A Century of American Diplomacy/Chapter II

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THE treaties of commerce and alliance with France were followed by three events which had an important influence upon the fortunes of the Colonies, to wit : the declaration of war against England by Spain, the armed neutrality of the nations of northern Europe, and the treaty made by Holland with the United States.

Spain, in 1779, was still a formidable power, and its large possessions in the New World made it of the utmost importance to the Continental Congress to estab- lish friendly relations with it. Early efforts had been made by Dr. Franklin, through the French court and by correspondence, to secure its common action with France, and to the treaty of 1778 a secret clause was appended, providing for the adhesion of Spain to the alliance. In 1779 John Jay, of New York, one of the most distinguished and able of the revolutionary lead- ers, was appointed minister at Madrid, and for two years he labored with assiduity, but fruitlessly, to secure a treaty of friendship and alliance. So anxious was Congress to effect an alliance with that country that it authorized Mr. Jay to surrender the right of navigation of the Mississippi, and make a renunciation of ah 1 claims to or designs upon its American territory, as its price. Fortunate was it for the future of our country that Mr.

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Jay's mission was a failure, although conducted with marked ability and dignity on his part, because such an alliance as Spain could be induced to accept would have been fruitful of embarrassment and trouble for the United States. So Mr. Jay felt, as he said : " The cession of the navigation (of the Mississippi) will in my opinion render a future war with Spain unavoidable, and I shall look upon my subscribing to the one as fixing the certainty of the other." Spain's hostility to England soon led her into war with that country, and the United States thereby reaped most of the benefits of an alliance without its necessary burdens.

It was plainly contrary to the interest of Spain to promote the cause of independence, and the Spanish statesmen so well understood this that all the efforts of the court of France to secure adhesion to the treaty of 1778 were of no avail. The Count de Aranda, the Spanish ambassador at Paris, fully comprehended the situation. In communicating the news of the treaty of peace and independence, he wrote his government words which to-day seem almost clothed with the spirit of prophecy : " The independence of the English Colonies has been there recognized. It is for me a subject of grief and fear. France has but few possessions in America; but she was bound to consider that Spain, her most intimate ally, had many, and that she now stands exposed to terrible reverses. From the beginning, France has acted against her true interests in encour- aging and supporting this independence, and so I have often declared to the ministers of this nation."

The Armed Neutrality was an agreement by means of


a convention entered into in 1780 between Kussia, Den- mark, Sweden, and Holland, for the ostensible purpose of protecting their neutral commerce from undue inter- ference by the belligerents in the war then being carried on by England against her Colonies, France and Spain. It defined what were contraband goods, declared that free ships made free goods, and stipulated for the joint protection of their commerce by armed convoys, etc. While outwardly a proclamation of neutrality coupled with armed enforcement against all the belligerents, it was intended and accepted as an act unfriendly to Great Britain. It was an indication that she was practically without an ally or friend on the continent of Europe, and that she must fight her battles alone and unaided. Evidently her Colonies had fallen upon a favorable time for their revolt.

Next to the French alliance, the most important event in the foreign relations of the Colonies was the negotia- tion of the treaty with Holland. It was conducted by John Adams, and he is entitled to great credit for its successful termination. Henry Laurens, of South Caro- lina, had been sent by Congress, in 1779, to negotiate a commercial treaty and a loan from Holland, but en route he was captured on the ocean, brought to England, and confined in the Tower of London. John Adams, who had been commissioned to negotiate a treaty of peace with Great Britain and was then in Paris awaiting a favorable time to discharge his mission, was substituted for Laurens. While waiting in Paris, Adams entered into correspondence with Vergennes, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, in which he criticised rather severely the

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"M, de Vergennes, who appears much offended, told me yesterday that he would enter into no further dis- cussions with Mr. Adams, nor answer any more of his letters. He is gone to Holland, to try, as he told me, whether something might not be done to render us a little less dependent on France. He says, the ideas of the court, and those of the people of America, are so totally different, as that it is impossible for any minister to please both. He ought to know America better than I do, having been there lately; and he may choose to do what he thinks will best please the people of America : but when I consider the expressions of Congress in many of their public acts, and particularly in their letter to the Chevalier de la Luzerne, of the 24th of May last, I cannot but imagine that he mistakes the sentiments of a few for a general opinion. It is my intention, while I stay here, to procure what advantages I can for our country by endeavoring to please this court." *

It is understood that the correspondence occasioned a violent discussion in Congress, and it is known the president of that body sent Mr. Adams a mild reproof; but it never withdrew its confidence from him, and he continued to hold the most important diplomatic posi- tions. He defended his diplomatic conduct to the president of Congress, 2 contrasting his course with " veterans in diplomatics " by referring to himself as "the militia" which "sometimes gain victories over regular troops even by departing from the rules. . . . I have long since learned that a man may give offense to a court to which he is sent and yet succeed." His

