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Moreover, the events of the campaign of 1776 afforded little encouragement to such a step. The evacuation of Canada by the American troops, the defeat on Long Island, the loss of Fort Washington, the retreat of Washington's army through New Jersey, and the flight of Congress from Philadelphia to Baltimore, were looked upon in Europe as a prelude to a speedy termination of the struggle. This was not a time to expect alliances. The ability of the Americans to maintain the war for any length of time, as well as their union, spirit, and determination, was regarded as extremely problematical. The French ministry feared, that, embarrassed if not discouraged by their difficulties, they would, sooner or later, yield to the force of old habits, and seek, or at least accept, a reconciliation with the mother country. This was the main reason, added to the obstacles thrown in the way by those who opposed a war on grounds of policy, why they did not at an earlier day enter into an alliance with the United States. Had this measure been premature, and, after an alliance was formed, had the Americans returned to their allegiance to the British King, the French would have found themselves in an awkward position, with a war on their hands against England, and the censure of the world upon them for having recognised the independence and taken up the cause of insurgent colonists, who had neither the will, the resolution, nor the internal force to support the character they had assumed. But the tide of affairs soon began to turn in another direction. In the campaign of 1777, the losses of the preceding year were more than retrieved. The capture of Burgoyne's army, and the good conduct of the forces under General Washington in Pennsylvania, gave sufficient evidence that the Americans were in earnest, and that they wanted neither physical strength nor firmness of purpose. On the 4th of December, an express arrived in Paris from the United States, bringing the news of the capture of Burgoyne and the battle of Germantown. The commissioners immediately communicated this intelligence to the French court. Two days afterwards, M. Gérard, the secretary of the King's Council, called on Dr. Franklin at Passy, and said he had come, by order of Count de Vergennes and Count Maurepas, to congratulate the commissioners on the success of their countrymen, and to assure them that it gave great pleasure at Versailles. After some conversation, he advised them to renew their proposition for a treaty.” A memorial was accordingly prepared by Dr. Franklin, signed by the commissioners, and presented to Count de Vergennes; and, on the 12th, by the appointment of that minister, a meeting took place at Versailles between Count de Vergennes and M. Gérard on one part, and the American commissioners on the other, for the purpose of discussing the preliminaries of a treaty. Count de Vergennes complimented them on the prosperous state of their affairs, and spoke with particular commendation of the movements of Washington's army in the face of a superior force. He then asked them what they had to propose. Franklin referred him to the draft of a treaty, which they had brought from Congress, and said, if there were objections to any part of it, they were ready to consider them. Count de Vergennes mentioned some objections, which were examined, but these related to points of secondary importance, without touching the fundamental articles. The minister remarked, that the relations between France and Spain were of such a nature, as to render it necessary to consult his Catholic Majesty before a treaty could be concluded, and to give him an opportunity to join in it, if he should think proper; and that a courier would be immediately despatched to Spain, who would be absent three weeks. Before this time expired, M. Gérard called again on the commissioners, and told them that the King, by the advice of his Council, had determined to acknowledge the independence of the United States, and to enter into a treaty of amity and commerce with them; that it was the desire and intention of his Majesty to form such a treaty as would be durable, and this could be done only by establishing it on principles of exact reciprocity, so that its continuance should be for the interest of both parties; that no advantage would be taken of the present situation of the United States to obtain terms, which they would not willingly agree to under any other circumstances; and that it was his fixed determination to support their independence by all the means in his power. This would probably lead to a war with England, yet the King 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
* When some one mentioned to Dr. Franklin, that General Howe had taken Philadelphia, he replied; “You are mistaken ; Philadelphia has taken General Howe.” And so it turned out, for the British were shut up in that city during eight months, and were at last obliged to retreat from it precipitately, without having derived any advantage from their conquest. Mr. Bache and his family retired into the country when the enemy approached, and Dr. Franklin's house was occupied by British officers. After the evacuation, Mr. Bache wrote; “I found your house and furniture, upon my return to town, in much better order than I had reason to expect. They carried off some of your musical instruments, a Welch harp, a bell harp, the set of tuned bells which were in a box, a viola a gamba, all the spare Armonica glasses, and one or two of the spare cases. Your Armonica is safe. They took likewise the few books that were left behind. Some of your electrical apparatus is also missing. A Captain André took with him the picture of you, which hung in the dining-room. The rest of the pictures are safe.”—July 14th, 1778.