Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

would not ask, or expect, any compensation for the expense or damage he might sustain on that account. The only condition required by him would be, that the United States should not give up their independence in any treaty of peace they might make with England, nor return to their subjection to the British government.

It was at length ascertained, that the King of Spain was not disposed to take any part in the business. The negotiators then proceeded without more delay, and their work was soon completed. In its essential articles the treaty was the same as the one that had been proposed by Congress.

When this was done, the French minister produced the draft of another treaty, called a Treaty of Alliance. The objects of this treaty were in some respects of much greater importance than those of the former. It was to be eventual in its operation, and to take effect only in case of a rupture between France and England; and it was designed to explain the duties of the two contracting parties in prosecuting the war, and to bind them to certain conditions.

The first stipulation was, that, while the American war continued, both parties should make it a common cause, and aid each other as good friends and allies. To maintain effectually the liberty, sovereignty, and independence of the United States, was declared to be the essential and direct end of the alliance. It was agreed, that, if the Americans should gain possession of any of the British territories in the northern parts of the continent, not included within the limits of the Thirteen States, such territories should belong to the United States. If the French King should conquer any of the British Islands in or near the Gulf of Mexico, they were to be retained by him.

The contracting parties also agreed, that neither of them should conclude a truce or peace with Great Britain, without the consent of the other first obtained; and they mutually engaged not to lay down their arms, until the independence of the United States should be assured by the treaty or treaties, which should terminate the war. The United States guarantied to the King of France all the possessions he then held in America, as well as those he should acquire by the treaty of peace; and the King guarantied to the United States their liberty, sovereignty, and independence, and all their possessions, and such acquisitions as they should gain by conquest from the dominions of Great Britain in America.

In both these treaties it was the aim of the parties to adjust every point, as nearly as it could be done, upon principles of exact equality and reciprocity. The commercial treaty granted reciprocal privileges of trade; and each party was at liberty to grant the same privileges to any other nation. By the treaty of alliance the United States secured the very great advantage of the whole power of France on their side, till their independence should be confirmed by a treaty of peace. The equivalent expected by France for this use of her means, and for the losses and expenses she might incur in the war, was the separating of the colonies from the mother country, thereby striking a heavy blow upon Great Britain; and also a due share of the profits of the American trade, the whole of which had hitherto been poured into the lap of England, increasing her wealth and enlarging her power. She made no provision for obtaining acquisitions on the American continent, either by conquest or cession, not even Canada and the Islands in the St. Lawrence, which had been taken from her by the English in the last war.

VOL. I.

55

K K

On the contrary, she disavowed, in the most positive terms, all intention of seeking such conquest or accepting such cession; and it may be added, that her conduct during the war and at the peace was in perfect accordance with this declaration.

The two treaties were signed at Paris on the 6th of February, 1778. They were sent to America by a special messenger, and were immediately ratified by Congress. The event diffused joy throughout the country. Washington set apart a day for the rejoicings of the army on the occasion at Valley Forge. All saw, or believed they saw, that, whatever might be the hazards of the war, independence in the end was certain. France was too powerful a nation to be conquered, and she had promised her support to the last. Her interest and safety were deeply involved in the contest, and her honor was pledged. In the enthusiasm of the moment, every heart was filled with gratitude to the French King, and every tongue spoke his praise. His generosity in agreeing to treaties, so favorable in their conditions and so equitable in their principles, was lauded to the skies; and we behold the spectacle of two millions of republicans, becoming all at once the cordial friends and warm admirers of a monarch, who sat on a throne erected by acts, sustained by a policy, and surrounded by institutions, which all true republicans regarded as so many encroachments upon the natural and inalienable rights of mankind. In this instance, however, they had no just occasion afterwards to regret, that their confidence had been misplaced, or their gratitude improperly bestowed. Every promise was fulfilled, and every pledge was redeemed.

On the 20th of March, the American commissioners were introduced to the King at Versailles, and they

[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

took their place at court as the representatives of an independent power. A French historian, describing this ceremony, says of Franklin; "He was accompanied and followed by a great number of Americans and individuals from various countries, whom curiosity had drawn together. His age, his venerable aspect, the simplicity of his dress, every thing fortunate and remarkable in the life of this American, contributed to excite public attention. The clapping of hands and other expressions of joy indicated that warmth of enthusiasm, which the French are more susceptible of than any other people, and the charm of which is enhanced to the object of it by their politeness and agreeable manners. After this audience, he crossed the court on his way to the office of the minister of foreign affairs. The multitude waited for him in the passage, and greeted him with their acclamations. He met with a similar reception wherever he appeared in Paris."*

From that time both Franklin and the other American commissioners attended the court at Versailles, on the same footing as the ambassadors of the European powers. Madame Campan says, that, on these occasions, Franklin appeared in the dress of an American farmer. "His straight, unpowdered hair, his round hat, his brown cloth coat, formed a singular contrast with the laced and embroidered coats, and powdered and perfumed heads, of the courtiers of Versailles.Ӡ The rules of diplomatic etiquette did not permit the ambassadors of those sovereigns, who had not recognised the independence of the United States, to

Essais Historiques et Politiques sur la Révolution de l'Amérique. Par HILLIARD D'AUBERTEUIL. Tom. I. p. 350.

Mémoires de MADAME CAMPAN, Tom. I. p. 232.

extend any official civilities to the ministers of the new republic. In private, however, they sought the acquaintance and society of Franklin, and among them were some of his most esteemed and intimate friends. An amusing incident, illustrative of the reserve of the ambassadors in their official character, occurred to Dr. Franklin some time after he became minister plenipotentiary. The son of the Empress of Russia, under the title of Count du Nord, arrived in Paris. He sent round his cards to the several foreign ambassadors, with his name and that of the Prince Bariatinski, the Russian ambassador, written upon them. By some accident the messenger left one of these cards at Dr. Franklin's house. As this was the first instance of the kind, he knew not precisely in what manner the civility was to be returned. He inquired of an old minister at court, well versed in the rules of etiquette, who told him that all he had to do, was to stop his carriage at the ambassador's door, and order his name to be written in the porter's book. This ceremony he performed accordingly. "I thought no more of the matter," said he, "till the servant, who brought the card, came in great affliction, saying he was like to be ruined, and wishing to obtain from me a paper, of I know not what kind, for I did not see him. In the afternoon came my friend, Mr. Le Roy, who is also a friend of the Prince's, telling me how much he, the Prince, was concerned at the accident, that both himself and the Count had great personal regard for me and my character, but that, our independence not yet being acknowledged by the court of Russia, it was impossible for him to permit himself to make me a visit as minister. I told M. Le Roy it was not my custom to seek such honors, though I was very sensible of them when conferred

« ZurückWeiter »