1 4 Dip. Cor. Rev. 22. 2 5 Ib. 196, 197.


distorted view of his duty in this capacity is shown in this declaration, made sometime after the treaty of peace had been signed : " No man will ever be pleasing at a court in general who is not depraved in his morals or warped from your (his) country's interests." No wonder Vergennes should have been moved in his letter to Franklin to ask him to have Congress consider whether " he is endowed with that conciliating spirit which is necessary for the important and delicate business with which he is intrusted " to wit, negotiating peace with Great Britain. 1 Franklin suggested to Adams, in view of the great offense his letters had given Vergennes, that if the offensive remarks were the effects of inad- vertence he might write something effacing the impres- sions made by them; 2 but Adams declined to act on the suggestion. One may well conjecture what might have been the fate of the Revolutionary struggle if Adams had been our sole representative in Paris. It is due to him to say that when he became President he acted on different principles and his appointments to diplomatic posts were made with wisdom and care.

His usefulness was for the time being ended in Paris, and it was doubtless a relief to him, as it must have been to Vergennes and Franklin, soon to take his de- parture for Amsterdam. He found his task in Holland a difficult and tedious one, but he entered upon it with the zeal and devotedness which so marked his character; and after more than two years of effort his labors were crowned by a treaty of commerce, which was especially valuable as a recognition of the independence of the 1 4 Ib. 18. * 4 Ib. 87.

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Colonies, and made more easy the loans which were greatly needed. There were other reasons than the immediate political necessities which made the most friendly relations with the Dutch very welcome to the Colonies. Out of that country had sprung the most enlightened and liberal principles of international law, which found in America the most efficient champion. The Puritan forefathers brought with them to New England, not only a grateful memory of their refuge and hospitality, but of the lessons of liberty and govern- ment taught them; and various of the Colonies had received a most valuable contingent of its population from the Netherlands. For all these reasons the recog- nition of our independence by Holland, though tardy, was most welcome.

Mr. Adams was much elated with his success in Holland, and in his dispatches he did not conceal his satisfaction. He reports how one foreign minister told him: "Sir, you have struck the greatest blow of all Europe. It is the greatest blow that has been struck in the American cause, and the most decisive; " and how another said that " Mr. Adams was the Washing- ton of negotiation. A few of these compliments," he adds, " would kill Franklin if they should come to his ears." l By such glimpses of our early history we learn that the great founders of the Kepublic were not demigods, but men of like passions with ourselves.

The quotations just cited appeared in the diary which was transmitted by Mr. Adams to Congress with one of his dispatches, and according to custom they were being

i 3 J. Adams's Works, 309.


read to that body, when his friends interposed and had the diary omitted. A delegate from Massachusetts, reporting to Adams the occurrence, wrote : " It was too minute for the delicacy of several of the gentlemen. They appeared very much disposed to make it appear ridiculous." l Hamilton, then a delegate, in giving an account of the event, said the reading of the diary " extremely embarrassed his friends, especially the dele- gates of Massachusetts, who more than once interrupted it, and at last succeeded in putting a stop to it, on the suggestion that it bore the marks of a private and confidential paper, . . . and never could have been designed as a public document for the inspection of Congress. The good-humor of that body yielded to the suggestion." 2 The editor of the " Works of John Adams " says the diary was sent to Congress by mistake, as it was Mr. Adams's intention to mail it to a Massachu- setts delegate for unofficial information. 3

Between the date of the Declaration of Independence and the opening of negotiations for peace with Great Britain, various American diplomatic agents had been sent by Congress to solicit recognition from European powers. Keference has been made 4 to the opposite views held in Congress, at the beginning of the struggle, as to the conduct of our foreign relations. Franklin had strongly advised against sending ministers to any European court until some intimation had been obtained that they would be received, but the contrary course had been pursued to the humiliation and injury, in some

1 1 Dip. Cor. Rev. 510. 2 6 Hamilton's Works (Lodge), 396.

3 J. Adams's Works, 349. Infra, p. 9.

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cases, of the cause of independence. Arthur Lee had made an ineffectual attempt to go to Madrid, as he had been turned back by the Spanish government; and he received little less civil treatment at Berlin. William Lee had been kept away from both Vienna and Berlin, to which places he was accredited, never having got nearer to either capital than Frankfort. Mr. Izard, who was appointed to Tuscany, was refused permission to go to Italy, and remained in Paris. Mr. Jay's unsuccessful mission to Spain has been already noticed. Mr. Dana spent two years in St. Petersburg, ignored by the court, living in obscurity and experiencing nothing but humiliation and failure. In Paris alone did the American representatives find a welcome, and there they congregated, waiting a more favorable turn of ^events. These idle ministers and their secretaries were a constant drain upon the scanty treasury, but a still more serious injury to the cause in their constant inter- ference with the duties of the accredited minister, Dr. Franklin.

