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don. We have had an audience of the minister, Count de Vergennes, and were respectfully received. We left for his consideration a sketch of the proposed treaty. We are to wait upon him to-morrow with a strong memorial, requesting the aids mentioned in our instructions. By his advice we had an interview with the Spanish ambassador, Count d'Aranda, who seems well disposed towards us, and will forward copies of our memorials to his court, which will act, he says, in perfect concert with this. Their fleets are said to be in fine order, manned and fit for sea. The cry of this nation is for us, but the court, it is thought, views an approaching war with reluctance. The press continues in England. As soon as we can receive a positive answer from these courts, we shall dispatch an express with it. ‘ I am, gentlemen, &c. B. FRANKLIN.
To JAMEs LoveLL, Esg.
Observations on commerce—Treaty with France—American commissioners—Anecdote of Lord Stormont, the British ambassador in Paris—Spanish galeons—English and French fleets at sea.
* * * * (Extracts.) SIR, - Passy, July 22, 1778.
“I received your favor of May 15, and was glad to find that mine of December 21 had come to hand. Mr. Deane's brother writes that it was not signed, which was an accidental omission. Mr. Deane himself is I hope with you long before this time, and I doubt not but every prejudice against him is removed. It was not alone upon the proceedings of congress I formed my opinion that such prejudices existed. I am glad to understand that opinion was groundless, and that he is like to come back with honor,
in the commission to Holland, where matters are already so ripe for his operations, that he cannot fail (with his abilities) of being useful. There has been some inaccuracy in sending us the last dispatches of the committee; two copies of the contract with Mr. Francy and the invoices came by the same vessel, Captain Niles. And though one of your letters mentions sending enclosed a resolution of congress relative to two articles of the treaty, that resolution is not come to hand. There are circumstances in the affairs of those articles, that make them in my opinion of no consequence if they stand, while the proposing to abrogate them has an unpleasing appearance, as it looks like a desire of having it in our power to make that commercial kind of war, which no honest state can begin, which no good friend or neighbor ever did or will begin, which has always been considered as an act of hostility that provoked as well as justified reprisals, and has generally produced such as have rendered the first project as unprofitable as it was unjust. Commerce among nations as well as between private persons should be fair and equitable, by equivalent exchanges and mutual supplies: the taking unfair advantage of a neighbor's necessities, though attended with a temporary success, always breeds ill blood: to lay duties on a commodity exported which our friends want, is a knavish attempt to get something for nothing. The statesman who first invented it, had the genius of a pickpocket, and would have been a pickpocket, if fortune had suitably placed him; the nations who have practised it have suffered for it fourfold, as pickpockets ought to suffer. Savoy, by a duty on exported wines, lost the supplying of Switzerland, which thenceforth raised its own wine, and (to wave other instances) Britain, by her duty on exported tea, has lost the trade of her colonies. But as we produce no commodity WOL. I. 2 D
that is peculiar to our country, and which may not be obtained elsewhere, the discouraging ours by duties on exportation, and thereby encouraging a rivalship from other nations in the ports we trade to, is absolute folly, which indeed is mixed more, or less with some knavery. For my own part, if my protest were of any consequence, I should protest against our ever doing it, even by way of reprisal. It is a meanness with which I would not dirty the conscience or character of my country. The objections stated against the last of the two articles, had all been made, considered here, and were sent hence, I imagine, by one who is offended that they were not thought of weight sufficient to stop the signing of the treaty, till the king should, in another council, reconsider those articles, and, after agreeing to omit them, order new copies to be drawn, though all was then ready engrossed on parchment as before settled. I did not think the articles of much consequence, but I thought it of consequence that no delay should be given to the signing of the treaty after it was ready. But if I had known those objections would have been sent to the committee, I should have sent the answers. they received, which had been satisfactory to all the commissioners, when the treaty was settled, and until the mind. of one of them was altered by the opinion of two other persons. It is now too late to send those answers. But I wish for the future, if such a case should again happen, that congress would acquaint their commissioners with such partial objections, and hear their reasons, before they determine they have done wrong. In the mean time, this is only to you in private. It will be of no use to communicate it, as the resolution of congress will probably be received and executed before this letter comes to hand. Speaking of commissioners in the plural, puts me in mind of inquiring if it can be the intention of congress to keep
three ambassadors at this court we have indeed four, with the gentleman intended for Tuscany, who continues here, and is very angry that he was not consulted in making the treaty, which he could have mended in several particulars; and perhaps he is angry with some reason, if the instructions to him do, as he says they do, require us to consult him. We shall soon have a fifth ; for the envoy to Vienna not being received there, is, I hear, returning hither. The necessary expense of maintaining us all, is, I assure you, enormously great; I wish the utility may equal it : I imagine every one of us spends nearly as much as Lord Stormont did. It is true he left behind him the character of a niggard; and when the advertisement appeared for the sale of his household goods, all Paris laughed at an article of it, perhaps very innocently expressed; “Une grande quantité de linge de table, Qui N’A JAMA is servi.”—“Cela est tres vraisemblable,” say they, “car il n'a jamais donné à manger.”— But as to our number, whatever advantage there might be in the joint counsels of three for framing and adjusting the articles of the treaty, there can be none in managing the common business of a resident here. On the contrary, all the advantages in negociation that result from secresy of sentiment, and uniformity in expressing it, and in common business, from dispatch, are lost. In a court, too, where every word is watched and weighed, if a number of commissioners do not every one hold the same language, in giving their opinion on any public transaction, this lessens their weight; and where it may be prudent to put on or avoid certain appearances, of concern, for example, or indifference, satisfaction, or dislike, where the utmost sincerity and candor should be used, and would gain credit, if no semblance of art showed itself in the inadvertent discourse perhaps of only one of them, the hazard is equal to the number: and where every one must be consulted on every particular of common business, in answering every letter, &c. and one of them is offended if the smallest thing is done without his consent, the difficulty of being often and long enough together, the different opinions, and the time consumed in debating them, the interruption of new applicants in the time by meeting, &c. &c. occasion so much postponing and delay, that correspondence languishes, occasions are lost, and the business is always behind-hand. I have mentioned the difficulty of being often and long enough together: this is considerable, where they cannot all be accommodated in the same house : but to find three people whose tempers are so good, and who like so well one another's company, and manner of living and conversing, as to agree well themselves, though being in one house, and whose servants will not, by their indiscretion, quarrel with one another, and by artful misrepresentations draw their masters in to take their parts, to the disturbance of necessary harmony; these are difficulties still greater, and almost insurmountable : and in consideration of the whole, I wish the congress would separate us. The Spanish galeons, which have been impatiently expected, are at length happily arrived. The fleet and army returning from Brazil, is still out, but supposed to be on the way homewards. When that and the South Sea ships are arrived, it will appear whether Spain's accession to the treaty has been delayed for the reasons given, or whether the reasons were only given to excuse the delay. The English and French fleets, of nearly equal force, are now both at sea. It is not doubted but that if they meet there will be a battle. For though England, through fear, affects to understand it to be still peace, and excuses the depredations she has made on the commerce of France by pretences of illicit trade, &c. yet France considers the war