- The Life of John Adams.
- Preliminary. Respecting the Family of Adams.
- Chapter I.: Education of Mr. Adams—school At Worcester—choice of a Profession.
- Chapter II.: Study and Practice of the Law Until March, 1770.
- Chapter III.: The Boston Massacre—defence of the Soldiers—relations to the Patriots Down to June, 1774.
- Chapter IV.: Entrance Into Public Life—the Congress of 1774—services From That Time Until the Declaration of Independence.
- Chapter V.: Conference With Lord Howe—origin of Parties—foreign and Domestic Policy—services In Congress, From July, 1776, Until November, 1777.
- Chapter VI.: Commission to France—services In Forming a Constitution For Massachusetts—commission to Negotiate Treaties With Great Britain—the Mediation of Russia and Austria—negotiations In Holland.
- Chapter VII.: The Negotiation and Signature of the Treaty of Peace With Great Britain.
- Chapter VIII.: Illness In Europe—commercial Treaties—mission to the Court of Great Britain.
- Chapter IX.: Organization of the New Government—election and Services As Vice-president of the United States.
- Chapter X.: The Presidency.
- Chapter XI.: Retirement From Public Life—occupations—relations With Jefferson—death.
- To Samuel Quincy.
- B.: (page 320.) Extract From the Boston Patriot, 15 May, 1811.
- C.: (page 377.) From the Boston Patriot, 23 October, 1811.
- D.: (page 393.) From the Boston Patriot, 21 August, 1811.
- E.: (page 394.) Extracts From the “moniteur Universel.” No. 358. Dimanche, DÉcembre 23, 1792.
- F.: (page 398.)
- G.: (page 523.)
Considering the circumstances by which Mr. Adams was surrounded, his early papers are much the most remarkable of his life. Since this volume was completed, a copy of the following letter taken at the time has been received from the hands of the Honorable Josiah Quincy, the nephew of the person to whom it was addressed.
TO SAMUEL QUINCY.
22 April, 1761.
Since you claim a promise, I will perform as well as I can. The letter so long talked of, is but a mouse, though the offspring of a pregnant mountain. However, if amidst the cares of business, the gay diversions of the town, the sweet refreshments of private study, and the joyful expectations of approaching wedlock, you can steal a moment to read a letter from an old country friend, I shall cheerfully transcribe it, such as it is, without the least alteration, or the least labor to connect this preamble to the subsequent purview.
The review of an old letter from you upon original composition and original genius has raised a war in my mind. “Scraps of verse, sayings of philosophers,” the received opinion of the world, and my own reflections upon all, have thrown my imagination into a turmoil like the reign of rumor in Milton, or the jarring elements in Ovid, where
- nulli sua forma manebat.
- Obstabatque aliis aliud,
a picture of which I am determined to draw.
Most writers have represented genius as a rare phenomenon, a Phœnix. Bolingbroke says: “God mingles sometimes, among the societies of men, a few and but a few of those on whom he is graciously pleased to bestow a larger portion of the ethereal spirit than in the ordinary course of his providence he bestows on the sons of men.” Mr. Pope will tell you that this “vivida vis animi is to be found in very few, and that the utmost stretch of study, learning, and industry can never attain to this.” Dr. Cheyne shall distinguish between his quick-thinkers and slow-thinkers, and insinuate that the former are extremely scarce.
We have a becoming reverence for the authority of these writers, and of many others of the same opinion; but we may be allowed to fear that the vanity of the human heart had too great a share in determining these writers to that opinion. The same vanity which gave rise to that strange religious dogma, that God elected a precious few (of which few, however, every man who believed the doctrine is always one) to life eternal, without regard to any foreseen virtue, and reprobated all the rest, without regard to any foreseen vice. A doctrine which, with serious gravity, represents the world as under the government of humor and caprice, and which Hottentots and Mohawks would reject with horror.
If the orthodox doctrine of genius is not so detestable as that of unconditional election, it is not much less invidious nor much less hurtful. One represents eternal life as an unattainable thing without the special favor of the Father, and even with that, attainable by very few, one of a tribe, or two of a nation, and so tends to discourage the practice of virtue. The other represents the talents to excel as extremely scarce, indulged by nature to very few, and unattainable by all the rest, and therefore tends to discourage industry. You and I shall never be persuaded or frightened either by Popes or councils, poets or enthusiasts, to believe that the world of nature, learning, and grace is governed by such arbitrary will or inflexible fatality. We have much higher notions of the efficacy of human endeavors in all cases.
It is not improbable (as some men are taller, stronger, fairer, &c., than others) that some may be, by the constitution of their bodies, more sensible than others; so some may be said to be born with greater geniuses than others, and the middle point between that of the most perfect organization and the least perfect, in a healthy child, that is, not an idiot, nor a monster, is the point of common sense. It is therefore likely there are as many who have more than common sense, and so may be in different degrees denominated great geniuses, as there are who have less, and these, surely, will not by Mr. Pope, my Lord Bolingbroke, or Dr. Cheyne, be thought extremely few. The fallacy seems to lie here. We define genius to be the innate capacity, and then vouchsafe this flattering title only to those few who have been directed, by their birth, education, and lucky accidents, to distinguish themselves in arts and sciences, or in the execution of what the world calls great affairs, instead of planting corn, freighting oysters, and killing deer, the worthy employments in which most great geniuses are engaged; for, in truth, according to that definition, the world swarms with them.
Go down to the market-place, and inquire of the first butcher you see about his birth, education, and the fortunes of his life, and in the course of his rude history you will find as many instances of invention (Mr. Pope’s criterion of genius) as you will find in the works of most of the celebrated poets. Go on board an oyster-boat and converse with the skipper; he will relate as many instances of invention, and intrepidity, too, as you will find in the lives of many British admirals who shine in history as the ornaments of their country. Inquire of a gunner in Braintree Bay, or of a hunter upon the frontiers of this province, and you will hear of as many artful devices to take their game as you will read in the lives of Cæsar, or Charles, or Frederick. And as genius is more common, it seems to me it is much more powerful than is generally thought. For this mighty favor of nature, of which the poets and orators, philosophers and legislators of the world have been in all ages so proud, and which has been represented as sufficient of itself to the formation of all those characters, is so far otherwise that if you pick out your great men from Greek or Roman, and from English history, and suppose them born and bred in Esquimanx or Caffraria, Patagonia or Lapland, no man would imagine that any great effects from their genius would have appeared.
Mr. Pope tells us that De la Motte confesses, in whatever age Homer had lived, he must have been the greatest poet of his nation; but, in my humble opinion, Mr. Waller was nearer the truth, when he said that, in certain circumstances,
- “The conqueror of the world had been
- But the first wrestler on the green.”
The gods sell all things to industry, and invention among the rest. The sequel upon industry you may possibly have some time or other, but remember it is not promised by
The following copy of Dr. Franklin’s letter to Thomas Cushing was probably taken by Mr. Adams, whilst the papers that accompanied it, one of which he also copied, were in his possession, during the month of April, 1773. It is given exactly as it was found. The discrepancy between it and the printed form is curious, though not so extensive as often occurs in letters written by the active men of the Revolution. It may easily be accounted for by the practice, not uncommon at that time, of preserving only the first draft, without being careful to insert the amendments and additions introduced into the perfect copy. In this way, many of Mr. Adams’s earlier letters have been found to vary from the forms which he was in the habit of writing first in a book. The same practice probably gave occasion to the questions lately made of the authenticity of some of Washington’s letters. Indeed, the various readings of the revolutionary manuscripts bid fair, in time, to form a body of literature, as large as those of the ancient classics.
But these diversities may not be all owing to the authors. Some of them will doubtless be traced to the printer. In one material instance, this is certainly the case here; an instance, it may be observed, in which the error has been already rectified by Mr. Bancroft in his history; the substitution of the word work for wrath.
London, [ ] 177[Editor: missing number]
I embrace this opportunity to acquaint you that there is lately fallen into my hands part of a correspondence, that I have reason to believe laid the foundation of most, if not all, our present grievances. I am not at liberty to tell through what channel I received it; and I have engaged that it shall not be printed, nor copies taken of it, or any part of it; but I am allowed [and desired ] to let it be seen by some men of worth in the Province, for their satisfaction only. In confidence of your preserving inviolably my engagements, I send you inclosed the original letters, to obviate every pretence of unfairness in copying, interpolation, or omission. The hands of the gentlemen will be well known. Possibly, they may not like such an exposal of their conduct, however tenderly and privately it may be managed. But if they are good men, and agree that all good men wish a good understanding and harmony to subsist between the Colonies and their mother country, they ought the less to regret that, at the small expense of their reputation for sincerity and public spirit among their compatriots, so desirable an event may in some degree be forwarded.
For my own part, I cannot but acknowledge that my resentment against this country, for its arbitrary measures in governing us, conducted by the late minister, has, since my conviction by these papers that those measures were projected, advised, and called for by men of character among ourselves, and whose advice must, therefore, be attended with all the weight that was proper to mislead, and which would therefore scarce fail of misleading;—my own resentment, I say, has by this means been considerably abated. [I therefore wish I was ] at liberty to make the letters public; [but as I am not,] I can allow them to be seen by yourself, by Messrs. Bowdoin and Pitts, of the council, and Dr. Chauncy, Cooper, and Winthrop, with a few such other gentlemen as you may think it fit to show them to. After being some months in your possession, you are requested to return them to me.
As to the writers, I can easily as well as charitably conceive it possible that [a man, ] educated in prepossession of the unbounded authority of parliament, &c., may think unjustifiable every opposition even to its unconstitutional exactions, and imagine it their duty to suppress, as much as in them lies, such oppositions. But, when I find them bartering away the liberties of their native country for posts, and negotiating for salaries and pensions, [for which the money is to be squeezed ] from the people; and conscious of the odium these might be attended with, calling for troops to protect and secure the enjoyment of them; when I see them exciting jealousies in the Crown, and provoking it to wrath against [a great part of its ] faithful subjects; creating enmities between the different countries of which the empire consists; occasioning a great expense to the new country for the payment of needless gratifications to useless officers and enemies; and to the old for suppressing or preventing imaginary rebellions in the new: I cannot but doubt their sincerity even in the political principles they profess; and deem them mere time-servers, seeking their own private emolument, through any quantity of public mischief; betrayers of the interest, not of their native country only, but of the government they pretend to serve, and of the whole English empire.
With the greatest esteem and respect,
I remain your most humble servant.
EXTRACT FROM THE BOSTON PATRIOT, 15 MAY, 1811.
That Dr. Franklin wrote many other letters with the same benevolent sentiments, and with a view to the same effect, is very probable, but I never made any inquiry after them, as all things were finally settled to my satisfaction, and I had other business of more importance to engage me. One other letter I know he wrote, for I have seen it, more severe than this; and I regret that I have not a copy of it to send you. One sentence only I remember, and that may serve to designate it. For I know that copies of these letters were scattered about the States, some of which are now in Boston. The sentence I mean is this: “Mr. Adams is always an honest man, and often a wise one, but he is sometimes completely out of his senses.”
I hope your readers will indulge me while I make a few observations on these letters.
1. In the Count de Vergennes’s first letter to Dr. Franklin, that of the 30th of June, 1780, it appears that Dr. Franklin had requested the Count to revoke the orders which had been sent to the French minister at Philadelphia, relative to the resolution of congress of the 18th of March, for redeeming the paper money at forty for one, and this request is stated to be at the invitation of Mr. Adams.
Now I have no remembrance of any such invitation. It is impossible for me to recollect all the transient conversations I have had with Dr. Franklin in the seven years’ intimate acquaintance that I had with him in Europe. But as the resolution of congress, and the offence the Count took at it, and the orders he had given to the Chevalier de la Luzerne to apply to congress for a payment of all paper money in possession of Frenchmen at dollar for dollar, were in everybody’s mouth, it is extremely probable that I might say to Dr. Franklin, in private conversation, that I was apprehensive of very ill consequences from those orders, that they might excite disputes and heats in congress and in the nation which would excite suspicions between the two countries, and weaken the confidence in the alliance. And, I might add, that I thought some representation ought to be made to the Count, showing the unreasonableness of those orders, and that they were not well founded. But it is not likely that I authorized Dr. Franklin to make use of my name.
2. But if I had, the question arises, did Dr. Franklin believe those orders to be just or unjust? If he thought them just, he ought not to have applied to the Count to repeal them, though Mr. Adams and twenty other Americans had invited him to do so. If he thought them unjust, he ought to have made his own candid representation, and request to have them repealed; and Mr. Adams’s opinion, though in coincidence with his own, would have made no addition to the influence of that request, because Mr. Adams’s opinion was sufficiently known before. Why, then, was Mr. Adams’s name brought into view? As Mr. Lovell hinted, the truth in this case lies not at the bottom of a deep well.
3. Is there not a gross inconsistency in demanding or requesting the Count to recall his orders, if Dr. Franklin did not himself think they ought to be recalled? And is there not a consummate absurdity in demanding a repeal of those orders, at Mr. Adams’s invitation, if he thought Mr. Adams’s invitation ill-founded? Why, then, did not Dr. Franklin express candidly and decidedly his own opinion of the rectitude or obliquity of the orders and the justice of Mr. Adams’s invitation, or the impropriety of it? Is it possible to read this grave and clumsy intrigue without feeling the ridicule and satire of it?
