« PreviousContinue »
intimation possible that she intended to arm in favour of the Revolution. England submitted patiently, and during the greater part of the time silently, to this indignity, for she had then a heavy war upon her hands. It would be time enough to turn upon France when the colonies were subdued, an event every compaign was expected to bring about. The results of the last, as they were then known in Europe, led the French Minister to apprehend that period to be fast arriving. It is perfectly just to remark, that at the moment when aid and countenance were most important to the Americans, the French Government resorted to decisive means to prove the strict neutrality of its conduct.
This was a most discouraging juncture for the American Commissioners, though Franklin had full confidence in the resolution of his countrymen. He was, also, well acquainted with the real dispositions of the French court, and he saw they had proceeded to such a length that it would be difficult to withdraw with safety. The cause was still very popular with the French people, particularly in the maritime towns. The commercial advantages the independence of the colonies would produce, were exceedingly magnified. These towns were at that time in a very flourishing state, principally on account of the West India trade. The little commerce they already had with the United States, encouraged them to a great degree, and the profit with which their commercial operations had been attended, opened to them a most promising prospect. "When would the government arm in favour of the Americans? We heard but this cry in France. The nation deceived the Ministry and itself, by exaggerating the commercial advantages that would result from the independence of the American colonies. The fashion of the day propagated the declaration of the Rights of Man. No title appeared more desirable than that of an inhabitant of Boston."*
*Lacretelle, vol. v.
In December '77, despatches arrived to the Commissioners, containing an account of the surrender of General Burgoyne, and his army. This news decided the French government. Caron Beaumarchais, in a state of great despair and agony, was at Passy, the country seat of Dr. Franklin, a few miles from Paris, when this intelligence was brought. He was so overcome by it that he immediately set off for the capitol, and in his haste his carriage was overset and his arm dislocated. On the 6th of December '77, Mr. Gerard on the part of the French government, gave formal notice to the American Commissioners, that, after a long and mature deliberation upon their propositions, his christian Majesty had resolved to recognize the independence of, and to enter into treaties of commerce and alliance with, the "United States of America." These two treaties were signed on the 6th of February '78, by Benjamin Franklin, Silas Deane, and Arthur Lee for America, and Conrad Alexander Gerard for France. We publish the treaties entire, being the first treaties made by the United States, and as it respects the commercial one, the model of most treaties since made with the states on the continent of Europe. We abstain from making any general remarks on these instruments, as the whole are extracted. But in the commercial treaty, though no reciprocity of duties was established, the barbarous droit d'aubaine was abolished as it regarded Americans, contrabands, specifically enumerated, were confined to munitions of war; a trade with an enemy's possessions was admitted, and the great neutral principle, "Free ships, free goods," was recognized. The commerce of each party was put on the footing of the most favoured nations; gentis amicissimae. Other remarks on this treaty will be found in the next chapter. The treaty of alliance, besides containing a guarantee of possession to a certain extent, declared that arms should not be laid down till
the independence of America was secured.* Thus did France acquire the signal honour of having been the first power in the old world to recognize the independence of a youthful nation in the new.†
*TREATY OF AMITY AND COMMERCE.
"The most christian king, and the thirteen United States of North America, to wit: New-Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New-York, New-Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia, willing to fix in an equitable and permanent manner, the rules which ought to be followed relative to the correspondence and commerce which the two parties desire to establish, between their respective countries, states, and subjects, his most christian majesty and the said United States, have judged that the said end could not be better obtained than by taking, for the basis of their agreement, the most perfect equality and reciprocity, and by carefully avoiding all those burthensome preferences which are usually sources of debate, embarrassment, and discontent; by leaving also each party at liberty to make, respecting commerce and navigation, those interior regulations which it shall find most convenient to itself; and by founding the advantage of commerce solely upon reciprocal utility, and the just rules of free intercourse; reserving withal to each party the liberty of admitting at its pleasure, other nations to a participation of the same advantages. It is in the spirit of this intention, and to fulfil these views, that his said Majesty, having named and appointed for his plenipotentiary, Conrad
We extract from a French writer of eminence, a brief account of M. de Vergennes:-" M. de Vergennes died with calmness at the age of 68, in February, '87. This minister did not pride himself on making a great figure in politics. He possessed good sense, wisdom, and moderation, particularly what is called a good method, the fruit of fifty years' experience. To temporize was the principal resource of this minister. He showed a want of address in seizing the opportunity of the American Revolution to humiliate England. The American war exhausted the finances of the kingdom, and disturbed the ancient system of subordination."
