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as violating the code of morality, which ought to be sacredly observed by every civilized nation. "It behoves merchants to consider well of the justice of a war," he remarks, "before they voluntarily engage a gang of ruffians to attack their fellow merchants of a neighbouring nation, to plunder them of their property, and perhaps ruin them and their families, if they yield it; or to wond, maim, or murder them, if they endeavour to defend it. Yet these things are done by Christian merchants, whether a war be just or unjust; and it can hardly be just on both sides. They are done by English and American merchants, who, nevertheless, complain of private theft, and hang by dozens the thieves they have taught by their own example." He proposed, that, in treaties between nations, an article should be introduced, by which the contracting parties should bind themselves not to grant commissions to private armed vessels; and he was instrumental in forming such a treaty between Prussia and the United States. In fact, he was an enemy to war in all its forms and disguises. It was a maxim with him, that there never was a good war, or a bad peace.
Mr. Adams had been but a short time in Paris, as minister for negotiating peace, when intelligence arrived of a resolve of Congress, by which the Continental paper money was to be redeemed at the rate of forty paper dollars for one of silver. The resolve being of a general nature, it was not obvious whether it was intended to apply to Americans only, or whether foreigners were to be included. The French court were concerned to ascertain this point, and Count de Vergennes wrote for information to Mr. Adams, who, having recently come from America, he supposed might be able to explain the intentions of Congress. Mr. Adams replied, that he could not tell
how far the resolve was meant to extend, but expressed his decided conviction, that it ought to include foreigners, as much as Americans, and supported his opinion by ingenious and cogent arguments. Count de Vergennes expressed surprise, that this view of the subject should be taken. The French merchants had shipped various commodities to the United States, relying on the good faith of Congress in regard to their currency; and he said it would be an act of injustice to compel these merchants to suffer by an arbitrary depreciation, which they had no reason to expect at the time of shipping their goods. A few weeks later, the correspondence was renewed on other subjects connected with the alliance and the relations between the two countries; and Mr. Adams, in his zeal for a cause which no man had more at heart, advanced sentiments and spoke with a freedom, which were displeasing to Count de Vergennes, who sent a copy of the correspondence to Dr. Franklin, and requested him to transmit it to Congress. He did so, and at the same time wrote as follows to the President.
"Mr. Adams thinks, as he tells me himself, that America has been too free in expressions of gratitude to France; for that she is more obliged to us than we to her; and that we should show spirit in our applications. I apprehend, that he mistakes his ground, and that this court is to be treated with decency and delicacy. The King, a young and virtuous prince, has, I am persuaded, a pleasure in reflecting on the generous benevolence of the action in assisting an oppressed people, and proposes it as a part of the glory of his reign. I think it right to increase this pleasure by our thankful acknowledgments, and that such an expression of gratitude is not only our duty, but our
interest. A different conduct seems to me what is not only improper and unbecoming, but what may be hurtful to us. Mr. Adams, on the other hand, who, at the same time, means our welfare and interest as much as I, or any man, can do, seems to think a little apparent stoutness, and a greater air of independence and boldness in our demands, will procure us more ample assistance. It is for Congress to judge, and regulate their affairs accordingly."
It was one of the charges of Dr. Franklin's enemies against him, that he was compliant to the French court. The nature of this compliance, such as it was in reality, is seen in the above extract. It consisted in showing a proper sense of gratitude for benefits received, and in endeavouring to please those, from whom, in his public character, he was constantly asking favors for his country. He thought this right in itself, and it was certainly politic. The consequence was, that he acquired and retained the confidence of the French King and ministry; they listened to his applications and were often influenced by his counsels; and he rarely made a request, which was not granted, although the wants of Congress, particularly in the article of money, rendered frequent applications necessary. Just before the peace he had occasion to say, that Count de Vergennes never made him a promise, which he did not fulfil; and it is a fact worthy of being remembered, as bearing on this subject, that not one of the vast number of drafts, which were drawn on him by Congress throughout the war, was allowed to be protested, or to pass the time of payment, although he relied almost exclusively on the French government for funds to meet them. Shortly after Mr. Jay was appointed minister to Spain and Mr. Adams to Holland, drafts to a large amount were
drawn on them, with the expectation that they would be able to procure loans in those countries; but no money was obtained, and the drafts all came upon Dr. Franklin. He found the means of paying them by applying, as usual, to the French court; but he was told, at the same time, that this unexpected demand subjected the King to much inconvenience.
By this course of conduct, asking only what was reasonable, with a becoming deference to the judgment, and reliance on the good intentions, of the ministers, he won a reciprocal confidence, and was enabled to execute the arduous and complicated duties of his station with entire success. His adversaries called it subserviency, and represented him as carried away by the adulation of the French people, so as not only to forget what was due to his own character, but to lose his attachment to his country. It was said, that the French ministers cajoled him, with the sinister design of moulding him to their purposes, and of effecting some deep scheme of policy to deceive and overreach their allies. These absurdities, unsustained as they are by a word of credible testimony, would not deserve to be repeated, if they had not been used at the time to injure his reputation, and give currency to an unmerited distrust of the French
They led to a new attempt in Congress to procure his recall. M. de la Luzerne, the French minister in the United States, writes thus to Count de Vergennes, in a letter dated at Philadelphia, December 15th, 1780. "Congress is filled with intrigues and cabals respecting the recall of Dr. Franklin, which the delegates from Massachusetts insist on by all sorts of means. That minister has very little direct support in Congress; but the fear entertained by both parties,
that his place would be supplied by one of the opposite party, has served to sustain him. The States of Massachusetts and South Carolina, and a few individual voices, influenced by Mr. Lee and Mr. Izard, have declared, in a positive manner, that there is no person who is not preferable to the present minister; and they urge, that, by his supineness and the influence of those around him, the American cause has - been ruined in France."
Two months after the date of this letter, Count de Vergennes replied. "If you are questioned respecting our opinion of Dr. Franklin, you may say, without hesitation, that we esteem him as much for his patriotism, as for the wisdom of his conduct; and it has been owing in a great part to this cause, and to the confidence which we put in the veracity of Dr. Franklin, that we have determined to relieve the pecuniary embarrassments, in which he has been placed by Congress. One may judge from this fact, which is of a personal nature, whether his conduct has been injurious to the interests of his country, and whether any other minister would have had the same advantages. But, although we esteem Dr. Franklin, and hold him in high consideration, yet we are not the less obliged to confess, that, on account of his great age and love of tranquillity, he is less active than is compatible with the affairs with which he is charged, and that we see this with the more concern, since it is upon matters of importance that he preserves silence, whilst the good of the service requires, that he should transmit his sentiments to Congress. We are of opinion, however, that his recall would be very inconvenient in the present state of things, and it would be the more disagreeable to us, inasmuch as he would perhaps be succeeded by a character unquiet, exacting, difficult,