PICTORIAL FIELD BOOK OF THE REVOLUTION.
BY BENSON J. LOSSING
The Diplomacy of the United States during the war for Independence is an interesting and instructive study, not because of any very brilliant achievements by diplomatic art, but because of the solid judgment and almost prophetic forecast displayed by those in the National Council who conceived and arranged the complicated plan, and those who were intrusted with its execution. It must be remembered that the American statesmen who represented the revolted colonies had no beaten track to follow, no traditionary canons to guide them. Their position was a new one, hitherto unknown in the history of nations; and when the American representatives approached those of the hoary dynasties of Europe, the fresh, free, vigorous principles of genuine Republicanism, unmixed with the conventionalities and maxims of courts, were brought into contact with the opinions and stately traditions of buried centuries. The task of the American diplomatist was consequently a difficult, though simple one, and he was compelled to be a political inventor with scarcely an available model for a design.
It is known that the Congress of 1774 did not contemplate a separation from the parent state, and had no foreign relations to care for; but when, before the opening of the second Congress in May, 1775, hostilities had actually commenced in New England, and the alternative offered was slavery or war, the representatives of the people organized an army, appointed a commander-in-chief, and soon began to reflect upon the influence of the opinions of foreign nations. These thoughts at length found public expression, when, on the twenty-ninth of November, 1775, Congress appointed Benjamin Harrison, Dr. Franklin, Thomas Johnson (the member who nominated Washington for commander-in-chief), John Dickenson, and John Jay, a committee for the purpose of carrying on foreign correspondence, through friends of America in Europe, and endeavor to ascertain the views of foreign governments respecting American affairs. This committee, though changed in persons, conducted all the foreign correspondence of the United States until 1781, when a "Department of Foreign Affairs" was established. On the seventeenth of April, 1777, Congress changed the name of the "Committee of Secret Correspondence" to "Committee of Foreign Affairs," and, at the same time, appointed Thomas Paine,1 the author of the influential papers called "The Crisis," secretary to the committee, with a salary of seventy dollars a month. It was a position of great trust and responsibility, and Paine appears to have conducted the business satisfactorily until he engaged in a quarrel with Silas Deane, and imprudently revealed state secrets.
In March, 1776, Congress appointed Silas Deane, of Connecticut, a commercial and political agent of the United States to the French court, with instructions to make the wants of the Americans officially known to the Count De Vergennes, the French Minister for Foreign Affairs, and to assure his government of the strong desire of the United States, struggling to be free, to cultivate friendly relations. Deane was also instructed to elicit the views of the French court respecting an alliance with the colonies, should they declare themselves independent of Great Britain. Arthur Lee, who had been for some time in London, in secret correspondence with members of Congress, and especially with the Secret Committee, was approached by Carron De Beaumarchais, a special agent of the French government, almost simultaneously with the appointment of Deane. Beaumarchais informed Lee that the king desired to send two hundred thousand Louis d’ors, in arms, ammunition, and specie, in a secret manner to the Americans. It was agreed that the remittance should be made by way of Cape François, in the fictitious name of Hortales, and all the arrangements generally which Deane and his associates afterward carried out were planned as early as April, 1776. To give the transaction a mercantile complexion, a small quantity of tobacco was to be sent back in return. After Beaumarchais returned to Paris, he and Lee corresponded, partly in cipher, the former as Roderique Hortales & Co., and the latter in the name of Mary Johnson. This arrangement was submitted to the king on the second of May. The king was pleased, and immediately directed the royal treasurer to hold a million of livres subject to the particular order of Vergennes, the Minister for Foreign Affairs. All the writing in the matter was done by a son of Vergennes, a lad of fifteen, and the whole transaction was kept a profound secret. Deane arrived in Paris in July, and his interview with Vergennes was mutually satisfactory. The French court had perceived a good opportunity to damage England. and had resolved to improve it. It did not desire war with her, and so Bourbon duplicity was employed to its fullest extent. The appointment of Deane appears to have been known in London before his arrival in Europe, and Lord Stormont, the British minister in Paris, watched his movements with the keen eye of suspicion. Other spies were there, and Vergennes took the earliest opportunity to caution Deane concerning them, and advised him to be exceedingly circumspect in all his words and actions.
In August, Deane ratified the unofficial arrangements of Lee with the French government, by which, under the mask of commercial business, it was to supply the Americans with all they needed without any expectation of payment therefor. Beaumarchais immediately addressed a letter to the Secret Committee of Congress, in the name of Roderique Hortales & Co. which, disguised in commercial phrases, expressed the sentiments of the French court. He informed them that his house had been established for the sole purpose of furnishing the Americans with every thing needful – "even gold for the payment of troops." In another letter, he intimated that the King of Spain was friendly to the Americans, and it was upon this hint that Congress soon afterward appointed a commissioner to the Spanish court. In all these expressions of good-will, and the promises of aid, Beaumarchais was the mouth-piece of the French court, and to him, its secret agent, the one million of livres, or about one hundred and eighty-five thousand dollars, was given from the French treasury, to be sent to the Americans as "gratuitous assistance from the free generosity of the king." The sequel was vexatious.