The two Lees and Izard, especially chagrined at their own failure, seemed envious of Franklin and lost no opportunity to manifest their enmity to him, who eclipsed all of them in his fame and acceptability in political and social circles. A French writer of the day, in his description of the court, has this to say : " Frank- lin appeared at court in the dress of an American culti- vator. His straight, unpowdered hair, his round hat, his brown coat, formed a contrast with the laced and embroidered coats, and the powdered and perfumed heads of the courtiers of Versailles. This novelty


turned the enthusiastic heads of the French women. Elegant entertainments were given to Dr. Franklin, who, to the reputation of a philosopher, added the patriotic virtues which had invested him with the noble character of an Apostle of Liberty. I was present at one of these entertainments, when the most beautiful woman of three hundred was selected to place a crown of laurels upon the white head of the American philo- sopher, and two kisses upon his cheeks."

But Franklin had more serious work upon his hands than this. His official duties were quite varied in their character, in marked contrast with those of the Ameri- can ambassador of the present day. Besides winning over the French government to his cause, it was his task to negotiate loans, to dispose of the cargoes of American produce which succeeded in escaping the British cruisers and reaching French ports; to provide for the many bills which Congress was constantly draw- ing upon him, to outfit the American naval vessels and privateers visiting the French ports, to listen to the applications of European patriots and adventurers anx- ious to enlist in the army of the Colonies, and in various other ways to advance the cause of independence. John Paul Jones, the daring mariner, who sailed unharmed about the British Islands and spread consternation in their ports, found in Franklin his chief support and counsel. 1

1 The following is an extract from the letter of the Congressional Com- mittee of Foreign Affairs to the American Commissioners in Paris (2 Dip. Cor. Rev. 317) :

PHILADELPHIA, May 9, 1777.

GENTLEMEN, This letter is intended to be delivered to you by John

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Mr. Adams, who was for some time a witness in Paris of Franklin's multifarious duties, thus described them in a critical spirit to a member of Congress. " He is too old, too infirm, too indolent and dissipated, to be sufficient for the discharge of all the important duties of ambassador, board of war, board of treasury, com- missary of prisoners, etc., as he is at present, besides an immense correspondence and acquaintance, each of which would be enough for the whole time of the most active man in the vigor of youth." l

The great and ultimate object of all these labors of Franklin and of American diplomacy in Europe, was to secure peace with England upon the basis of inde- pendence. After the surrender of Burgoyne, through the years 1778 and 1779, various advances were made to Franklin, indirectly by the English ministry, through correspondence of his old friends in London and by secret visits to him at Paris. But as all these overtures had for their object to secure the separation of America

Paul Jones, an active and brave commander of our navy, who has already performed signal services in vessels of little force; and, in reward for his zeal, we have directed him to go on board the Amphitrite, a French ship of twenty guns, that brought in a cargo of stores from Messrs. Hor- talez & Co., and with her to repair to France. He takes with him his commission, some officers and men; so that we hope he will, under that sanction, make some good prizes with the Amphitrite; but our design of sending him is (with the approbation of Congress) that they may purchase one of those fine frigates that Mr. Deane writes us you can get, and in- vest him with the command thereof as soon as possible. We hope you may not delay this business one moment, but purchase, in such port or place in Europe as it can be done with most convenience and dispatch, a fine, fast-sailing frigate or large ship. . . . You must make it a point not to disappoint Captain Jones's wishes and our expectations on this occasion." 1 3 Dip. Cor. Rev. 333.


from the French alliance and a reconciliation of the Colonies with the mother country, they came to naught, as neither condition could be accepted. Return to British allegiance was not only the firm decision of the king and cabinet, but the cherished hope of the most devoted friends of America in England. Even Lord Chatham, the most conspicuous of its friends, in his last speech ever delivered in Parliament used this lan- guage : " My Lords, I rejoice that the grave has not closed upon me, that I am still alive to lift up my voice against the dismemberment of this ancient and most noble monarchy. . . . Where is the man that will dare advise such a measure ? . . . Shall this kingdom, that has survived whole and entire the Danish depredations, the Scottish inroads, and the Norman conquests, that has stood the threatened invasion of the Spanish Armada, now fall prostrate before the House of Bourbon ? Surely, my Lords, this nation is no longer what it was. Shall such a people, that seventeen years ago was the terror of the world, now stoop so low as to tell its ancient, inveterate enemy take all we have, only give us peace ? It is impossible." 1

But the dying eloquence of the great Chatham could not obscure the fact that England was brought to the extreme necessity of peace, with three of the then great powers of Europe, and her most populous colonies ar- rayed against her in arms, and with all continental Europe unfriendly. The courts of Russia and Austria interposed their good offices to bring about a general peace, but the British ministry did not give up the

1 Almon's Parliamentary Register, ix. 369.

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hope of detaching the United States from the general negotiations, and taking advantage of a letter which Franklin had written to Lord Shelburne, who was in charge of the Ministry of the Colonies on the over- throw of the North cabinet, Shelburne opened unoffi- cial negotiations through a Mr. Oswald, who came to Paris early in 1782.

