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between Great Britain and France. The limits between the United States and the Floridas, were fixed in latitude thirty one degrees, on the Mississippi, from thence to the middle of the river Apalachicola; thence along the middle thereof to its junction with the Flint river ; thence straight to the head of St. Mary's river; and thence down the middle of St. Mary's to the Atlantic ocean.
There was, however, a separate and secret article, providing " that in case Great Britain, at the conclusion of the present war, should recover, or be put in possession of West Florida, the line of north boundary between that province and the United States, should be a line drawn from the mouth of the river Yazous, where it unites with the Mississippi, due east to the river Apalachiola.” Though the northern bounds of West Florida, by the British proclamation of October, 1763, were fixed at latitude thirty one degrees, yet afterwards, in the year 1774, by a commission and instructions given to governor Chester, the north bounds of that province were extended to the mouth of the river Yazous, and from thence east, to the river mentioned in the secret article.
In concluding this provisional treaty, as it was called, the American negociators did not consult the French court, or its ministers; and in this respect, violated their instructions. The count de Vergennes had at first suggested to them, that both negociations should proceed together, and the treaties be signed on the same day.
The American commissioners, however, were convinced, that the best interests of their country, demanded the course of proceeding adopted by them; and felt perfectly justified, in departing from their instructions.
They had strong reasons for believing, that on the great and interesting questions of boundaries, the fisheries, and even concerning the loyalists, the views of the French court were very different from theirs. Indeed it was not difficult to foresee, that in the adjustment of so many different claims, and counter claims, as must necessarily exist, between Great Britain, and the four powers, confederated against her, in such a war, great difficulties
would arise; and that even among the confederates themselves, there might be interfering claims.
France, Spain, and Holland, had important interests to settle, not only on the American continent, but in Europe, the East and West Indies, and indeed in every part of the world ; and each would naturally demand terms most advantagous for itself. If Great Britain should be induced to insist on terms less advantageous to one, it might be expected, and even required of her, to grant those which were more beneficial to another. Nor was it strange, that the house of Bourbon should wish to regain, at the close of this war, what it had lost by the humiliating terms of the treaty, which concluded the last.
The ideas of Mr. Rayneval, the confidential secretary of the count de Vergennes, concerning western limits, had been communicated to Mr. Jay, before the commencement of negociations with Mr. Oswald, and it was impossible to believe, that this was done without the knowledge and approbation of the French minister. From this communication, and the claim made by the Spanish ambassador, there could be no doubt, that France and Spain intended, either to secure the western country to themselves, or yield it to Great Britain for an equivalent elsewhere. Nor was there less doubt, as to the real views of the French court, with regard to the fisheries. With respect to the loyalists, the count de Vergennes himself, expressed an opinion to Mr. Adams in favor of some provision for them.*
Under these circumstances, Mr. Adams and Mr. Jay determined to act for themselves, and conclude the treaty, without consulting the French court, or its ministers; and Dr. Franklin, informed of their determination, agreed to proceed with them. Mr. Laurens did not join the other commissioners, until two days before the signing of the treaty, but he concurred in their proceedings; and at his suggestion, a clause was inserted, prohibiting the carrying away negroes, or other property belonging to American inhabitants.
This negociation, so interesting to the United States, was fortunately intrusted to gentlemen distinguished for their firmness,
* American State Papers, Mr. Adams' Journal, vol. 1, p. 328.
as well as talents and integrity. They knew too well how much the future prosperity and happiness of their country depended, on securing the fisheries, the western country, and a part of the great lakes, to run the hazard of losing them, at the suggestion or advice of any power whatever.
Sensible, that without these advantages, independence itself, would be of comparatively little value, they had the firmness to declare, that without them, there should be no peace. Dr. Franklin, in August, 1782, speaking of the claim of Spain to the western country, says, " that my conjecture of that court's design, to coop.up us within the Alleghany mountains, is now manifest. I hope congress will insist on the Mississippi, as the boundary, and the free navigation of the river, from which they would exclude us."* Mr. Jay afterwards declared, “ that he would never set his hand to a bad treaty, nor to one, which did not secure the fishery.”