When the resolution declaring the colonies independent was fairly before Congress, the attention of that body was turned to the subject of foreign alliances. Opinions were more various upon this topic than that of independence, many regarding it with favor, others with doubt, and some with the most decided aversion. "A virgin state should possess the virgin character," wrote Dr. Franklin to Arthur Lee [March, 1777.], "and not go about suitoring for alliances, but wait with decent dignity for the application of others." This was his opinion from the beginning, and those of like views thought it more dignified to carry on the war to a close and establish independence without foreign aid, and then let the commercial advantages which alliances with the new state must offer to the European governments, make them the suitors. Others feared that alliances would entangle the states in European politics, and make them parties, perhaps to European wars. But John Adams and a majority of Congress viewed the matter differently, and counseled the adoption of measures for securing as early as possible the friendship, material aid, and, if practicable, a political alliance with France, Spain, and Holland, in particular. Acting upon this opinion of the majority, Congress, on the twelfth of June, 1776, appointed John Dickenson, Dr. Franklin, John Adams, Benjamin Harrison, and Robert Morris a committee "to prepare a plan of treaties to be proposed to foreign powers. 2 Richard Henry Lee and James Wilson were added to that committee in August, and on the seventeenth of September, Congress adopted a plan, and appointed Dr. Franklin, Silas Deane, and Arthur Lee commissioners to proceed to France to negotiate a treaty of commerce, and attempt to gain a recognition of the Independence of the United States.
SIGNATURES OF THE COMMISSIONERS.3
They were instructed to ask for twenty or thirty thousand muskets and bayonets, and a large supply of ammunition and field-pieces, to be sent under a French convoy, not as gratuitous aid, but to be paid for by the United States, the latter agreeing not to assist Great Britain in the event of a war ensuing between France and that country as a consequence of such material aid. They were to insist, also, that in the event of war, France should make no demonstrations against English territory on the continent of America, and that the trade of any other colony of Great Britain which might fall into the hands of the French, should be entirely free to the United States. A few weeks afterward, the commissioners received instructions to procure from the court of France, either by purchase or loan, eight line-of-battle ships, of sixty-four and seventy-four guns, well manned and equipped.
Deane was already in Paris, and Lee was in London. The commissioners met on the twenty-second of December[1776.], and on the twenty-eighth they had their first audience with the Count De Vergennes. They were politely received, and copies of their papers were sent to D’Aranda the Spanish embassador at Paris. About a fortnight afterward [Jan. 13, 1777.], Mr. Gerard, secretary to the Council of State, read to the commissioners a paper signed by the king himself, in which, while he expressed great sympathy for the Americans, he refused openly to give them material aid or acknowledge their independence. He secretly made them a donation from the royal exchequer of about three hundred and seventy thousand dollars, and permitted the commissioners to purchase such public supplies as they pleased, on private account. All this was done under the advice of Vergennes, and of Turgot, the controller-general of France. Caution marked their movements, for they were unwilling to cast down the gauntlet to England until assured of the real strength of the revolted colonies, and the utter improbability of their reconciliation with the mother country.
Disasters befell the arms of the United States during the autumn of 1776, and Congress looked anxiously toward Europe for aid in the struggle.
Commissioners to foreign courts were appointed [Dec. 30, 1776.]. William Lee was sent to Prussia and Austria; Ralph Izard to the Grand Duchy of Tuscany; and Arthur Lee (when Dr. Franklin declined the office) to Spain. The commissioners at the French court were instructed to offer France the aid of the United States in the conquest of the West Indies, and like aid was offered to Spain in the subjugation of Portugal. Nothing of importance was effected, and France alone aided the United States during 1777, 5 through the agency of Beaumarchais, in the name of Roderique Hortales & Co., while at the same time, the king was giving the British embassador assurances that government had no agency in the matter.
At the close of 1777 the future of the struggling colonies grew brighter in both hemispheres. The surrender of Burgoyne with his whole army, to the unaided Americans, gave the world assurance of innate strength in the new-born nation, and the character of the rebellion assumed the more dignified aspect of a successful revolution. The assurances that a reconciliation between Great Britain and her colonies would speedily take place, industriously circulated in diplomatic circles by English emissaries, were now regarded as fictions, for not only the voice of the American Congress, but the known acts of the people, emphatically declared their intention to maintain their independence.7 The commissioners embraced this propitious moment to press with earnestness their suit with France and Spain. They were successful, and on the seventeenth of December [1777.], Mr. Gerard informed them that the king had determined to acknowledge the independence of the United States, and to form an honorable alliance with them. Treaties to this effect were signed on the sixth of February following [1778.], the part of France by Conrad Alexandre Gerard, and of the United States by Benjamin Franklin, Silas Deane, and Arthur Lee. 8 The terms of these treaties were honorable to both parties, and the United States then assumed that dignified relation to foreign powers which they have ever maintained.
