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The negotiations for the treaty of peace are among the most important in the annals of diplomacy. Peace was at the same time to be made between five contending powers. The clashing interests thus involved threw innumerable difficulties in the way, and threatened serious embarrassments. These were in some degree diminished and removed, by carrying on the negotiations in separate parts. That is, separate commissioners were appointed to negotiate with the Americans, and with the other powers. This method gave a unity and simplicity to the business, which it could not have possessed, if the negotiations had proceeded together. The plan was proposed by Dr Franklin, and cordially acceded to by the British and French ministry.
Several erroneous statements have gone abroad, and been formally repeated in histories, respecting the American negotiations at Paris for the treaty of peace. This is not the place to examine the subject in all its parts, but there is one point on which we feel it our duty to speak in the present connexion. Our thoughts are called to it by an extraordinary passage in Mr Cooper's late work on the United States. His words are here quoted.
The Count de Vergennes had early succeeded in persuading Dr Franklin, that as England could not, nor would not formally acknowledge the Independence of America, his better course would be to accept a truce for twenty years, at the end of which period his country would be sufficiently strong to take what she needed for herself. The philosopher is said to have acquiesced in this opinion, and began to stir his mighty reason in maturing the terms of this remarkable truce. In this state of mind he was found by Mr Jay on his arrival from Madrid. The latter was not slow to perceive the effects of such a course, nor to detect the secret source whence the insidious counsel flowed.
Mr Jay denounced the policy of the Count de Vergennes, and declared that the unqualified independence of his country must be a sine quâ non in any treaty which bore his name. Mr Adams soon joined the negotiation, and took the side of independence. Franklin, who was at heart a true patriot, suffered the film to be drawn from his eyes, and perfect union soon preIsided in their councils. But England had not been unapprised of the disposition of America to receive a truce. Her commissioner, Mr Oswald, appeared with instructions to go no further. In this dilemma a step is ascribed to Mr Jay, that I believe is as remarkable for its boldness as for its good sense. He is said to have written, with his own hand, to the English secretary of
state, pointing out the bad consequences to England herself, if she adhered to her present policy. By keeping the truce suspended over America, she forced that country to lean on France for support; whereas by admitting her at once into the rank of nations, England would obtain a valuable customer, and might also secure a natural friend. Thus instructed in a better policy, the English minister saw his error; and the same courier, who conveyed the letter of Mr Jay, returned with instructions to Mr Oswald to acknowledge the independence of the United States. Finding themselves embarrassed by the Count de Vergennes, believing they were betrayed, in the spirit of their alliance at least, and knowing that France could not find the smallest difficulty in settling her own affairs without their agency, the American commissioners proceeded to sign a treaty of peace in the very teeth of their instructions, without the knowledge of the French minister.'-Notions of the Americans, &c. Vol. 1. p. 77.
It would be difficult to comprise a larger number of errors within the same compass, than are contained in this extract, or to throw a more deceptive coloring over the few facts that are mingled with them. In the first place, the author's notions of the truce, which he mentions, are imaginary, having hardly a shadow of foundation. The idea of a truce was first suggested by Spain, three years before the negotiations for peace, when his Catholic Majesty made an effort to mediate between France and England. To relieve this mediation from the American difficulties, it was thought a long truce between England and the United States, something like that which existed formerly between Spain and Holland, might be resorted to in a manner advantageous to both parties. The idea seemed practicable to the French court, and the minister of his Most Christian Majesty at Philadelphia was instructed to lay the subject before Congress. This was accordingly done; and although there was a difference of opinion, yet a majority approved the project, on the supposition that peace could not be obtained on favorable terms, and the commissioners were authorized to treat for a truce on certain conditions. The instructions from the British ministry to Mr Oswald also purported, that he was to treat for a 'peace or truce.' But here the affair ended. The Spanish mediation failed; nor does it appear that the subject of a truce ever came into discussion in any way whatever between the British and American commissioners. From the very outset we hear of nothing but propositions for a treaty of peace. It is true, the truce was much talked about, both in
America and in Europe, after the proposal of Spain; but we repeat, that the subject never came formally before the commissioners during their negotiations for peace. This fact alone destroys the whole superstructure of Mr Cooper's narrative.
If we pursue his remarks further, we shall find them to involve graver errors. The implied censure on the character of Franklin, and the part he took in these transactions, is equally unjust and incorrect. It is in fact directly opposite to the reality. The author would have us infer, that Dr Franklin was indifferent to the independence of his country, and that this acquisition, as preparing the way for a permanent treaty, was chiefly owing to the firmness and superior patriotism of Mr Jay. Let us see how this accords with facts.