4. Is it possible to believe that Dr. Franklin was so ignorant as not to see the iniquity of the French claim of silver dollar for paper dollar, when American citizens were to receive but one for forty? He had experience enough of paper money in New England, in Pennsylvania, and in the continental currency, to know its nature. Had he not sagacity enough to perceive the millions of frauds that would be practised under this distinction? That every man who possessed paper money would be glad to hire a Frenchman to take it and demand the silver for it as his own? Did he not see the jealousies, the envy and the execrations which would be excited among all American citizens against all Frenchmen, by such an arbitrary and oppressive distinction in their favor? The answer is very obvious. Such candor would have defeated the whole plot.
5. The Count de Vergennes mentions a letter from me to him of the 22d of June, 1780, in answer to one from his Excellency, but he makes no essay to answer any of the arguments in that letter. He denies none of the facts. He shows none of the reasoning to be inconclusive. He shows no inference or conclusion to be unfairly drawn. All this was impossible, and an attempt to do it would only have rendered him or his clerks, who probably wrote the letter for him, ridiculous. And this was very possibly one cause of his anger. He saw his project so clearly and fairly stated, so irrefragably refuted, and the iniquity and absurdity of it so fully, and yet so candidly and decently demonstrated, that he was ashamed of it. But having previously and rashly sent his instructions to the Chevalier de la Luzerne, he had it not in his power to recall them, and was too proud to retract them. No. Reason was to be overborne by authority. The great character of the Count de Vergennes, the great respect for the court of Versailles, the gratitude of America to France, all reinforced by Dr. Franklin’s overbearing fame, were to carry all before them. And the dogmatical pomposity of ‘longue discussion,’ ‘raisonnements abstraits,’ ‘des hypothèses,’ ‘des calculs qui n’ont que des bases idéales,’ ‘des principes qui ne sont rien moins qu’analogues à l’alliance,’ were to refute mathematical demonstration, and prove that, in the case of a Frenchman, one was equal to forty, though in the case of an American, forty were necessary to an equation with forty.
6. The Count, and he says the King, was persuaded that the Doctor was fully of opinion with him; that is to say, in favor of the orders. How did he know this? The Doctor had expressly, and in writing, demanded or requested a repeal of the orders, which implied, if it did not express, that he thought them wrong. Did he think Dr. Franklin a hypocrite, demanding a repeal of orders that he thought wise and upright? Or did he think Dr. Franklin a tool of Mr. Adams’s, prostituting the sacred character of an ambassador in complaisance to him, or in fear of his influence? No. The Count knew full well, before this time, that the Doctor had no such complaisance for Mr. Adams, nor any such fear of him. No. There is no conceivable way of accounting for this strange phenomenon, but by supposing that the whole business was previously concerted between the minister and the ambassador, to crush Mr. Adams and get possession of his commission for peace. No expression can be too vulgar for so low an intrigue, for so base a trick. It was an enormous beetle to kill a fly. It must be acknowledged that no beetle was ever more clumsily constructed or more unskilfully wielded.
They wholly misconceived the character of that congress whom they meant to manage. Not a member of it was deceived. The artifice was seen by every one; and, although their fortitude did not prove quite equal to their sagacity, their zeal to please the French produced but two resolutions at that time to make America or Mr. Lovell blush. And one of these errors was afterwards completely rectified by Mr. Adams, with the aid of Mr. Jay, though at the hazard of censure. The other was never corrected. I mean the annihilation of the commission for a treaty of commerce with England.
7. I know of no right that any government has to require of an ambassador from a foreign power to transmit to his constituents any complaints against his colleagues, much less to write libels against them. France had an ambassador at congress. It was quite sufficient to transmit complaints to their own minister and order him to present them. They had no claim upon Franklin. He proved himself, however, a willing auxiliary, but it was at the expense of his duty and his character. If he had been explicitly censured for it by congress, it would not have been unjust. He has been censured for it by all who ever understood the transaction; and justice to myself and my posterity, justice to my country, and fidelity to every principle of truth, honor, and public and private virtue will justify me in explaining this dark transaction to posterity.
8. The Count did not find congress “imbu d’autres principes que ceux de M. Adams.” Congress, by a unanimous resolution, which will stand forever upon its records, approved of my part of this correspondence in opposition to all the representations of the Count, the Doctor, the Chevalier, and M. Marbois, whatever they might be.
9. It seems that the Count was not perfectly satisfied that his first letter, of the 30th of June, and the Doctor’s representations to congress in obedience to it, would be sufficient to accomplish all his purposes. This thunderbolt, flaming and deadly as it was, must be followed by another still more loud and terrible, to bellow throughout America, and, consequently, over all the world. On the 31st of July, 1780, he writes another letter to Dr. Franklin, in which he more distinctly explains his design and desire to get Mr. Adams removed from his commission for peace. He incloses fresh copies of our correspondence, and in his own name, not now in the king’s name, desires that they may be sent to congress. The king’s approbation of this letter, I have reason to believe, could not have been obtained. For I know that after this correspondence had been laid before the king, his majesty made particular inquiries concerning the character of Mr. Adams, of the Count de Rochambeau and the Marquis de Lafayette, among others, and said to both of them, at different times, that “he had a great esteem of Mr. Adams.” Congress, however, were to have line upon line, and precept upon precept. I had transmitted copies of all the letters as fast as they were written. The Count had transmitted copies before the 30th of June. Dr. Franklin transmitted copies immediately afterwards, and now, the 31st of July, fresh copies were to be sent. Copies enough! for I had sent duplicates and triplicates.
10. The opinions of which the Count complains, were founded in eternal truth and justice; and were unanimously adjudged to be so by congress. The turn or manner which offended him was not adopted, in the smallest degree, until he had given me provocations which human nature could not pass unnoticed with honor. And I have never heard of one member of congress, nor any other gentleman who ever read the letters, who thought any of my expressions too strong or unguarded, or that they could be construed in any degree so justly offensive as many of his expressions to me, previously given without provocation. I had the advice and approbation of Chief Justice Dana, then with me as secretary of the legation for peace, to every clause and word in the whole correspondence. He said the Count neither wrote like a gentleman himself, nor treated me like a gentleman; and that it was indispensably necessary that we should show him that we had some understanding and some feeling.
The expressions “that congress may judge whether Mr. Adams is endowed with the spirit of conciliation which becomes a business so important and delicate as that which is confided to him,” brought the matter home to the business and bosoms of congress. The design could no longer be concealed. I had no other business at that time confided to me but my commissions for peace and a treaty of commerce with Great Britain. The latter he intended to destroy, and in this he succeeded.
11. We are now arrived at Dr. Franklin’s letter to congress of the 9th of August, 1780. To any man who thoroughly knew that philosopher and politician, this letter is as perfect a portrait of his character as the pencil of Stuart could have painted of his face or figure. I shall leave the most of its features to the reader’s inspection and contemplation, and point only at a few.
I shall not object to the expression, “Mr. Adams has given offence to this court,” though the Count de Vergennes was the only member of it who ever manifested any resentment that came to my knowledge. The behavior of the King, the Queen, and all the royal family, as well as of all the other ministers of State and all their commis, was the same towards me after as before this controversy; and the Count himself never expressed to me personally the least uneasiness. And no very long period passed away, before he thought it necessary, or prudent, or politic, without the smallest concession or apology on my part, to overwhelm me with attentions and civilities, not only in his own person, but by his amiable Countess.
12. I have never been able to see “the duty” of a minister to complain to congress of an offence given by a brother minister to a foreign court. If the offence is so slight that the court itself thinks it unnecessary to complain of it, the minister, surely, is not obliged officially to interfere. If it is grave enough for the court to complain, its own ambassador is the proper channel through which to convey the accusation, which, if it is well founded, will very rarely, if ever, fail of producing its desired effect.
13. Nor was I ever convinced of the right of a court to require, or of a minister of State to desire an ambassador to become their auxiliary in a quarrel with his brother. It has ever appeared unjust as well as ungenerous to excite quarrels between two ministers from the same master, two brothers of the same family, on account of disputes between the court or minister and one of them. A court is always competent to vindicate its own quarrels with an ambassador, if it is in the right.
14. Dr. Franklin’s “reluctance” upon this occasion, I believe, was not implicitly believed by congress, if it was by any individual member of that sagacious body. Sure I am that I have never given the smallest credit to it. The majority, at least, of that congress, if not every member of it, saw, as I have always seen, that it was Dr. Franklin’s heart’s desire to avail himself of these means and this opportunity to strike Mr. Adams out of existence as a public minister, and get himself into his place.
15. As early as the month of June or July, 1778, within three or four months after my first arrival in France, I had written to my most intimate friends in congress, particularly and largely to Mr. Samuel Adams, the same sentiments which Dr. Franklin says he had written to Mr. Lovell, recommending that two of us should be recalled, or sent elsewhere. My letter was shown to Mr. Richard Henry Lee and all his friends, who joined cordially in the removal of his brother Arthur Lee and me, and in the appointment of Dr. Franklin as sole minister at the court of Versailles. Mr. Richard Henry Lee wrote me at the time, that he had read my letter, and entirely agreed with me in the sentiments of it. I was, therefore, sufficiently aware of the inconveniences Dr. Franklin mentioned, and endeavored to the utmost of my power to avoid them. I had seen opposition and contention and confusion enough between Dr. Franklin, Mr. Lee, and Mr. Izard, and enough of the ruinous effects of them to be put sufficiently upon my guard. But there is not a possibility of guarding against all the insidious wiles of intriguing politicians. If a man can preserve his integrity and the essential interest of his country, he will do great things. He must expect to expose his person to dangers, and his reputation to obloquy and calumny in abundance.
16. Next comes a paragraph, which is a downright falsehood. I cannot say that the Doctor knew it to be false. But it is very strange if he did not, for his intimate friend, Mr. Chaumont, in whose house he lived, and whom he saw almost every day, and Mr. Monthieu, another of his intimate friends, knew better. And it is very unaccountable that they had not informed him of a transaction in which they were both employed by the Count de Vergennes, in which they were animated with so much zeal and personal interest. But I will charitably suppose that he was sincere and believed what he said, which is no small concession. Let us analyze this curious assertion.
“Mr. Adams’s proper business is elsewhere.” Where was his proper business? Should he have gone to London, as Lord North said he wished I had? If I had, and my character as an ambassador had been respected, and myself not beheaded on Tower Hill, nor thrown into prison as Mr. Laurens was, long afterwards, would not my residence in London, besides being intolerably disagreeable to me, have been a perpetual source of jealousy to the French court and nation?
Should I have gone to Madrid? Spain had not acknowledged our independence. And, besides, Mr. Jay was sent to Spain, and there would have been the same room for jealousy of my interfering with his negotiations, as there was at Paris.
Should I have gone to Holland? There I wanted to go, and had always intended to go, as soon as I had paid my respects to the French court, informed them of my desire to go, and obtained their consent and their passport, without which I could not stir. I arrived in Paris in February, was presented to the King in my new character, communicated my mission to the Count de Vergennes, and in one fortnight, certainly in one month, early in the month of March, I applied to the Count for a passport to Holland, where I wished to go as a traveller. His Excellency was very much averse to my going; said perhaps he should have to consult with me upon subjects relative to my mission, desired I would come to court at least weekly on ambassador’s days, and dine with him. At least, he desired I would postpone my journey for some time, and advised me to stay till the month of May, when he said I should see the country in all its beauty and glory. I repeated my request from time to time, but was always put off till May, when I applied again, but was still evaded. He was not quite ready to let me go, and in this manner I was refused a passport till midsummer. And then I should not probably have obtained it, if the controversy which arose had not made him wish to get rid of me. This controversy arose in the following manner.
After the arrival of the news from America of the resolution of congress of the 18th of March, 1780, for the redemption of the paper money at forty for one, which perhaps would have been more justly redeemed at seventy for one, M. Leray de Chaumont, Dr. Franklin’s landlord and intimate friend and companion, and M. Monthieu, another of his intimate friends, came to visit me in my apartments at the Hotel de Valois, Rue de Richelieu, in Paris, and informed me that they came to me at the request of the Count de Vergennes, who wished to see me and consult with me concerning that resolution of congress which they said had excited a sensation in France, and an alarm at court. These gentlemen were personally, and, as they said, deeply interested in this question of paper money, and entered into a great deal of conversation with me upon the subject. I endeavored to show them the equity, the policy, and the necessity of the measure, and the difficulty, if not impossibility, of making any distinction between natives and foreigners, as well as between Frenchmen and other foreigners. All this conversation passed with the utmost coolness, civility, and good-humor on all sides, and concluded with a message from the Count de Vergennes, requesting me to go to Versailles, and confer with him on the subject. The next morning I went. The Count received me politely, as usual, and informed me that he had written to the Chevalier de la Luzerne, to apply to congress for a repeal of their resolution of the 18th of March, relative to paper money; or at least as far as it respected foreigners, and especially Frenchmen. I answered his Excellency very respectfully and very calmly, endeavoring to explain to him as well as I was able the nature of the subject, the necessity of the measure, and the difficulty and the danger of making any distinctions in favor of foreigners. The conversation was long, and though the Count was very earnest and zealous for a distinction in favor of his nation, it was very decent and civil on both sides. Upon my saying that I knew not whether I had been able to explain myself to his Excellency in French, so as to be perfectly understood, he said he would write to me, for he said he wanted me to join him in his representations to congress. Accordingly, in a few days, I received his letter, proposing and recommending all the things which he mentioned to me in conversation. I might easily have been as wise upon this occasion as Dr. Franklin, and transmitted the Count’s letter to congress, and recommended it to their serious consideration, and, in my answer to the Count, have informed him that I had done so, without expressing any opinion of my own in writing either to congress or his Excellency. But such duplicity was not in my character. I thought it my indispensable duty to my country and to congress, to France and the Count himself, to be explicit. I answered his letter with entire respect and decency, but with perspicuity and precision, expressing my own judgment upon the subject, with the reasons on which it was founded. As I could see no practicability of any distinction of all I mentioned now, but I thought, if any was equitable, it would be in favor of American soldiers and early creditors, who had lent gold to the United States, and not in favor of foreigners who had sold nothing in America till the currency had depreciated, and who had sold, perhaps, most of their merchandises after it had undergone its lowest depreciation. However, upon the receipt of my letter the Count fell into a passion, and wrote me a passionate and ungentlemanly reply. I was piqued a little, and wrote him, as I thought, a decent, though, in a few expressions, a gently tingling rejoinder. This was insufferable; and now, both the Count and the Doctor, I suppose, thought they had got enough to demolish me, and get my commission. And I doubt not the Count was sanguine enough to hope that he had got our fisheries, our limits, and a truce secured to his mind, though the Doctor, I believe, did not extend his views and wishes so far. He aimed, I presume, only at the commission.
