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he received a further commission to treat with Holland. Of Puritan breeding and ideas, he was American to the backbone. With a fund of solid information and a penetration and sound judgment which marked him out among his contemporaries, he was also conceited, obstinate, and disagreeable. His disapproval of the frivolities of Philadelphia when he attended Congress there foreshadowed his opinion of Paris, and indeed of Franklin. Referring to the latter, he wrote, “Congress will not be put to any expense for my family, for my coaches and retinues of servants.” July 13, 1780, he wrote to Vergennes, “The United States are a great and powerful people, whatever European statesmen may think.” On August 9, 1780, Franklin wrote to the president of Congress, “M. de Vergennes, who appears much offended, told me yesterday that he would enter into no further discussions with Mr. Adams.”
Happy in the thought that an understanding with Holland might render the United States “less dependent on France,” Adams was also happy in the quieter atmos- Treaty with phere of the Dutch capital and the substantial Holland methods of her statesmen, who on their part appreciated his qualities. On October 8, 1782, therefore, an admirable treaty of amity and commerce was signed, and an American loan was floated on the Dutch market. In his diary he records the remark made to him, "Sir, you have struck the greatest blow in the American cause, and the most decisive.” 1
1 John Adams, Works (ed. C. F. Adams, 10 vols., Boston, 1850–56), iii. 94-304.
DURING the spring of 1779 Congress devoted much of its time to a consideration of the terms upon which it would American de consent to make peace. It decided that the sires
recognition of independence must precede negotiation and not form part of the treaty. On the subject of boundaries it determined to make the cession of the unorganized Indian country between the Floridas, the mountains, the Ohio, and the Mississippi an ultimatum. To the north it wanted the 1763 boundary of Quebec, that is, Lake Nipissing to the point where the forty-fifth parallel crosses the St. Lawrence, then along that parallel to the highlands, and then along the highlands, giving us the country from Lake Nipissing westward to the source of the Mississippi; but the whole portion of the line west of the St. Lawrence it was willing to leave subject to negotiation. To the northeast, the line was to descend from the highlands along the river St. John, but some more western river might be chosen if thereby the war could be shortened. Congress expressed its readiness to take Nova Scotia and the Bermudas, and made other interesting suggestions which were, however, not to be insisted upon."
In the discussions two points of dispute arose. New England could not conceive of happiness without the NewfoundFisheries and land fisheries. Her representatives demanded the Mississippi the right to fish on the “Banks,” and in addition the privilege of landing on unoccupied coasts to dry fish and for other purposes. The southern states, on the con
1 Secret Journals of Congress, ii. 132–261; Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States, from 1783 to 1789, 3 vols., Washington, 1837.
trary, were unwilling to prolong the war for such ends, but demanded on their part that the free navigation of the Mississippi be an ultimatum, a grant for which the New Englanders were not prepared to fight. When Congress voted to include in the ultimatum merely the common right of fishing on the “Banks” without the in-shore privileges, Samuel Adams was heard to say that one saw more and more that the separation of the East and the South was inevitable. 1
The French minister, Gerard, not unnaturally urged that the fixed points in the instructions be as few as possible, and the final draft, August 14, 1779, left out both Final instrucfisheries and Mississippi. Two years more of tions war, with the disasters in the South, still further broke the spirit of Congress, and June 15, 1781, the commissioners were informed that, although the desires of Congress remained the same they were not to be insisted upon. “We think it unsafe at this distance," ran the instructions, “to tie you up by absolute and peremptory directions upon any other subject than the two essential articles (independence and the observance of the French treaties). . therefore at liberty to secure the interest of the United States in such manner as circumstances may direct, and as the state of the belligerent and disposition of the mediating powers (Russia and Austria were offering their mediation] may require. For this purpose, you are 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 and concurrence; and ultimately to govern yourself by their advice and opinion.” 2 John Adams was in 1779 appointed to carry out the negotiations, and in 1781 four other commissioners were added,-Franklin, Jay, Laurens, and Thomas Jefferson, Of these Jefferson did not cross the
1 Doniol, La participation de la France, iv. 105–107.
ocean, and Laurens was in the Tower of London until just before the signing of the preliminary articles.
From the beginning of the war till the end of 1778 Great Britain was continually and increasingly anxious to negotiate
with the colonies on some basis less than that Great Britain opens negotia- of independence. These attempts were a contions
stant source of anxiety to France, and were in fact given by Louis XVI to Charles III as his excuse for recognizing our independence without waiting for action by Spain. The attempt of 1778 was earnestly undertaken but was unsuccessful, and after that date such negotiations were not seriously renewed. The surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown, October 14, 1781, brought England to the point of acknowledging independence. On March 20, 1782, Lord North resigned, and was succeeded by the marquis of Rockingham, whose program was peace. The new ministry, however, was divided as to method. Lord Shelburne, secretary of state for the colonies, held that the Americans were still colonists, that independence should be granted as a valuable concession, and that the negotiations should be conducted by his department. Charles James Fox, secretary of foreign affairs, the friend of the colonists and the avowed enemy of Shelburne, wished to recognize independence at once, to make the terms so generous as to reconcile America to England and alienate her from France, and desired to conduct the negotiation himself. In this deadlock, in the spring of 1782, Thomas Grenville appeared in France from the English foreign office being known as Mr. Fox's minister, and Richard Oswald from the colonial office being known as Lord Shelburne's minister.2
1 For negotiations in the field, see Washington's Works (ed. W. C. Ford, 14 vols., New York, etc., 1889–93), iii. 77, 79, 90, 248, 282. For peace negotiations with Howe, see ibid., iv. 249, 263, 309; Wharton's Diplomatic Correspondence, ü. 98, 103; Franklin's Works (ed. Bigelow), vi. 28; Secret Journals of Congress. For negotiations of 1778, see Secret Journals, vol. ii. 13; Franklin's Works, vi. 124-238.
2 Winsor, America, vii. 89-184; Lord Fitzmaurice, Life of William Earl of Shelburne (2d ed., 2 vols., London, 1912), i. 111-223.
The central figure in the diplomatic situation was the Count de Vergennes. The pivot of European affairs from 1776 to 1783, leader of France in her only suc The objects of cessful war with England during the long Vergennes struggle between 1688 and 1815, master of a distinctly noble style of correspondence, active, and successful in the choice of agents, he has failed to impress history as has Necker, who was less able, or Turgot, who was less powerful. Possibly his failure in half of his main conception has blurred his impress on our memory: in separating the American colonies from England he succeeded, in binding them to France he failed. To accomplish the latter purpose he counted on a gratitude that was not forthcoming, on a trade that did not develop, on a dependent weakness that was avoided.
Certainly his position in 1782 must command our sympathy. The ally of Spain and of the United States, who were not on terms with each other and who had dif- Vergennes's ferent and conflicting purposes, he felt also program responsibility for the Netherlands, whom he had incited to enter the war. On the side of the United States he was bound to conclude no treaty without her consent, to obtain independence “formally or tacitly," and also to secure her possessions and conquests; moreover, the United States would not be content with the territory actually occupied nor without further stipulations, such as those concerning the Mississippi and the fisheries. On the side of Spain he was bound to conclude a simultaneous treaty, and Spain would not be satisfied without Gibraltar, which the allies had been for years besieging, and the Floridas. His policy was to compel England to offer terms. To Oswald he wrote: “There are four nations engaged in the war against you, who cannot, till they have consulted and know each other's minds, be ready to make propositions. Your court being without allies and alone, knowing its own mind, can express it immediately; it is, therefore, more natural to expect the first
For Franklin's opinion of Vergennes, see his Works, viii. 305-307.