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(2) a settlement of the boundaries, (3) the restriction of Canada to its ancient limits, and (4) freedom of fishing on the banks of Newfoundland and elsewhere. There still remained open the questions (1) of the right to dry fish on the British coasts, (2) the payment of debts due to British subjects prior to the war, and (3) the compensation of the loyalists. To the last measure Franklin was unalterably opposed, and whenever it was pressed brought up his proposition for the cession of Canada. Adams was equally insistent upon the right of drying and curing fish on the British coasts. The question as to the payment of debts grew out of the acts of sequestration passed by certain States during the Revolution for the purpose of causing debts due to British creditors to be paid into the public treasuries. The lawfulness of this transaction became a subject of controversy in the peace negotiations, especially in connection with the claims of the loyalists for compensation for their confiscated estates. Franklin and Jay, though they deprecated the policy of confiscating private debts, hesitated on the ground of a want of authority in the existing national government to override the acts of the States. But, by one of those dramatic strokes of which he was a master, John Adams, when he arrived on the scene, ended the discussion by suddenly declaring, in the presence of the British plenipotentiaries, that he “had no notion of cheating anybody"; and that, while he was opposed to compensating the loyalists, he would agree to a stipulation to enable the British creditors to sue for the recovery of their debts. Such a stipulation was inserted in the treaty. It is remarkable not only as the embodiment of an enlightened policy, but also as the strongest assertion in the acts of that time of the power and authority of the national government. The final concession as to the fisheries was also granted upon the demand of Adams, who declared that he would not sign a treaty on any other terms. Before the close of the negotiations, Henry Laurens arrived in Paris; and there, on November 30th, he joined his three colleagues in signing, with Richard Oswald, the provisional articles of peace. It has often been said that of all the treaties Great Britain ever made, this was the one by which she gave the most and took the least. It brought, however, upon Shelburne and his associates the censure of the House of Commons, and caused the downfall of his ministry.
The articles were signed by the American commissioners without consultation with the French government. In taking this course, the commissioners acted in opposition to their instructions. Their action was due to suspicions first entertained by Jay, but in which Adams, who besides was little disposed to defer to Vergennes, participated. Franklin, although he does not appear to have shared the feelings of his colleagues, determined to act with them. The question whether they were justified has given rise to controversies perhaps more voluminous than important. Every source of information has been diligently explored in order to ascertain whether the suspicions of Jay were, in fact, well or ill founded. This test does not, however, seem to be necessarily conclusive. In law, the justification of an act often depends not so much upon the actual as upon the apparent reality of the danger. The principal ground of Jay's distrust was a secret mission to England of Rayneval, an attaché of the French Foreign Office, and an especial representative of Vergennes. Jay suspected that Rayneval had been sent to London to learn from Shelburne the views of the American commissioners, and to assure him of the support of France if he should reject their claims to the fisheries and the Mississippi. The disclosure in recent years of Rayneval's reports to Vergennes has shown that his mission had other objects, though it is no doubt also true that the government of France, mindful of its own historic contentions, as well as of the interests of its other ally, Spain, regarded the claims of the Americans as excessive and was indisposed to support them. But whether the conduct of the American commissioners was or was not justifiable, it aroused the indignation of the French government.
“You are about to hold out,” wrote Vergennes to Franklin, “a certain hope of peace to America without even informing yourself of the state of negotiations on our part. You are wise and discreet, sir; you perfectly understand what is due to propriety; you have all your life performed your duties. I 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 recommend them to your own integrity.” No paper that Franklin ever wrote displays his marvellous skill to more advantage than his reply to these reproaches. While protesting that nothing had been agreed in the preliminaries contrary to the interests of France, he admitted that the American commissioners had “been guilty of neglecting a point of bienséance.” But as this was not, he declared, from want of respect to the King, whom they all loved and honored, he hoped that it would be excused, and that “the great work, which has hitherto been so happily conducted, is so nearly brought to perfection, and is so glorious to his reign, will not be ruined by a single indiscretion of ours.” And then he adds this adroit suggestion: “The English, I just now learn, flatter themselves they have already divided
I hope this little misunderstanding will therefore be kept a secret, and that they will find themselves totally mistaken."
When the provisional articles of peace were signed, the American commissioners hoped subsequently to be able to conclude a commercial arrangement.
This hope proved to be delusive. On September 3, 1783, the provisional articles were formally converted into a definitive peace. The old system, embodied in the Navigation Act, England even yet was not ready to abandon. It still dominated Europe, and confined the New World outside of the United States. Years of strife were to ensue before it was to fall to pieces; and in the course of the conAict the United States was to stand as the exponent and defender of neutral rights and commercial freedom.
Adam Smith's Essay on the Colonial System;
Deane, March 3, 1776, Wharton's Dip. Cor. Am. Rev. II, 78; Treaty Plan, Sept. 17, 1776, Ford's Journal of the Continental
Congress, V. 768, Wait's Secret Journal, II, 7.
Works of Franklin and John Adams;
of the United States; Doniol's Histoire de la Participation de la France à l'Établisse
ment des États-Unis; Fauchille's La Ligue des Neutres; Fitzmaurice's Life of Shelburne; Moore's Digest of International Law; Moore's History and Digest of International Arbitrations; Stevens's Facsimiles of Manuscripts in European Archives
Relating to America. Trescot's Diplomatic History of the American Revolution; Wharton's Diplomatic Correspondence of the American Revolu
tion (which has a very full index); Winsor's Narrative and Critical Historv.