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ever been averse to toleration, and inveterately opposed to the interests and freedom of the places of worship, which they serve.”
To all the lovers of peace, they observed, “ that they were made, by their leaders, to continue involved in all the calamities of war, without having either a just object to pursue, or a subsisting grievance, which might not instantly be redressed.”
The commissioners then added a declaration, as novel in its principles, as it was calamitous in its consequences. If any person should think it for “ the benefit of the colonies, to separate themselves from Great Britain,” they thought it right, they said, “ to leave them aware of the change, which the maintaining such a position must make, in the whole nature and future conduct of the war, more especially, when to this position is added, the pretended alliance with the court of France.
“ The policy, as well as benevolence of Great Britain,” they subjoined, “ have thus far checked the extremes of war, where they tended to distress a people still considered as our fellow-subjects, and to desolate a country, shortly to become a source of mutual advantage: but when that country professes the unnatural design, not only of estranging herself from us, but of mortgaging herself to our enemies, the whole contest is changed ; and the question is, how far Great Britain may, by every means in her power, destroy or render useless, a connection contrived for her ruin, and for the aggrandizement of France. Under such circumstances, the laws of self-preservation must direct the conduct of Great Britain; and if the British colonies are to become an accession to France, will direct her to render that accession as of little avail to her as possible."
In conclusion, the commissioners offered pardon to all who should within forty days, withdraw from the civil or military service of the colonies, and continue good and peaceable subjects of the British king.
They directed copies of this manifesto to be circulated among the people of the United States, by means of flags of truce. Congress considered this as a violation of national law, and declared, that the agents so employed were not entitled to the protection
of a flag; and recommended to the executives of the several states to seize and secure them.
The British commissioners seemed to imagine, that America was the absolute property of the British crown; and that as this property was mortgaged to France, the king had a right to waste and destroy it at pleasure. Viewing this part of the manifesto as a threat of more extensive devastation of the country in future, congress, on the 30th of October, issued a counter manifesto, declaring, “that if our enemies presume to execute their threats, or persist in their present career of barbarity, we will take such exemplary vengeance, as shall deter others from a like conduct. We appeal,” they said, “ to that God who searcheth the hearts of men, for the rectitude of our intentions; and in his holy presence declare, that as we are not moved by any light or hasty suggestions of anger and revenge, so through every possible change of fortune we will adhere to this our determination.”
The commissioners found the American people as little disposed to accept the offers of reconciliation and pardon, as their representatives. The day of reconciliation had indeed passed. A re-union with Great Britain, on terms compatible with the permanent security of their essential rights, or with the political happiness and commercial prosperity of their country, the people of the United States were now convinced was impossible. Nor could they accede to any terms short of absolute independence, without violating their engagements with France.
The commissioners, therefore, at the expiration of the forty days, finding no applications for pardon, returned to Great Britain, and left the contest to be decided by the sword.
French fleet and a French minister arrive in America in the summer of 1778-French
minister received with great joy--Dr. Franklin appointed minister to France--His instructions--Plan of attacking Canada in conjunction with France adopted by congress-submitted to general Washington-Disapproved by him--his public and his private letters on this subject--Congress finally relinquish the scheme--Co-operation of Spain expected--Spain declines acceding to the treaties made with France Reasons of this-Wishes security for her own American possessions--Offers her mediation between France and Great Britain--France accepts the mediation-Great Britain holds a correspondence on the subject for some months---Refuses to have her disputes with the Americans brought into the negociations-Rejects the final proposition of Spain-King of Spain joins France in the war, June, 1779—This in pursuance of a secret treaty made in April preceding--Manifestoes issued both by France and Spain---Answered by Great Britain--Pending this mediation the British minister through Mr. Hartley, again sounds Dr. Franklin at Paris, on the subject of reconciliation--Mr. Hartley with this view submits to him certain preliminary propositions---Not acceded to---Object of the British minister to break the alliance between the United States and France---Congress informed of the offered mediation of Spain by the French minister. --Subject referred to a committee---Committee report instructions to be given to an American minister to negociate peace--- These instructions create long debates and great divisions in congress--- Particularly about the fisheries, the boundaries and the navigation of the Mississippi--- Terms relative to peace ultimately settled in congress—The use of the fisheries and the navigation of the Mississippi not made ultimata—No treaty of commerce to be made with Great Britain, without a stipulation on her part not to disturb the Americans in taking fish on the banks of Newfoundland, &c.
