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tion for their relief, interceded with the ministers in their behalf, and used his unremitted efforts at various times to procure their exchange. He was very properly selected, therefore, as a suitable person to elicit Dr. Franklin's views on the subject of a reconciliation. He did not propose terms, but inquired, "Whether America would not, to obtain peace, grant some superior advantages in trade to Britain, and enter into an alliance, offensive and defensive; and whether, if war should be declared against France, the Americans had bound themselves by treaty, to join with her against England." It is scarcely necessary to add, that the first of these queries was answered in the negative. As to the second, Dr. Franklin assured his friend, that peace, while a a war was waged against France on account of her alliance with America, was impossible. In short, Mr. Hartley obtained no more satisfaction than his predecessors.
When he was on the point of leaving Paris, he wrote a note to Dr. Franklin, in which he said; "If tempestuous times should come, take care of your own safety; events are uncertain, and men are capricious.' "I thank you for your kind caution," said Franklin in reply; “but, having nearly finished a long life, I set but little value upon what remains of it. Like a draper, when one chaffers with him for a remnant, I am ready to say, 'As it is only a fag end, I will not differ with you about it; take it for what you please.' Perhaps the best use such an old fellow can be put to, is to make a martyr of him." It was rumored, also, that he was surrounded with spies. Some time after the date of the above note, an anonymous letter came to a friend of his in Paris, written in cipher, and containing the following passage. "Mr. Hartley told Lord Camden this morning, that he was sure the
commissioners, and particularly Dr. Franklin, were much disconcerted at Paris; for they might as well live in the Bastille, as be exposed, as they are, to the perpetual observation of French ministerial spies. This must not, however, be repeated." The letter was conveyed to Dr. Franklin, who replied; "Be so good as to answer our friend, that it is impossible Mr. Hartley could have said what is here represented, no such thing having ever been intimated to him; nor has the least idea of the kind ever been in the minds of the commissioners, particularly Dr. Franklin, who does not care how many spies are placed about him by the court of France, having nothing to conceal from them."
A more formidable advance was made soon after by a secret agent under a fictitious name. It was now thought proper to mingle threats with persuasion. Dr. Franklin received a long letter dated at Brussels, and signed Charles de Weissenstein, in which was sketched not only a plan of reconciliation, but the form of a future government in America. The writer speaks disparagingly of the French, and says they will certainly deceive and betray their allies; and he represents the power of England as invincible, by which the colonies would inevitably be overwhelmed, if they continued obstinate in their resistance. He affirms that Parliament would never be induced to acknowledge their independence, and that, if such a thing were possible, the people of England would never submit to it. "Our title to the empire," he says, "is indisputable; it will be asserted, either by ourselves or successors, whenever occasion presents. We may stop awhile in our pursuit to recover breath, but we shall assuredly resume our career again." After these threats, he holds out temptations. By the new plan of government, now proposed, the Americans were to
have a Congress, which should assemble once in seven years, or oftener, if his Majesty should think fit to summon it; the distinguished men, like Franklin, Washington, and Adams, were to have offices or pensions for life; and perhaps there would be an American peerage, by which honorary rewards would be duly distributed.
There was little doubt in Franklin's mind, that this agent was in Paris, although his letter was dated at Brussels. He had good reason for believing, that he acted by the direction of the British ministry, and he framed his answer accordingly.
"You think we flatter ourselves," said he, "and are deceived into an opinion that England must acknowledge our independency. We, on the other hand, think you flatter yourselves in imagining such an acknowledgment a vast boon, which we strongly desire, and which you may gain some great advantage by granting or withholding. We have never asked it of you; we only tell you, that you can have no treaty with us but as an independent state; and you may please yourselves and your children with the rattle of your right to govern us, as long as you have done with that of your King's being King of France, without giving us the least concern, if you do not attempt
to exercise it."
"Your true way to obtain peace, if your ministers desire it, is, to propose openly to the Congress fair and equal terms, and you may possibly come sooner to such a resolution, when you find, that personal flatteries, general cajolings, and panegyrics on our virtue and wisdom are not likely to have the effect you seem to expect; the persuading us to act basely and foolishly, in betraying our country and posterity into the hands of our most bitter enemies, giving up or
selling our arms and warlike stores, dismissing our ships of war and troops, and putting those enemies in possession of our forts and ports."
The idea of offices, pensions, and a peerage, he treated with a cutting severity of ridicule and sarcasm. Indeed, the whole letter is one of the best specimens of the writer's peculiar clearness and vigor of thought and felicity of style.
Having now been in France eighteen months, Dr. Franklin had attracted around him a large number of personal friends. Among these were Turgot, Buffon, D'Alembert, Condorcet, La Rochefoucauld, Vicq d'Azyr, Cabanis, Le Roy, Morellet, Raynal, Mably, and many others, who were conspicuous in the political, scientific, and literary circles of the great metropolis of France. He was often present at the meetings of the Academy, where he was honored with every mark of consideration and respect. When Voltaire came to Paris for the last time, to be idolized and to die, he expressed a desire to see the American philosopher. An interview took place. Voltaire accosted him in English, and pursued the conversation in that language. Madame Denis interrupted him by saying, that Dr. Franklin understood French, and that the rest of the company wished to know the subject of their discourse. "Excuse me, my dear," he replied, "I have the vanity to show that I am not unacquainted with the language of a Franklin."
The business of the commissioners continued nearly the same as it had been before the treaty of alliance. There was more to be done in maritime affairs, because American vessels were then freely admitted into the French ports. Cases of capture and of the sale of prizes were referred to them for their decision. With the loans obtained from the French government,
and comparatively small remittances from America, they were enabled to refit public vessels, purchase military supplies for the army and navy of the United States, contribute to the relief of American prisoners in England, and pay the drafts of Congress. In all these transactions Dr. Franklin found an able, zealous, and active coadjutor in Mr. Adams. *
Both Dr. Franklin and Mr. Adams had represented to Congress the inexpediency of employing three com
* Dr. Franklin was subject to visits and calls from all descriptions of persons, making applications and inquiries without number. The following is the journal of a day.
Passy, December 13th, 1778. "A man came to tell me he had invented a machine, which would go of itself, without the help of a spring, weight, air, water, or any of the elements, or the labor of man or beast, and with force sufficient to work four machines for cutting tobacco; that he had experienced it; would show it me if I would come to his house, and would sell the secret of it for two hundred louis. I doubted it, but promised to go to him in order to see it.
"A Monsieur Coder came with a proposition in writing, to levy six hundred men, to be employed in landing on the coast of England and Scotland, to burn and ransom towns and villages, in order to put a stop to the English proceedings in that way in America. I thanked him, and told him I could not approve it, nor had I any money at command for such purposes; moreover, that it would not be permitted by the government here.
"A man came with a request that I would patronize, and recommend to government, an invention he had, whereby a hussar might so conceal his arms and habiliments, with provision for twenty-four hours, as to appear a common traveller; by which means a considerable body might be admitted into a town, one at a time, unsuspected, and, afterwards assembling, surprise it. I told him I was not a military man, of course no judge of such matters, and advised him to apply to the Bureau de la Guerre. He said he had no friends, and so could procure no attention. The number of wild schemes proposed to me is so great, and they have heretofore taken so much of my time, that I begin to reject all, though possibly some of them may be worth notice.
"Received a parcel from an unknown philosopher, who submits to my consideration a memoir on the subject of elementary fire, containing experiments in a dark chamber. It seems to be well written, and is in English, with a little tincture of French idiom. I wish to see the experiments, without which I cannot well judge of it."
This "unknown philosopher" was ascertained to be Marat, afterwards