Mr Jay arrived in Paris from Spain on the twenty-third of June. Two or three months before this date, the British ministry began to think seriously of peace; and Mr Oswald was sent to Paris with instructions to converse freely with Dr Franklin, and endeavor to ascertain the nature and extent of the American claims, as well as the disposition of the French ministry in regard to peace. Mr Oswald accordingly had several interviews with Dr Franklin, talked over from time to time the general outlines of a proposed reconciliation and peace between England and the United States, and reported the substance of his conversations to his government. Dr Franklin was, at first, reserved in his communications, but assured the British agent, that the United States were ready to make a peace on honorable and equal terms, whenever it should appear, that their enemies were prepared to meet them on that ground. Being convinced at length of the sincerity of Mr Oswald's intentions, and that the British ministry were in earnest, Dr Franklin submitted to him certain propositions, which he said would come under consideration in negotiating for a peace. The following extract of a letter from Mr Oswald to the Earl of Shelburne, dated the tenth of July, 1782, will explain the nature of these propositions, and the views of Dr Franklin.
In consequence of Dr Franklin's appointment, as mentioned in my letter of the eighth, I went out to his house this morning, and staid with him near two hours, with a view of obtaining the information and advice I wished for, as to the terms and conditions upon which he thought a treaty between Great Britain and the commissioners of the colonies might be carrying on and proceed to a conclusion. Having reminded him of what he in a VOL. XXX.-No. 66.
manner promised on the sixth, he took out a minute and read from it a few hints, or articles; some, he said, as necessary for them to insist on; others, which he could not say he had any orders about, or were not absolutely demanded, and yet such as it would be advisable for England to offer for the sake of reconciliation and her future interest; viz.
'Points NECESSARY to be granted;
1. Independence, full and complete in every sense, to the thirteen United States, and all troops to be withdrawn from thence.
2. A settlement of the boundaries of their colonies, and the
3. A confinement of the boundaries of Canada, at least to what
'Then as to the ADVISABLE articles, or such, as a friend, he
'1. To indemnify many people who had been ruined by towns
2. Some sort of acknowledgment in some public act of parlia-
3. Colony ships and trade to be received and have the same
4. Giving up every part of Canada.
If there were any other articles of either kind, I cannot now recollect them, but I do not think there were any of material consequence; and I perhaps was the less attentive in the enumera
tion, that it had been agreed to give me the whole in writing. But after some reflection, the Doctor said he did not like to give such writing, and, hesitating a good deal about it, asked me if I had seen Mr Jay, the other commissioner lately come from Madrid. I said I had not. He then told me it would be proper I should see him, and he would fix a time for our meeting, and seemed to think he should himself want to confer with him before he gave a final answer. I told him if I had such final answer, and had leave, I would carry it over to England. He said that would be right, but as Mr Grenville told him he expected another courier in four or five days, I had better wait so long, and he would write along with me.
Upon the whole the Doctor expressed himself in a friendly way toward England, and was not without hope, that if we should settle on this occasion in the way he wished, England would not only have a beneficial intercourse with the colonies, but at last it might end in a federal union between them. In the mean time we ought to take care not to force them into the hands of other people.
From this conversation I have some hopes, that it is possible to put an end to the American quarrel in a short time, and when that is done I have a notion that a treaty with the other powers will go more smoothly on. The Doctor did not, in the course of the above conversation, hesitate as to a conclusion with them, on account of any connexion with those other states, and in general seemed to think their American affairs must be ended by a separate commission. On these occasions I said, I supposed in case of such a commission he meant that the power of granting Independence would be therein expressly mentioned. He said, No doubt.'
In considering this letter, it is important to keep in mind, that it was written before the British commissioner had seen Mr Jay, and three months and a half before Mr Adams arrived in Paris. It must be deemed, therefore, as expressing the unbiassed opinions of Dr Franklin, and the results of his previous conversations with Mr Oswald. Let it be observed, that in this paper, independence is made the preliminary step to all other proceedings. Let it be moreover observed, that it contains all the essential outlines of the peace, as it was actually concluded. Certain histories have told us, that Franklin was lukewarm about the fisheries, and willing to pass them over, but in this paper they are enumerated as an ESSENtial. It is a fact capable of demonstration, that, from the beginning to the end of the negotiation, he was a strenuous asserter of this privi