I now leave your readers to judge whether the Doctor had sufficient reason to complain to congress against me for officially intermeddling in his department; and this from ennui and idleness. I never in my life was more busily employed; for, the three or four months that I was detained in Paris, wholly against my will, by the Count de Vergennes himself, I had to improve myself in the French language, to which, two years before, I was an entire stranger. I had the French laws and government, customs, institutions, literature, principles and manners to study. I had innumerable volumes to read of former and later negotiations, besides making every possibly inquiry concerning every thing that could have relation to my mission for peace. I had not a moment to spare, and always occupations much more agreeable to me than any thing that was to be said or done in Dr. Franklin’s political department. This affair of the currency was no more in his department than it was in mine or the Count de Vergennes’s. Neither of us had any instructions concerning it, but as private citizens, and when the Count asked me any question about it, I had as good a right to answer him as the Doctor had. It is true, I did not show my letters to the Doctor. I was not desired by the Count to consult with him. I had no doubt upon the subject. From a year’s residence with him, in 1778 and 1779, in the same family, I knew his extreme indolence and dissipation, and, consequently, that I might call upon him half a dozen times and not find him at home; and if I found him, it might be a week before I could get his opinion, and perhaps never.
17. “He thinks that America has been too free in expressions of gratitude to France; for that she is more obliged to us than we to her.” I cannot, or at least will not deny this accusation, for it was my opinion at that time, has been ever since, and is so now. Whether it was prudent at that time to express such an opinion is a question. I am not accused of saying it to any Frenchman, and I am satisfied I had not. Dr. Franklin might have complained of it to the Count, for any thing that I knew, as well as to congress, but that was his indiscretion. Conversations in private, in the freedom and familiarity of friendship and social intercourse, are not innocently to be betrayed for malicious purposes. If I had written to congress all the indiscreet sayings of Dr. Franklin that I have heard him utter, I might have rendered him very odious and very ridiculous in America. I will give one example very much to the present purpose, because it explains the system of his conduct. He has said to me, not only once or twice, but many times, that congress were out in their policy in sending so many ministers to several courts in Europe; that all their affairs in Europe ought to be under one direction, and that the French court ought to be the centre; that one minister was quite sufficient for all American affairs in Europe! It is not at all unlikely to me that he had expressed the same opinion to the Count and to many of his friends. I do not know, however, that he did. This sentiment, however, appears as extravagantly complaisant to the French and to himself, as mine can be thought extravagantly complaisant to America. If I had transmitted this wise saying, and many others, of the great philosopher to congress, it would have transpired, and the people as well as congress have thought him very ambitious, very licentious, and very eager and grasping at power. The wits might have recollected the solemn saying of Tamerlane, that “it was neither agreeable nor decent that there should be two kings upon earth; for that the whole globe was too small for the ambition of a great prince.”
18. “He thinks that we should show spirit.” “I apprehend he mistakes his ground, and that this court is to be treated with decency and delicacy.” Spirit and delicacy are very compatible. But here lies the sophistry of the false accuser. He has put the sentiment into obnoxious language of his own, to excite a prejudice against me. But all the sentiment that I ever expressed of this kind was common to the two Mr. Lees, to Mr. Izard, to Mr. Jay, to Mr. Dana, and every other honest man from America I ever acted or conversed with in Europe. The sentiment was that we ought not to be wheedled out of our rights, nor pillaged of the little money we borrowed for the necessities of our country, by a multitude of little agents of ministers or underlings of those agents; in short, in modern language, by intriguing X’s Y’s, and Z’s, for there were such letters in the alphabet under the royal government as there have been since under the directorial republic. I thought, with all those wise and upright ministers just named, that we ought to be candid and explicit with the French ministry, and represent to them that we acted for a young and virtuous republic, but not as yet rich; frugal and parsimonious, even perhaps to a fault, of their public money; and that we never could justify either negligence or profusion. I thought, with every one of those gentlemen, that Dr. Franklin and Mr. Deane had been too compliant and too servile to those little stirring bodies, and, in plain English, had suffered our country to be cheated, shamefully cheated, to a large amount.
19. “The King, a young and virtuous prince, has a pleasure in reflecting on the generous benevolence of the action,” &c.
In this I agree with Dr. Franklin. The king was the best and sincerest friend we had in France, and would not have suffered us to be injured or deceived. But kings are surrounded by others, arranged in a great scale of subordination, some of whom, by force or art, will do what they please; and kings, as Louis the Fifteenth often said, though they know it to be wrong, cannot help it.
20. “M. de Vergennes, who appears much offended, told me yesterday, that he would enter into no further discussions with Mr. Adams, nor answer any more of his letters.”
This, no doubt, the Doctor thought was the finishing stroke. The argument was irresistible. The Count will neither speak nor write to Mr. Adams. The Count is to be the pacificator of the four quarters of the world. The American minister must consult the Count upon every point, and agree to nothing without his advice and consent. Mr. Adams, therefore, can never consult him or get his advice and consent to any thing. The consequence is certain, Mr. Adams must be recalled. And, no doubt, another consequence is equally clear, and that is, that Dr. Franklin will be appointed to the place; for he is on the spot, and will be always ready to consult, to take advice, and to ask consent. And, moreover, who in the world has such a name as Dr. Franklin?
21. “He says the ideas of this court and those of the people of America are so totally different that it is impossible for any minister to please both.” Nothing is more probable than that I had said as much as this a hundred times to Dr. Franklin, when I lived with him and acted with him under the same commission in 1778 and 1779; for scarcely any thing pressed more heavily upon my mind. I knew it to be true. I knew it to be impossible to give any kind of satisfaction to our constituents, that is, to congress or their constituents, while we consented or connived at such irregular transactions, such arbitrary proceedings, and such contemptible peculations as had been practised in Mr. Deane’s time, not only while he was in France, alone, without any public character, but even while he was associated with Dr. Franklin and Mr. Arthur Lee in a real commission, and which were continued in some degree, while I was combined in the commission with Franklin and Lee, in spite of all the opposition and remonstrances that Lee and I could make; and which were still continued in some degree, though in nothing more atrocious than this new attempt to make America pay their French friends dollar for dollar.
It would require volumes to give a history of these abuses. A few of them may be hinted at. Du Coudray’s contract for a hundred officers of artillery, at extravagant pay during the war and half pay for life, with Du Coudray at their head, to take rank of all the officers in our army, except the commander-in-chief, to receive no orders but from him, and to have the command of all the artillery and military manufactures throughout the continent. Though congress could not think a moment of confirming this contract, it cost them an immense sum for the pay and passages of these officers to this country and back to France. The other contract for old magazines of muskets, swords, and bayonets, which were found to be useless, though they cost a large sum of money. The scheme that was laid to get Marshal Maillebois appointed commander-in-chief of the American army, in the room of General Washington, &c., &c., &c.
I thought the statesmen in France ought to have more generous views and to be wiser politicians than such symptoms indicated; that they ought to know better the people they had to deal with; that they ought to avoid every thing that could excite jealousies in America, lessen the gratitude of our citizens, and weaken or destroy their confidence in France. These sentiments I always expressed freely to Dr. Franklin, and it is for want of attention to these sentiments that we have been more than once in danger of a war with France; as we have been very lately, if we are not at this moment. Though a war with France may become inevitable, as it has been partially, in 1798, I own I know of no greater error that France can commit than to force us into a war with her, nor any greater calamity that America can suffer than to be forced into a war with France, and an alliance, offensive and defensive, with Great Britain. This opinion and this sentiment determined me to embrace the first opportunity that presented in 1798, 1799, and 1800, consistent with the honor of the nation, to make peace with France. I should not have thought this of so much importance at that time, if I had not been apprehensive that the British party would force us into an alliance with Great Britain, our perpetual rival in commerce and manufactures all over the globe, and the natural as well as habitual enemy of the United States, especially of New England.
22. If the Count did in reality tell the Doctor, “that he would enter into no further discussions with Mr. Adams, nor answer any more of his letters,” the Count was compelled, a year afterwards, to send for Mr. Adams to the Hague, to invite him to Versailles, to enter into discussions with him and to answer his letters, and, I will add, to treat him with more marked attention and studied civilities than ever he had done, as has been in part related before, in the account of the correspondence upon the articles proposed by the two mediating powers.
23. “He” (Mr. Adams) “is gone to Holland to try, as he told me, whether something might not be done to render us a little less dependent on France.”
It is difficult to read this accusation, grave and solemn as it is, without a smile. Yes! It is highly probable that I said to Dr. Franklin, more than once or twice, that I thought we might, and hoped we should, be able to borrow a little money in Holland, that we might be a little less troublesome and burdensome to France; and something, too, to prevent Holland from joining England in the war against us, which England was determined to compel her to do, which a great part of the Dutch hoped and all the rest feared, and which Europe in general expected. Was this a crime? Was dependence upon France an object of ambition to America? If dependence had been our object, we might have had enough of it without solicitation, under England. Was France avaricious of a monopoly of our dependence? The Count de Vergennes was, I believe; but I never suspected it of the King, or any other of his ministers or any other Frenchman, but the secretary of foreign affairs and perhaps a few of his confidential dependents. But this exclusive dependence was a material, an essential part of that strange and ungenerous system of finesse, I cannot call it policy, towards America, which the Count had combined and presented in a memorial to the King before our Revolution, which was found among M. Turgot’s papers, I believe, and printed by the National Assembly many years after the peace of 1783, in a volume called “Politique de tous les cabinets de l’Europe.” This system he pursued from first to last, and the publication of it is a confirmation of all that was ever said or thought of the Count by me or Mr. Jay. The Count then might be offended at my journey to Holland, and the design of it; and to irritate him, the Doctor might inform him of it, as he did congress. But congress, instead of taking offence at my plan or reprehending me for entertaining it, or for communicating it to Dr. Franklin, highly approved it, and sent me power to execute it, which must have made the Doctor feel rather unpleasantly, and certainly his letter very ridiculous. In spite of all the Count’s opposition, congress did in fact honorably and perseveringly support me through a very long and very fiery ordeal, till the arts of England were defeated, a treaty ratified, and so much money obtained as made us completely independent of France for that article, from that time to this.
23. The “opinion lately showing itself in Paris, that we seek a difference, and with a view of reconciling ourselves to England,” was and is wholly unknown to me. Who were the Americans who had of late been very indiscreet in their conversations, is not explained, and had not come to my knowledge. I recollect but one, who came over from England in a rage, and cursed and swore in his hotel; but the French conceived no jealousy from him. They considered him as a “Monsieur Jean Bull qui a plus d’argent que de l’esprit,” and cared nothing for his brutality as long as they got his money.
24. I ought not to omit, upon this occasion, to say, because possibly no other person can say it or will say it.—Dr. Franklin has been accused of plagiarism in publishing that very ancient and very ingenious fable in favor of toleration. I have had opportunity to know that the Doctor never claimed the right to it, or pretended that it was his own. It was inserted in his works by an editor or printer in his absence and without his consent.
Surmises have also been insinuated concerning Dr. Franklin, relative to M. Beaumarchais’s claim, and especially the million of livres which the Count de Vergennes called the secret of the cabinet. I have never suspected, but, on the contrary, have always been fully convinced that Dr. Franklin was as innocent in both these transactions as any man in America was. Nor did I ever suspect the Count de Vergennes, at least in the affair of Beaumarchais. I had my suspicion of others; but these surmises were founded on no proof, and were suggested by circumstances that could fix upon no one person, and if they could, would not be sufficient to convict a gypsy of a petty larceny. As I consider the loss as irremediable, I shall say no more. I have considered those subjects as X, Y, and Z intrigues, and that of Beaumarchais at least as mortifying to the Count de Vergeunes as to Dr. Franklin, and as much out of the power of the one as the other to prevent.
25. Mr. Jefferson has said that Dr. Franklin was an honor to human nature. And so, indeed, he was. Had he been an ordinary man, I should never have taken the trouble to expose the turpitude of his intrigues, or to vindicate my reputation against his vilifications and calumnies. But the temple of human nature has two great apartments: the intellectual and the moral. If there is not a mutual friendship and strict alliance between these, degradation to the whole building must be the consequence. There may be blots on the disk of the most refulgent luminary, almost sufficient to eclipse it. And it is of great importance to the rising generation in this country that they be put upon their guard against being dazzled by the surrounding blaze into an idolatry to the spots. If the affable archangel understood the standard of merit, that
Great or bright infers not excellence,
Franklin’s moral character can neither be applauded nor condemned, without discrimination and many limitations.