I have already noticed that John Adams had been designated and commissioned to negotiate a treaty of peace with Great Britain as early as 1778, and was in Paris biding a favorable opportunity when he incurred the wrath of Count Vergennes. Following this event, Luzerne, the French minister to the Colonies, criticised, to the Continental Congress, the appointment of Adams, representing that he was too obstinate for a diplomat, and that he ought to be instructed to abide the advice of France, who could procure better terms than it were possible for such a headstrong commissioner to secure. The French minister's communication was referred by Congress to a committee, who brought in a report re- commending the addition of four members to the Peace Commission, and, by a vote of Congress, Benjamin Franklin, John Jay, Henry Laurens, and Thomas Jef- ferson were appointed in June, 1781. Bancroft, in noting the action of Congress, says : " It had been the proudest moment of his (Adams's) life when he received from Congress the commission of sole plenipotentiary for negotiating peace and commerce between the United States and Great Britain. The year in which he was deprived of it he has himself described ' as the most anxious and mortifying year of my whole life.' He


ascribed the change in part to the French government, in part to Franklin."

The instructions given by Congress to the commis- sioners as to the treaty to be negotiated contained only two positive conditions : first, that the independence of the Colonies should be recognized; and, second, that the existing treaties with France should be preserved. The details of the treaty, as to boundaries, fisheries, and all other matters, were left to the discretion of the commissioners, having in view to secure the interests of the United States as circumstances would allow; but they were directed " to make the most candid and confidential communications upon all subjects to the ministers of our generous ally, the king of France; to undertake nothing in the negotiations for peace or truce without their knowledge or concurrence; and ultimately to govern yourselves by their advice and opinion." 1

The question of the boundaries, the fisheries, the navigation of the Mississippi, and other matters had been the subject of lengthy discussions in Congress, and Adams had been instructed regarding them, but all these matters were now left to the discretion of the new commission.

Jefferson, named as one of the commissioners, was not able to leave his post as governor of Virginia, Lau- rens was still a prisoner in London, Adams was actively prosecuting his negotiations in Holland, and Jay at Madrid, so that the early steps of the negotiations were conducted by Franklin alone.

1 4 Dip. Cor. Rev. 505. ..'..._

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It is well, at the outset, to note the condition of the nations concerned in the negotiations. The Colonies had entered into an alliance with France, the terms of which required that peace should only be made with the independence of the Colonies, but no peace should be agreed upon except by joint agreement of the allies. Spain was at war with Great Britain, but hostile to the designs of the Colonies. France and Spain, joined by close family ties of the House of Bourbon, had com- mon interests not in harmony with those of the Colo- nies. Holland was at war with England, loaning money to the Colonies, but suspicious of France. In England the North ministry, which had conducted the war against the Colonies, had recently been overthrown and was succeeded by a composite ministry, whose members were divided as to the policy to be pursued in the negotiations. The House of Commons had de- clared in favor of peace, even at the price of independ- ence, but King George was still obstinately refusing such conditions.

Between the appointment of the commissioners and the conclusion of the negotiations, three important military events occurred which had an important influ- ence on the final result. The first, the surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown, in October, 1781, practically decided the independence of the Colonies. The sec- ond, the victory of Rodney in the West Indies over the French fleet, in May, 1782, and, third, the raising of the siege of Gibraltar by the English, in September, 1782, made less exacting the demands of France and Spain, and enabled the American commissioners more


easily to counteract their plans for dwarfing the young nation.

Mr. Richard Oswald was sent to Paris in April, 1782, by Shelburne, Minister of the Colonies, on a pre- liminary and confidential mission to Franklin. As he was the person who ultimately signed the provisional treaty of peace, it will be of interest to know more of the man. He was possessed of no diplomatic experi- ence, and was not even in public life. At one time he had held a subordinate position in the Ministry of Commerce (Board of Trade), but was then a retired Scotch merchant, and by marriage and purchase had acquired large interests in America. Having spent several years in business there, he was frequently con- sulted during the war by the British ministry. His sympathy for the Colonies may be inferred from the fact that he furnished bail to the amount of $250,000 for Henry Laurens, one of the Peace Commissioners, then confined in the Tower of London. At the time of his appointment he was seventy-seven years old, just Frank- lin's age. He was a disciple of Adam Smith, he had won the esteem of Shelburne, and had by correspond- ence continued a warm friendship with Franklin formed during the latter's long residence in England. Shel- burne, responding to Franklin's letter, to which refer- ence has already been made, writes : " Your letter . . . has made me send to you Mr. Oswald. I have had a longer acquaintance with him, than I even had the pleasure to have with you. I believe him an honest man, and, after consulting some of our common friends, I have thought him the fittest for the purpose. He is a paci-