At the beginning of his mission, Dr. Franklin was put in communication with the French government, on the subject of supplies, through Dr. Dubourg. That gentleman warned the commissioners to beware of Beaumarchais, who was a man of pleasure, and an adventurer. Circumstances afterward justified this warning. When, toward the close of 1777, Beaumarchais perceived the tendency of the French government toward an undisguised alliance with the United States, he also perceived that the business operations of Roderique Hortales & Co. must close. He had power to fill his own purse to repletion, and he used it. He sent an agent to America to demand from Congress full payment for all supplies shipped to the Secret Committee by Hortales & Co., in the Amphirite, Mercury, and Seine. The amount claimed was about seven hundred and thirty thousand dollars. The agent brought a letter from Silas Deane, intimating that the claim was just.10 Congress was perplexed. Their commissioners had given the Secret Committee frequent assurances that no return would be required for those supplies. Their treasury was scantily supplied, and the Continental bills were rapidly depreciating. At length Congress paid the agent of Beaumarchais twenty thousand dollars, and promised the remainder at a future day [March 23, 1778.]. Franklin and Lee heard of this unjust claim in time to address a letter to the Secret Committee, and send it with the treaties of alliance and commerce. They advised Congress to allow further settlements to be made by the commissioners themselves. Nothing was done in the matter for several months, when the commissioners asked the French government for information on the subject, The king coolly denied all knowledge of the house of Roderique Hortales & Co., and that any government aid to the Americans had been allowed. He asserted that Beaumarchais had been allowed to take supplies from the public arsenals, but on condition that they were to be replaced. These falsehoods were intended for the ears of the British ministry, to conceal falsehoods previously uttered with all the gravity of royal faith! Congress dare not attempt either an explanation or defense, for fear of offending his "most Christian majesty;" and, rather than compromise French honor, the Secret Committee made drafts on the commissioners at Paris, in favor of Beaumarchais, for almost four hundred thousand dollars. These were ultimately paid. According to Beaumarchais’s account, a balance was yet due him, and he continued to press the payment until 1794, when it was discovered, for the first time, that he had received from the now decapitated king the million of livres given for the Americana in 1776. This sum, with the interest, was properly charged to him, and the balance was paid from the treasury of the United States. And yet his heirs were dissatisfied, and afterward actually applied to Congress for more money.
The treaties between France and the United states were not promulgated until March[1778.], in order that the former might recall its fishermen, withdraw its commerce, notify its colonies, and prepare for war. This accomplished, the French embassador in London informed the British ministry of the fact, and at about the same time Doctor Franklin and his associates were openly presented at court by Vergennes.
Mr. Gerard, who had been an active participator in the negotiations, was appointed minister plenipotentiary to the United States, and in April sailed in the Languedoc, D’Estaing’s flag-ship, in company with Mr. Deane.
They arrived at Philadelphia early in July [1778.]. On the thirteenth, a committee of Congress was appointed to receive the French envoy. There being no traditionary rules of etiquette suitable for the occasion, the ceremonials which took place on the sixth of August were entirely new. 11 On the twenty-first of October following, Dr. Franklin was appointed by Congress minister plenipotentiary to the court of Versailles (as the French government was styled) – the first appointment of the kind by the United States.
War between France and England was the immediate consequence of the promulgation of the treaties, and the United States confidently expected the co-operation of Spain with her French ally and friend. But Charles the Third affected indignation, because Louis had made so favorable a treaty, and refused to join in any political or commercial alliance unless the United States would relinquish all right to the navigation of the Mississippi, and, indeed, to the whole country west of the Alleghany Mountains. Doubtless the true cause of his coldness toward the United States was his fear that a successful revolution in North America might produce those similar results, in his own provinces in South America and Mexico, which have since taken place. Charles, however, offered his mediation between England and France. Great Britain affected to listen favorably to the proposition, and, in the mean while, an agent was sent from London to confer with Dr. Franklin upon terms of reconciliation between the parent state and the colonies. A dissolution of the tie which bound the United States and France was the paramount object to be gained by Great Britain, and the French government observed the movement with much uneasiness. The subject was brought before Congress, and formed the staple of debate for a long time. No satisfactory result was accomplished, and finally the British government haughtily rejected the proposition of the United States formally to acknowledge their independence as a basis for reconciliation and peace. The offer of Charles of Spain to mediate was also rejected, and in June, 1779, Spain joined France and declared war against Great Britain. This event gave the Americans much joy.
