormously great. I wish the utility may equal it. I imagine every one of us spends nearly as much as Lord Stormont [English minister] did. It is true he left behind him the character of a niggard, and when the advertisement appeared for the sale of his house- hold goods, all Paris laughed at an article of it, per- haps very innocently expressed, ' a great quantity of table linen, that has never been used.' ' That is very likely/ say they, 'for he never invited any one to dine.' But as to our number, whatever advantage there might be in the joint counsels for framing and adjusting the articles of the treaty, there can be none in having so many for managing the common business of a resident here. . . . And where every one must be consulted on every particular of common business, in answering every letter, etc., and one of them is offended if the smallest thing is done without his con- sent, the difficulty of being often and long enough to- gether, the different opinions and the time consumed in debating them, the interruptions by new applicants


THE REVOLUTIONARY PERIOD. 39

in the time of meeting, etc., occasions so much post- poning and delay, that correspondence languishes and occasions are lost, and the business is always behind hand. I have mentioned the difficulty of being often and long enough together. This is considerable, where they cannot be all accommodated in the same house; but to find three people, whose tempers are so good, and who like one another's company and manner of living and conversing as to agree with themselves, though living in one house, and whose servants will not, by their indiscretion, quarrel with one another, and by artful misrepresentations draw their masters in to take their parts to the disturbance of necessary harmony, these are difficulties still greater and almost insurmountable. And in consideration of the whole, I sincerely wish the Congress would separate us." l

Notwithstanding the efforts of Lee's friends, Con- gress followed Franklin's advice to separate the envoys. Deane had already been called home, Lee was dropped from the diplomatic service, Adams returned to America, and Franklin was commissioned sole minister to France in 1778; in which position he remained for seven eventful years, until relieved by Thomas Jefferson in 1785.

Mr. Deane's later career was unhappy and disgrace- ful. On his return to America he sought to have his accounts adjusted by Congress, but Arthur Lee's charges of dishonesty had preceded him and to this was added local jealousy in his own State. He was conscious that he had rendered to the cause of independence important services in Paris, and he expected to be received with

1 2 Dip. Cor. Rev. 658.


40 .

honor. Instead he was met in Congress by suspicion, his accounts were attacked, and after long delays a just settlement was refused him. He was turned away from the doors of the body which should have manifested its gratitude, a disappointed and aggrieved man. He returned to Europe and eventually accepted service and pay from the British government, sealing his apostacy by a series of letters urging the Colonies to give up the struggle and return to British allegiance. In 1784, when Jay was passing through London on his return to America, Deane sought an interview with him which the former refused by letter, in which he told him that he (Deane) had possessed his esteem, that he had been attached to him, and he would have been willing to hear an explanation of his late conduct but for one cir- cumstance. " I was told that you received visits from, and was on terms of familiarity with, General Arnold. Every American who gives his hand to that man, in my opinion, pollutes it." l

There is no evidence of the truth of Lee's charges; Franklin vindicated Deane' s integrity, and he died in poverty. The government did tardy justice to his con- duct and services in Paris, under an Act of Congress of August 11, 1842, by paying to his heirs the sum of $36,998, fifty-eight years after his death. From the days of Aristides, the ingratitude of republics has been a byword in the world. There was no intent on the part of Congress to do Deane an injustice, but it was misled by the malevolence of Lee, and its action brought about the disgrace of the earliest diplomatic representa- tive of the country.

i 1 Dip. Cor. Rev. 570.