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fical man and conversant in these negotiations, which are most interesting to mankind. This has made me prefer him to any of our speculative friends, or to any person of higher rank. He is fully apprised of my mind, and you may give full credit to everything he assures you of. At the same time, if any other chan- nel occurs to you, I am ready to embrace it. I wish to retain the same simplicity and good faith which sub- sisted between us in transactions of less importance." 1

It is due to the British minister and negotiator to say that throughout the negotiations the spirit expressed in this letter was maintained, and their conduct was in marked contrast to that of the Colonies' allies, France and Spain. There existed, however, a divergence of views in the British cabinet, and while Oswald was designated by Shelburne to confer with Franklin, Fox, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, sent Grenville over to Paris to watch the proceedings on his behalf. As the British government had no diplomatic representative in Paris, Grenville resorted to the good offices of Franklin to secure him an audience with the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Accompanying him to Versailles, says Ban- croft, " The dismissed Postmaster-General for America, at the request of the British Secretary of State, intro- duced the son of the author of the American Stamp Act as the British plenipotentiary to the Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Bourbon king. Statesmen at Paris and Vienna were amused on hearing that the envoy of the ' rebel ' olonies was become ' the introducer ' of the representative of Great Britain at the court of Ver- sailles." 2

  • 5 Dip. Cor. Rev. 536. 2 10 Bancroft's U. S. (ed. 1874) p. 542.


Oswald carried back with him to London the views of Franklin respecting terms of peace, and a memoran- dum suggesting the cession of Canada to the United States and compensation to the loyalists out of the sale of its public lands. 1 This proposition as to Canada is cited as an evidence of the great foresight of Franklin, and it has been said that if he had been properly sup- ported by his colleagues, Adams and Jay, Canada would have been then included in American territory; but I have been unable to find any substantial basis for such a statement in the history of the negotiations. It ap- pears that Oswald not only approved of the proposition, but laid it before Shelburne; but there is no evidence that it was ever considered by the British cabinet, and nothing further was heard of it during the negotiations.

While these proceedings were in progress, Jay ar- rived in Paris in June, 1782. He appears to have been very favorably impressed at first with his residence in Paris. He writes : " What I have seen of France pleases me exceedingly. ... No people understand doing civil things as well as the French; " 2 but intercourse with the officials brought about a revulsion of feeling. Four months later Adams arrived in Paris to join in the ne- gotiations, and he records in his diary : " Mr. Jay likes Frenchmen as little as Mr. Lee and Mr. Izard did (who were openly hostile). He says they are not a moral people; they know not what it is; he don't like any Frenchman. . . . Our allies don't play fair, he told me." Of Franklin, Mr. Jay, on his arrival, wrote :

1 5 Dip. Cor. Rev. 541. 2 Ib. 523.

8 3 J. Adams's Works, 303.

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" His mind appears more vigorous than that of any man of his age I have known. He certainly is a valuable minister and an agreeable companion." l Franklin was then seventy-six and Jay thirty-seven years of age.

Oswald had returned from London, bringing with him a commission to treat with any commissioners named by the Colonies. Jay objected to the terms of the com- mission, and insisted that it should specially mention the United States, and make it clear that he was not to treat with them as Colonies. Franklin thought the commission was sufficient to justify negotiations, and he was strongly supported in this view by Vergennes. But Jay was unmoved. Referring to the arguments advanced by Vergennes, he wrote : " Neither of these considerations had weight with me; for as to the first, I could not conceive of any event which would render it proper, and therefore possible, for America to treat in any other character than as an independent nation; and as to the second, I could not believe Congress in- tended we should follow any advice which might be repugnant to their dignity and interest." 2 Jay had his way, and Oswald wrote to Shelburne : " The American commissioners will not move a step until independence is acknowledged."

But new complications arose. First, Rayneval, pri- vate secretary to Vergennes, who had been designated to confer with Jay as to the terms of peace, revealed the fact that France favored giving Spain both sides of the Mississippi up to 31; the territory from thence east of the Mississippi and up to the Ohio to be an Indian

i 5 Dip. Cor. Rev. 517. 2 6 Ib. 20.

Pink .... British.

Green . . United States.

Yellow . . . Spanish. White . . . Indian Territory under Spanish or American tection, according as it lies West or East of the Yellow-Green inter-

naueral secting line.

