Abbildungen der Seite


which would probably have the same effect chap. VII

. with actual war in bringing about a reconcilia. 1778. tion between the two parties, and thus provoking the danger which was sought to be avoided.

The memorial concludes with stating the necessity of limiting themselves to measures of precaution less expensive, and approaching less to a state of hostility.

These were, “ first. To watch attentively all those circumstances which might notify the approach of danger.

“ In particular, to observe the seacoasts of the isles and the gulf of Mexico, and to procure frequent information of what was passing on the bank of Newfoundland.

“ To observe in England, the condition of their troops, and of their armaments, as well as the state of the public credit, and of that of the minister,

“ To endeavour to be informed of what is passing in the English colonies, avoiding in the mean time every thing which might create an opinion, that we have there any direct and authorized agent.

“Second. To facilitate to the colonists the means of procuring, in the way of commerce, the articles, and even the money, which they need; but without departing from neutrality, and without giving them direct succours.

" Third. To re-establish without eclat our marine; to fill our magazines, repair our ves

3 G


CHAP. VII. sels, and put ourselves in a condition to fit out 1778. with dispatch, when it shall be necessary, a

squadron at Toulon, and another at Brest, while Spain shall fit out one at Ferrol.

“Fourth. If we shall have just cause to fear still more imminent danger, actually to fit out the squadrons but detain them in port.”

But the advice with which this part of the subject closes is, “to precipitate nothing, un. less the conduct of England should afford real cause to believe that she had determined to commence hostilities.”

In another part of the same memorial, the deficit in the revenue is stated at twenty million of livres; and the military and marine establish. ments, to be in a state of weakness which could scarcely be imagined. “Yet,” continues mr. Turgot, “our condition is not so desperate as to be unable to find resources to support a war, if one should be absolutely necessary, especially if there should be a probability of such success as might abridge its duration.

“ But it must be confessed, that a war ought to be avoided as the greatest of all possible misfortunes, since it would render impracticable for a long time, perhaps forever, a reform absolutely necessary to the prosperity of the state, and to the ease of the people. By making a premature exertion of our strength we shall risk the perpetuation of our weakness.”

Such was the advice given by his counsellors to the French monarch; and such was the sys. tem which, for a time, regulated the conduct CHAP. VII. of the cabinet of Versailles towards America. 1778.

It was deemed of the last importance to avoid a war with England, and to prevent a speedy reconciliation between Great Britain and the colonies; although it was thought most desirable that the contest, whenever it did end, should terminate in the subjugation of the latter.

Another party, however, was formed in the cabinet, to whose political system subsequent events, at length, gave the ascendency. At the head of this party the queen is understood to have been placed. Its avowed object was to seize the present moment to revenge past injuries, humble the haughty rival of France, and dismember the empire of Britain.

Very early in the contest, the attention of America had been directed to foreign powers, and particularly to France. The absolute want of arms and ammunition and the impossibility of obtaining an adequate supply of those articles by ordinary means, had induced the appointment, in 1775, of agents to procure military stores abroad, whose communications were with a secret committee empowered to correspond with their friends in Great Britain, Ireland and other parts of the world.

Soon afterwards, mr. Silas Deane was deputed to France, as a political and commercial agent. He arrived in Paris in the spring of

CHAP. VII. 1776, with instructions to sound the disposi1778. tions of the cabinet on the existing controversy

between Great Britain and her colonies, and to endeavour to obtain supplies of military stores.

The impression that a reconciliation between the mother country and her colonies would certainly take place, was carefully enforced by lord Stormont, the British minister at the court of France, and produced real apprehensions that a settlement of differences between the two countries would be followed by serious consequences to their islands in the West Indies. Mr. Deane, aided by the countenance of the government, had obtained a sufficient quantity of military stores to load three vessels; but the apprehensions of an accommodation, and of the union of both countries against France, should she appear to have interfered in their quarrel, produced, notwithstanding the assurances of mr. Deane that no accommodation would, or could take place, a suspension of the order for furnishing him with the military' stores,

The declaration of Independence had a very favourable influence on the affairs of America, by encouraging the courtof Versailles privately, to assist with the means of continuing the war; but the hope of being acknowledged and treated with as an independent power, was entirely disappointed.

In fact, the independence of America was not desired. In addition to this it was foreseen

that an acknowledgment of it would produce CHAP. VII. an immediate war with Britain, in which 1778. France was by no means willing at present to engage. In the mean-time, however, by permit. ting the ships of America to enter her ports, and find protection in them, every facility was given to the obtaining of those supplies which were indispensably necessary to the prosecution of the war. It was stated to mr. Deane, that an acknowledgment of the independence of America, unaccompanied with war, could be of no service, and that if France should be compelled to make war on England, it would be much more just and honourable in the eyes of the world, to make it on some other account; and if made at all, it was the same thing to the United States of America. In one important view it was better for them to have it originate from any other cause, as she would be under less important obligations.

Thus, France excused herself from taking any open part in the quarrel, but gave assurances that the indulgencies heretofore granted would be continued, and held out hopes that a rupture between the two crowns was by no means improbable.

Before the declaration of independence was made, so soon as congress had come to a resolution in favour of it, a committee was appointed to prepare the plan of a treaty to be proposed to foreign powers, which, after a very long

« ZurückWeiter »