To all those talents and qualities for the foundation of a great and lasting character, which were held up to the view of the whole world by the university of Oxford, the Royal Society of London, and the Royal Academy of Sciences in Paris, were added, it is believed, more artificial modes of diffusing, celebrating, and exaggerating his reputation, than were ever before or since practised in favor of any individual.
His reputation was more universal than that of Leibnitz or Newton, Frederick or Voltaire, and his character more beloved and esteemed than any or all of them. Newton had astonished perhaps forty or fifty men in Europe; for not more than that number, probably, at any one time had read him and understood him by his discoveries and demonstrations. And these being held in admiration in their respective countries as at the head of the philosophers, had spread among scientific people a mysterious wonder at the genius of this perhaps the greatest man that ever lived. But this fame was confined to men of letters. The common people knew little and cared nothing about such a recluse philosopher. Leibnitz’s name was more confined still. Frederick was hated by more than half of Europe as much as Louis the Fourteenth was, and as Napoleon is. Voltaire, whose name was more universal than any of those before mentioned, was considered as a vain, profligate wit, and not much esteemed or beloved by anybody, though admired by all who knew his works. But Franklin’s fame was universal. His name was familiar to government and people, to kings, courtiers, nobility, clergy, and philosophers, as well as plebeians, to such a degree that there was scarcely a peasant or a citizen, a valet de chambre, coachman or footman, a lady’s chambermaid or a scullion in a kitchen, who was not familiar with it, and who did not consider him as a friend to human kind. When they spoke of him, they seemed to think he was to restore the golden age. They seemed enraptured enough to exclaim
Aspice, venturo lætentur ut omnia sæclo.
To develop that complication of causes, which conspired to produce so singular a phenomenon, is far beyond my means or forces. Perhaps it can never be done without a complete history of the philosophy and politics of the eighteenth century. Such a work would be one of the most important that ever was written; much more interesting to this and future ages than the “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire,” splendid and useful as that is. La Harpe promised a history of the philosophy of the eighteenth century; but he died and left us only a few fragments. Without going back to Lord Herbert, to Hobbes, to Mandeville, or to a host of more obscure infidels, both in England, France, and Germany, it is enough to say that four of the finest writers that Great Britain ever produced, Shaftesbury, Bolingbroke, Hume, and Gibbon, whose labors were translated into all languages, and three of the most eloquent writers that ever lived in France, whose works were also translated into all languages, Voltaire, Rousseau, and Raynal, seem to have made it the study of their lives and the object of their most strenuous exertions, to render mankind in Europe discontented with their situation in life, and with the state of society, both in religion and government. Princes and courtiers as well as citizens and countrymen, clergy as well as laity, became infected. The King of Prussia, the Empress Catherine, were open and undisguised. The Emperor Joseph the Second was suspected, and even the excellent and amiable King of France grew impatient and uneasy under the fatiguing ceremonies of the Catholic church. All these and many more were professed admirers of Mr. Franklin. He was considered as a citizen of the world, a friend to all men and an enemy to none. His rigorous taciturnity was very favorable to this singular felicity. He conversed only with individuals, and freely only with confidential friends. In company he was totally silent.
When the association of Encyclopedists was formed, Mr. Franklin was considered as a friend and zealous promoter of that great enterprise, which engaged all their praises. When the society of economists was commencing, he became one of them, and was solemnly ordained a knight of the order by the laying on the hands of Dr. Quesnay, the father and founder of that sect. This effectually secured the affections and the panegyrics of that numerous society of men of letters. He had been educated a printer, and had practised his art in Boston, Philadelphia, and London for many years, where he not only learned the full power of the press to exalt and to spread a man’s fame, but acquired the intimacy and the correspondence of many men of that profession, with all their editors and many of their correspondents. This whole tribe became enamoured and proud of Mr. Franklin as a member of their body, and were consequently always ready and eager to publish and embellish any panegyric upon him that they could procure. Throughout his whole life he courted and was courted by the printers, editors, and correspondents of reviews, magazines, journals, and pamphleteers, and those little busy meddling scribblers that are always buzzing about the press in America, England, France, and Holland. These, together with some of the clerks in the Count de Vergennes’s office of interpreters, (bureau des interprètes,) filled all the gazettes of Europe with incessant praises of Monsieur Franklin. If a collection could be made of all the Gazettes of Europe for the latter half of the eighteenth century, a greater number of panegyrical paragraphs upon “le grand Franklin” would appear, it is believed, than upon any other man that ever lived.
While he had the singular felicity to enjoy the entire esteem and affection of all the philosophers of every denomination, he was not less regarded by all the sects and denominations of Christians. The Catholics thought him almost a Catholic. The Church of England claimed him as one of them. The Presbyterians thought him half a Presbyterian, and the Friends believed him a wet Quaker. The dissenting clergymen in England and America were among the most distinguished asserters and propagators of his renown. Indeed, all sects considered him, and I believe justly, a friend to unlimited toleration in matters of religion.
Nothing, perhaps, that ever occurred upon this earth was so well calculated to give any man an extensive and universal celebrity as the discovery of the efficacy of iron points and the invention of lightning-rods. The idea was one of the most sublime that ever entered a human imagination, that a mortal should disarm the clouds of heaven, and almost “snatch from his hand the sceptre and the rod.” The ancients would have enrolled him with Bacchus and Ceres, Hercules and Minerva. His Paratonnères erected their heads in all parts of the world, on temples and palaces no less than on cottages of peasants and the habitations of ordinary citizens. These visible objects reminded all men of the name and character of their inventor; and, in the course of time, have not only tranquillized the minds, and dissipated the fears of the tender sex and their timorous children, but have almost annihilated that panic terror and superstitious horror which was once almost universal in violent storms of thunder and lightning. To condense all the rays of this glory to a focus, to sum it up in a single line, to impress it on every mind and transmit it to all posterity, a motto was devised for his picture, and soon became familiar to the memory of every school-boy who understood a word of Latin:—
“Eripuit cœlo fulmen sceptrumque tyrannis.”
Thus it appeared at first, and the author of it was held in a mysterious obscurity. But, after some time, M. Turgot altered it to
“Eripuit cœlo fulmen; mox sceptra tyrannis.”
By the first line, the rulers of Great Britain and their arbitrary oppressions of the Colonies were alone understood. By the second was intimated that Mr. Franklin was soon to destroy or at least to dethrone all kings and abolish all monarchical governments. This, it cannot be disguised, flattered at that time the ruling popular passion of all Europe. It was at first hinted that it was written in Holland; but I have long entertained a suspicion, from many circumstances, that Sir William Jones, who undoubtedly furnished Mr. Franklin with his motto,
“Non sine Diis animosus infans,”
sent him the Eripuit cœlo, and that M. Turgot only added the mox sceptra. Whoever was the author of it, there can be no doubt it was an imitation of a line in a poem on astronomy, written in the age of Tiberius, though it ought not to be called a plagiarism,
Eripuit Jovi fulmen, viresque tonandi.
The general discontents in Europe have not been produced by any increase of the power of kings, for monarchical authority has been greatly diminished in all parts of Europe during the last century, but by the augmentation of the wealth and power of the aristocracies. The great and general extension of commerce has introduced such inequalities of property, that the class of middling people, that great and excellent portion of society upon whom so much of the liberty and prosperity of nations so greatly depends, is almost lost; and the two orders of rich and poor only remain. By this means kings have fallen more into the power and under the direction of the aristocracies, and the middle classes, upon whom kings chiefly depended for support against the encroachments of the nobles and the rich, have failed. The people find themselves burdened now by the rich, and by the power of the crown now commonly wielded by the rich. And as knowledge and education, ever since the Reformation, have been increasing among the common people, they feel their burdens more sensibly, grow impatient under them, and more desirous of throwing them off. The immense revenues of the church, the crowns, and all the great proprietors of land, the armies and navies must all be paid by the people, who groan and stagger under the weight. The few who think and see the progress and tendency of things, have long foreseen that resistance in some shape or other must be resorted to, some time or other. They have not been able to see any resource but in the common people; indeed, in republicanism, and that republicanism must be democracy; because the whole power of the aristocracy, as of the monarchies, aided by the church, must be wielded against them. Hence the popularity of all insurrections against the ordinary authority of government during the last century. Hence the popularity of Pascal Paoli, the Polish insurrections, the American Revolution, and the present struggle in Spain and Portugal. When, where, and in what manner all this will end, God only knows. To this cause Mr. Franklin owed much of his popularity. He was considered to be in his heart no friend to kings, nobles, or prelates. He was thought a profound legislator, and a friend of democracy. He was thought to be the magician who had excited the ignorant Americans to resistance. His mysterious wand had separated the Colonies from Great Britain. He had framed and established all the American constitutions of government, especially all the best of them, i. e. the most democratical. His plans and his example were to abolish monarchy, aristocracy, and hierarchy throughout the world. Such opinions as these were entertained by the Duke de la Rochefoucauld, M. Turgot, M. Condorcet, and a thousand other men of learning and eminence in France, England, Holland, and all the rest of Europe.
Mr. Franklin, however, after all, and notwithstanding all his faults and errors, was a great and eminent benefactor to his country and mankind.
Such was the real character, and so much more formidable was the artificial character of Dr. Franklin, when he entered into partnership with the Count de Vergennes, the most powerful minister of State in Europe, to destroy the character and power of a poor man almost without a name, unknown in the European world, born and educated in the American wilderness, out of which he had never set his foot till 1778. Thanks to the wisdom, virtue, dignity, and fortitude of congress, all their arts were defeated in America. And thanks to the intelligence, integrity, and firmness of Mr. Jay, they were totally disappointed at Paris. For, without his coöperation, no effectual resistance could have been made, as Mr. Jefferson and Mr. Laurens were not present.
A clamor will no doubt be raised, and a horror excited, because Franklin is dead. To this, at present, I shall say no more than that his letters still live, that his enmity to me is recorded in history, and that I never heard it was unlawful to say that Cæsar was ambitious, Cato proud, Cicero vain, Brutus and Seneca as well as Pompey, usurers; or that the divine Socrates gave advice to a courtesan in her trade, and was even suspected of very infamous vices with Alcibiades and other boys,—because they were dead.
Franklin had a great genius, original, sagacious, and inventive, capable of discoveries in science no less than of improvements in the fine arts and the mechanic arts. He had a vast imagination, equal to the comprehension of the greatest objects, and capable of a steady and cool comprehension of them. He had wit at will. He had humor that, when he pleased, was delicate and delightful. He had a satire that was good-natured or caustic, Horace or Juvenal, Swift or Rabelais, at his pleasure. He had talents for irony, allegory, and fable, that he could adapt with great skill to the promotion of moral and political truth. He was master of that infantine simplicity which the French call naïveté, which never fails to charm, in Phædrus and La Fontaine, from the cradle to the grave. Had he been blessed with the same advantages of scholastic education in his early youth, and pursued a course of studies as unembarrassed with occupations of public and private life, as Sir Isaac Newton, he might have emulated the first philosopher. Although I am not ignorant that most of his positions and hypotheses have been controverted, I cannot but think he has added much to the mass of natural knowledge, and contributed largely to the progress of the human mind, both by his own writings and by the controversies and experiments he has excited in all parts of Europe. He had abilities for investigating statistical questions, and in some parts of his life has written pamphlets and essays upon public topics with great ingenuity and success; but after my acquaintance with him, which commenced in congress in 1775, his excellence as a legislator, a politician, or a negotiator most certainly never appeared. No sentiment more weak and superficial was ever avowed by the most absurd philosopher than some of his, particularly one that he procured to be inserted in the first constitution of Pennsylvania, and for which he had such a fondness as to insert it in his will. I call it weak, for so it must have been, or hypocritical; unless he meant by one satiric touch to ridicule his own republic, or throw it into everlasting contempt.
I must acknowledge, after all, that nothing in life has mortified or grieved me more than the necessity which compelled me to oppose him so often as I have. He was a man with whom I always wished to live in friendship, and for that purpose omitted no demonstration of respect, esteem, and veneration in my power, until I had unequivocal proofs of his hatred, for no other reason under the sun, but because I gave my judgment in opposition to his, in many points which materially affected the interests of our country, and in many more which essentially concerned our happiness, safety, and well-being. I could not and would not sacrifice the clearest dictates of my understanding and the purest principles of morals and policy in compliance to Dr. Franklin. When historians shall hereafter inform posterity that Mr. Adams was not beloved by his venerable colleague, it is to be hoped that they will explain this truth by adding, that Mr. Izard, Mr. Lee, Mr. Dana, and many other honest patriots were not beloved by him, and that Mr. Silas Deane and many others of his stamp were beloved by him.
What shall we do with these gentlemen of great souls and vast views, who, without the least tincture of vanity, bonâ fide believe themselves the greatest men in the world, fully qualified and clearly entitled to govern their governors and command their commanders as well as their equals and inferiors, purely for their good and without the smallest interest for themselves? Though it may be true, as Dr. Young says, proud as this world is, there is more superiority in it given than assumed, yet it is certain there is sometimes more assumed than the world is willing to give. Such, unfortunately for Dr. Franklin, was his destiny on this occasion. Instead of disapproving my designs in Holland, congress sanctioned them. Instead of disgracing and crushing me, they heaped upon me fresh proofs of their confidence and affection.