Scale of English Miles

100 60 .100 200 800

Longitude West

from Greenwich


Showing the Boundaries of the UNITED STATES, CANADA, and the SPANISH POSSES- SIONS, according to the proposals of the Court of France in I 782.


country, half under Spanish and half under an American protectorate; and all north and west of the Ohio to be retained by Great Britain; thus confining the Colonies to the strip between the Atlantic and the Alleghanies. Second, an intercepted letter of Marbois, secretary of the French legation in Philadelphia, was put by the British into Jay's hands, showing surprise at and disap- proval of the claims of the Colonies as to the territory and the fisheries, and that France would not support them. Third, the sudden departure for London of Rayneval, under an assumed name, to influence (as Jay supposed) the British cabinet on these points. Jay, being advised of Rayneval's departure, procured the dispatch of Vaughan, private secretary to Lord Shel- burne, to London, to counteract his representations to the British cabinet. This action was taken without consultation with Franklin. It was a bold step. Only Jay's success in the negotiations saved him from dis- grace.

Jay, in writing to Livingston, Secretary of Foreign Affairs of Congress, said : 1 "It would have relieved me from much anxiety and uneasiness to have concerted all these steps with Dr. Franklin; but in conversing with him about M. Rayneval's journey, he did not con- cur with me in sentiment respecting the object of it, but appeared to me to have great confidence in this court and to be much embarrassed and constrained by our instructions. . . . Facts and future events must determine which of us is mistaken. Let us be honest and grateful to France, but let us think for ourselves."

1 Ib. 32.

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The impressions of Mr. Jay on the last two points, it is now known, were not entirely well founded. The letter of Marbois which was captured by the British was in cipher. The original was not shown to Jay, but only a copy deciphered by the British. In trans- mitting this copy to Congress Mr. Jay wrote : " The original in French I have not seen. ... I am not at liberty to mention the manner in which this paper came to my hands." l It is well known that the British were in the habit both of making false translations or de- cipherings and of forging documents. Marbois denied the authenticity of the letter, and Vergennes protested that it did not correctly represent the views of the king. The archives of the French and British govern- ments show that Kayneval's visit to London had rela- tion to the negotiations of Fitzherbert, the British ambassador, with Vergennes as to the terms of peace between England, France, and Spain. Years after Mr. Vaughan wrote: "Mr. Jay gave me two busi- nesses, one to get a new commission for Mr. Oswald, which I obtained in an instant, and the other to counter- act Mr. de R., which I found utterly needless." When the conduct of the commissioners in these negotiations was being discussed in Congress, Hamilton, the per- sonal and political friend of Jay, said of him, "that although he was a man of profound sagacity and pure intentions, yet he was of a suspicious temper."

The result of the hasty visit of Kayneval and Vaughan to London was a new commission to Oswald in terms required by Jay, and instructions to hasten

1 5 Ib. 740. For a copy of the letter, see Ib. 238.


independent negotiations with the American commis- sioners. We have here the strange spectacle of the Colonies joining with their enemy, the mother country, to circumvent the scheme of their own allies. That which was most influential in bringing about this curi- ous combination was the subject of the boundaries. France was favoring the possession by Spain of the Ohio and Mississippi valleys, and Vergennes expected that the Colonies would be confined to the Atlantic sea- board. Shelburne, on the other hand, preferred to have the Colonies as neighbors of Canada in the lake region rather than the Spaniard. To meet the wishes of the American negotiators by carrying the boundary to the Mississippi was in harmony with the policy which he recommended to the British negotiator, to so act as " to regain the affections of America." 1 When he gave authority to Oswald to yield to the demands of our commissioners as to the vast domain west of the Alleghany Mountains, he could well say to Oswald : " We have put the greatest confidence, I believe, ever placed in man in the American commissioners. It is now to be seen how far they or America are to be de- pended upon. ... I hope the public will be the gainer, else our heads must answer for it, and deservedly."

In the midst of these suspicions and differences be- tween Jay and Franklin, Adams arrived fresh from his successful negotiation with Holland. Learning of the situation, he declared himself fully in accord with Jay. Adams had an interview with Franklin, in which he indorsed all Jay's acts and views, and records : " The

i 3 Life of Shelburne, 285.

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doctor heard me patiently, but said nothing." In the next conference with Oswald, Franklin turned to Mr. Jay and said : " I am of your opinion, and will go on with these gentlemen in the business without consult- ing this court." l The following is an anecdote of the period. Dr. Franklin, one day sitting, during the dis- cussion of the question of instructions, in Mr. Jay's room, said : " Will you break your instructions ? " " Yes," replied Mr. Jay, who was smoking a pipe, " as I break this pipe," and he threw the fragments into the fire. Adams, after the negotiations were concluded, wrote : " He (Franklin) has gone on with us in entire harmony and unanimity throughout, and has been able and useful, both by his sagacity and his reputation, in the whole negotiation." 2 It is greatly to Franklin's credit that he did not allow a matter which he regarded as of secondary importance to interfere with the cor- diality of his cooperation with his colleagues.