On the twenty-sixth of September, 1779, Congress appointed John Jay12 full minister to the court of Madrid, to negotiate treaties of amity and commerce, and to obtain loans or subsidies. At the same time, John Adams, a rival candidate for the Spanish mission, was appointed minister to the court of Great Britain, to negotiate a treaty of peace. Mr. Jay sailed toward the close of the year, but, being driven to the West Indies by a storm, he did not reach Cadiz until March following. Spain not having acknowledged the independence of the United States, at first refused to receive him as an American minister, and he was for some time engaged with Count Florida Blanca, the Spanish premier, in informal negotiations. In the mean while, M. Gerard was succeeded by the Chevalier De Luzerne [Nov., 1779.], who came invested with more ample powers, as well as limited authority from Spain to negotiate with the United States concerning territories and boundaries in America. The Spanish court coveted possession of all the territory west of the Alleghanies, and the exclusive navigation of the Mississippi. Luzerne was instructed to procure a definite expression from Congress on this subject. The matter was laid before Congress, and on the seventeenth of September, 1780, a committee, consisting of Messrs. Madison, Sullivan, and Duane, presented an able document containing reasons for the claim of the Americans to all the territory west of the Alleghanies which, by the treaty of 1763, was conceded to Great Britain. Copies of this paper were sent to the courts of France and Spain, and formed the basis of negotiations. Mr. Jay, with all his ability, could make no impression upon the Spanish court, though indefatigable in his endeavors to negotiate a loan. Not doubting his success on that point, Congress drew upon Mr. Jay, at six months, for considerable sums. Spain kept her purse-strings closed, and it was only by the aid of Dr. Franklin that Mr. Jay was able to meet the drafts at maturity, and preserve the credit of the United States from injury in Europe. At length the Spanish monarch promised small loans and, finally, Mr. Jay was informed that if he would yield to the terms of Spain respecting the navigation of the Mississippi, the required funds would be furnished. He promptly refused acquiescence, but subsequently, under instructions from Congress, given in February, 1781, he consented to yield the free navigation of the Mississippi, as high as the thirty-first degree of latitude. This was so much short of what Spain asked, that the negotiations remained at this point until 1782, when Mr. Jay was called to Paris.
In September, 1778, a plan for a commercial treaty between Holland and the United States was unofficially proposed to William Lee, by Van Berkel, pensionary of Amsterdam. It was submitted to Congress, approved, and, soon after the appointment of Jay and Adams, Henry Laurens 13 was commissioned minister plenipotentiary to the States General of Holland, to negotiate a commercial treaty. He did not sail for Europe until in the summer of 1780. The vessel that bore him was captured by a British frigate near Newfoundland. Mr. Laurens cast his papers overboard, but they were recovered by a seaman, and, with the bearer, were taken to London. After an examination before the Privy Council, Mr. Laurens was committed to the Tower on a charge of high treason, where he was kept in close confinement more than a year. 14 He was finally released, and went to France to assist in the negotiations for peace. Among his papers was the plan for a treaty with Holland; also several letters which disclosed the friendship of the States General for the Americans. The British ministry were irritated, and the subsequent refusal of Holland to disclaim the act of Van Berkel caused Great Britain to declare war against that republic. In the mean while, Mr. Adams, whose mission to London was fruitless of immediate results, had been appointed a commissioner to negotiate for loans with the States General. 15 In December [1780.] he was made full minister, with power to negotiate a treaty of amity and commerce. In April following he presented to the States General an argumentative memorial on the subject of a commercial treaty; and in August following, at the instance of the French court, Congress instructed him to propose a triple alliance between France, the United Provinces of the Netherlands, and the United States, limited in its duration to the existing war with Great Britain. Holland moved as slowly as Spain, and at the beginning of 1782 no reply had been given. Holland had not acknowledged the independence of the United States, and Mr. Adams had not been officially received as a minister. He became impatient, and on the ninth of January [1782.] he demanded a categorical answer to his memorial and the proposition for a triple alliance. His views were supported by the merchants and manufacturers, and on the twenty-second of April the independence of the United States was formally acknowledged by the States General, by the reception of Mr. Adams as embassador. A treaty of amity and commerce was not concluded until October following.
