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are not now disposed to question the importance of the aid we actually derived from France in the war of our revolution : nor to retract the grateful acknowledgments that all America has from that time offered to that nation: we were in the habit of expressing our gratitude to her for the benefits which we received, although they resulted from her exertions to advance her own interest and scCure her own safety. But if those benefits had been rendered from pure benevolence, from disinterested good will to us, and we had been remiss in acknowledging them, is it the part of generosity, of magnanimity constantly to upbraid the receivers of their favours with ingratitude 2 Do not such reproaches cancel the obligation ? But if for favours apparently generous, substantial returns are demanded; the supposed liberal act degenerates and becomes a mercenary bargain. If such only are the motives for our gratitude towards France, at the commencement of her political and commercial connexions with us, in the midst of our war with Great Britain, what more can we discover at the conclusion of that war? Let us examine. In 1781, with the assistance of a French army by land and a powerful fleet by sea, a second British army was captured. This event made even the British government despair of bringing the United States again under her subjection. The ministry was changed; and the parliament passed an act to authorize the king to make peace. In the suminer of 1782, an agent on the part of Great Britain, repaired to Paris to negotiate with the commissioners of the United States. For some time, Doct. Franklin and Mr. Jay were alone at Paris. The commission to Mr. Oswald (the British negotiator) authorized him to treat of. and conclude a peace or truce with any commissioner or commissioners, named or to be named by the colonies or plantations of New Hampshire, &c. (noning the thirteen) or with any of them separately, with parts of them, or with any persons whatsoever. Mr. Jay was not satisfied with this commission to Mr. Oswald: the independence of the thirteen states was no where intimated. Agreeably to their instructions from Congress, to take advice of the court of France, the commissioners communicated Mr. Oswald's commission to the prime minister, the count de. Vergennes. The count expressed his opinion that the commission was sufficient; that it was such an one as we might have expected it would be: "That an acknowledgment of our independence, instead of preceding, must, in the natural course of things, be the effect of the treaty." This opinion the count continued from time to time to repeat. In short, "it was evident the count did not wish to see our independence acknowledged by Britain until they had made all their uses of us." Mr. Jay still continued unmoved. He conferred with Mr. Oswald, and "urged in the strongest terms, the great impropriety and consequently the utter impossibility of our ever treating with Great Britain on any other than an equal footing; and told him plainly, that he (Mr. Jay) would have no concern in any negotiation in which we were not considered as an independent people.'1'
It was on this occasion that Mr. Oswald communicated to Mr. Jay this article of his instructions;—" In case you find ihe American commissioners are not at liberty to treat on any terms short of independence, you are to declare to them, that you have our authority to make that cession: our ardent wish for peace disposing us to purchase it at the price of acceding to the complete independence of the thirteen colonies."
The British ministry approved of this communication; but still were for treating with us as colonies, and making an acknowledgment of our independence only an article of the treaty. Mr. Jay's discernment discovered the source of the backwardness, at this time, in the British court to admit our independence previous to the negotiating of the treaty; and mentioned it with his reasons to Mr. Oswald; who far from contradicting Mr. Jay's inference, told him a fact which confirmed his opinion that it originated in the court of France, and was communicated to that of London by the British commissioner then in Paris to treat of peace between France and Great Britain. Mr. Jay then explained to Mr. Oswald what he supposed to be the natural policy of the French court, and showed him, "that it was the interest of Britain to render us as independent on France, as we were resolved to be on Britain." Mr. Oswald was convinced. Mr. Jay reminded him of the several resolutions of Congress passed at different periods, not to treat with British commissioner* on any other footing than that of absolute independence; and proposed to give to him in writing what he had before expressed in conversation—his determination not to treat but on the footing of equality. Mr. Oswald preferred having it in writing. Mr. Jay prepared the draught of a letter, to be signed by him and Doct. Franklin, expressing their determination not to treat but on terms of equality, as an independent nation; and exhibiting the reasons of this determination. Doctor Franklin thought the letter “rather too positive, and, therefore, rather imprudent; for that in case Britain should remain firm, and future circumstances should compel us to submit to their mode of treating, we should do it with an ill grace, after such a decided and peremptory refusal. Besides, the doctor seemed much perplexed and settered by the instructions from Congress to be guided by the advice of the French court. Neither of these considerations affected Mr. Jay. For as to the first, he 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, he could not believe that Congress intended they should follow