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take any step, either for communicating officially, or for taking off the injunction of secrecy; that the article concerned Spain, and not France; but that if . it should be communicated to the latter, she would hold herself bound to communicate it to the former; that hence an embarrassment might ensue; that it was, probably, this consideration which led the Ministers to the concealment, and he thought they had acted right. He described the awkwardness attending a communication of it under present circumstances; remarking, finally, that nothing had been done contrary to the treaty, and that we were in possession of sufficient materials * to justify the suspicions which had been manifested.
Mr. RUTLEDGE was strenuous for postponing the subject; said that Congress had no occasion to meddle with it; that the Ministers had done right; that they had maintained the honor of the United States after Congress had given it up; that the manæuvre practised by them was common in all courts, and was justifiable against Spain, who alone was affected by it; that instructions ought to be disregarded whenever the public good required it; and that he himself would never be bound by them when he thought them improper.
Mr. Mercer combatted the dangerous tendency of the doctrine maintained by Mr. RUTLEDGE with regard to instructions; and observed, that the Delegates of Virginia having been unanimously instructed not to conclude or discuss any treaty of peace but in confidence, and in concert with His Mosi Christian Majesty, he conceived himself as much bound, as he
* Alluding, probably, to the intercepted letter from M. de Marbois.
was, of himself, inclined to disapprove every other mode of proceeding; and that he should call for the yeas and nays on the question for his justification to his constituents.
Mr. BLAND tartly said that he, of course, was instructed as well as his colleague, and should himself require the yeas and nays to justify an opposite conduct; that the instructions from his constituents went no further than to prohibit any treaty without the concurrence of our Ally;* which prohibition had not been violated in the case before Congress.
Mr. LEE was for postponing and burying in oblivion the whole transaction; he said that delicacy to France required this; since, if any thing should be done implying censure on our Ministers, it must, and ought to be done in such a way as to fall ultimately on France, whose unfaithful conduct had produced and justified that of our Ministers. In all national intercourse, he said, a reciprocity was to be understood; and, as France had not communicated her views and proceedings to the American Plenipotentiaries, the latter were not bound to communicate theirs. All instructions he conceived to be conditional in favor of the public good; and le cited the case mentioned by Sir William Temple, in which the Dutch Ministers concluded, of themselves, an act which required the previous sanction of all the members of the Republic.
Mr. Hamilton said, that, whilst he despised the man who would enslave himself to the policy even of our friends, he could not but lament the overweening readiness which appeared in many to suspect every
* This construction of the instructions was palpably wrong.
thing on that side, and to throw themselves into the bosom of our enemies. He urged the necessity of vindicating our public honor by renouncing that concealment to which it was the wish of so many to make us parties.
Mr. Wilson, in answer to Mr. LEE, observed that the case mentioned by Sir William Temple was utterly inapplicable to the case in question; adding that the conduct of France had not, on the principle of reciprocity, justified our Ministers in signing the provisional preliminaries without her knowledge, no such step having been taken on her part. But whilst he found it to be his duty thus to note the faults of these gentlemen, he, with much greater pleasure, gave them praise for their firmness in refusing to treat with the British negotiator until he had produced a proper commission, in contending for the fisheries, and in adhering to our Western claims.
Congress adjourned without any question.
Communication was made, through the Secretary of Foreign Affairs, by the Minister of France, as to the late negotiation, from letters received by him froin the Count de Vergennes, dated in December last, and brought by the packet Washington. This communication showed, though delicately, that France was displeased with our Ministers for signing the preliminary articles separately; that she had labored by recommending mutual concessions to compromise disputes between Spain and the United States, and that she was apprehensive that Great Britain would hereafter, as they already had endeavored to, sow discords between them. It signified that the “intimacy between our Ministers and those of Great Britain” furnished a handle for this purpose. . · Besides the public communication to Congress, other parts of letters from the Count de Vergennes were privately communicated to the President of Congress and to sundry members, expressing more particularly the dissatisfaction of the Court of France at the conduct of our Ministers; and urging the necessity of establishing permanent revenues for paying our debts, and supporting a national character. The substance of these private communications, as taken on the twenty-third instant by the President, is as follows;
« That the Count de Vergennes was alarmed at the extravagant demands of Dr. Franklin in behalf of the United States; that he was surprised, at the same time, that the inhabitants paid so little attention to doing something for themselves. If they could not be brought to give adequate funds for their defence during a dangerous war, it was not likely that so desirable an end could be accomplished
when their fears were allayed by a general peace; that this reasoning affected the credit of the United States, and no one could be found who would risk their money under such circumstances; that the King would be glad to know what funds were provided for the security and payment of the ten millions borrowed by him in Holland; that the Count de Vergennes hardly dared to report in favor of the United States to the King and council, as money was so scarce that it would be with the greatest difficulty that even a small part of the requisition could be complied with. The causes of this scarcity were a five years' war, which had increased the expenses of Government to an enormous amountthe exportation of large sums of specie to America for the support and pay of both French and English armies—the loans to America—the stoppage of bullion in South America, which prevented its flowing in the usual channels.” *
A letter of a later date added: " That he had received the Chevalier's letter of October, and rejoiced to find that Congress had provided funds for their debts, which gave him great encouragement, and he had prevailed on the Comptroller General to join him in a report to His Majesty and Council for six millions of livres for the United States to support the war, but assures the Chevalier de la Luzerne that he must never again consent to a further application."
* Another cause mentioned was the large balance of specie in favor of the Northern powers during the war.