While the attempts at negotiation with Spain and Holland were in progress, the coalition known as the Armed Neutrality (see note on page 468, volume ii.) was formed. Congress approved of the position taken by the Empress of Russia, and toward the close of 1780, Francis Dana was appointed minister to the court of St. Petersburgh, with instructions to concede, on behalf of the United States, the principles of the coalition, and to negotiate a treaty of amity and commerce. In the mean while, Catharine had offered to mediate between Great Britain and her Continental foes in arms. Great Britain accepted the mediation, but France would not reply until the opinion of the American Congress was obtained. Luzerne communicated with that body in May, 1781. Congress assented, and appointed Mr. Adams sole negotiator upon the subject. The French court did not like the appointment, for Mr. Adams could not be molded to its will. A congress of ministers was proposed to be held at Vienna. Mr. Adams went to Paris in July to consult with Vergennes, when the question arose as to what would be his relative position in that Congress. He claimed to be there as the representative of an independent state. France coincided in his views, but Great Britain haughtily demanded a separation of France from the "revolted colonies" before she would consent to negotiate. She would not allow the United States to be treated as an independent power. The views of Russia and other imperial courts were coincident with those of Britain, and Mr. Adams therefore peremptorily refused to attend the Congress at Vienna at all. The Congress was not convened in consequence of this refusal, and that fact was a clear annunciation that the United States had already made a deep impression upon the politics of Europe.
The capture of Cornwallis and his army in October, 1781, convinced all parties in England of the folly of a further prosecution of the war. In March, 1782, Parliament resolved on peace. Lord North resigned, the Marquis of Rockingham succeeded him in office, and Lord Shelburne and Mr. Fox were made secretaries of state. Richard Oswald was immediately sent to France to confer with Vergennes on the subject of peace. After several interviews, he resigned the matter into the hands of Thomas Grenville, a son of the author of the Stamp Act, by whom an informal agreement was made that a treaty should be conducted, having, so far as the United States were concerned, the acknowledgment of their independence as a basis. While these negotiations were in progress, Rockingham died, and was succeeded in office by Lord Shelburne. Grenville was recalled, and the negotiations were left in the hands of Mr. Fitzherbert. On the twenty-fifth of July, Parliament adopted a bill to enable the king to consent to the independence of the colonies, and the monarch signed it, though with reluctance. Richard Oswald was immediately appointed, with full powers, to negotiate a treaty of peace with the United States. Great efforts had been made to induce France and the United States to enter into separate treaties, but both steadily refused.
The American ministers in Europe differed in respect to the character of the French court. Franklin had great faith in its integrity, and was desirous of deferring to its judgment. Adams was more independent, and always assumed the tone of equality when suing for benefits. Jay coincided with Adams, and felt convinced that the French court desired to keep the Americans in a secondary position. These conflicting opinions produced no serious difficulty, and Franklin and Jay prepared for the work before them. Oswald did not show his authority to treat with the American commissioners on terms of independence, whereupon Mr. Jay positively refused to have any thing to do with the matter. He insisted that the recognition of independence should be preliminary to any treaty, and that a treaty should be the consequence of independence. In these views Franklin coincided. Mr. Oswald then showed them an article in his instructions which authorized him to make the concession of independence, if insisted upon. This was not entirely satisfactory, and he applied to the ministry for new instructions. Another commission was issued on the twenty-first of September, and a day or two afterward Mr. Adams arrived from the Hague and joined the commission.
While discussions with Mr. Oswald were progressing, Mr. Jay resumed negotiations with the Spanish court, through the Count D’Aranda, the minister of Charles, at Versailles. The Spanish monarch had receded from his own proposition, and now claimed an equal possession of the territory west of the Alleghanies. The French court favored the Spanish claim, and this fact confirmed the suspicions which Mr. Jay entertained of Gallic faith.
Still further to confirm this suspicion, a letter from Marbois, Chargé d’Affaires from France to Congress, in which he advised the French court to endeavor to restrict the claims of the Americans on the Newfoundland fisheries, was intercepted; and Mr. Reyneval, the confidential secretary of the foreign department, was secretly sent to London, without the knowledge of the commissioners. Mr. Jay and Mr. Adams were coincident in opinion that Vergennes meant to play falsely, while Dr. Franklin’s faith in his integrity was unmoved. The claims of Spain could not be assented to, and negotiations with D’Aranda ceased.
On the arrival of Mr. Adams, negotiations with Mr. Oswald commenced. After much discussion, the questions of boundary and the fisheries were settled. The English claim of reparation for the Loyalists was the last and longest theme for debate. While this subject was under discussion, Mr. Laurens arrived from London and joined the commission. He opposed the Loyalist claim, and as the American commissioners were unanimous and immovable on this point, Mr. Oswald yielded. On the thirtieth of November, 1782, preliminary articles were signed by Richard Oswald on the part of England, and by John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, John Jay, and Henry Laurens on the part of the United States. The following were the chief points of the treaty: The independence of the thirteen states was unqualifiedly recognized; the Mississippi was made the western boundary, and Canada and Nova Scotia the northern and eastern boundaries of the territory of the new Republic; the navigation of the St. Lawrence was abandoned to the English; the navigation of the Mississippi was made free to both parties; mutual rights to the Newfoundland fisheries were adjusted; no impediments were allowed in the way of the recovery of debts by bona fide creditors; certain measures of restitution of confiscated property to Loyalists was to be recommended by Congress to the several states; and a general cessation of hostilities, withdrawal of troops, and a restoration of public and private property.
