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France assists America with troops-6000 arrive at Newport in July, 1780--In the
spring of 1781, join the American army near New York-Assist in the capture of lord Cornwallis in October of the same year--British ministry again attempt to make separate treaties with United States and France-Make advantageous offers to the latter-Both nations refuse to treat separately-Change of ministry in England --Pacific overtures made by the new administration-Mr. Oswald sent to Paris on the subject--His reception by Dr. Franklin and the French minister-Agree to treat of peace at Paris Mr. Grenville sent as minister by the British-Commissioners of peace about the same time sent to America-Congress refuse to treat with them --Grenville declares to Dr. Franklin that the independence of the United States was to be acknowledged as a preliminary-New administration in England in consequence of the death of the marquis of Rockingham-Lord Shelburne placed at the head of it-Opposed to an express and open acknowledgment of American independence-Supposed to have sent Mr. Jones to Paris secretly to sound the American ministers on the subject~Mr. Jones arrives at Paris Makes an extraordinary communication to Dr. Franklin--Great difficulties respecting the powers of the British negociators-Mr. Jay refuses to treat except as the representative of an independent nation—Views of the French minister on this subject-Grenville recalled--- Oswald appointed to treat with America---His powers finally satisfactory.--Negociations commence--American commissioners and Mr. Oswald agree on articles concerning boundaries and the fisheries to be inserted in a treaty if approved by the British cabinet---Sent to London---Mr. Jay resumes negociations with Spain at Paris Views of the Spanish and French courts concerning the western bounds of the United States-Western line designated by the Spanish minister-Not approved by the American ministers---Extraordinary communication made to Mr. Jay on this subject by the secretary of Vergennes-Views of France on the subject of the fisheries---Articles sent to London not agreed to by the British court---Mr. Strachey sent to Paris to assist Mr. Oswald' in further negociations---The subjects of boundaries, the fisheries, and compensation to the loyalists create great difficulties---Fi. nally settled by a provisional treaty---This treaty concluded by the American minister without consulting the French court-Reasons of this---Correspondence between Dr. Franklin and Vergennes on this point---Delay in the negociations between Great Britain and France and Spain occasioned by the demand made by Spain, for the surrender of Gibraltar---Majority of the British cabinet agree to give up this fortress on certain conditions---The British monarch refuses to give it on any terms---Spanish minister obliged to relinquish the demand and treaties between those powers finally concluded---The treaties not approved by the house of commons---Change of administration---Provisional treaty ratified by the United States -The article about debts not satisfactory to some of the states---David Hartley sent by the new ministry to complete the definite treaty---Negociators not able to agree on any new terms, or to make any commercial arrangements.
FRANCE generously assisted the United States with men as well as money. In July, 1780, a French fleet with six thousand troops,
arrived at Newport, in Rhode Island; and the next spring these troops joined the American army near New York. After making great preparations apparently with a view to attack that city, the allied army suddenly marched to the south to meet the British forces in that quarter. By their united efforts, with the assistance of a French fleet at the entrance of the Chesapeak, the British army, under lord Cornwallis, was compelled to surrender, on the 17th of October, 1781. This brilliant achievement put an end to military operations in America. Soon after this Mr. Hartley, with the knowledge of lord North, again applied to Dr. Franklin and to Mr. Adams, on the subject of a peace or truce. The object of the ministry was to enter into some arrangements with the United States, separate from France; this, the American ministers declined. At the same time, the British sent an emissary to the count de Vergennes, to sound him on the subject of a treaty separate from America. This emissary was a Mr. Forth, formerly secretary to lord Stormont; and through him very advantageous offers were made, to induce France to abandon her American allies. Among these offers, France was to retain all her conquests in the West Indies ; the British were to relinquish their right to have a commissary at Dunkirk, and to grant the French advantages in the East Indies ; and Dr. Franklin understood that the British ministry went so far, as to offer to restore Canada. France, however, refused to listen to these overtures, or to enter into negociations without the concurrence of her allies.*
Before inviting the attention of the reader to the change of the British administration, and the final overtures and negociations for peace, we would observe, that after the capture of the British army at Yorktown, the subject of the terms of peace again came before congress. The people of Massachusetts had not been inattentive to the important subject of the fisheries. On the 17th of November, 1781, the legislature of that state, instructed their delegates to “represent to congress the importance of the fisheries to that state, and to use their utmost influence, that instruc
* Franklin's Works, vol. 6, and Secret Journals of Congress, vol. 3.
tions be given to the ministers appointed by congress for negociating peace, in the most pressing manner, to insist, that the free and unmolested exercise of this right be continued and secured to the subjects of the United States of America, in a future settlement of peace.” This representation with other papers res lating to the same subject, were referred to a committee, consisting of Mr. Lovell, Mr. Carroll, and Mr. Madison, who early in January, 1782, made a report, in which they recommended that the American ministers for negociating peace, be further instructed, not only with respect to the fisheries, but the boundaries and the loyalists.
