« PreviousContinue »
THE early diplomatic successes of the Americans are often enhanced by the commentary that the first representatives of the new country faced, as untrained novices,
Diplomacy and Europeans who were masters of their art. international This lack of preparation, however, extended only to lack of practice in the formal art of diplomatic intercourse and to lack of acquaintance with international law. Of these apparent defects the first was a distinct advantage, for the diplomatic code of the eighteenth century had become rigid and formal to the point of breaking, and the directness of the Americans was like a fresh breeze under which it began to totter to a fall. International law, on the other hand, was then so far from being the formal and inclusive system which it is to-day that it was not beyond the comprehension of amateurs.
Of men trained in the more essential elements of diplomacy, the colonies had a greater proportion than any other country of the time. They had been engaged in con
Colonial extinual negotiations, almost independently of perience Great Britain, with the Indian tribes, and frequently with the French and Spaniards. Every colony had had semidiplomatic disputes with its neighbors, and all had supported agents in England whose functions included virtually all the elements of a diplomatic mission. Almost continuously from 1758 to 1774 Benjamin Franklin, as general agent, had occupied a post in England essentially equivalent to minister
1 For a general bibliography of American diplomacy to 1901, see A. B. Hart, Foundations of American Foreign Policy (New York, 1905), 241-293; also Channing, Hart, and Turner, Guide to the Study of American History (Boston, etc., 1912), which has special sections on diplomacy to 1912.
to that government. Moreover, the whole movement toward union between the colonies was diplomatic in its character, and constantly involved the most delicate questions of management.
The colonists had therefore had experience with alliances, with treaties of peace, of boundary, and of cession, with the
conduct of joint military expeditions, and with Arbitration
dealing with men of differing habits and customs. They were thoroughly at home with the great American questions of boundary, fisheries, Indians, and foreign trade. They were accustomed to discuss difficult problems with able men, and to recognize the necessity of compromise. In one respect their peculiar experience as colonists prepared them even to take the lead in a new departure in international law,--the science of international arbitration. Accustomed as they were to see intercolonial disputes ultimately settled by judicial process in England, they thought of arbitration as a natural expedient. Further, having no trained diplomatic staff, they sent over their ablest men of affairs, who usually overmatched in ability the men with whom they had to deal.
This diplomatic readiness was indeed an essential resource, for without foreign aid the cause of the colonists would have Necessity for been well-nigh hopeless. In the final event foreign aid
the French army was a decisive factor at Yorktown; but the French army was less significant than the French navy, which rendered the situation at Yorktown possible. Still more important, however, was the fact that the colonies were not self-sufficing industrially, and so could not have withstood the first shock of war without the supplies of arms and other manufactured goods which from the beginning of the conflict found their way into the country through the lax neutrality of Holland, Spain, and France.”
1 A. T. Mahan, The Influence of Sea Power upon History, 1660-1783 (Boston, 1890), 382-400. 2 J. F. Jameson, “Saint Eustatius in the American Revolution," Amer. t. Review, 1903, viii. 689–708.
From the meeting of the Continental Congress, September 5, 1774, until the Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776, the position of the colonists was extremely Groping for delicate. Professing loyalty to George III, they realized more and more the necessity of foreign assistance, for which, however, it would have been treason to apply. Groping for support, Congress on October 21, 1774, sent an address to the other continental British colonies, on June 3, 1775, it addressed the people of Ireland, and on June 16 it appointed a committee to secure the friendship of the Indian nations. On November 29, 1775, though veiling its design in ambiguity of language, it took a more decisive step by appointing a committee of five to correspond with friends of the colonies in Great Britain, Ireland, "and other parts of the world”; and finally, in the spring of 1776 it sent Silas Deane as agent to France, his mission, however, disguised under a pretence of private business.
Before following Deane in his delicate task it is desirable to have some understanding of the general conditions under which diplomatic intercourse was con Diplomatic orducted during the Revolution. In general the
ganization development of diplomatic organization resembled that of other departments. The committee of correspondence lasted till April, 1777. It was succeeded by a committee on foreign affairs, which gave way in October, 1781 to a secretary of foreign affairs, Robert Livingston. Under all these successive régimes, however, the main questions were debated in Congress itself, which received foreign ministers, and whose president sometimes acted as the national representative before the world. Communication Communicabetween the directing body and its agents abroad was slow and uncertain. Even in summer two months was considered good time between Philadelphia and
· The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States, ed. Francis Wharton, 6 vols., Washington, 1889; also Secret Journals of Congress, 1775–1788, 4 vols., Boston, 1821.