FROM THE BOSTON PATRIOT, 23 OCTOBER, 1811.
When the conferences between the British and American ministers were first opened, or very soon afterwards, the former demanded the cession of the whole Province of Maine. They pretended that it was no part of the Province of the Massachusetts Bay, and therefore no part of the American confederacy; consequently, not included in their commission nor in ours; that the boundary between the United States and the British territory in America must be the Piscataqua River, &c.
This wild pretension was unexpected to us all, I believe. I am sure it was to me. I contented myself with observing, that the Province of Maine had been long incorporated by charter with the Old Colonies of Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay; that they had all been under one government and administration for a century: that the Province of Maine had been in arms against the pretensions of the British ministry and parliament, as long and as ardently as any part of the Union; had contributed her full proportion both of men and money in the whole course of the war; and that the British commissioner might as well claim the town of Boston or the town of Plymouth, as the town of Falmouth, York, or Wells; for all these had alike been represented in congress from 1774 to the present day, and been equally or at least proportionally concerned in electing and maintaining delegates in that great council of the nation. My colleagues promptly and cordially supported me in all these observations, and the English gentlemen did not appear to possess any information to countervail them; but still insisted that they must have the rivers Penobscot and Kennebec within their dominions. From time to time after this, both in private conversations and in public conferences, the English gentlemen contended for Penobscot, Kennebec, and as far as Piscataqua River. There was so much said upon the subject that it began to be a topic of conversation at Versailles, and I was informed that some of the courtiers had received impressions favorable to the British claim. This induced me to carry to Versailles and show to the Comte de Vergennes, (as I have mentioned in the foregoing journal,) the documents containing the authority of the Governors Shirley, Pownall, Bernard, and Hutchinson, in our favor, and directly in contradiction to the present pretensions of Mr. Oswald, Mr. Whitefoord, Mr. Strachey, &c. This precaution, which I took long before I produced any of these documents in our public conferences, silenced all the praters at Versailles, and we heard no more of British pretensions to Penobscot, countenanced at court. Messengers and couriers were continually passing and repassing between Paris and London, from the British ambassadors to the British ministry. One gentleman I have been informed crossed the Channel eight or ten times upon these errands during the negotiation. And whenever a new courier arrived, we were sure to hear some new proposition concerning the Province of Maine. Sometimes the English gentlemen appeared to soften down a little, and to be willing to compromise with us, and to condescend to agree upon Kennebec River as the boundary; and at last they seemed to insinuate that for the sake of peace they might retreat as far as Penobscot. But Penobscot must at all events be theirs. We concluded, from all these appearances, that they had instructions to insist upon this point; but we insisted upon the River St. Croix, which I construed to mean the River St. John’s, for St. John’s had as many holy crosses upon it as any other river in that region, and had as often been called St. Croix River.
One morning, I am not able to say of what day in November, but certainly many days after the commencement of conferences, the British minister introduced to us a special messenger from London, as the oldest clerk in the board of trade and plantations, and a very respectable character. He was sent over by the British cabinet with huge volumes of the original records of the board of trade and plantations, which they would not trust to any other messenger, in order to support their incontestable claim to the Province of Maine. We all treated the gentleman and his records with respect. After the usual ceremonies and salutations were over, the gentleman produced his manuscripts, and pointed to the passages he relied on, and read them.
I said nothing at first; but I thought the British cabinet believed that Dr. Franklin was too much of a philosopher to have been very attentive to these ancient transactions, and that Mr. Adams and Mr. Jay were too young to know any thing about them; and, therefore, that they might, by the venerable figure and imposing title of the most ancient clerk in the board of trade and plantations, and by the pompous appearance of enormous volumes of ancient records, be able to chicane us out of the Province of Maine, or at least to intimidate us into compromise for the River Kennebec, or, at the worst, for Penobscot. When the aged stranger had read for some time in his aged volumes, I observed that I had, at my apartments, documents which I flattered myself would sufficiently explain and refute whatever might be contained in those records, which should be construed or alleged against our right to the Province of Maine, and requested that the deliberation might be postponed till I could produce my books and papers. This was agreed. Accordingly, at the next meeting, I produced my documents.
Here I hope I shall be indulged in a digression, to show what these documents were, and how I became possessed of them.
When in October, 1779, I received from congress my commissions and instructions to treat of peace and commerce with the ministers of his Britannic majesty, and my orders to embark for Europe in order to be there ready to treat whenever negotiations for peace should be opened, I foresaw that there might be much difficulty and discussion in ascertaining the boundary between that part of Massachusetts called the Province of Maine and the British Province of Nova Scotia, and possibly of Canada. To prepare myself against this contingency, I procured the charters of Massachusetts, and a pretty thick quarto volume of the printed negotiations of Mr. Maitland and Governor Shirley in the year 1754, in which many questions, and perhaps all the questions relative to the subject, had been largely treated at Paris. I took some pains to procure another paper, too, which, though it could be of no authority of itself, would serve me as an index to all other authorities. Although the history of this paper will be considered another digression, it must be here inserted.
In the autumn of the year 1773, the two houses of the legislature of Massachusetts appointed the Honorable James Bowdoin and John Adams, Esq., a committee to prepare and report a statement of the title of the province to certain lands to which the legislature of New York had asserted a claim, and endeavored to support it by a very learned work elaborately drawn up by Mr. Duane, and adopted and printed by their authority. When the committee met, Mr. Bowdoin insisted that Mr. Adams should take upon himself the investigation and prepare the report, as he was pleased to say, because it lay more in the course of his studies and daily researches. I was very much pressed with business; Mr. Bowdoin had great leisure. Mr. Bowdoin had been fifteen years in the legislature, and having much more experience and weight, I excused myself and urged him to undertake it, promising to give him all the assistance in my power. But he refused, and at last, with much reluctance, I undertook it.
A much more considerable part of the winter than I could well spare from my necessary engagements in other business, was spent in researches to prepare this report. I visited Dr. Mather, and was kindly admitted to his library and the collections of his ancestors. I was admitted to a valuable collection of Mr. Moffat, who was very curious in amassing ancient records and pamphlets, particularly the journals, ancient and modern, of the Massachusetts legislature. I mounted up to the balcony of Dr. Sewall’s church, where were assembled a collection which Mr. Prince had devoted himself to make from the twentieth year of his age. The loss of this library of books and papers, in print and in manuscript, can never be sufficiently regretted. Such a treasure never existed anywhere else, and can never again be made. He had endeavored, and with great success, to collect every history, pamphlet, and paper which could throw light on the Reformation, the rise and progress of the Puritans, and the persecutions which drove our ancestors over to this wild and unknown world.
From the materials, collected from every quarter, I drew a report, and presented it to Mr. Bowdoin, who, after taking time to peruse it, was pleased to say it was an excellent report, that it wanted no amendment, and that he would present it to the House. Mr. Samuel Adams was then clerk of the House. The legislature were convened by Governor Gage, at Salem, and whether the report was ever read to the House or not, I know not. It was not printed in the Journal, as all other reports of that nature ever had been. Expecting to see it in print immediately, I had omitted to preserve a copy of it. This report now, in 1779, I wanted to assist me in preparing documents for the negotiations for peace. But applying to Mr. Adams, who had been clerk of the House, and was now secretary of the State, he informed me that in the confusion at Salem, when they resolved on a congress and chose their delegates, he had mislaid it, and could not find it. It was, however, afterwards found and delivered to the commissioners, who finally settled the dispute with the commissioners of New York. I say it was found, because I have been informed by Governor Sullivan, Chief Justice Parsons, Mr. Dalton, and Mr. King, that they had it in my handwriting, and that it enabled them to obtain from New York the cession of the Genesee country. Where it is now, I know not; but it ought either to be returned to me or published, as I never had any compensation for it, though a grant had always been customary on such occasions, or even acknowledgment of it. This however, is no mortification to me. Another consideration is infinitely more afflicting,—the prudence of our State in trifling with this immense interest, and selling a principality for a song. That territory would now build hospitals, universities, botanical gardens, or any other public institutions, without applying to individual subscribers, or laying any burden on the people.
As I could not obtain my report in manuscript or in print, I looked about to furnish myself with such other documents as I could find. I procured all the printed Journals of the Massachusetts legislature, which contained any thing relative to our boundaries; and among the rest, the journals of the years 1762, 1763, 1764, 1765, and 1766. In all these journals it appeared that one counsellor or assistant, an inhabitant or proprietor of lands, within the territory lying between the River Sagadahock and Nova Scotia, was annually chosen by the two houses of the legislature of Massachusetts Bay. And this Sagadahock counsellor had never been negatived by any governor, nor was any disapprobation of his election signified by the government in England. On the contrary, the express approbation of the governor had been annually recorded.
It appeared in all these journals that representatives from the towns in the counties of York, Cumberland, Lincoln, all within the Province of Maine, had been annually chosen, and several in the House, without any remonstrance from any governor, or from the government in England. In short, the legislature of Massachusetts Bay had laid out counties, incorporated towns, granted lands, and regulated every thing from the date of the charter in the Province of Maine, as much as in the Old Colony of Plymouth, or in the Counties of Worcester and Hampshire.
[Here follow references to the volumes of the Journal, and to the report of Mr. Hutchinson of the title to the territory in question, in 1763, which it is unnecessary to repeat here, the printed volumes being readily accessible to the curious. There is also a break in the article, as printed in the Boston Patriot, caused by the accidental loss of a part of the manuscript.]
In addition to these, I had another journal, in which was recorded the voyage of Governor Pownall to Penobscot, his treaty with the Indians there, and his solemnly taking possession of the river and the country on both sides of it in the name and by the authority of the Province of Massachusetts Bay. This volume has been borrowed or mislaid, or something worse; so that I have it not in my power to give it in all its details.
These volumes, i. e. Shirley’s and Maitland’s memorials, the Journals of the House of Representatives, and the charter and laws of Massachusetts Bay had run all hazards with me in a leaky ship, every hour, for fifteen days, in danger of sinking, and through Spain and France to Holland, and thence back to Paris. When they were produced and laid on the table before the British minister and his associates, I saw no great symptoms of surprise in any of them, excepting the tall and venerable clerk of the Board of Trade. His countenance and the agitation he was in convinced me that he knew the contents of those volumes as well or better than I did. It was impossible but he must have been familiar with them all. It was manifest enough that the Comte de Vergennes was not the only refined politician with whom we had to do.
When the gentleman had read from his ancient records all that he thought proper to read of misrepresentations of Coram and his associates against the Massachusetts Bay, requesting the gentlemen to peruse my other volumes at leisure, I read the foregoing report; and before I had gone half-way through, I saw that all the gentlemen, not excluding the clerk himself, were fully convinced that they had taken possession of ground they could not maintain or defend. Although they did not expressly acknowledge their error, the subject subsided and we heard little more concerning it. The clerk, with his records, soon returned to England.
FROM THE BOSTON PATRIOT, 21 AUGUST, 1811.
The reflections suggested by this letter are more numerous than your patience would bear to publish. A very few will be noted:—
1. This letter is a masterpiece of—what shall I call it?—French finesse? It is very true that we have experienced in most of the British administrations since the year 1761, and especially within the last ten years, models of equal excellence. The refinements of policy in many of the courtiers in the old world can scarcely be conceived by the plain genius of native Americans, nor can they be perceived without abhorrence of the heart. Our government and its servants must be upon their guard, and see and judge for themselves, placing unlimited confidence in no pretended friends. Hitherto foreign policy has obtained no essential advantage against us, except by discouraging our navy, and in that finesse France and England most cordially unite. Russia, I hope, will give us better advice.
2. What impression this letter made upon Dr. Franklin, I know not, but by conjecture. His usual reserve and taciturnity did not forsake him. At least, it made no alteration in his confidence in Vergennes. He persisted to the last, even long after the signature of the definitive treaty, in saying that “the Count de Vergennes had never deceived him.” This favorite saying of the Doctor is wholly incomprehensible to me. Did he mean that Vergennes had from the beginning communicated candidly to him his design to deprive us, with or without our own consent, of the fisheries and western territories? If this was his meaning, where was his integrity and fidelity to his country in concealing it from congress and his colleagues? Did he mean that Marbois’s letter had not convinced him that Vergennes was in combination with Marbois to deprive us of the fisheries and western territories? If this was his meaning, he had more credulity in politics than he had in philosophy, morality, or religion.
Mr. Jay’s opinion of Marbois’s letter was uniform, unreserved, and explicit. That of a downright honest man and a man of sound understanding.
3. This letter made perhaps a greater impression upon me than upon either of my colleagues, because I had been a witness to certain facts of which they knew nothing. With all my reputed vanity, it is a severe mortification to me to find myself obliged to enter into so much egotistical history, and to relate so many facts as I have done and shall be obliged to do, upon my own single testimony. I can only appeal to God and to the world, and leave it to their ultimate decision. At present, I can give but hints and sketches, and I shall certainly not live long enough to publish the documents which are in my possession, much less to collect those which I know exist, though I have them not.
On my arrival in France, in the month of April, 1778, as it has been before related perhaps more than once, I found the Americans divided into two parties, very nearly as hostile to each other as France and Great Britain are at this hour. Dr. Franklin and Mr. Deane had been at the head of one party, and Mr. Arthur Lee and Mr. Ralph Izard at the head of the other. Mr. Deane had been recalled, and was gone to Toulon to embark in the French fleet for America. I was arrived with a new commission, to Mr. Franklin, Mr. Lee, and myself, as commissioners plenipotentiary to the King of France. Both parties, therefore, looked to me as an umpire, because it would be in my power to decide which party should have the majority. In a country whose language, laws, customs, manners, and every thing was new to me, situated between gentlemen in American employments, one of whom, Dr. Franklin, was known to me, the other two, Mr. Arthur Lee and Mr. Ralph Izard, were total strangers to me but by reputation, I saw and felt the delicacy, the difficulty, the danger, and the full responsibility of my situation.
