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cans: We admire the greatness and nobleness of the American exertions, and have no interest in injuring them. On the contrary, we would see with pleasure the time when fortunate circumstances should put it in their power to visit our ports, where the facilities afforded them with respect to their trade would evince the esteem which we cherish for them.”:
These sentiments hardly remained a secret; nor did the outward show of non-compliance prevent either the ardent friends of the Americans or interested merchants from entering with them into a variety of connexions, which the French government-in accordance with the above did not feel itself called upon to prevent by force. Yet the important question respecting lawful and illicit trade could even now not be wholly avoided. To English remonstrances, M. de Vergennes replied: “ It is not allowed to export powder and munitions of war without permission from the government, which will not be granted. The governors of the French islands shall be ordered anew to afford no sort of assistance to the Americans."
After the actual outbreak of the American war, the state of things became of course still more involved, and apprehensions respecting the mutual positions of France and England still greater. Of this Lord Stormont, on the 13th of October, 1775, gives the following remarkable account: “ M. de Vergennes said to me,. We wish to live in perfect harmony with you, and are far from meditating any thing that could add to the embarrassments of your present critical condition. He used the words, • Far from wishing to add 10 your embarrassments, we regard them with some uneasiness (avec quelque peine). What is now happening to you in America is nobody's business (n'est de la convenance de personne). I think,' he continued, that I perceive the consequences that must ensue, if your colonies should ever gain the independence they seek for. They would at once set about building fleets; and as all possible advantages for ship-building are at their command, they would soon do more than resist the united naval force of Europe. With such a superiority, connected with all the advantages of position, they would be in a state to take both our islands and your own. Nay, I am satisfied they would not stop here, but in the course of time would advance to South America, subdue or drive out the inhabitants, and at length would leave no European power a foot-breadth of land in that quarter of the world. All these results indeed will not ensue immediately; neither you, my lord, nor I will live to see them; but they are none the less certain because they are remote. A short-sighted policy may rejoice in a rival's distress, without a thought beyond the present hour; but he who sees further and weighs the consequences, must regard what is befalling you in America as a misfortune in which every people that has possessions there bears its share ;-—and in this light, I assure you, I have always viewed the matter.'
“ Maurepas said to me: “We are not the people to take an undue advantage of circumstances and fish in troubled waters. Our wish and intention is to live with you in peace and friendship, and to regulate the affairs of our own country as well as we can.
About the time of the Declaration of Independence (July, 1776) Mr. Silas Deane arrived in Paris as the secret plenipotentiary of the United States, and received from M. Vergennes the reply : “ We cannot openly support the Americans, but will lay no obstruction in the way of their plans for making purchases. About the same time Lord Stormont wrote: “Even on the supposition most favorable to us, that the preparations of France are founded merely on prudence and are intended for self-defence, the apparatus at any rate is put in readiness; and even should it not be used as long as Maurepas lives, it will be directed against us the instant it falls into rash hands. I can pass no decisive judgment on the present views and intentions of the French court. When I see their preparations, I think every thing is to be feared. When, on the contrary, I observe the state of the country and of parties in the court, the discontent in the army, the vacillation in their decrees, the exigencies of their finance, the character of the king (who does not possess the spirit of enterprise and thirst for glory from which a fondness for war proceeds), I cannot bring myself to believe that such hostile plans against us really exist as these preparations indicate. Yet there are men of consequence here, who, as I know, cherish hostile sentiments towards us, and who have often declared to their friends, that if they were in the ministry, they would amuse Great Britain with all possible promises of friendship, and then, when she least expected it, would fall on her in order to retrieve the losses of the last war and to revenge the manner in which it was begun. But none of these men are in favor, and as long as Maurepass influence lasts, they will not come into play.”
Already, before this account of Stormont's, M. de Vergennes had written, on the 10th of June, 1776, to the minister Clugny: “ It seems to me that our political and commercial interests require us to treat the Americans favorably in our ports. Should they succeed in establishing the freedom of their trade, they will have already become habituated to dealing with our merchants; should they be defeated, they will at any rate have carried on for some time an exchange of commodities evidently advantageous
I think, therefore, we must show the greatest favor to the American ships."
* Diplomatic Correspondence, edited by Sparks, Vol. i. p. 13.
Looking anxiously into the future, M. de Vergennes read, on the 31st of August, 1776, in the presence of the king and of the other ministers, a memorial in which he carefully examined and weighed the reasons for and against war. The decision he left to the king's wisdom, but laid by far the greater stress on the reasons for war. These reasons in favor of war obtained a twofold weight, when the new minister of finance, Necker (who, as Lord Stormont very justly remarked, saw every thing in the fairest, but on that very account in the most erroneous light), gave in a brilliant account of the state of the French finances; and when Benjamin Franklin, in December, 1776, came to Paris, to assist Deane in his labors. Franklin's cheerfulness, simplicity, and sound sense, together with his great knowledge, insured him applause and influence. Yet it has been remarked that he sometimes showed himself cautious, cunning, and even avaricious; or that at any rate he sank in comparison with the spotlessly pure und noble character of Washington.*
To Franklin's propositions the ministers gave the following verbal reply: “As the king is determined to direct his attention 'o the restoration of the finances and the improvement of the Internal administration of his kingdom in all its different branches, de cannot think of embarking in a war. He is inclined to listen to the proposals of the colonies, and to promote their views, as soon as they have given more consistency and stability to their assumed independence; but at the present moment, the king (unless England, contrary to all expectation, should declare war) can merely grant protection and a refuge to those persons who may resort to his country. Moreover, he is resolved not to take part any way in the present quarrel, but to observe the strictest neutrality.”+
These words receive their explanation from what took place. Numberless Frenchmen applied to Deane, to be taken into the American service ;! Lafayette sailed over, full of youthful enthusiasm and hindered only in appearance, to the land of new blooming freedom; Beaumarchais provided warlike stores of various kinds; and in March, Deane mentions, not without astonishment, that while cannons, muskets, and other munitions of war had been supplied from the king's magazines to be transported to America, the French minister conducted himself towards the American plenipotentiaries as if he knew nothing about it.ỹ He did every thing possible to keep the English minister quiet, and publicly prohibited what he privately allowed.