The American treaty (except the secret article) was communicated to the count de Vergennes, by Dr. Franklin, who, at the same time, informed him, that it was to be sent to America, by the Washington packet, under a passport from the king of England.
Vergennes made some objections to sending it under a British passport, as English letters might be transmitted by the same vessel, conveying improper information.
The passport, however, soon after arrived, and Dr. Franklin, in a note informed the French minister of this fact, and that the packet would sail immediately. He also inquired, what information he might give congress, as to the aids they had asked of the king. The answer of the French minister disclosed his own feelings as well as those of the French court, concerning the conduct of the American commissioners, in concluding a treaty, without their concurrence and advice.
“I cannot but be surprised, sir," he said, “ that, after the explanation I have had with you, and the promise you gave, that you would not press the application for an English passport, for
* Franklin's Works, vol. 5, p. 157.
the sailing of the Washington packet, that you now inform me, you have received the passport, and that, at ten o'clock to-morrow morning, your courier will set out, to carry your dispatches. I am at a loss, sir, to explain your conduct, and that of your colleagues, on this occasion.
“ You have concluded your preliminary articles, without any communication between us, although the instructions from congress, prescribe, that nothing shall be done, without the participation of the king.
“ You are about to hold out a certain hope of peace to America, without ever informing yourself, on the state of the negociation on our part. You are wise and discreet, sir ; you perfectly understand, what is due to propriety ; you have, all you life, performed your duties. I pray you
pray you to consider how you propose to fulfil those, which are due to the king. I am not desirous of enlarging these reflections; I commit them to your integrity. When you shall be pleased to satisfy my uncertainty, I will entreat the king to enable me to answer your demands."
This note placed Dr. Franklin in a situation not less delicate than embarrassing. In his answer, after stating that the British had sent the passport, without being pressed to do it, he says,
nothing has been agreed in the preliminaries, contrary to the interest of France; and no peace is to take place between us and England, till you have concluded your's. Your observation is, however, just, that, in not consulting you, before they were signed, we have been guilty of neglecting a point of bienseance.
But, as this was not from any want of respect for the king, whom we love and honor, we hope it will be excused ; and that the great work which has hitherto been so happily brought to perfection, and is so glorious to his reign, will not be ruined by a single indiscretion of ours. And certainly the whole edifice sinks to the ground immediately, if you refuse, on that account, to give us any more assistance.
“ We have not yet despatched the ship, and I beg leave to wait on you, on Friday, for your answer.
“It is not possible,” he added, " for any one to be more sensible than I am, of what I, and every American owe to the king,
for the many and great benefits and favors he has bestowed upon us. All
my letters to America are proofs of this; all tending to make the same impression on the minds of my countrymen, that I felt in my own. And I believe no prince was ever more beloved and respected by his own subjects, or by the people of the United States. The English, I just now hear, flatter themselves, they have already divided us. I hope this little misunderstanding will, therefore be kept a secret, and that they will find themselves mistaken."*
At the time of the signature of the provisional treaty, the terms of peace, between Great Britain, and France and Spain, were not adjusted. Unable to obtain Gibraltar by force, Spain resolved to secure it by negociation, and her minister, count de Aranda, was instructed to make the acquisition of that fortress a sine qua non. This created great delay, as well as difficulty, in the negociations between those powers.
To effect this object, the aid of France was solicited ; and Spain offered the French king her part of St. Domingo, if he would secure Gibraltar. Mr. Rayneval was intrusted with this delicate and important negociation, at the court of London. A majority of the British cabinet, after much debate, finally agreed to yield Gibraltar, on the two following conditions.
1st. The restitution of all the conquests made by Spain, viz. Minorca, West Florida and the Bahama Islands.
2d. The cession of the island of Porto Rico, or the restitution of Dominico, and the cession of Guadaloupe.
The king of France was willing to restore Dominico, and to cede Guadaloupe, and to take, in exchange, the Spanish part of St. Domingo ; but the king of Spain was unwilling to restore West Florida.t
The king of England, however, at last put an end to this negociation, by declaring he would, on no terms whatever, give up Gibraltar. The ultimatum of the British court, in relation to territory, was the cession of both the Floridas, together with Mi* Franklin's Works, vol. 6, p. 510. Histoire &c. de Diplomatie Francaise, vol. 7.