any advice which might be repugnant to their dignity and interest.” Doctor Franklin’s doubts prevented this letter being signed. Mr. Oswald was disappointed; and desired to sec the draught. He saw it, and requested a copy of it. After taking time for consideration, Mr. Jay complied with the request. “For though unsigned it would convey to the British ministry the sentiments and opinions he wished to impress; and if finally they should not be content to treat with us as independent, they were not yet ripe for peace or treaty with us. Besides, he could not be persuaded that Great Britain, after what the house of commons had declared, after various other acts of that government manifesting the intention to acknowledge it, would persist in refusing to admit our independence, provided they really believed that we had firmly resolved not to treat on more humble terms.” “With the copy of this draught Mr. Jay gave Mr. Oswald copies of the various resolutions of Congress which evinced their adherence to their independence. These papers Mr. Oswald sent by express to London,
and warmly recommended the issuing a new commission, to remove all further delay.” Mr. Jay having afterwards ascertained that the count de Vergennes had sent a confidential agent to London, but whose journey was intended to have been a secret, for purposes evidently hostile to the interests of the United States, determined immediately to counteract the project, by an agent on whom he could rely, to make to the court of London such representations as he thought the occasion demanded. He succeeded; and in about two weeks, Mr. Oswald received a new commission in the form for which Mr. Jay had contended. Mr. Jay remarked, that agreeably to the declaration of independence, the United States, as free and independent, had full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, &c. That by the act of confederation, the style of the confederacy was declared to be, The UNITED STATES of AMERICA, and by that act Congress were vested with the sole and exclusive right and power of determining on peace and war, and of entering into treaties and alliances: that being of right and in fact free and independent States, their representatives in Congress ted a commission to certain gentlemen, of whom Dr. #. and he were two, in their name to confer, treat and conclude with ambassadors or commissioners vested with equal powers, relating to the re-establishing of peace, &c. But the first commission to Mr. Oswald was not equivalent: the United States were not named in it; nor their commissioners, who consequently were not the persons with whom Mr. Oswald was authorized to treat. And if the commissioners had consented to treat with Mr. Oswald under such a commission, what would have been the condition of the people of the United States in the interval between the commencement of the negotiation and the conclusion of peace? They would have been not independent citizens, but by our acknowledgment, British subjects / Mr. Jay would not consent to this degradation, after we had maintained our independence six years, after we had established it in fact, and after Congress had by firm and repeated resolutions refused to treat with Great Britain, unless as a preliminary, she withdrew her fleets and armies, or else in positive and ea press terms acknowtedged the independence of the "nited States. At the same time Congress manifested their readiness to attend to such terms of peace as might consist with the honour of independent nations: but the honour of an independent ntition forbade their treating in a subordinate capacity. Even the dignity of France, who four years before treated with us as an independent nation, required that we should not degrade ourselves when going to treat with her enemy. And why then should her ministers desire us to do it? Especially when the treaty of defensive alliance declared the "essential and direct end of it was to maintain effectually the liberty, sovereignty and independence absolute and unlimited of the United States, as well in matters of government as of commerce." There were several reasons. The two parties, France and the United States, engaged not to lay down their arms until the independence of the United States should be attained. The explicit acknowledgment of their independence by Great Britain would show that for the essential and direct object of the alliance there was no necessity of continuing the war. But since making this treaty of alliance with the United States, France had formed other connections, with whose views we had no concern, and for whose sake we were not bound to postpone the offered peace. We have seen the explicit avowal of the king of France that he entered into a treaty with the United States with the view to promote the safety and interest of his kingdom and subjects, by diminishing the power of England: but in doing this, and eventually facilitating our independence on Great Britain, it became apparent that there would be no objection to our dependence on France, particularly in "leaving the king master of the terms of the treaty of peace." And to keep us thus far dependent was manifestly the object of certain measures of the French court, calculated to deprive the United States of an immense western territory, of the navigation of the Mississippi, and of the fisheries, except on our own coast.
A combination of facts and circumstances leave no doubt of the intentions of the French court, as to the objects above mentioned. I cannot undertake the lengthy detail, and will only just mention in regard to territory, what was proposed and urged by one whose official station rendered it impossible to believe, that he was expressing only his own sentiments: or that he was not