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Count de Vergennes and Dr. Franklin entered into a contract, on the 16th of July, fixing the time and manner of paying the loans, which the United States had received from France. The amount of these loans was then eighteen millions of livres, exclusive of three millions granted before the treaty of alliance, and the subsidy of six millions heretofore mentioned. These nine millions were considered in the nature of a free gift, and were not brought into the account. By the terms upon which the eighteen millions had been lent, the whole sum was to be paid on the 1st of January, 1788, with interest at five per cent. As it would be inconvenient, if not impracticable, for the United States to refund the whole at that time, the King of France agreed that it might be done by twelve annual payments, of a million and a half of livres each, and that these payments should not commence till three years after the peace. All the interest which had accrued, or which should accrue previously to the date of the treaty of peace, amounting to about two millions of livres, was relinquished, and it was never to be demanded. This arrangement was generous on the part of the King, and highly advantageous to the United States. The contract was ratified by Congress.
Some months before the treaty of peace was signed, Count de Creutz, the Swedish ambassador in Paris, called on Dr. Franklin, and said that his sovereign desired to conclude a treaty with Congress, whenever a minister should present himself for that purpose, invested with the usual powers. Sweden was thus the first European government, which voluntarily proffered its friendship to the United States, and the first after that of France, which proposed to treat before their independence was acknowledged by Great Britain.
Dr. Franklin gave notice of this proposal to Congress, and he was furnished with a special commission to negotiate the treaty. It was finished within a few months, and signed by him and Count de Creutz at Paris.
The provisional treaty of peace was violently assailed in the British Parliament, and became one of the principal causes of the dissolution of the cabinet under Lord Shelburne. The coalition ministry, which followed, probably hoped to obtain some favorable changes in the definitive treaty, or, at all events, to introduce modifications and commercial principles, which would render it more acceptable to the nation. Mr. Hartley was accordingly sent over to Paris, duly commissioned by the King, and instructed to negotiate with the American envoys, not only “for perfecting and establishing the peace, friendship, and good understanding so happily commenced by the provisional articles,” but also “for opening, promoting, and rendering perpetual, the mutual intercourse of trade and commerce between the two countries.” Mr. Hartley was the bearer of a letter from Mr. Fox, then one of the ministers, to Dr. Franklin, containing professions of personal friendship, and expressing a hope that the treaty of peace would terminate in a substantial reconciliation.
A commercial article was proposed to Mr. Hartley by the American envoys, which they said they were ready to confirm. By this article it was agreed, that, whenever his Britannic Majesty should withdraw his fleets and armies from the United States, all the harbours and ports should be open to British trading vessels in the same manner as to American vessels, and without any other charges or duties. It was required, as a reciprocal privilege, that American vessels should
be admitted on the same footing into British ports. Mr. Hartley was not prepared to assent to this proposal. He represented the Navigation Act as a barrier to such an arrangement, and proposed that the commerce between the two countries should stand on the same basis as before the war; adding, that this was only a temporary provision, which might be gradually matured into a more complete compact.
The West India trade offered other embarrassments. In short, after four months' negotiation, nothing was accomplished. All the propositions went to the ministers, and were returned with unsatisfactory answers. The American commissioners drew up a series of new articles, chiefly relating to commerce, which they were willing should be inserted, and which embraced Dr. Franklin's philanthropic scheme for protecting private property in time of war, and for suppressing the practice of privateering. None of them was accepted; and the preliminary articles were finally adopted as the definitive treaty, and signed as such at Paris on the 3d of September, 1783.
It was expected that the treaties between England, France, and Spain, and the one between England and the United States, would be signed at the same time and place. A day was appointed for performing the ceremony at Versailles.
But Mr. Hartley declined signing at that place, and said his instructions confined him to Paris. The British government did not choose to allow even so slight an acknowledgment of the interference of the court of Versailles in their treaty with the Americans, as that of signing it in the presence of the French minister. Count de Vergennes offered no objection to this mode of proceeding, but he was resolved not to put his hand to the treaty of peace, till he was assured that the Ameri
cans had finished their work to their own satisfaction. At his request, therefore, the American envoys signed early in the morning with Mr. Hartley, and Dr. Franklin sent an express to Versailles communicating the intelligence to Count de Vergennes, who then signed the definitive treaty with the British ambassador.
A short time afterwards, a commission arrived from Congress empowering Adams, Franklin, and Jay to conclude a commercial treaty with Great Britain. Communications passed between them and the British ambassador in Paris on the subject. But nothing was effected under this commission, and it became more and more evident, that the British cabinet had no serious design of forming such a treaty.
The definitive treaty was finally ratified by the two governments, and the drama of the Revolution was closed. The sentiments expressed by Dr. Franklin on this occasion, in a letter to his friend Charles Thomson, are worthy to be held in perpetual remembrance by his countrymen.
“Thus the great and hazardous enterprise we have been engaged in, is, God be praised, happily completed; an event I hardly expected I should live to see. A few years of peace, well improved, will restore and increase our strength; but our future safety will depend on our union and our virtue. Britain will be long watching for advantages, to recover what she has lost. If we do not convince the world, that we are a nation to be depended on for fidelity in treaties; if we appear negligent in paying our debts, and ungrateful to those who have served and befriended us; our reputation, and all the strength it is capable of procuring, will be lost, and fresh attacks upon us will be encouraged and promoted by better prospects of success. Let us, therefore, beware of being lulled into
a dangerous security, and of being both enervated and impoverished by luxury; of being weakened by internal contentions and divisions ; of being shamefully extravagant in contracting private debts, while we are backward in discharging honorably those of the public; of neglect in military exercises and discipline, and in providing stores of arms and munitions of war, to be ready on occasion ; for all these are circumstances that give confidence to enemies, and diffidence to friends; and the expenses required to prevent a war are much lighter than those that will, if not prevented, be absolutely necessary to maintain it.”
Public attention in France was at this time so much excited by the pretended wonders of animal magnetism, that the government deemed it a proper subject for scientific inquiry. Geslon, a disciple and partner of Mesmer, by his experiments and artifices drew around him a multitude of followers, whose credulity he turned to a profitable account. Nine commissioners, selected from the members of the Royal Academy and of the Faculty of Medicine, were appointed by the King to investigate the subject. Dr. Franklin was placed at their head. They were employed at various times in their examinations from March, 1784, till the following August. Numerous experiments were performed in their presence, and all the most extraordinary cases were subjected to their inspection. Dr. Franklin himself was magneztied, but without effect. Every opportunity was allowed to Geslon to establish his facts and illustrate his principles. After a patient and protracted investigation, the details of which were embodied in an elaborate and interesting report by M. Bailly, the commissioners were unanimous in the opinion, that no proof had been given of the existence of a distinct agent, called an