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was not obtained. Independence made the first article of the treaty. But this was a small matter in itself; a thing of form and not of substance. These preliminary skirmishes occupied three months from the time the discussions first commenced between Dr. Franklin and Mr. Oswald. The negotiators were now ready to enter upon the solid part of their work. Independence, the boundaries, and the fisheries, were the three great points to be arranged. The first was settled at once, in the manner already described. The boundary question was more complex; it led to long discussions, to the examining of maps and ancient documents, and to such ingenious arguments and counter-arguments as diplomatists know how to use. It was finally adjusted to the satisfaction of the parties. The right to catch fish in the ocean, at such a distance from the coast as not to interfere with the jurisdiction over any territory, is given by nature to all mankind, and is recognised by the laws of nations, although it is sometimes encroached upon by the usurpation of maritime powers. This right had been exercised by the Americans along their own coast, from the first settlement of the country, in common with the British. As to the Banks of Newfoundland, and other fishing grounds in that quarter, they had shared in the wars for maintaining and extending the liberty of fishing there, and in this view they possessed the same title to it as the inhabitants of Great Britain. They had not forfeited it by the Revolution, any more than they had forfeited the right to navigate their own bays and rivers. In short, the case was so plain, that no difficulty was made about it at the beginning of the negotiation; for we have seen, that it was included in the necessary articles first proposed by Dr. Franklin. No objection was then made to it; and, in fact, Mr. Oswald was instructed to admit this article. When, however, the negotiation seemed nearly at a close, the various propositions in the treaty having been carried back and forth by messengers between Paris and London, an effort was unexpectedly made by the British ministry to extort better terms. They now revived the question of the boundaries; but it was their great object to obtain compensation for the loyalists, or Tories, whose property had been confiscated, and many of whom had been banished from the country. If this could not be done, it was their next object to retain the fisheries as an equivalent. Mr. Strachey went over to Paris, and he and Mr. Fitzherbert united their forces with Mr. Oswald to push these points with all their might. At this time Mr. Adams had joined his colleagues, having arrived in Paris near the end of October, a month before the treaty was signed. Coming fresh to the conflict, he exerted himself on every point with his usual ardor and energy; and the British claim to the fisheries, in particular, was resisted by him with great strength of argument and a determined spirit. In regard to the loyalists, none of the American commissioners ever gave the least hope, that any thing could be done in their favor. Dr. Franklin discarded the idea, most pointedly, in his first conversations with Mr. Oswald. The commissioners had no power to act in the case; Congress had none. The property of the loyalists had been confiscated by the States, and the remedy, if any, must be sought from the States. An article in the treaty, to this effect, would not be binding; it would not be regarded. Besides, neither justice nor humanity required, that the Amerio o "
cans should compensate these people. They had been the principal cause of the war, and instrumental in promoting and aggravating some of its worst horrors; they had taken the lead in burning towns, and plundering and distressing the inhabitants; they had deserted their country's cause, and sacrificed every thing to their friendship for their country’s foes; and, if they were to be indemnified by anybody, it must be by their friends. Such were the sentiments of Dr. Franklin, which he maintained to the last, and in which he was firmly supported by his colleagues. They would not listen to any proposal in the shape of an indemnification; and they said, that, if such an article were insisted on, it must be accompanied by another, which would destroy its effect, and probably turn the advantage to the other side. An account should be prepared in America of all the damages done by the loyalists, and an account of their losses should be exhibited, and examined by commissioners mutually chosen for the purpose. These two accounts should be set against each other. If a balance were found in favor of the loyalists, it should be paid by the Americans; if the balance were against them, it should be paid to the United States by the British government. This suggestion was not relished by the British envoys; and they finally declared, that, unless the loyalists were indemnified and the fisheries contracted within the limits prescribed by them, the treaty must go back again to London for the consideration of the ministry. Dr. Franklin then produced a new article, which he desired might be sent with it; the substance of which was, that his Britannic Majesty should recommend to Parliament to make compensation to the Americans for all the goods taken from them by the British army during the war, for the tobacco, rice, indigo, and negroes that had been plundered, for the vessels and cargoes seized before the declaration of war against the United States, and for all the towns, villages, and farms, that had been burned and destroyed by his troops. The tone of the British commissioners was softened by this formidable proposition. Nothing more was said about sending the treaty to London. It appeared, indeed, that they had a discretionary power to sign the treaty, even if they should fail to gain these two points of compensation to the loyalists and the new claim to the fisheries. The ministry had always intended to give them up, if they could do no better. An article was inserted, however, by which Congress were to recommend an indemnification of the loyalists to the States; but it was declared, at the same time, that there was not the least probability that the States would take any notice of this recommendation. By another article it was agreed, that there should be no legal impediment, on either side, to the collection of debts contracted before the war. These two articles, even in this limited shape, were regarded as important by the ministry, because they would appease the clamors of the British creditors, and of the loyalists, and thus disarm the opposition, in some degree, of the weapons with which it was foreseen the treaty would be assailed on the meeting of Parliament. It may be added, also, that the commercial article, which Dr. Franklin proposed in his first sketch, and which Mr. Jay afterwards assisted him to mature, was not introduced. The treaty was merely a treaty of peace. Commercial regulations were left for a future arrangement. The whole business was at length concluded, and the original demands of the American commissioners, in every essential point, were allowed and confirmed. The treaty was signed at Paris by both parties in due form, on the 30th of November, 1782. It was approved and ratified by Congress, and received with joy by the people; and the commissioners had the satisfaction, which has rarely fallen to the lot of negotiators, of finding their work applauded by the unanimous voice of a whole nation.”
* Lord Brougham, in his sketch of the character of Mr. Wedderburn, afterwards Lord Loughborough, recently published, has unguardedly repeated a false report, respecting the signing of the treaty, which was circulated soon after that event, but promptly refuted. In alluding to Mr. Wedderburn's abusive speech against Dr. Franklin before the Privy Council, Lord Brougham says: “It is well known, that, when the ambassadors were met to sign the peace of Versailles, by which the independence of America was acknowledged, Franklin retired, in order to change his dress and affix his name to the treaty in those garments, which he wore when attending the Privy Council, and which he had kept by him for the purpose many years.” This statement is entirely erroneous. The report was fabricated in England, at a time when the treaty was a topic of vehement discussion; and it was eagerly seized upon to gratify the malevolence of a disappointed party. When it appeared in print, it was immediately contradicted by Mr. Whitefoord, who was present at the signing of the treaty, and affixed his name to it, as the secretary to the English commissioner. “This absurd story,” says Mr. Whitefoord, “has no foundation but in the imagination of the inventor. He supposes that the act of signing the peace took place at the house of Dr. Franklin. The fact is otherwise; the conferences were held, and the treaty was signed, at the hotel of the British commissioner, where Dr. Franklin and the other American commissioners gave their attendance for that purpose. The court of Versailles having at that time gone into mourning for the death of some German prince, the Doctor of course was dressed in a suit of black cloth; and it is in the recollection of the writer of this, and also he believes of many other people, that when the memorable philippic was pronounced against Dr. Franklin in the Privy Council, he was dressed in a suit of figured Manchester velvet.” See the whole of Mr. Whitefoord's letter in the Gentleman's Magazine, for July, 1785, p. 561.