The French court, soon after the completion of the treaties with America, sent a minister plenipotentiary to the United States, accompanied with a powerful fleet. The immediate object of the naval force was, to shut up the British fleet in the Delaware. Aware of this, the British commissioners brought secret orders for the immediate evacuation of Philadelphia. In pursuance of these orders, the British army left that city on the 18th of June, and returned to New York, through New Jersey. On their way they were attacked by the Americans, and a severe engagement took place at Monmouth, in which both sides claimed the victory. Though the French fleet, consisting of twelve ships of the
POLITICAL AND CIVIL HISTORY, &c.
line and six frigates, sailed from Toulon on the 13th of April, yet in consequence of calms and head winds, it did not reach the American coast till the 6th of July, a few days after the British ships left the Delaware. With this fleet came Mr. Gerard, minister from the court of France. The first appearance of an envoy from one of the greatest powers in Europe, was highly gratifying to the people of America. He was received with every mark of attention, and his first audience was attended with much ceremony. As the executive as well as legislative power was vested in congress, communications between that body, and the minister, were either by select committees, or by the members themselves in a body. In the first mode, the substance of the conference was reported to congress, and in the second, the communications of the minister were taken down in writing in committee of the whole, and reported to the house. These modes of communication resulted from the organization of the general government, but were not well calculated for secrecy or despatch.
Soon after the arrivalof the French plenipotentiary, congress determined to send a minister of a similar grade to represent the United States at the court of France; and on the 14th of September, Dr. Franklin, then at the advanced age of seventy one, was appointed. He was, among other things, instructed, “to assure the king and his minister, that neither the congress, nor any of the states they represent, have at all swerved from their determination to be independent, in July, 1776. But as the declaration was made in the face of the most powerful fleet and army, which could have been expected to operate against them, and without the slightest assurance of foreign aid, so, though in a defenseless situation, and harrassed by the secret machinations and designs of intestine foes, they have, under the exertions of that force, during those bloody campaigns persevered in their determination to be free: and that they have been inflexible in this determination, notwithstanding the interruption of their commerce, the great sufferings they have experienced from the want of those things which it procured, and the unexampled barbarity of their enemies.
“You are to give,” they say, “the most pointed and positive assuranees, that although the congress are earnestly desirous of peace, as well to arrange their finances, and recruit the exhausted state of their country, as to spare the further effusion of blood, yet they will faithfully perform their engagements, and afford every assistance in their power to prosecute the war for the great purpose of the alliance.
“ You shall constantly inculcate the certainty of ruining the British fisheries, on the banks of Newfoundland, and consequently, the British marine, by reducing Halifax and Quebec ; since by that means they would be exposed to alarm and plunder, and deprived of the necessary supplies formerly drawn from America.
“ The plan proposed by congress for compassing these objects is herewith transmitted for your more particular instruction.
“ You are to lay before the court the deranged state of the finances, together with the causes thereof; and show the necessity of placing them on a more respectable footing, in order to prosecute the war with vigor on the part of America.
“ You are, by every means in your power, to promote a perfect harmony, concord, and good understanding, not only between the allied powers, but also between and among their subjects, that the connection so favorably begun may be perpetuated.
“You shall, in all things, take care, not to make any engagements or stipulations, on the part of America, without the consent of America previously obtained.*
The project of reducing Canada was brought before congress, soon after the arrival of the French minister, and was warmly supported, if not suggested by him. A detailed plan for effecting this object, was arranged by congress in October, and accompanied the instructions of the American minister to France. Large bodies of troops were to be collected at several points near the frontiers of that province, and in the ensuing campaign, the different posts of Detroit, Niagara, Oswego, and Montreal, were to be attacked at the same time, and in the reduction of Quebec and Halifax, a French fleet and army were to co-operate. The advantages to be derived from the execution of this measure, both to France and the United States, were stated in the plan itself.
* Note 3.