While these negotiations were going on with Oswald, the British ambassador, Fitzherbert, was conducting negotiations with Vergennes and the Spanish ambas- sador, and between the two sets of negotiators there seems to have been no consultation or concert of action. Of the Anglo-French negotiations, Adams writes, they " are kept secret not only from us, but from the Dutch ministers, and we hear nothing about Spain." 3

In the negotiations with Oswald, on the American

side, three points were of supreme importance, (1) the

boundary to the Mississippi, (2) the free navigation of

the Mississippi, and (3) the right to the fisheries off

1 3 J. Adams's Works, 336. 3 Ib. 5 Dip. Cor. Rev. 857.


the northeast Atlantic coast. On the side of the Brit- ish two points were held to be essential, (1) American independence must be complete and free from France, and (2) British debts must be secured and the loyalists restored to their rights.

On the northeast boundary the British at first de- manded the whole of Maine, then to the Penobscot River; but the St. Croix River was finally decided upon. As to the northern boundary, two lines were proposed the one through the Great Lakes to the source of the Mississippi; and the other, an alternate line offered by the Americans along the 45 of latitude. The former was ultimately accepted.

The Mississippi, the source of which was then sup- posed to be in British territory, it was agreed should be forever open to both countries. This provision subse- quently became abrogated by the acquisition of Louisi- ana from France.

The fishery discussion was long and difficult, but re- sulted successfully for the United States, as the Ameri- can fishermen were admitted on equal terms to Canadian waters. The debts due British subjects were to be paid, and Congress was to recommend the States to restore confiscated estates of loyalists, but it was given to be understood that the recommendation could not be carried out.

The treaty was signed on November 30, 1782, Henry Laurens, who arrived from London only two days be- fore, joining with Adams, Franklin, and Jay in its exe- cution. It is said that on this occasion Franklin, for the second time in France, donned the " spotted velvet

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Manchester suit" worn at the session of the British privy council, but there is some question about this. The treaty was merely preliminary, and it was pro- vided that the final treaty, which was to embrace its stipulations, should not be concluded until a treaty between Great Britain and France was ready to be signed.

Strachey, secretary to the Minister of the Colonies, who had been sent over to assist Oswald, after the negotiations were practically concluded, wrote : " Are we to be hanged or applauded ? ... If this is not as good a peace as was expected, I am confident it is the best that could be made." 1

On signing the treaty, Adams wrote : " Thus far has proceeded this great affair. The unraveling of the plot has been to me the most affecting and astonishing part of the whole piece." 2

It has been well said that it would be difficult to find a parallel in modern diplomacy to the complica- tions and perplexities by which at the outset the Ameri- can commissioners were surrounded. While France was ready to carry out the terms of the alliance, and make no treaty that did not secure the independence of the Colonies, she was, on the other hand, pledged by a secret treaty with Spain not to make peace till Gibral- tar was restored, and she sought to restrict the bound- aries of the Colonies. From the time that Jay reached the conclusion that it was the plan of France and Spain to oppose the claims of the Colonies both as to bound- aries, the fisheries, and compensation to the loyalists,

1 3 Life of Shelburne, 303. 2 3 J. Adams's Works, 336.


the American commissioners had conducted their nego- tiations with the British commissioners without consul- tation with Vergennes, and he was not informed of the signing of the preliminary treaty until after it had taken place. This was not only in direct contraven- tion of their instructions, but of the spirit of the treaty of alliance of 1778.

The defense of the commissioners is that it was the only course left open to them to save the vital interests of their country. It is apparent that such was the con- viction of Adams and Jay. Vergennes, on being in- formed of the signing of the preliminary treaty, looked to Franklin as the only friend of France on the com- mission, and reproachfully addressed him a communi- cation : " I am at a loss to explain your conduct and that of your colleagues on this occasion. You have concluded your preliminary articles without any com- munication between us, although the instructions from Congress prescribe that nothing shall be done without the participation of the king. . . . You are wise and discreet, sir; you perfectly understand what is due to propriety; you have all your life performed your duties. I pray you to consider how you propose to fulfill those which are due to the king." 1

Franklin's reply was : " Nothing has been agreed, in the preliminaries, contrary to the interests of France; and no peace is to take place between us and England till you have concluded yours. Your observation is, however, apparently just that in not consulting you before they were signed we have been guilty of neglect-

1 6 Dip. Cor. Rev. 140.