These articles were agreed to and signed without the participation or knowledge of the French court. Vergennes complained of this violation of pledged faith, but made no difficulty. Congress ratified the articles, and in April, 1783, David Hartley, the agent who had sounded Dr Franklin in 1778 respecting a reconciliation, was appointed by the court of London to adjust, with the commissioners, a definitive treaty of peace. Several months were spent in discussions upon the various articles of the preliminary treaty. They could not agree upon any alterations, and on the third of September, 1783, the preliminary articles were signed at Paris as a definitive treaty, by Franklin, Adams, Jay, and David Hartley. The definitive treaties between Great Britain, France, and Spain were signed at the same time; that between Great Britain and Holland on the preceding day. The American definitive treaty was ratified by Congress on the fourteenth of January, 1784.
Many disputes arose between the United States and Great Britain when the several states endeavored to conform to the provisions of the treaty. On this account, Congress resolved to send a minister plenipotentiary to the court of London, and on the twenty-fourth of February, 1785, John Adams was appointed to that important office. Although the circumstance was mortifying to British pride, yet he was received with cordial respect, and it is said that the king remarked to him on that occasion, "I was the last man in the kingdom, sir, to consent to the independence of America; but now it is granted, I shall be the last man in the world to sanction a violation of it."
1 Thos. Paine was born at Thetford, England, in 1737. He was taught the business of a stay-maker, but his active mind could not brook simple corporeal employment, and he took part in public affairs. He became acquainted with Doctor Franklin in England, and, by the advice of that statesman, he came to America in 1774. Here he commenced the use of his pen in favor of the independence of the colonies, and his "Crisis" and "Common Sense" produced a powerful impression. He was appointed the first secretary of the "Committee of Foreign Affairs." This office he resigned in January, 1779, but continued the labor of his pen in the cause of liberty. In 1790 Paine visited England, where he produced his "Rights of Man." He went to France, and taking part in the Revolution then progressing, he obtained a seat in the National Assembly. He offended the Jacobins, was imprisoned, and came near being guillotined. It was at this period that he wrote the most considerable portion of his "Age of Reason." He returned to America in 1802. He died at a house in Grove Street, New York, on the eighth of June, 1809, at the age of seventy-two years. He was buried on his farm, at New Rochelle, which the State of New York presented to him for his Revolutionary services. William Cobbett had his remains taken up and carried to England. In November, 1839, the beautiful marble monument delineated in the engraving was erected to his memory, over his grave near New Rochelle, by his friends in political and religious principles. Upon it is the simple inscription, Thomas Paine, Author of Common Sense. The likeness of Paine here given is from a medallion in wax, in my possession, made from life, when Paine was in Paris in 1798. It is pronounced by those who knew the original well to be a faithful likeness of the man.
2 Journals of Congress, ii., 198.
3 These I copied from a manuscript letter from the commissioner, to John Paul Jones, dated at "Passy, near Paris (the residence of Dr. Franklin), December 17, 1777."
4 Charles Gravier, Count De Vergennes, was born at Dijon, France, on the twenty-eighth of December, 1717. His first diplomatic service was that of attache to Charigny, while on missions to Lisbon and Frankfort. In 1750 he was appointed minister to the Electoral court of Trier. In 1755 he was sent to Constantinople for the express purpose of exciting a war between the Porte and Russia. He was afterward minister to Sweden, and when Louis XVI. ascended the throne in 1774, he was called to the cabinet as minister for foreign affairs, and the king’s confidential adviser. He remained in that office until his death, which occurred on the thirteenth of February, 1787.
5 Arthur Lee went to Berlin during the summer of 1777, and unofficially made overtures to the Prussian government. The court would not listen, because a promise had been made to Great Britain not to interfere in the quarrel. While there, Lee had his papers stolen from his room. The theft was traced to the British minister, who, perceiving the police on the alert, caused them to be returned to Lee’s apartment unopened. The king was so incensed, that when the British embassador called to make an explanation, he refused him audience.
6 Louis was born on the twenty-third of March, 1754, and in 1770 married Maria Antoinette, of Austria, On the death of his grandfather, he ascended the throne of France in 1774, at the age of twenty years. The Count De Vergennes was made his minister for foreign affairs; Turgot of the finances; Malesherbes became a counselor of state; Sartine directed marine affairs; and the old Count Maurepas was made his prime minister. At the close of our war with Great Britain, a revolutionary spirit was in powerful, though suppressed, operation in France. It broke out in 1789, when the Bastile was destroyed, and the authority of the king defied. Soon the reign of terror began, and during that bloody era, the king and queen, and a vast number of nobles, were beheaded. Louis was amiable in private life, and, no doubt, was sincerely desirous of securing the welfare of his people. He was a weak man, and entirely unfitted to brave the storm which swept over his unhappy country.
