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CHAPTER IV.

THE FEDERAL CONSTITUTION.

1783-1788.

THOUGH the struggle for independence was virtually at an end in 1782, and all active hostilities had then ceased on both sides, there was no small difficulty and delay in agreeing on the terms of pacification after the bellige rents had decided on putting an end to the war.

On the seventeenth of December of this year, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, John Jay, and Henry Laurens, were appointed Commissioners to negotiate peace; and the French minister to the United States, M. de La Lucerne, having communicated to Congress that Great Britain was disposed to negotiate a separate peace with the United States, Congress decided that they would hearken to no proposition of that character, but in concert with His most Christian Majesty, in conformity with the like declaration which the King of France had made to the British minister at Paris.

Mr. Jay, who was acting as minister to Spain, having been sent for by Dr. Franklin to assist in the negotiations for peace then begun at Paris, soon finding that the British ministry were strongly disposed to insist on a qualified dependence of America, or at least some political connection with Great Britain, and wished to make a separate peace with the United States, he communicated the facts to Congress, with the concurrence of Dr. Franklin: on which that body, on the fourth of October, renewed their declara

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tion that they would make no peace, except in concert with His most Christian Majesty, nor unless American sovereignty and independence were fully recognised.'

The British ministers had employed Mr. Oswald to treat with the American Commissioners, and in his commission the United States were styled American colonies or plantations. This paper having been shown to Mr. Jay, he objected to it, and refused to enter into any negotiation, unless the United States were recognised to be sovereign and independent; and though the French minister regarded this as an unnecessary preliminary, and urged Mr. Jay not to insist on it, and Dr. Franklin was disposed to take the same view, Mr. Jay adhered to his first purpose, and pressed it so earnestly, that Dr. Franklin at length concurred with him, and Mr. Oswald wrote home for the further instructions required, which he finally obtained.

This difficulty being removed, it soon appeared that there were other serious impediments to a pacification. Spain, as has been mentioned, was strongly disposed to deprive the United States of the right of navigating the Mississippi, and to resist the extension of their settlements as far west as the banks of that river. She presumed that England would rather favor than oppose these restrictions on the growth and power of her former colonies; and she was not without hopes that, profiting by the successes of her allies, she might eventually obtain a cession of Gibraltar.

These claims of Spain to the exclusive navigation of the Mississippi, and to the territory on its eastern bank, were openly favored by France, apparently from her friendship towards a kindred state: but it further appeared that France also wished the United States to sur

1 III. Journals of Congress, page 249.

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[CHAP. IV.

render the right to the fisheries, which it was understood that Great Britain was inclined to withhold at least, that her ally should be content with the right of fishing near the coast, and would not contend for that on the Grand Bank of Newfoundland.

It does not appear whether this part of her course was dictated merely by her anxiety to make peace, and consequently to remove what she deemed the principal difficulty in the way of so desirable a result, or whether she expected, by the proposed restriction, to extend this branch of her own shipping; it being known that the New England fishermen, from their proximity to the banks of Newfoundland, could begin to catch fish earlier during the fishing season, and continue it later, than any European nation. Whatever was the cause, the discovery of the fact excited no little jealousy and dissatisfaction on the part of the American negotiators.

When Mr. Jay left Madrid, the negotiations of the United States with Spain were transferred to Paris, where the Count de Aranda attended as the minister of Spain. He there denied that the western limits of the United States extended to the Mississippi, urging that the country in question, before the war of 1756, belonged to France, and, after the peace of 1763, to Great Britain, until, by the conquest of West Florida, and certain posts on the Mississippi, it passed to Spain. He then proposed to run a boundary line on the disputed territory between the United States and Spain; to which proposition the American Commissioners peremptorily objected.

Rayneval, the Count de Vergennes' Secretary, took an active part in behalf of these pretensions of Spain, and proposed a "conciliatory line," founded on the alleged claims of England before the war of 1756, which, he maintained, only extended to the country south of the

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Ohio. The line thus proposed by Rayneval would have excluded the United States from the lands north of the Ohio, now constituting the five States of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin, a part of Tennessee, and nearly the whole of Alabama and Mississippi. He subsequently went secretly over to London, and on his return, he inquired of the American Commissioners as to their claims to the fisheries; and when he was informed that the United States would insist on an equal right to them with Great Britain, he recommended them to confine their claims to the fisheries on the coast. The avowed object of this advice was to remove, as far as practicable, all impediments to an early peace.

An intercepted letter from M. Barbois, the secretary of legation in the United States, to M. de Vergennes, confirmed the opinion which the American envoys entertained of the wishes of the French Court. Barbois anticipated that England, from a natural regard to her own interest, would seek to exclude the Americans from the Newfoundland fishery; and, therefore, he said, it would be prudent in France to make an early declaration to the Americans that their pretension was unfounded, and that His Majesty did not intend to support it.

It thus being apparent that France was not inclined to favor the claims of the United States on the very important points of the fisheries, the extent of their territory to the West, and the navigation of the Mississippi, as soon as Oswald received his new commission, which recognised the United States as a sovereign power, the American Commissioners felt themselves justified in proceeding to a separate negotiation with Oswald, without consulting the French minister, or even communicating the fact to him, notwithstanding their express instructions to the contrary. They, however, stipulated, that no

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negotiation was binding without the concurrence of France; and a preliminary treaty was accordingly agreed on. This treaty was immediately sent to England, where it received several modifications; and was returned for further negotiation.

Compensation to American loyalists, which had not been provided for, was earnestly pressed by the British Commissioners; but it was urged by the American envoys that this subject was beyond the control of Congress, and belonged exclusively to the individual States. It was finally agreed that Congress should recommend to the several States the restoration of the property which had been confiscated. It was at the same time stated by the American Commissioners as their belief, that the recommendation would be disregarded.

The terms of the preliminary treaty were finally adjusted, and it was signed on the thirtieth of November, 1782, by Richard Oswald, on the part of Great Britain; and by Adams, Franklin, Jay, and Laurens, on the part of the United States; with the stipulation that the treaty was not to be concluded until the terms of peace should be agreed upon between Great Britain and France. There was a secret article which enlarged the limits of Florida, in case, on the final pacification, Great Britain should retain that colony.

A few days afterwards, Dr. Franklin communicated to the French minister what had been done. The Court of France finding their attempts to influence the negotiation thus foiled, and that the American Commissioners had carried on a separate negotiation, notwithstanding their assurances to the contrary, appeared to be at first greatly dissatisfied; and, in guarded terms, M. de Vergennes complained of this want of good faith. Dr. Franklin, with consummate address, succeeded in removing

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