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Dence; which has been specially allotted to the Negotiations for Peace and Commerce between Great Britain and the United States of America, for the reasons already given. In this portion of the memoirs of Dr. Franklin will be seen the very considerable influence which that able statesman and negotiator exercised in bringing about the peace with America, and the final acknowledgment of her independence by Great Britain.
It may not, however, be superfluous or uninteresting here, to insert the following extracts from two letters * of Dr. Franklin's, written shortly after the preliminaries were signed, as they give a general account of the manner in which the peace was brought about, and are expressive of his feelings and sentiments on that auspicious event.
To The Hon. Robert R. Livingston, Esq.
Passy, Dec. 5, 1782.
You desire to be very particularly acquainted with " every step which tends to a negotiation." I am, therefore, encouraged to send you the first part of the Journal,2 which accidents, and a long severe illness, interrupted; but which, from notes I have by me, may be continued if thought proper. In its present state, it is hardly fit for the inspection of congress, certainly not for public view. I confide it therefore to your prudence.
The arrival of Mr. Jay, Mr. Adams, and Mr. Laurens, relieved me from much anxiety, which must have continued if I had been left to finish the treaty alone; and it has given me the more satisfaction, as I am sure the business has profited by their assistance.
Much of the summer was taken up in objecting to the powers given by Great Britain, and in removing those objections. The using any expressions that might imply an acknowledgment of our independence, seemed, at first, industriously to be avoided. But our refusing otherwise to treat, at length induced them to get over that difficulty; and then we came to the point of making propositions. Those made by Mr. Jay and me, before the arrival of the other gentlemen, you will find in the paper No. 1.3 which was sent by the British plenipotentiary to London for the king's consideration. After some weeks an under-secretary of state, Mr. Strachey, arrived, with whom we had much contestation about the boundaries and other articles which he proposed; we settled some which he carried to London, and returned with the propositions, some adopted, others omitted or altered, and new ones added; which you will see in paper No. 2.1 We spent many days in discussing and disputing, and at length agreed on and signed the Preliminaries,2 which you will receive by this conveyance. The British ministers struggled hard for two points, that the favors granted to the royalists should be extended, and our fishery contracted. We silenced them on the first, by threatening to produce an account of the mischiefs done by those people; and as to the second, when they told us they could not possibly agree to it as we required it, and must refer it to the ministry in London, we produced a new article to be referred at the same time, with a note of facts in support of it, which you have No. 3.3 Apparently it seemed that, to avoid the discussion of this, they suddenly changed their minds, dropped the design of recurring to London, and agreed to allow the fishery as demanded.
Neither of these letters are inserted in the quarto edition of the Private Correspondence, forming vol. II. of these Memoirs. And the first letter only, in the octavo edition.
* See Priv. Corr. 4to. p. 310.—Svo. vol. 2. p. 132. 3 Priv, Corr. 8vo. vol. 2. p. 311.
You will find in the preliminaries some inaccurate and ambiguous expressions that want explanation, and which may be explained in the definitive treaty. And as the British ministry excluded our proposition relating to commerce, and the American prohibition of that with England may not be understood to cease merely by our concluding a treaty of peace, perhaps we may then, if the congress shall think fit to direct it, obtain some compensation for the injuries done us, as a condition of our opening again the trade. Every one of the present British ministry has, while in the minority, declared the war against us unjust, and nothing is clearer in reason, than that those who injure others by an unjust war, should make full reparation. They have stipulated, too, in these preliminaries, that in evacuating our towns, they shall carry off no plunder, which is a kind of acknowledgment, that they ought not to have done it before.
The reason given us for dropping the article relating to commerce, was, that some statutes were in the way, which must be repealed before a treaty of that kind could well be formed; and that this was a matter to be considered in parliament.
They wanted to bring their boundary down to the Ohio, and to settle their loyalists in the Illinois country. We did not chuse such neighbours.
We communicated all the articles, as soon as they were signed, to Mons. le Comte de Vergennes, (except the separate one) who thinks we have managed well, and told me,—that we had settled what was most apprehended as a difficulty in the work of a general peace, by obtaining the declaration of our independence.
I am now near entering my seventy-eighth year. Public business has engrossed fifty of them. I wish, for the little time I have left, to be my own master. If I live to see this peace concluded, I shall beg leave to remind the Congress of their promise then to dismiss me. I shall be happy to sing with old Simeon, "Now let test thou thy servant depart in peace, for mine eyes have seen thy salvation."
With great esteem, &c. B. Franklin.
To Dr. Cooper.
Passy, Dec. 26, 1782.
We have taken some good steps here towards a peace. Our independence is acknowledged; our boundaries as good and extensive as we demanded; and our fishery more so than the congress expected. I hope the whole preliminaries will be approved, and with the definitive treaty, when made, give entire satisfaction to our country. But there are so many interests to be considered between five nations, and so many claims to adjust, that I can hardly flatter myself to See the peace soon concluded, though I wish and pray for it, and use my best endeavors to promote it
I am extremely sorry to hear language from Americans on this side the water, and to hear of such language from your side, as tends to hurt the good understanding that has hitherto so happily subsisted between this court and ours. There seems to be a party with you that wish to destroy it. If they could succeed, they would do us irreparable injury. It is our firm connection with France that gives us weight with England, and respect throughout Europe. If we were to break our faith with this nation, on whatever pretence, England would again trample on us, and every other nation despise us. We cannot, therefore, be too much on our guard, how we permit the private resentments of particular persons to enter into our public counsels. You will hear much of an intercepted letter communicated to us by the British ministry.1 The channel ought to be suspected. It may have received additions and alterations; but, supposing it all genuine, the forward, mistaken zeal of a secretary of legation should not be imputed to the king, who has in so many ways proved himself our faithful and firm friend and ally.
'P. 324. 8vo. cd. Pkiv. CoftR. vol. 2.
In my opinion, the true political interest of America consists in observing and fulfilling with the greatest exactitude, the engagements of our alliance with France; and behaving at the same time towards England, so as not entirely to extinguish her hopes of a reconciliation.
I long to see you and my country once more before I die, being ever, my dear friend, yours most affectionately, B. Franklin.
In another part of the preceding letter to the Hon. Rob. R. Livingston, Dr. Franklin thus notices the commencement of the negociation ordered by congress to be opened with the court of Sweden.
"As soon as I received the commission and instructions for treating with Sweden, I waited on its ambassador here; who told me, he daily expected a courier on that subject. Yesterday he wrote a note to acquaint me, that he would call on me to-day, having something to communicate. Being obliged to go to Paris, I waited on him, when he showed me the full powers he had just received, and I showed him mine. We agreed to meet on Wednesday next, exchange copies, and proceed to business. His commission has some polite expressions in it; viz. 'That his Majesty thought it for the good of his subjects to enter into a treaty of amity and commerce with the United States of America, who had established their independence, so justly merited by their courage and constancy,' or to that effect. I imagine this treaty will soon be completed."
This actually took place about four months afterwards, (April 3d, 1783), when a treaty of amity and commerce between the United States of America and Sweden, was concluded and signed by the respective plenipotentiaries, Dr. Franklin and the Count de Krutz.
Not long after this transaction, Dr. Franklin received the following letter from the Swedish chargé d'affaires, afterwards ambassador at the court of France, (Baron de Staël) announcing the reception from his court of the ratification of the treaty, and renewing the request made by the late ambassador, Count de Krutz, (intended no doubt as a compliment to Dr. Franklin), relative to Mr. Franklin being appointed by congress, resident minister at the court of Sweden; where the Count then held the situation of prime minister.