7 On the twenty-second of November, 1777, Congress instructed its representatives abroad to declare that no reconciliation with Great Britain, inconsistent with the independence of the colonies, should take place.
8 The King of Spain refused to enter into any alliance. The extraordinary letter of Louis to him on this occasion, is printed on page 87, volume i., of this work. The reader is invited to peruse it in connection with our present record of the movements of the French government in the path of consummate duplicity.
9 This is from an excellent medallion likeness made in the red clay of Passy in 1777, when Dr. Franklin resided there. It is about half the size of the original. A portrait of Franklin may be found among those of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, in the frontispiece to the second volume of this work.
10 Congress became dissatisfied with Deane, and he was recalled in the summer of 1778. His statements were not satisfactory, and because he was censured, he published an address, in which he boasted of having, without funds, procured large supplies of military stores abroad for the use of the United States, and otherwise lauded his own services. Paine, the secretary for foreign affairs, replied to Deane, under the head of "Common Sense to the public on Mr. Deane’s affairs." Paine imprudently revealed some of the secrets of the earlier transactions of Arthur Lee and Beaumarchais, which, in the opinion of the French minister, compromised the honor of his king. That minister demanded of Congress a disavowal of the statements of Paine. To quarrel with France then would, perhaps, have been fatal to the Independence of the United States. Paine was dismissed from office, (or, rather, he resigned, to avoid the disgrace of dismissal), and Congress, by a formal resolution in January, 1779, declared that the supplies sent by the French were not presents, and that the king "did not preface his alliance with any supplies whatever sent to America." This declaration gave entire vitality to the claims of Beaumarchais, and out of tenderness for the honor of the king, which was wrapped up in duplicity and falsehood, and for fear of offending an ally of doubtful integrity, Congress stooped to deception, and paid a licentious adventurer, employed by the French court, more than half a million of dollars for his own private benefit.
11 The following interesting account of the ceremonials on the occasion is from Lyman’s Diplomacy of the United States, i., 57: "In pursuance of the ceremonial established by Congress, the Honorable Richard Henry Lee, Esq., one of the delegates from Virginia, and the Honorable Samuel Adams, one of the delegates from Massachusetts Bay, in a coach and six provided by Congress, waited upon the minister at his house. In a few minutes the minister and the two delegates entered the coach, Mr. Lee placing himself at the minister’s left hand on the back seat, Mr. Adams occupying the front seat; the minister’s chariot being behind, received his secretary. The carriages being arrived at the State House in this city, the two members of Congress, placing themselves at the minister’s left hand, a little before one o’clock, introduced him to his chair in the Congress Chamber, the president and Congress sitting. The minister being seated, he gave his credentials into the hands of his secretary, who advanced and delivered them to the president. The secretary of Congress then read and translated them; which being done, Mr. Lee announced the minister to the president and Congress; at this time the president, the Congress, and the minister rose together; he bowed to the president and the Congress – they bowed to him; whereupon the whole seated themselves. In a moment the minister rose and made a speech to Congress, they sitting. The speech being finished, the minister sat down, and giving a copy of his speech to his secretary, he presented it to the president. The president and the Congress then rose, and the president pronounced their answer to the speech, the minister standing. The answer being ended, the whole were again seated, and the president giving a copy of the answer to the secretary of Congress, he presented it to the minister. The president, the Congress, and the minister then again rose together; the minister bowed to the president, who returned the salute, and then to the Congress, who also bowed in return; and the minister having bowed to the president, and returned his bow, he withdrew, and was attended home in the same manner is which he had been conducted to the audience. Within the bar of the House the Congress formed a semicircle on each side of the president and the minister, the president sitting at one extremity of the circle at a table upon a platform elevated two steps – the minister sitting at the opposite extremity of the circle, in an arm-chair upon the same level with the Congress. The door of the Congress Chamber being thrown open below the bar, about two hundred gentlemen were admitted to the audience, among whom were the Vice-president of the Supreme Executive Council of Pennsylvania, the Supreme Executive Council, the Speaker and members of the House of Assembly, several foreigners of distinction, and officers of the army. The audience being over, the Congress and the minister, at a proper hour repaired to an entertainment given by the Congress to the minister, at which were present, by invitation, several foreigners of distinction and gentlemen of public character. The entertainment was conducted with a decorum suited to the occasion, and gave perfect satisfaction to the whole company."