Dr. Franklin was the first I saw, and he received me like a cordial congress acquaintance of three years’ standing. He had reserved Mr. Deane’s apartments in the house, and I agreed to take them, and make a common family with the Doctor. He immediately informed me of the “coolness,” as he called it, between him, on one side, and Mr. Lee and Mr. Izard on the other, and gave me such an account of the causes of it as he thought proper. I soon saw Mr. Lee, but he was very reserved on the subject of “coolness” and differences. Mr. Izard soon made me repeated visits, and gave me in full details his account of the dissensions and quarrels among American ministers. This is not the place to unravel all these mysteries, which would fill a volume. It must suffice to say that Mr. Izard, with a fund of honor, integrity, candor, and benevolence in his character, which must render him eternally estimable in the sight of all moral and social beings, was, nevertheless, the most passionate, and in his passions the most violent and unbridled in his expressions, of any man I ever knew. Mr. Izard’s history of transactions before my arrival shocked me beyond measure, and his expressions terrified me. I knew not what to think of the man or his narrative. As to enter into particulars would lead me too far out of my way, I must confine myself at present to the point immediately before me, relative to M. Marbois’s letter.
Mr. Ralph Izard was the first person (and that in the month of April, 1778,) who suggested to me a suspicion that the Comte de Vergennes had formed a design to deprive America of the fisheries and to monopolize the greatest part of them to France. In proof of his suspicion, he quoted an article relative to the fisheries in our treaty with France of the 6th of February, 1778, in which an “exclusive right” had been stipulated to France, in certain important portions of the fishing-grounds. As I have not time to quote the article at large, I must refer to the treaty. I had been so short a time at Passy, and had so many new scenes and employments, that I am not sure that I had read the treaty. If I had, it was not with that attention that enabled me to recollect the expressions in it. In truth, I thought Mr. Izard had been heated by controversies, and I gave little or no credit to his insinuations. Mr. Izard, however, did not leave me long in this state of pyrrhonism. I met him so often at his house and mine, and we met so often at dinners and suppers upon invitations at other places, where he never failed to introduce this subject, that I was compelled to look in earnest into the treaty, and compare it with his documents. He had written to England and obtained copies from the public offices of a correspondence between the British and French ministers, in the negotiation of the peace of 1763, relative to this French claim of an “exclusive right.” These papers were produced to me, and I examined and compared them with attention. I then saw there was room for suspicion; but still hoped that the Court of France had not seriously meditated any plan to deprive us of any claim to the fisheries. These papers were transmitted to congress at the time by Mr. Lee and Mr. Izard, and now remain upon the files. I have no copies of them, and if I had, they would be too long to be here inserted. Although I had always been apprehensive that at any future negotiation for peace Great Britain would play off all her policy to deprive us of our right to any share in the fisheries, I had not hitherto entertained or conceived any jealousy that France would endeavor to exclude us, or that she would join with Great Britain in any such design. Mr. Izard and Mr. Lee, however, together with many hints and circumstances that occurred during my first residence in France, at length fastened upon me a suspicion, that whoever should be destined to confer about peace, would have to contend with all the arts and intrigues both of France and England. As Mr. Jay was in congress, as I presume, when Mr. Izard and Mr. Lee transmitted the papers before mentioned to that assembly, it is probable that he had conceived the same jealousy.
Full of these apprehensions, I embarked at Lorient on the 17th of June, 1779, in the French frigate The Sensible, in company with the Chevalier de la Luzerne, the new ambassador from the King of France to congress, and the secretary of his legation, M. Marbois, and their suite, Mr. Otto, Mr. Laforest, and others. We arrived in Boston harbor on the 3d of August. During the whole course of this voyage, I made it my business to converse with these gentlemen with the utmost frankness and candor upon every subject which could be interesting to their country and mine in their novel connection. They appeared to be vastly pleased with my freedom and familiarity, and were not less inquisitive than I was communicative. The minister could not speak or understand one word of English. I was awkward enough in French, but he was very inquisitive in his own language, and I answered him as well as I could. The secretary understood English very well, and could speak it about as well as I could speak French. We therefore found no difficulty in conversing upon any subject.
The fisheries lying with great weight on my mind, I took every opportunity of conversing upon that subject both with the minister and the secretary. I mentioned nothing of the treaty, or of the doubts of Mr. Izard and Mr. Lee, or of my own, concerning the designs of France; but represented the probability that England, at the peace, whenever it should arrive, would probably exert all her art to deprive us of any share in that great source of wealth, that great instrument of commerce, that great nursery of seamen, that great means of power. I represented to them that France ought to support our claim to a share in it, if it were only to prevent England from commanding a monopoly of it; that our right to it was at least as clear and indisputable as that of England or France; that it was situated in the ocean, which was open and free and common to all nations, to us as much as to any other; that its proximity to our country seemed naturally to give us a right preferable to any European claim; but that we asked no preference, but acknowledged the right of all nations to the ocean and its inhabitants; that we were in possession, and had been so from the first settlement of our country; we had carried on the fisheries from the beginning; and that Great Britain was more indebted to our ancestors for the flourishing state of the fisheries, both of cod and whales, than to all the inhabitants of the three kingdoms; that the fisheries were an essential link in the chain of American commerce, which was one connected system; that they were more particularly indispensable to New England; that our remittances to France or England could not be made without our commerce in fish with Spain, Portugal, and Italy, as well as all the West India Islands.
I know not how many conversations I had upon this subject with those gentlemen, but I believe not less than twenty, for they both appeared as eager to talk of it as I was. The minister, though he heard me with patience and attention and complaisance, was reserved in expressing his opinion, though I understood him to nod assent to all that I had said. But the secretary, this very M. Barbé Marbois, was as frank and open as I was. He declared to me, in the most clear and positive terms, on several occasions, that I had convinced him that “we had a natural, a legal, and a possessing right to the fisheries; that they were necessary and essential to our interests; and that France ought to support us in our claim to a full and free enjoyment of them.”
After our arrival in America, when I heard that these gentlemen had recommended to congress so much moderation in their instructions to their minister for peace, and had advised not to insist on the fisheries and western territories as ultimata, and when, afterwards, I found by our instructions and by my private correspondents that they had advised an explicit renunciation of any claim to the fisheries and western lands, I knew not how to reconcile these things with our conversations on board The Sensible. But when I saw this letter of M. Marbois and compared it with all my former conversations with Mr. Izard and Mr. Lee, with all that I had heard in America, and all I had experienced in France and Holland, with all our instructions from congress, and especially with our conversations on board the ship, with one especially, which we had whilst sailing over the grand bank of Newfoundland, in which M. Marbois, in the presence of the Chevalier de la Luzerne, had been as explicit as words could express, in acknowledging his entire conviction of our right, and of our interest and duty to insist upon it, and of the duty and interest of France to support us in it, what could be my reflections? Was M. Marbois a consummate hypocrite? Had he deliberately laid a plan to deceive me, on shipboard, by the most solemn asseverations of wilful falsehoods, lest I should put my friends in congress upon their guard against his wiles after he should arrive at Philadelphia? This I could scarcely believe, for I had conceived an esteem for his character. I endeavored to account for this contradictory conduct upon two hypotheses. One was, that the Chevalier had received from the Comte de Vergennes, and then possessed in his portfolio instructions to oppose our claims to the fisheries and western lands, which instructions he had not communicated to M. Marbois. The other was that the minister and secretary had received such instructions from the Count de Vergennes after their arrival at Philadelphia. In either of these cases M. Marbois might think it his duty to obey his instructions, though it were by promoting measures in contradiction to his own private opinion of the right and the policy. One or the other of these suppositions I am still inclined to believe was the fact.
4. It is not credible that M. Marbois would have dared to write such a letter to the Comte de Vergennes, if he had not been previously instructed by that minister to promote the system developed in it. We may then fairly impute that system to the Comte.
5. That system appears to have been, 1. To persuade congress to instruct the ministers at the negotiations for peace explicitly to renounce all claim to the fisheries and western lands, and formally to acknowledge that they had no right to either. 2. If they could not carry the first point, then to persuade congress to resolve that they would not insist upon the fisheries or western lands as conditions sine quibus non of peace. They failed in the first point, but prevailed in the second. 3. Congress appear to have been reproached by their own consciences with a reflection that they had gone too far in their complaisance to their allies, and soon came to another resolution, that the right to the fisheries should in no case be expressly given up. This resolution had a spice of spirit and independence in it, and accordingly gave great offence to M. Marbois.
6. However confident M. Marbois might have been that the country and their congress were so equally divided that “our influence,” as he expresses it, could turn the scale in favor of peace or war, he did not find that influence sufficient at last to deprive America of her fisheries or western territories.
7. I cannot dismiss this letter of M. Marbois without observing that his philippic against Mr. Samuel Adams is a jewel in the crown of that patriot and hero almost as brilliant as his exception from pardon in General Gage’s proclamation. The talents and virtues of that great man were of the most exalted, though not of the most showy kind. His love of his country, his exertions in her service through a long course of years, through the administrations of the Governors Shirley, Pownall, Bernard, Hutchinson, and Gage, under the royal government, and through the whole of the subsequent Revolution, and always in support of the same principles, his inflexible integrity, his disinterestedness, his invariable resolution, his sagacity, his patience, perseverance, and pure public virtue were never exceeded by any man in America. Although he was carried away with the general enthusiasm of all parties in America in admiration of the French revolution, which I never approved for a single instant; although his ideas of a form of government necessary for the establishment of liberty were not always, nor, indeed, ever conformable to mine; and although he might have been seduced, by designing men, in his extreme old age, and his almost total retirement from the world, to injure me personally, I never can cease to esteem and admire his character or to love his memory. No man in America ever merited statues in honor of his memory more than this, unless we except his great friend and colleague, the Honorable James Otis, Junior. A collection of his writings would be as curious as voluminous. It would throw light upon American history for fifty years. In it would be found specimens of a nervous simplicity of reasoning and eloquence that have never been rivalled in America.
8. We transmitted this letter to congress, where it made a less sensation, because there was little in it new to the members of that body. They knew that the French minister and secretary had labored to persuade them to adopt the same sentiments; but I believe the letter was not soon published. It was whispered about and came to the cars of M. Marbois, though I have reason to think he never got a sight of it. My reason is this. In 1785 or 1786, when I resided in England, Dr. Edward Bancroft made me a visit, and informed me that he came from America in the same ship with Marbois, when he returned to Europe after the peace. That M. Marbois introduced a conversation with him upon the subject of this letter, said there had been a noise made about a letter of his pretended to have been intercepted: but he never could get a sight of it, and could not imagine what letter it could be. He asked Bancroft if he had ever seen it. The answer was in the affirmative. “Do you remember enough of it to know it again, if you should hear it read?” “Yes.” Upon this M. Marbois produced his letter-book and read passages in a number of letters. “Are any of these the letters you have seen?” “No.” He then read more. “Are any of these the right ones?” “No.” At last he read some passages in another, when Bancroft said, “That is the one.” They then went through the whole letter. Whether Bancroft had a copy of it in writing in English, I am not positive; but he had a distinct remembrance of it in his head, and compared it carefully from the beginning to the end, and pronounced it to be the same letter faithfully translated, except in one expression, of no consequence to the sense. Marbois exclaimed, “How the devil could they get at my cipher? I sent it only in cipher. I thought myself perfectly sure of my cipher. Well. I shall deny it. No mortal has any right to know any thing about my correspondence with my government.”
Dr. Bancroft said he thought it his duty to communicate this conversation to me, that in case any controversy should ever arise concerning the authenticity of the letter, this fact might be produced in confirmation of it. There has not, however, arisen any such controversy. The members of congress, of all parties, were satisfied that it was no fabrication; and there has been but one mind in the world concerning it wherever it has been known. It must be here added that the whole of this system of the Comte de Vergennes has been, since the French revolution, revealed to the world in the Politique des Cabinets, which shows that the Comte had meditated and planned his whole scheme long before our treaty with France in February, 1778.
Notwithstanding this letter, Dr. Franklin still persisted in his resolution to communicate all our conferences with the British minister concerning the fisheries and western lands to the Comte de Vergennes. Mr. Jay and Mr. Adams thought this would be to commit the lamb to the custody of the wolf. When Mr. Franklin found Adams and Jay perfectly united, and that they would proceed without him, he turned short about, and agreed to go on with them.
EXTRACTS FROM THE “MONITEUR UNIVERSEL.” NO. 358. DIMANCHE, DÉCEMBRE 23, 1792.
Séance du Vendredi, 21, (1792.)
Un secrétaire fait lecture d’une lettre du Ministre des Affaires Étrangères, ainsi conçue.
Les preuves de talent et de civisme qu’a données le Citoyen Genet dans les différentes missions dont il a été chargé, ont déterminé le conseil exécutif à récompenser son zèle, en le nommant Ministre plénipotentiaire auprès les États Unis d’Amérique. Il doit travailler à resserrer les liens qui unissaient les deux nations; objet négligé par l’ancien gouvernement.