As the terms of peace had been placed under the control of the French court, it was, no doubt, considered too late, to revoke the authority thus given to their ally, or that this could not be done, without hazarding too much; the committee, however, were of opinion, that a representation should be made to his most christian majesty, through the American ministers, showing the views and expectations of the United States on these subjects. They, therefore, recommended that the American negociators, “ be instructed to acquaint his most christian majesty, that notwithstanding the occasion presented to the United States, by the signal advantages gained over the enemy, of enlarging their ultimatum for peace, the firm reliance which congress have on the friendship and influence of his majesty has determined them not to depart from their resolution, by which all the objects of their desires and expectations, excepting only the independence of the United States and their alliance with his majesty, are eventually submitted to his councils. But that, in order to make him more sensible of the extent and foundation of their desires and expectations, bave thought it expedient that some observations should be made to him relative to the several objects, which are most likely to fall within the compass of negociation.”
The committee then endeavored to prove by facts and reasoning, that the United States had good right to the boundaries, and to the fisheries, as claimed in their original instructions to Mr. Adams; and that his most christian majesty, as well as the Amer
ican ministers should insist on them. This report was recommitted to Mr. Carroll, Mr. Randolph, and Mr. Montgomery. The subject was before this committee until August following, when they reported “ facts and observations in support of the several claims of the United States, not included in their ultimatum of the 15th of June, 1781."
These facts and observations were presented in detail, and as to boundaries, the claim on the part of the United States was founded on the various original grants made to the states themselves while colonies. This second report was recommitted and never finally acted upon by congress. The members were at that period, much divided on the subject of the claims of the individual states to the western territory, and this might be one reason why many were unwilling to give an indirect sanction to these claims, by accepting this report. The minister of France, afterwards, in a communication made to congress, on the subject of peace, declared, “ that when negociations are entered into with sincerity, the king would most readily employ his good offices in support of the United States, in all points relating to their prosperity ; that congress were themselves sensible of the distinction between the conditions of justice and rigor, and those of convenience and compliance, which depended on the good or bad situation of affairs; that though the circumstances of the allies were very promising, such events might happen, as might make it advisable to adopt the part of moderation.” Congress availed themselves of this opportunity to express their wishes to the French court, as to the terms of peace. In answer to this part of the French ministers communication, they declared, that they placed“ the utmost confidence in his majesty's assurances, that he will readily employ his good offices in support of the United States, in all points relative to their prosperity ; and considering the territorial claims of these states as heretofore made, their participation of the fisheries, and of the free navigation of the Mississippi, not only as their indubitable rights, but as essential to their prosperity, they trust that his majesty's efforts will be successfully employed to obtain a sufficient provision and security
for those rights. Nor can they refrain,” they subjoined, “ from making known to his majesty that any claim for restitution or compensation for property confiscated in the several states will meet with insuperable obstacles, not only on account of the sovereignty of the individual states, by which such confiscations have been made, but of the wanton devastations which the citizens of these states have experienced from the enemy, and in many instances from the very persons in whose favor such claims may be urged. That congress trust that the circumstances of the allies at the negociations for peace will be so prosperous, as to render these expectations consistent with the spirit of moderation recommended by his majesty."*
It must have been humiliating to the members of the national legislature, to be thus compelled, in consequence of former instructions, to become humble suppliants at the feet of a foreign power, for the attainment of objects all important to the future prosperity of their country.
With respect to peace itself, however, the arms of the allies were able to effect in America, what the mediation of the imperial courts could not accomplish in Europe.
The capture of lord Cornwallis and his army, convinced the British nation, that America could not be subdued by force; and led to a change of administration and pacific overtures. Parliament met on the 27th of November, 1781, and though the speech from the throne, still breathed a spirit of hostility, and answers from both houses were procured, in accordance with it; yet not long after the recess, the ministers found themselves in a minority in the house of commons. On the 22d of February, 1782, general Conway in the house, moved an address to the king, praying “ that the war on the continent of North America, might no longer be pursued, for the impracticable purpose of reducing that country to obedience by force : and expressing their hope, that the earnest desire and diligent exertion to restore the public tranquillity, of which they had received his majesty's most gracious assurances, might, by a happy reconciliation with the revolted
* Secret Journals of Congress, vol. 3, pp. 222 and 243. Vol. II.