12 John Jay, a descendant of a Huguenot family, was born in the city of New York, on the twelfth of December, 1745. He entered King’s (now Columbia) College in 1760, and graduated in 1764 with the highest collegiate honors. He was admitted to the bar in 1768, and in 1774 he married a daughter of William Livingston, afterward governor of New Jersey. He was appointed one of the committee of fifty patriots in New York in 1774, and from that time he was an active and zealous friend to the cause of freedom in America. He was a member of the first Continental Congress, where his pen did good service in drawing up state papers of great moment. He was also a member of the Provincial Congress of New York, and one of the most active men in the Committee of Safety. He prepared the draft of the Constitution of New York in 1777, and was appointed the first chief justice under it. In 1779 he went on a mission to Spain, and was one of the parties in the concluding arrangements for peace between the United States and Great Britain. He returned to America in July, 1784, when he was elected secretary for foreign affairs. He held that office until the adoption of the Federal Constitution, of which he was a warm friend. On the organization of the new government, Washington nominated him for chief justice of the United States. He held this office until 1794, when he was appointed minister to Great Britain. He returned in 1795, and found himself governor elect of the State of New York. He was governor until 1801, when he retired from public life to his paternal estate at Bedford, in West Chester county, where he died on the seventeenth of May, 1829, in the eighty-fourth year of his age.
The signature here given, together with the post-mark, I copied from his frank to a letter written in Philadelphia in 1776.
13 Henry Laurens, a descendant of a Huguenot family, was born in Charleston in 1724. At a proper age he entered into mercantile business, and on closing it with his partner in 1770, he retired with a large fortune. He went to England in 1771, and there he warmly espoused the patriot cause. He returned to Charleston in 1774, and presided over the first Provincial Congress, held in that city in January, 1775. He was elected president of the Council of Safety, an office equivalent to that of governor. He was elected a delegate to the Continental Congress, and on the first of November, 1777, was appointed president of that body. He resigned the chair in 1778, and the next year was appointed minister to Holland. On his way the vessel was captured; he was sent to London, and was imprisoned more than a year in the Tower. He was cruelly deprived of pen and ink, and the converse of friends. Twice he was approached with offers of pardon and liberty, if he would serve the ministry. Each offer was indignantly rejected by him. He was at length liberated, and Lord Shelburne desired him to proceed to Versailles and assist in the negotiations then making for peace. He joined the commissioners, and signed the provisional treaty. His confinement in the Tower injured his health, and, after his return to Charleston, it gradually failed, until the eighth of December, 1792, when he expired, near the close of his sixty-ninth year. His will concluded with the following request, which was complied with: "I solemnly enjoin it on my son as an indispensable duty, that, as soon as he conveniently can after my decease, he cause my body to be wrapped in twelve yards of tow cloth, and burned until it be entirely consumed, and then, collecting my bones, deposit them wherever he may think proper."
14 At this time his son, Colonel John Laurens, who was afterward killed on the Combahee (see page 572, volume ii.), was at the court of France, a special minister sent by Congress to solicit a loan of money and supplies. He arrived there in the Alliance early in the spring of 1781. He immediately entered upon the duties of his mission with all the ardor of his nature, and soon became impatient of time delays which he experienced on the part of the French ministry. In earnestly pressing his suit with Vergennes one day, that adroit diplomatist reminded him that perhaps he had forgotten that he was not delivering the orders of his commander-in-chief, but addressing the minister of a monarch who had every disposition to favor his country. Laurens withdrew to the opposite side of the room, and replied with emphasis, "Favor, sir! The respect which I owe to my country will not admit the term. Say that the obligation is mutual, and I cheerfully subscribe to the obligation. But as the last argument I shall offer to your excellency, the sword which I now wear in defense of France, as well as my own country, unless the succor I solicit is immediately accorded, I may be compelled, within a short time, to draw against France as a British subject. I must now inform your excellency that my next memorial will be presented to his majesty in person." This bold reply had great effect upon Vergennes, for the reconciliation of Great Britain and the United States he most dreaded. True to his promise, Laurens attended at the audience-chamber of the king the next day, and presented his memorial in person to his majesty. It was handed to Count Segur, and on the following day Laurens was officially informed that the required aid should he given. The succor came, and in the autumn, by the assistance of French funds, and French soldiers and seamen, Cornwallis was captured, and the death blow of British power in America was given.
15 Three separate loans were finally effected, amounting in the aggregate to one million seven hundred thousand dollars.
NEXT - HOME
Transcription and html prepared by Bill Carr, last updated 07/02/2001.
Please provide me with any feedback you may have concerning errors in the transcription or any supplementary information concerning the email@example.com
Copyright Notice: Copyright 2001. All files on this site are copyrighted by their creator. They may be linked to but may not be reproduced on another site without the specific permission of their creator. Although public