صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

1783.]

FRANKLIN'S SKILL AS A NEGOTIATOR.

295

this ill-feeling. He laid a stress on the fact that a peace with the United States could not take place until one was concluded between Great Britain and France: he frankly admitted that the American envoys had been wanting in bienseance: he disclaimed all intention of disrespect to the King, whose benefits and favors to America, he said, were as much felt by all his countrymen as they were by himself: he trusted that their joint work, when brought to so glorious a termination, would not be ruined by a mere indiscretion, especially as he understood the English to boast that they had already. produced a division between France and the United States.

The discontent first felt against the United States was now converted into an increased resentment against Great Britain, and a determination to frustrate her insidious purpose of exciting jealousy between France and America. In furtherance of this object, Vergennes not only accepted Dr. Franklin's apology, but actually granted to the United States a new loan of six millions of livres. When we consider the financial difficulties which were even then experienced by France, this loan, so very acceptable and opportune to the United States, affords a striking proof of Dr. Franklin's talents as a negotiator. But it must be also mentioned that, in addition to the French minister's anxious desire for peace, he was well aware that when the promise of the United States to carry on a joint negotiation had been used to postpone their interests to the interests of France, those States were absolved from a promise thus sought to be perverted from its original purpose.

The negotiations of Great Britain with France, which had been for some time going on, were terminated subsequently by a treaty of peace; after which the prelimi

296

TREATY WITH GREAT BRITAIN.

[CHAP. IV. nary treaty made with the United States required only the final ratification of their respective governments.

There having been, in the meanwhile, a change of ministry in England, Mr. Oswald was recalled, and David Hartley was appointed in his place. Hartley endeavored to effect some change in the treaty in favor of the loyalists, and also to procure some commercial advantages to Great Britain. The United States, on the other hand, wished to modify the provision made in favor of British creditors; but all these proposed alterations failed,' and the definitive treaty did not vary from the preliminary, except in the secret article, which the intervening treaty between Great Britain and Spain had rendered unnecessary, and inoperative.

By this treaty, the national independence of the thirteen United States was formally acknowledged. Provision was made for settling the boundary line between them and the British possessions in Canada and Nova Scotia. The right to the fisheries was secured to the United States to the extent that they had heretofore possessed, except that they were not allowed to dry their fish at any settled part of the British dominions, without the consent of its inhabitants: creditors were to meet with no legal impediment to the recovery of their debts in either country: Congress was to recommend to the Legislatures of the States to restore the property which had been confiscated, of such British subjects as had not borne arms against the United States; with some

'In December, 1782, the Legislature of Virginia requested Congress, through their delegates, not to agree to a restitution of the confiscated property; and a similar objection was made by the Legislature of Pennsylvania. Congress also, in May, instructed their ministers to make some qualifications and explanations on this clause in the preliminary treaty.

1783.]

DISCONTENTS OF THE ARMY.

297

other provisions in favor of the same class: all prisoners were be set at liberty: no negroes, or other property, were to be carried away by British armies or fleets, and all public records and papers to be restored: the navigation of the Mississippi was to be free to both countries.

The definitive treaty was not signed at Paris until the third day of September, 1783; and it was ratified by Congress on the fourteenth of January, 1784.

Soon after the army had gone into winter-quarters, in 1782, they petitioned Congress to make provision for the money due to them, and for the commutation of the half-pay by a sum in gross, which Congress had, in October, 1780, stipulated to pay them. The sentiments of the members widely differed respecting the claims of the army. While some were for liberally rewarding their services and their sacrifices, and, at all events, favored a scrupulous compliance with the public engagements by all feasible means, others viewed those claims with a certain degree of jealousy, as in conflict with the impoverished condition of the country, and even with some of the cherished principles of republican government. This sentiment was not unknown to the army, and so increased its general discontent, that it wanted only a favorable occasion to manifest itself.

It was known, early in March, through the committee of officers sent to Congress from the army, that their requests had not been granted. On the tenth of that month there appeared at Newburgh, in New York, then the head-quarters of the army, an anonymous invitation to the general and field-officers to meet on the following day, with a suggestion, that an officer from each company, and from each medical staff would be expected. The avowed purpose of the meeting was to consider their

298

NEWBURGH LETTERS.

[CHAP. IV.

late application to Congress, and to devise measures for the redress of their grievances.

On the same day an eloquent and inflammatory anonymous address to the army was circulated. The Commander-in-chief was still in camp, where he had been led to remain, not with a view to any military duty, but to be in readiness to prevent mischief growing out of the discontents of the army, of which he was well apprised. In a general order, adverting to the irregular invitation, to which he said he was convinced they would not attend, he invited them to assemble on the fifteenth of the month, to hear the report of the committee sent to Congress, at which time they could devise what further measures they would pursue to obtain justice.

The next day a second anonymous address to the army appeared, in which the author affected to consider the Commander-in-chief favorable to his views.

On the fifteenth, the proposed convention of officers assembled, and General Gates presided. He was then addressed by General Washington, who severely rebuked the author of the anonymous addresses, and particularly condemned his advice to the officers in case justice was longer withheld; which was, if the war continued, to remove to some unsettled country, leaving their own undefended; and in the event of peace, "never to sheathe their swords until they had obtained complete and ample justice." The General accounted for the delays of Congress, from the numerous demands on the attention of that body, and the infinite difficulties encountered. He spoke of his determination to aid the army in preferring its claims on the country; and he besought them, in the earnest language which only purity of intention, and fervent love of country could have dictated, to refrain

1783.] PATRIOTIC RESOLUTIONS OF THE OFFICERS.

299

from any measures that would sully their past glory, and be ruinous to those liberties which they had so long and so nobly labored to establish.

Resolutions were then offered and unanimously passed. They declared,

That from the high motives which had first caused them to take up arms, they never would be induced to depart by any circumstances of personal distress or danger.

That the army having an unshaken confidence in the justice of Congress, was confident it would not disband them until their accounts were liquidated, and funds were provided for their payment.

That the Commander-in-chief be requested to write to Congress, and to request of that body its early decision on their recent petition.

That the officers of the army view with abhorrence, and reject with disdain, the infamous propositions contained in a late anonymous address.

General Washington accordingly wrote a letter to Congress, in which he pleaded most urgently in behalf of an army whose acts and sufferings in defence of human rights and liberties, he said, had never been equalled; a course which he could pursue with more propriety and effect, since, having refused to receive any pay himself, beyond his expenses, he had no personal interest in the question.1

It appearing to some of the members of this body that their motive for sitting with closed doors no longer existed, they proposed that the doors should be thereafter open, except when otherwise ordered; but the

[blocks in formation]
« السابقةمتابعة »