“Le conseil exécutif s’est fait représenter les instructions données par le Ministre précédent, aux agens dans ce pays. Il y a vu avec indignation que, dans le tems même où ce bon peuple nous exprimait de la manière la plus touchante son amitié et sa reconnoissance, Vergennes et Montmorin pensaient qu’il ne convenait point à la France de lui donner toute la consistance dont il était susceptible; parce qu’il acquerrait une force, dont il serait probablement tenté d’abuser.
“Ils enjoignèrent en conséquence à leurs agens, de tenir à l’égard de ce peuple la conduite la plus passive, et de ne parler que des vœux personnels du roi pour sa prospérité. La même Machiavélisme avait dirigé les opérations de la guerre: la même duplicité fut employée dans les négociations pour la paix; et lorsqu’elle fut signée, ce peuple, pour lequel on avait pris les armes, fut entièrement négligé.
“La Convention Nationale veut suivre une autre marche. Déjà elle a manifesté le désir de contracter une alliance solide avec les Américains. C’est ce qui m’engage à lui rappeler, qu’elle s’est engagée à exprimer elle-même (par une lettre, que son Président a été chargé d’écrire) sa sensibilité sur les secours généreux que les États Unis (et surtout celui de Pennsylvanie) ont donnés aux Colonies Françaises. Je pense que si le Citoyen Genet étoit porteur de cette lettre, elle pourroit produire un très bon effet et faciliter les succès de ses négociations.
“Chule (Député) demande que des Commissaires pris dans le sein de la Convention soient envoyés près des États Unis. Cette proposition n’a pas de suite.
“L’Assemblée décide que l’adresse votée au peuple des États Unis sera lue dans la séance de demain, pour être remise au Citoyen Genet.”
Séance de Samedi, 22 Décembre.
Gaudet lit l’addresse que la Convention l’avoit chargé de faire aux États Unis d’Amérique. La rédaction en est adoptée, ainsi qu’elle suit.
Président des États Unis du Nord,—
Au milieu des orages qui agitent notre liberté naissante, il est doux pour la République Française de pouvoir communiquer avec des Républiques fondées sur les mêmes principes que les siens. Nos frères des États Unis auront appris, sans doute avec joie, la révolution nouvelle qui a renversé le dernier obstacle à notre liberté. Cette révolution était nécessaire. La royauté existait encore; et dans toute Constitution où la royauté existe, il n’est point de vraie liberté. Les rois et l’égalité ne peuvent se rencontrer ensemble; leur état est de conspirer contre elle, et contre la souveraineté des peuples. Les États Unis de l’Amérique auront peine à le croire; l’appui que l’ancienne Cour de France leur prêta pour recouvrer leur indépendance n’étoit que le fruit d’une vile spéculation; leur gloire offusquait ses vues ambitieuses; et ses ambassadeurs avaient l’ordre criminel d’arrêter le cours de leur prospérité.
Non, ce n’est qu’entre des nations libres que des traités sincères et fraternels peuvent se former. La liberté que la République Française veut rendre aux peuples qui réclament son appui, ne sera point souillée des semblables taches; elle est pure comme elle.
[Commencement of the letter to Mr. Livingston, as first drawn up by Mr. Jay, but concluded to be left out:—]
Sir,—We have had the honor of receiving, by Captain Barney, your two letters of the 21st and 25th of April last, with the papers referred to in them.
We are happy to find that the provisional articles have been approved and ratified by congress, and we regret that the manner in which that business was conducted, does not coincide with your ideas of propriety.
Your doubts on that head appear to have arisen from the following circumstances:—
1. That we entertained and were influenced by distrusts and suspicions which do not seem to you to have been altogether well founded.
2. That we signed the articles without previously communicating them to this court.
3. That we consented to a separate article which you consider as not being very important in itself, and as offensive to Spain.
4. That we kept and still keep that article a secret.
With respect to the first, your doubts appear to us somewhat singular. In our negotiation with the British commissioner it was essential to insist on and, if possible, to obtain his consent to four importaut concessions, namely:—
1. That Britain should treat with us as being what we were, namely, an independent people.
The French minister thought this demand premature, and that it ought to arise from, and not precede the treaty.
2. That Britain should agree to the extent of boundary we claimed.
The French minister thought the demand extravagant in itself, and as militating against certain views of Spain which he was disposed to favor.
3. That Britain should admit our right in common to the fishery.
The French minister thought this demand too extensive.
4. That Britain should not insist on our reinstating the Tories.
The French minister argued that they ought to be reinstated.
Was it unnatural for us, Sir, to conclude from these facts that the French minister was opposed to our succeeding on these four great points, in the extent we wished? To us it appeared evident that his plan of a treaty for us, was far from being such an one as America would have preferred; and as we disapproved of his model, we thought it imprudent to give him an opportunity of moulding our treaty by it.
Whether the minister was influenced by what he really thought would be best for France, is a question which, however easy or however difficult to decide, is not very important to the point under consideration. Whatever his motives may have been, certain it is that they were such as militated against our system; and, as in private life it is deemed imprudent to admit opponents to full confidence, so in public affairs the like caution seems equally proper.
But, admitting the force of this reasoning, why, when the articles were completed, did we not communicate them to the French minister before we proceeded to sign them? For the following reasons, Sir.
As Lord Shelburne had excited expectations of his being able to put a speedy termination to the war, it became necessary for him either to realize those expectations or to quit his place. The parliament having met while his negotiations with us were pending, he found it expedient to adjourn it for a short term, in hopes of then meeting it with all the advantage which he might naturally expect from a favorable issue of the negotiation. Hence it was his interest to draw it to a close before that adjournment expired; and to obtain that end, both he and his commissioners prevailed upon themselves to yield certain points on which they would probably have been otherwise more tenacious. Nay, we have and then had good reason to believe that the latitude allowed by the British cabinet for the exercise of discretion was exceeded on that occasion.
You need not be reminded, Sir, that the King of Great Britain had pledged himself in Mr. Oswald’s commission to confirm and ratify not what Mr. Oswald should verbally agree to, but what he should formally sign his name and affix his seal to.
Had we communicated the articles, when ready for signing, to the French minister, he doubtless would have complimented us on the terms of them; but at the same time he would have insisted on our postponing the signature of them until the articles then preparing between France, Spain, and Britain should also be ready for signing, he having often intimated to us that we should all sign at the same time and place.
This would have exposed us to a disagreeable dilemma.
Had we agreed to postpone signing the articles, the British cabinet might, and probably would, have taken advantage of it. They might have insisted that as the articles were res infectæ, and as they had not authorized Mr. Oswald to accede to certain matters inserted in them, they did not conceive themselves bound in honor or justice to adopt Mr. Oswald’s opinions, or permit him to sign and seal, as their commissioner, a number of articles which they did not approve. The whole business would thereby have been set afloat again, and the minister of France would have had an opportunity, at least, of approving the objections of the British cabinet, and of advising us to recede from demands, which in his opinion were immoderate, and some of which were too inconsistent with the views and claims of Spain to meet with his concurrence.
If, on the other hand, we had refused to postpone the signing, and supposing that no other ill consequence would have resulted, yet certainly such refusal would have been more offensive to the French minister than our doing it without his knowledge, and, consequently, without his opposition. Our withholding from him the knowledge of these articles until after they were signed, was no breach of our treaty with France, and therefore could not afford her any ground of complaint against the United States. It was, indeed, a departure from the line of conduct prescribed by our instructions, but we apprehend that congress marked out that line for their own sake, and not for the sake of France. They directed us to ask and be directed by the advice of the French minister, because they supposed it would be for the interest of America to receive and be governed by it. It was a favor she asked from France, and not a favor that she promised to and we withheld from France. Congress, therefore, alone have a right to complain of that departure. As to the confidence which ought to subsist between allies, we have only to remark that as the French minister did not think proper to consult us about his articles, our giving him as little trouble about ours was perfectly equal and reciprocal.
[Benj. Franklin’s observations on Mr. Jay’s draft of a letter to Mr. Livingston, which occasioned the foregoing part to be left out.]
Mr. Franklin submits it to the consideration of Mr. Jay, whether it may not be advisable to forbear, at present, the justification of ourselves respecting the signature of the preliminaries, because
That matter is at present quiet here.
No letter sent to the congress is ever kept secret.
The justification contains some charges of unfavorable disposition in the ministers here towards us, that will give offence and will be denied.
Our situation is still critical with respect to the two nations, and the most perfect good understanding should be maintained with this.
The congress do not call upon us for an account of our conduct or its justification. They have not, by any resolution, blamed us. What censure we have received, is only the private opinion of Mr. L.
Mr. Laurens is not here, who is concerned with us.
Will it be attended with any inconvenience, if that part of the letter which relates to the signature, be reserved to a future occasion?
[Mr. Laurens’s commencement of the letter to Mr. Livingston, of—.]
Sir,—By Captain Barney, of The Washington, we have received the honor of your several letters of—together with the papers referred to.
While we rejoice upon learning the provisional articles were so acceptable and satisfactory to congress and to our fellow-citizens in general as to entitle them to an immediate ratification, we cannot but regret that our manner of proceeding in that negotiation should have subjected us to an implied censure. Having already assigned reasons for our conduct, we shall not enlarge upon the present occasion. Should congress be pleased hereafter to question us, we trust we shall render such an account of our motives respecting all the articles, general and separate, as will acquit us in the judgment of our country, under which we must stand or fall. Spain, having acceded to the line drawn in article NA for dividing Floridas from the United States, there can be no doubt she will readily avail herself of the separate article, should congress think proper to make the tender.
We perfectly concur with you, Sir, in opinion, that “honesty is the best policy.” Had it appeared to us that another party were guided in their proceedings by this simple maxim, we should not have been driven into a measure as essential to the true interest of our country as it was necessary for defeating a scheme evidently calculated to militate against that interest. We have, indeed, hazarded our own tranquillity by departing from a rigid observance of an injunction, and though we confess ourselves amenable to congress, we have the consolation of knowing that we have done nothing dishonest, nothing detrimental to the just rights of our ally, or to those of any other nation, nothing inconsistent with that true policy which we trust will bear the test of strict inquiry, even at the courts of France and Spain. We do not mean by any thing we have written to impeach the friendship of the king and nation towards the United States, but we may be allowed to suggest that the minister at this court is so far our friend, and so far disposed to promote our happiness and interest as may correspond with his system of policy for extending the power, riches, and glory of France. God forbid we should ever sacrifice our faith, our honor and gratitude. At the same time it is our duty to support the dignity and independent spirit which should characterize a free and generous people, and since it has pleased God in his Providence to place us in the political system of the world, we should modestly endeavor to move like a primary planet, not least, though last created.
The following convention is printed exactly from the original copy, with all the signatures attached:—
Nous, D. Joseph del Pozo y Sucre, et D. Manuel Joseph de Salas, commissaires de la junta des députés des villes et provinces de l’Amérique Méridionale, réunie le huit Octobre, mille sept cent quatre-vingt-dix-sept, dans la ville de Madrid en Espagne, pour preparer par les mesures les plus efficaces, l’Indépendance des Colonies Hispano-Américaines, envoyés en France auprès de nos compatriotes Don Francisco de Miranda, Ancien Général d’armée et notre principal agent, et Don Pablo de Olavide, Ancien Assistant de Séville, tous deux également nommés commissaires par la dite junta, non seulement à l’effet de délibérer ensemble sur l’état des négociations antérieures, faites avec l’Angleterre à différentes époques en faveur de notre indépendance absolue, et principalement sur l’état de celles entamées à Londres depuis mille sept cent quatrevingt-dix, avec le Ministère Anglais, en vertu des conférences de Hollwood, lesquelles ont réunies les suffrages des Provinces qui en ont eu connaissance, mais encore de donner suite aux dites négociations, en ouvrant la voie à une stipulation solennelle, qui puisse amener ce résultat conformément à l’intérêt et à la volonté des peuples qui, opprimés par le joug Espagnol, habitent le Continent Américain du Sud: Nous D. Joseph del Pozo y Sucre, D. Manuel Joseph de Salas, et D. Francisco de Miranda, nous sommes réunis à Paris le deux Décembre, mille sept cent quatre-vingt-dix-sept, et après une vérification préalable de nos pouvoirs respectifs, avons procédé à ce qui suit.
Considérant que Don Pablo de Olavide ne s’est pas rendu à l’invitation que nous lui avons envoyée à son domicile près D’Orléans;
Considérant encore, qu’un laps de temps assez long s’est écoulé sans avoir reçu de réponse à cette invitation;
Considérant d’ailleurs, que l’état précaire de sa santé, joint à l’existence du régime révolutionnaire en France, le mettent probablement dans l’impossibilité de prendre une part active à nos délibérations;
Considérant enfin que les circonstances actuelles sont tellement pressantes qu’elles ne comportent plus le moindre délai. Nous soussignés, Commissaires, avons jugé nécessaire pour l’intérêt de notre patrie, de passer outre, et sommes solennellement convenus des articles suivants:—
1. Les Colonies Hispano-Américaines ayant unanimement résolu de proclamer leur indépendance et d’asseoir leur liberté sur des bases inébranlables, s’adresseront avec confiance à la Grande Brétagne avec l’invitation de les soutenir dans une entreprise aussi juste qu’honorable. En effet, si dans un état de paix et sans une provocation préalable, la France et l’Espagne ont favorisé et proclamé l’indépendance des Anglo-Américains, dont l’oppression, à coup sûr, n’était pas aussi honteuse que l’est celle des Colonies Espagnoles, l’Angleterre ne balancera pas à concourir à l’indépendance des Colonies de l’Amérique Méridionale, aujourd’hui quelle est engagée dans une guerre des plus violentes de la part de l’Espagne et de la France, laquelle tout en reconnaissant la souveraineté et la liberté des peuples, ne rougit pas de consacrer par l’article NA du traité d’alliance offensive et défensive avec l’Espagne, l’esclavage le plus absolu de près de quatorze millions d’habitans et de leur postérité; et cela avec un esprit d’exclusion d’autant plus odieux, qu’elle affecte de proclamer à l’égard de tous les autres peuples de la terre, le droit incontestable de se donner telle forme de gouvernement que bon leur semblerait.