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ing a point of bienseance. But as this was not from want of respect for the king, whom we all love and honor, we hope it will be excused, and that the great work, which has hitherto been so happily conducted, which is so nearly brought to perfection, and is so glorious to his reign, will not be ruined by a single indiscretion of


Vergennes, apparently conscious of the design of France to thwart the aspirations of the Colonies, ac- cepted Franklin's excuse and loaned him for the Colonies six million livres; but meanwhile he had written the French minister in Philadelphia that Congress should be informed of the conduct of the commissioners, but not in a tone of complaint. " I blame no one, not even Dr. Franklin. He has yielded too easily to the bias of his colleagues, who do not pretend to recognize the rules of courtesy in regard to us. ... If we may judge of the future from what has passed here under our eyes, we shall be poorly paid for all that we have done for the United States, and for securing for them a national existence." 2 This letter, although temperate in language, manifests the deepest feeling, and it created a profound impression on Congress.

Luzerne, the French minister, made known to Sec- retary Livingston the views of his government, and Livingston wrote a letter to the commissioners approv- ing the terms of the treaty, but strongly disapproving their conduct in concealing its terms from the French government till after its signature, and in entering on the secret article. 3 Luzerne's communication was also

  • 6 Dip. Cor, Rev. 1M. 2 Ib. 152. s Ib. 338.


transmitted to Congress, where the subject was debated with much warmth during nine days. There was a 'unanimous sentiment of approval and congratulation on the terms of the treaty in general, but the feeling of the majority of Congress was that the commissioners were not warranted in departing from their instructions, and in signing without first making known the terms of the treaty to the French government; besides there was a general condemnation of the action in withholding a knowledge of the secret article, which was construed into manifestation of a preference for England as a neighbor in Florida. After much debate the subject was submitted to a special committee, who brought in a report thanking the commissioners for their zeal and services, but mildly reproving them for their conduct towards France. This report was discussed for some days, but no action appears to have been taken upon it. 1 The commissioners had too well served their coun- try in a critical situation and the terms of peace were too satisfactory for Congress even mildly to condemn them. Madison and Hamilton, who took part in the debate, both condemned the instructions of Congress as improper, but they likewise condemned the commis- sioners for withholding the terms of the treaty from Count de Vergennes before its signature; and the same view as to their conduct was taken by Washington, Jefferson, and Morris.

The effect of the treaty in England was the over- throw of the ministry; but the new ministry had to sign the final treaty embodying its exact terms. The

1 For Proceedings of Congress, see 1 Madison Papers, 380-412.

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honorable conduct of the British negotiators and govern- ment stands out in contrast with that of France. But it may be said in extenuation of the conduct of the latter that the policy of the two governments lay in opposite directions, and they were both serving what they regarded as their own interests.

The news of the treaty and its terms created the greatest satisfaction in the United States. Boudinot, President of' Congress, writing to the commissioners, said : " It has diffused the sincerest joy throughout these States, and the terms of which must necessarily hand down the names of its American negotiators to posterity with the highest possible honor." Robert Morris wrote Adams, stating the approval and gratifi- cation of the country, to which Adams, seemingly in- different to the praise of men, replied : " I thank you, sir, most affectionately for your kind congratulations on the peace. When I consider the number of nations concerned, the complication of interests, extending all over the globe, the character of the actors, the difficulties which attended every step of the progress, I feel too strong a gratitude to heaven for having been conducted safely through the storm, to be very solicitous whether we have the approbation of mortals or not." Luzerne, the French minister at Philadelphia, reported that the boundaries that had been secured surpassed all expectations in the United States; that they had caused great surprise and satisfaction; and that the New Eng- land fishermen were no less grateful.

The effect in France was highly complimentary to the skill of the American commissioners. Vergennes,


after being informed of the terms by Franklin, wrote to Eayneval in London that the English had rather bought a peace than made one; that their concessions as regards the boundaries, the fisheries, and the loyalists exceeded anything that he had believed possible. Rayneval replied that the treaty seemed to him a dream. Ver- gennes wrote Luzerne : " The boundaries must have caused astonishment in America. No one can have flattered himself that the English ministers would go beyond the headwaters of the rivers falling into the Atlantic." De Aranda, the Spanish ambassador, wrote to the king of Spain in the spirit of a seer : " This federal republic is born a pigmy. A day will come when it will be a giant; even a Colossus, formidable to these countries. Liberty of conscience, the facility for establishing a new population on immense lands, as well as the advantages of the new government, will draw thither farmers and artisans from all the nations. In a few years we shall watch with grief the tyrannical existence of this same Colossus." The Venetian am- bassador wrote : " If the union of the American pro- vinces shall continue, they will become by force of time and of the arts the most formidable power in the world." 1

Lecky, the English historian, says : " It is impossible not to be struck with the skill, hardihood, and good for- tune that marked the American negotiations. Every- thing the United States could, with any shadow of plausibility, demand from England, they obtained; and much of what they obtained was granted them in oppo-

1 7 Winsor's Narrative and Critical History of America, 152.

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sition to the two great powers by whose assistance they had triumphed. . . . America gained at the peace al- most everything she desired, and started, with every promise of future greatness, upon the mighty career that was before her." 1

1 4 Lecky's History of England in the XVIII. Century, 263.