Writers on French diplomacy considered the mode, in which this war was declared, a political error. They rejected a direct alliance with the United States, and recommended that
Conrad Alexander Gerard, royal syndic of the city of Strasbourg, Secretary of his Majesty's council of state; and the United States on their part, having fully empowered Benjamin Franklin, deputy from the state of Pennsylvania to the General Congress, and president of the convention of said state; Silas Deane, late deputy from the state of Connecticut to the said Congress, and Arthur Lee, counsellor-at-law; the said respective plenipotentiaries, after exchanging their powers, and after mature deliberation, have concluded and agreed upon the following articles:
"ART. 1. There shall be a firm, inviolable, and universal peace, and a true and sincere friendship between the most christian king, his heirs and successors, and the United States of America; and the subjects of the most christian king, and of the said states; and between the countries, islands, cities, and towns, situate under the jurisdiction of the most christian king, and of the said United States, and the people and inhabitants of every degree, without exception of persons or places; and the terms hereinafter mentioned shall be perpetual between the most christian king, his heirs, and success: ors, and the said United States.
"ART. 2. The most christian king, and the United States engage mutually not to grant any particular favour to other nations, in respect of commerce and navigation, which shall not immediately become common to the other party, who shall enjoy the same favour, freely, if the concession was freely made, or on allowing the same compensation, if the concession was conditional.
"ART. 3. The subjects of the most christian king shall pay in the ports, havens, roads, countries, islands, cities, or towns, of the United States, or any of them, no other or greater duties, or imposts, of what nature soever they may be, or by what name soever called, than those which the nations most favoured are, or shall be obliged to pay; and they shall enjoy all the rights, liberties, privileges, immunities, and exemptions in trade, navigation, and commerce, whether in passing from one port in the said states to another, or in going to and from the same, from and to any part of the world, which the said nations do or shall enjoy.
France should have proceeded to hostilities on the ground of its own particular wrongs, more especially the insults offered by the English to French vessels, and oppressive maritime
"ART. 4. The subjects, people, and inhabitants of the said United States, and each of them, shall not pay in the ports, havens, roads, isles, cities, and places under the domination of his most christian Majesty, in Europe, any other or greater duties or imposts, of what nature soever they may be, or by what name soever called, than those which the most favoured nations are or shall be obliged to pay; and they shall enjoy all the rights, liberties, privileges, immunities, and exemptions in trade, navigation, and commerce, whether in passing from one port in the said dominions, in Europe, to another, or in going to and from the same, from and to any part of the world, which the said nations do or shall enjoy.
"ART. 5. In the above exemption is particularly comprised the imposition of one hundred sols per ton, established in France on foreign ships; unless when the ships of the United States shall load with the merchandise of France for another port of the same dominion, in which case the said ships shall pay the duty above mentioned so long as other nations, the most favoured, shall be obliged to pay it. But it is understood that the said United States or any of them, are at liberty, when they shall judge it proper, to establish a duty equivalent in the same case.
"ART. 6. The most christian king shall endeavour, by all the means in his power, to protect and defend all vessels and the effects belonging to the subjects, people, or inhabitants of the said United States, or any of them, being in his ports, havens, or roads, or on the seas near to his countries, islands, cities, or towns, and to recover and restore to the right owners, their agents or attorneys, all such vessels and effects, which shall be taken within his jurisdiction; and the 'ships of war of his most christian Majesty, or any convoy sailing under his authority, shall, upon all occasions, take under their protection all vessels belonging to the subjects, people, or inhabitants of the said United States, or any of them, and holding the same course, or going the same way, and shall defend such vessels as long as they hold the same course, or go the same way,