2. Un traité d’alliance tel que celui que S. M. T. C. offrit aux États Unis de l’Amérique doit servir de modèle pour cimenter cette importante transaction, avec la différence cependant, qu’on y stipulera en faveur de l’Angleterre des conditions plus avantageuses, plus justes, et plus honorables encore. D’une part la Grande Brétagne s’engagerait à fournir à l’Amérique Méridionale une force maritime et une force terrestre, à l’effet de favoriser l’établissement de son indépendance sans l’exposer à de fortes convulsions politiques. De l’autre, l’Amérique s’obligerait à payer à son alliée, l’Angleterre, une somme considérable en numéraire, non seulement pour l’indemniser des dépenses qu’elie aurait faites à l’occasion des secours prêtés jusqu’à la conclusion de la guerre, mais encore pour lui servir à liquider aussi une partie considérable de sa dette nationale. Pour acquitter en quelque sorte le bienfait reçû par l’établissement de la liberté, l’Amérique Meridionale lui accorderait dans cet instant la somme de—millions de livres sterlings.
3. Les forces maritimes demandées à l’Angleterre n’excéderont pas vingt vaisseaux de ligne. A l’égard des troupes de terre, huit mille hommes d’infanterie et deux mille de cavalerie suffiraient. Dans l’alliance défensive, qu’on établirait par la suite, on y stipulerait que, des secours maritimes, des troupes de terre n’étant point nécessaires, dans cette hypothèse, l’Amérique payerait son contingent par une somme en numéraire qui représenterait l’équivalent.
4. Une alliance défensive formée entre l’Angleterre, les États Unis d’Amérique et l’Amérique Méridionale, est tellement commandée par la nature des choses, par la situation géographique de chacun des trois pays, par les produits, l’industrie, par les besoins, les mœurs, et le caractère de ces trois nations, qu’il est impossible que cette alliance ne soit pas de longue durée, surtout si on prend besoin de la consolider par l’analogie dans la forme politique des trois gouvernements; c’est à dire, par la jouissance d’une liberté civile, sagement entendue, sagement organisée; on pourrait même dire avec confiance, que c’est le seul espoir qui reste à la liberté, audacieusement outragée par les maximes détestables avouées par la République française; c’est le seul moyen encore de former une balance de pouvoir capable de contenir l’ambition destructive et dévastatrice du système français.
5. Il sera établi avec l’Angleterre un traité de Commerce conçu dans les termes les plus avantageux à la nation britannique; en écartant cependant toute idée de monopole, ce traité lui garantira, naturellement et d’une manière certaine, la consommation de la plus grande partie de ses manufactures; car il existe une population de près de quatorze millions d’habitans qui s’habillent de manufactures étrangères et qui consomment une infinité d’articles de luxe Européen. Le commerce d’Angleterre tirerait encore des avantages considérables des fruits précieux et des produits immenses de l’Amérique Méridionale, en répandant ces denrées, par le moyen de ses capitaux et de ses établissements, sur les autres parties du monde. Les bases de ce traité seraient telles que l’entrée d’aucune denrée manufacturée ne serait prohibée.
6. Le passage ou navigation de l’Isthme de Panama qui incessament doit être rendu practicable, ainsi que la navigation du lac de Nicaragua, qui sera de même et tout de suite ouverte pour la communication prompte et facile de la mer du Sud avec l’océan Atlantique, étant encore pour l’Angleterre des objets du plus haut intérêt, l’Amérique Méridionale lui garantirait pour un certain nombre d’années la navigation de l’un et de l’autre passage à des conditions qui, pour être plus favorables, ne seraient cependant point exclusives.
7. Dans les circonstances actuelles on n’établira pas de traité de commerce avec les alliés de l’Amérique Méridionale, attendu que, les droits d’importation et d’exportation devant être établis pour l’intérêt commun de tous les peuples composant les Colonies de l’Amérique Méridionale, et notamment les contrées connues sous le nom de Vice Royautés du Mexique, Santa Fé, Lima et Rio de La Plata, Provinces de Caracas, Quito, Chili, &c., il faudra, quand l’impulsion sera donnée à l’Amérique Méridionale, attendre la réunion des députés de ces différentes contrées en corps représentatif, pour pouvoir, à cet égard, prendre des arrangements définitifs et d’ensemble. Ceux qui existent maintenant continueront à subsister sur le même pied, tant à l’égard des nations, qu’à l’égard de toutes les puissances amies.
8. Les relations intimes d’association que la banque de Londres serait à même de former dans la suite avec celle de Lima et du Mexique, à l’effet de se soutenir mutuellement, ne seraient point un des moindres avantages que l’indépendance et l’alliance de l’Amérique Méridionale offriraient encore à la Grande Bretagne. Par ce moyen le crédit monétaire de l’Angleterre serait assis sur des bases inébranlables.
9. Les États Unis d’Amérique pourraient être invités à accéder à un traité d’amitié et d’alliance.
On leur garantirait la possession des deux Florides, celle même de la Louisiane, le Mississipi étant à tous égards la meilleure et la plus solide barrière qu’on puisse établir entre les deux grandes nations qui occupent le continent Américain. En échange, les États Unis fourniraient à leurs dépens à l’Amérique Méridionale un corps auxiliaire de cinq mille hommes d’infanterie et de deux mille de cavalerie pendant la guerre qui aurait lieu à l’occasion de son indépendance.
10. Dans le cas où l’Amérique Méridionale serait dans la suite, et après la conclusion de la paix, attaquée par un ennemi quelconque, les États Unis par un article du traité d’alliance défensive à conclure, fournirait le même nombre de troupes de terre stipulé dans l’article précédent. L’équivalent de l’Amérique Méridionale serait représenté par une somme métallique.
11. À l’égard des îles que les Hispano-Américains possèdent dans l’archipel Américain, l’Amérique Méridionale ne doit retenir que celle de Cuba, à cause du port de la Havanne, dont la possession, en raison de sa situation sur le passage du Golfe du Mexique, est indispensable pour sa sûreté, le dit port étant, pour ainsi dire, la porte par laquelle il faut sortir de ce Golfe. À l’égard des îles de Porto Rico, de la Trinité et de la Marguerite, l’Amérique Méridionale ne trouvant dans leur possession aucun intérêt direct, pourrait coopérer à les voir occupées par ses alliés, l’Angleterre et les États Unis d’Amérique, qui en retireraient des avantages des plus considerables.
12. Le passage de l’Isthme de Panama, ainsi que celui du lac de Nicaragua, seraient également garantis pour toutes les marchandises appartenantes aux citoyens des États Unis d’Amérique, et l’exportation de tous les produits de l’Amérique Méridionale serait également encouragée sur leurs vaisseaux de transport. Les Américains du Nord devant devenir pour nous ce que les Hollandois ont long-temps été à l’égard des puissances du Nord, c’est à dire, nos caboteurs.
13. Les opérations militaires sur notre continent Américain, ainsi que les arrangemens à faire à cet égard avec l’Angleterre et les États Unis de l’Amérique à l’occasion des secours que ces puissances nous accorderaient en qualité d’alliés, pour le soutien de notre indépendance, seront confiées, pendant la durée de cette guerre à l’expérience consommée, aux talents et au patriotisme de notre compatriote et collègue D. Francisco de Miranda, né à Caracas dans la province de Venezuela; les services importans que depuis quinze ans il a rendus à la cause de l’Indépendance de notre patrie, lui donnant des titres et des droits incontestables à cette charge. Il reçevra à cet égard des instructions plus détaillées, du moment où un corps de troupes debarquera sur le Continent Hispano-Américain, ou que la milice du pays se trouvera, en tout ou en partie, réunie en armes. Nous nous bornerons pour le moment à former le désir de voir commencer les opérations militaires par l’Isthme de Panama et du coté de Santa Fé, tant à cause de l’importance du poste, qu’en raison de l’humeur des peuples disposés au premier signal à s’armer en faveur de l’indépendance de leur patrie. À cet effet il serait encore à désirer qu’une éscadre de huit ou de dix vaisseaux de ligne croisât dans la mer du Sud; autrement il serait à craindre que l’Espagne, entretenant dans ces parages des forces maritimes, ne mît obstacle à toutes nos opérations sur la mer du Sud.
14. Don Joseph del Pozo y Sucre et D. Manuel Joseph de Salas partiront sans délai et conformément à leurs instructions pour Madrid, à l’effet de se rendre auprès de la junta pour rendre compte de leur mission à Paris, et lui remettre un double du présent instrument; la junta n’attendant que le retour de ses deux Commissaires pour se dissoudre aussitôt et se rendre au différents points du Continent Américain où la présence des membres qui le composent est indispensablement nécessaire pour provoquer, lors de l’apparition des secours des alliés, une explosion combinée et générale de la part des peuples de l’Amérique Méridionale.
15. Don Francisco de Miranda et D. Pablo de Olavide sont autorisés à nommer un certain nombre d’agens civils et militaires pour les aider dans leur mission. Mais les emplois qu’ils seraient dans le cas d’accorder, ne seront que provisoires et revocables à volonté, jusqu’à l’instant de la formation du corps représentatif continental, qui seul aura le droit de confirmer ou d’annuler ces grades selon qu’il le jugera convenable.
16. D. Francisco de Miranda et D. Pablo de Olavide sont également autorisés à emprunter, au nom des Colonies Hispano-Américaines, ci-dessus nommées, les sommes d’argent qu’ils croiront nécessaires pour remplir la commission dont ils sont chargés. Ils accorderont les intérêts ordinaires dans de pareils cas, et demeurent responsables de l’emploi des dites sommes, dont ils rendront compte au gouvernement de l’Amérique Méridionale du moment où ils en seront requis.
17. D. Francisco de Miranda et D. Pablo de Olavide sont encore charges de se procurer en Angleterre dans le plus court délai les objets suivans, savoir;
A. Un train complet d’artillerie de siége composé au moins de soixante pièces de fer bien conditionnées. Cent autres pièces tant d’artillerie légère de bataillons que d’artillerie de position.
B. L’habillement complet pour vingt mille hommes d’infanterie et pour cinq mille hommes de cavalerie avec les accoutremens nécessaires pour les chevaux.
C. Trente mille épées à la Romaine, pour l’infanterie.
D. Dix mille sarises ou piques à la Macédonienne de treize pieds de long.
E. Des tentes en figure conique à la Turque pour le campement de trente mille hommes.
F. Cinquante bons télescopes militaires.
18. Si l’état précaire de sa santé, ou des causes non prévues mettaient D. Pablo de Olavide dans l’impossibilité de se rendre dans le délai de vingt jours à Paris, pour suivre sa mission à Londres, D. Francisco de Miranda s’y rendrait seul. Il jouirait dans cette position, de la même autorité que s’il était accompagné et aidé des conseils de son collègue. Dans le cas ou des circonstances impérieuses réclameraient l’appui d’un collègue, D. Francisco de Miranda est autorisé, s’il le juge convenable pour le bien de la commission dont il est chargé, à associer à ses importantes fonctions son compatriote D. Pedro Caro qui déjà se trouve actuellement employé par lui à Londres dans une mission de confiance, ou toute autre personne de la probité et des talents de laquelle il puisse répondre. Et vice versa, si par un effet du régime révolutionnaire en France, ou par manque de santé, D. Francisco de Miranda était empêché de se rendre à Londres, D. Pablo de Olavide aurait également le droit de suivre seul cette importante commission, et de s’associer un collègue s’il le jugeait convenable.
Nous, D. Francisco de Miranda, D. Joseph del Pozo y Sucre, et D. Manuel Joseph de Salas, Commissaires de la junta des députés des villes et provinces de l’Amérique Méridionale après un mûr examen des Articles cidessus, déclarons que les dits articles doivent servir de pouvoirs et d’instructions à nos commissaires envoyés à Londres, et au besoin à Philadelphia, D. Francisco de Miranda et Don Pablo de Olavide, voulant que les présentes suppléent à tout autre instrument en forme, que la situation tyrannique sous laquelle la France gémit aujourd’hui, nous a empêché de leur transmettre; les ayant compôsés, pour la facilité des négociations, en langue française, et ayant pris une copie traduite en langue espagnole collationnée et signée par nous pour être remise à la junta à Madrid.
Telles sont les seules démarches que les circonstances actuelles nous ont permis de faire, vu que notre principal agent et notre compatriote D. Francisco de Miranda est obligé de vivre dans une profonde retraite pour se soustraire à la proscription qui frappe aujourd’hui tous les citoyens distingués par leurs vertus et leurs talents; proscription qui seule est la cause des délais et des difficultés infinies que nous avons eu à vaincre.
Fait à Paris le 22 Décembre, 1797.
(L. S.) Josef del Pozo y Sucre.
(L. S.) Manuel Josef de Salas.
(L. S.) Francisco de Miranda.
Conforme à l’original,
F. de Miranda.
end of volume i.