Page images
PDF
EPUB

in authority, but that the glamor blinded in any way his clear view of American interests may well be doubted. In December, 1776, it was said of him, “That popular man became more powerful than power itself;” and Jefferson wrote later, “He possessed the confidence of that government in the highest degree, insomuch that it may truly be said that they were more under his influence than he under theirs."

Franklin's success rendered the triumph of Vergennes's policy comparatively easy. American merchant ships, privateers, and war vessels found harborage in Friendship and French ports; and finally, when the news of the alliance surrender of Burgoyne reached France, early in 1778, the king consented to act without waiting upon Spain. On February 6 of that year two treaties were signed between France and the United States,-one of amity and commerce, and, in case England should resent that, one of alliance. The treaty of amity was framed upon principles of free mutual intercourse which were somewhat in advance of the time, and incorporated certain rules of international law, as that free ships make free goods, long laid down by the Dutch and French writers but denied by the English. The treaty of 2) alliance guaranteed, on the part of France, the independence of the United States; on the part of the latter the existing possessions of France in America. To the United States it gave a free hand in the conquest of British continental possessions and of the Bermudas; to France it granted similar rights in the West Indies. “Neither of the two parties,” it ran, “shall conclude either truce or peace with Great Britain without the formal consent of the other first obtained; and they mutually engage not to lay down their arms until the independence of the United States shall have been formally or tacitly assured by the treaty or treaties that shall terminate the war.” 1

For these and all subsequent treaties to which the United States was a party, see Treaties, Conventions, etc., ed., W. M. Malloy and Charles Garfield, 2 vols. to 1909, and supplement to 1913 (Senate Doc., 61 Con. 2 sess., No. 357).

the war

England, on hearing of the recognition of American independence by France, did not accept the view of Louis XVI, France enters who wrote to George III that he was assured

that the latter would regard it as one more manifestation of his friendly disposition; and in April war between France and England began. Thanks largely to the tact of Franklin, the alliance worked smoothly. The French government loaned money and guaranteed other loans; it sent ships and troops to America. As the chief American authority in Europe, Franklin was financial and purchasing agent for the states; he directed the employment of the American navy under Commodore John Paul Jones; and, through his friends, the Foxes of Falmouth, he looked after the welfare of the American prisoners in England. American trade was legitimatized, and the final independence of the United States became a reasonable certainty.

CHAPTER IV

SPAIN AND HOLLAND

Two parties arose in Congress. One, which came to be known as the Gallican, or French, party, favored the entrusting of American interests in Europe to Diplomatic France, advised by Franklin. The other,

skirmishing sometimes known as the party of the Lees and Adamses, distrusted French sincerity and Franklin's ability and wished to preserve an independent course. The friends of Franklin, who in domestic affairs were also in general the supporters of Washington, succeeded in maintaining him at Paris, but their rivals obtained the appointment of a swarm of agents commissioned to other countries. Silas Deane was recalled in 1778, and in 1779 Franklin was appointed sole minister · to France; but from time to time Ralph Izard was sent to Tuscany, Arthur Lee was for a time co-commissioner to France and was appointed to undertake missions to Spain and Prussia, William Lee was sent to Berlin and Vienna, Francis Dana to Russia, Henry Laurens to the Netherlands. None of these were received at their posts, but at Paris and in their wanderings about Europe they now and again touched wires in a manner disturbing to the controlling authorities. It was, however, at Paris, and by Franklin and Vergennes, that the international status of the alliance had to be determined.

The first essential was the Spanish fleet, and the Spanish negotiation at once became the central point of diplomatic interest. Charles III was annoyed at the in- Spain enters dependent action of France; the Spanish government was irritated at the persistent attempts of Arthur Lee to gain admission to the Spanish court, and vacillated with the success or the failure of American arms. Spain

* Wharton, Diplomatic Correspondence, introduction.

the war

was still unready; she asserted that France was the offending party and that the Family Alliance did not compel her to assist France in an offensive war. Instead she offered mediation, in return for which she was to receive the cession of the Floridas and a considerable proportion of the territory between the Floridas and the Ohio, a proposal which was virtually an offer to accept a bribe from England for her inactivity. The offer was refused, but European opinion still believed that she would remain at peace, when rather unexpectedly, in 1779, she declared war on Great Britain.

Thus united, the French and Spanish fleets for some years neutralized British naval supremacy. Since Spain, however,

though allied with France, had not as yet even John Jay

recognized the United States, in the autumn of 1779 Congress sent John Jay to treat with her. Jay was thirty-four years old, a man of decided talent and great energy. Although a gentleman in the conventional sense and descended from French Huguenots, he was provincial in experience and point of view and retained no spark of appreciation for French civilization. Given to self-confidence, he was alert to American interests up to the point of being suspicious of all who opposed his view of them. He was instructed to offer Spain permission to take the Floridas from Great Britain and to hold them; but in return he was to insist on the right of the Americans to navigate the Mississippi to the sea,-a right in respect to which he declared in 1780, “The Americans, almost to a man, believed that God Almighty had made that river a highway for the people of the upper country to go to the sea by,”—and he was to request permission to use similarly the rivers flowing into the Gulf of Mexico to the eastward. In 1781 under the pressure of accumulated woes, Congress released him from that part of his instructions relating to the Mississippi; but he disregarded the modification.1

1 John Jay, Correspondence and Public Papers (ed. H. P. Johnston, 4 vols., New York, 1890–93), i. 248–461, ii. 1–296.

Jay was not officially received in Spain, but he was put in touch with Don Diego de Gardoqui, a Spanish merchant versed in American affairs, who represented Spanish the Spanish government. It soon appeared policies that Spain was as insistent on closing the Mississippi as Jay was on opening it. One great boon which she expected to obtain from the war was the banishment of all foreign commerce from the Gulf of Mexico. Ever timid as to her American possessions, she wished to hold all neighbors at arm's length. Indeed, she was not satisfied with the narrow fringe of coast afforded by the Floridas; but in the project of a treaty presented in her behalf to Congress by Luzerne, the French minister at Philadelphia, she renewed the suggestion contained in her mediating offer to England, that she receive a portion of the region between the Floridas and the Ohio.1 Money she was willing to offer; vital concession she would not make.

Fully cognizant of Spanish views, and with his suspicions excited by an outside view of a negotiation with England which took place at Madrid during his stay,

Spanish negoJay, having obtained nothing but some slight tiation in

Paris pecuniary aid, returned to Paris, where in 1782 he renewed negotiations with the Spanish minister at that capital, Count d’Aranda. To assist in these negotiations Vergennes delegated his secretary Rayneval, who seemed to Jay to support the Spanish contentions.

Meantime the question was not left to diplomatic controversy alone. In 1778 and 1779, the American, George Rogers Clark had captured Kaskaskia on the War in the Mississippi and Vincennes on the Wabash, within the territory added to Quebec by the act of 1774. Between 1779 and 1781 Spain captured the British forts in West Florida. At Natchez on the Mississippi between the parallels of 31' and 32' 28'', in or out of West Florida as one might view it, the Spaniards and Americans almost

1 Secret Journals of Congress, ii. 310, etc.

West

« PreviousContinue »