* Morellet, i. 290. Grahame's United States, iii. 426. † Stormont's Report of January 1, 1777. | Diplomatic Correspondence, ☆ Diplomatic Correspondence, p. 271.
Thus passed the greater part of the year 1777, in mutual accusations, excuses, half measures, diplomatic artifices, and untruths, which it would require too much space to relate in detail. It will suffice to communicate some interesting and instructive passages from Lord Stormont's reports. He thus writes, on the 13th of August, 1777: “ M. de Vergennes said to me, 'The predilection for Americans in France is truly a very great and serious evil. Do not suppose that it arises from love to America or hatred against England; its root lies much deeper, and can easily escape the notice of a superficial observer, but it deserves our greatest and most serious attention. Although M. de Vergennes did not explain himself further, it was easy to see that he alluded to the licentious spirit that reigns in France, and is doubtless a chief cause of the enthusiastic delirium in favor of the Americans.
" I said to M. de Vergennes, that for my part I had long perceived the secret cause and public direction of this partiality. I assure you,' answered Vergennes, 'the king also perceives it. He made the same remark to me a few days ago; and I replied that it was of consequence by every proper means to restrain and counteract a spirit of whose nature he had formed so correct a judgment.'
«c« I protest by God,' said Vergennes, that if you had orders to tender us Jamaica to-morrow, I would vote for rejecting the offer. What should we do with the island ? we have more land than we want; our object must be to support our colonies, and improve their cultivation; they are large enough already. Too great colonies are a great evil
, and what is now happening to you furnishes a terrible example. Believe me, we have no plans of conquest whatever. Our object is and ought to be, to improve what we possess, to secure the blessings of peace, and to give permanence to our happiness, which is never lessened by your welfare. It is a false, narrow, nay, impious policy, which desires to build up the greatness of one people on the distress and destruction of another. Viewed in a higher light, all are links of one and the same chain; and as the happiness and prosperity of individuals increase the happiness and prosperity of the state to which they belong, so the happiness of one people augments in a thousand ways the happiness of another. This is an evident truth which all men of plain good sense can perceive, when their sight is not obscured by national prejudices, national hate, and lamentable passions, which are so ready at hand to mingle in the affairs of mankind.'- I told him in reply how heartily I desired that the conduct of the French court would always be as much in accordance with it, as I was convinced our own would be."
V ergennes here certainly enounced in a laudable manner principles which are at once the simplest and the loftiest of all political wisdom; but which a foolish and sinful blindness has but too often caused both conquerors and nations to mistake and to transgress. At that time, too, men could not or would not practise them in their purity. In France louder and more numerous voices constantly asserted, that so favorable an opportunity for weakening England must not be suffered to pass unimproved ; while Lord Siormont insisted more and more decidedly that France must keep true peace with England and leave the Americans to themselves, or henceforward support them and thereby force on a war.
“ The behavior of the French ministers," writes the ambassador on the 19th November, 1777, “is now so constantly the same, that it is necessary to suppose they have a fixed, decided plan, viz.: to do us secretly as much harm as possible, and to conceal these ill designs by the strongest assurances of friendship and the greatest apparent attention to our complaints.”
It is true Maurepas repeated several times, " There exists no ground of dispute, no reason for a war, and France will certainly not make a beginning." But after the news of the capture of General Burgoyne had reached Paris, Lord Stormont wrote (28th December, 1777): “ The general inclination of the people is more strongly expressed for war than I can ever recollect; and M. de Maurepas must certainly give way to the current, as so many timid ministers before him have done, who have failed in energetic measures out of mere weakness and indecision. In one word, I now regard the whole French cabinet as inimically disposed towards us, only with different degrees of violence and activity, according to the measure of their different dispositions, characters, and designs."
Lord Stormont was not mistaken. On the 6th February, 1778, a treaty of commerce was concluded between France and America, which premised the latter's independence; and on the same day a treaty of friendly and defensive alliance was signed, which promised to mutually maintain this independence against Eng. land's opposition, and forbade the concluding of a separate peace. On the day when the Countde Noailles produced this treaty in London (13th March, 1778), commands were issued to Lord Stormont to quit Paris without taking leave. War had been decided on.
At that time the majority regarded the assistance of France as absolutely necessary to the liberation of America ; but now this may well be doubted. A separation from the mother-country and an acknowledgment that they had attained their majority, would certainly have been extorted by the colonies at last, without foreign assistance. If they were ever so inclined, it was impossible for the French to sever all connection with America; and besides it would have been to them a serious injury. This