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disregarded. From the discovery of America and of the passage to the Eastern seas, colonies were held by the European nations only for purposes of selfish exploitation. Originally handed over to companies which possessed the exclusive right to trade with them, the principle of monopoly, even after the power of the companies was broken, was still retained. Although the English colonies were somewhat more favored than those of other nations, yet the British system, like that of the other European powers, was based upon the principle of exclusion. Foreign ships were forbidden to trade with the colonies, and many of the most important commodities could be exported only to the mother - country. British merchants likewise enjoyed the exclusive privilege of supplying the colonies with such goods as they needed from Europe. This system was rendered yet more insupportable to the American colonists by reason of the substantial liberty which they had been accustomed to exercise in matters of local government. Under what Burke described as a policy of “wise and salutary neglect,” they had to a great extent been permitted to follow in such matters their own bent. But this habit of independence, practised by men in whom vigor and enterprise had been developed by life in a new world, far from reconciling them to their lot, served but to accentuate the incompatibility of commercial slavery with political freedom. The time was sure to come when
colonies could no longer be treated merely as markets and prizes of war. The American revolt was the signal of its appearance.
But there was yet another cause. The American revolt was not inspired solely by opposition to the system of commercial monopoly. The system of colonial monopoly may in a sense be said to have been but the emanation of the system of monopoly in government. In 1776 Europe for the most part was under the sway of arbitrary governments. Great mutations were, however, impending in the world's political and moral order. The principles of a new philosophy were at work. With the usual human tendency to ascribe prosperity and adversity alike to the acts of government, the conviction had come to prevail that all the ills from which society suffered were ultimately to be traced to the principle of the divine right of kings, on which existing governments so generally rested. Therefore, in place of the principle of the divine right of kings, there was proclaimed the principle of the natural rights of man; and in America this principle found a congenial and unpreoccupied soil and an opportunity to grow. The theories of philosophers became in America the practice of statesmen. The rights of man became the rights of individual men. Hence, our forefathers in their Declaration of Independence at the outset declared "these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that
they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” and that “to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed."
When the United States declared their independence they at once undertook to fulfil one of the necessary conditions of national life by endeavoring to enter into diplomatic relations with other powers. Indeed, even before that event, steps were taken towards the establishment of such relations. On March 3, 1776, the Committee of Secret Correspondence of the Continental Congress instructed Silas Deane, of Connecticut, to proceed to France in the character of a secret agent,' and if possible to as
"Deane, who was for some time after his arrival in France to be "engaged in the business of providing goods
for the Indian trade," was to preserve the character of a merchant, it being assumed that the French court would not like it to be known that an agent of the colonies was in the country. But, with a letter furnished by acquaintance, all friends to the Americans,” by conversing with whom it was supposed that he would have “a good opportunity of acquiring Parisian French.” Meanwhile, through one of them who understood English, he was to seek an immediate audience of M. de Vergennes, Minister of Foreign Affairs, to whom, after exhibiting his "letter of credence,” he was in the first instance to
application for a supply of arms and ammunition. In so doing he was to represent the opportunity that might ensue for the development of a large and profitable commerce. (Wharton, Dip.
Cor. Am. Rev. II, 78.)
certain whether, if the colonies should be forced to form themselves into an independent state, France would probably acknowledge them as such and enter into a treaty or alliance with them for commerce or defence, or both, and if so on what conditions. These instructions were signed by Benjamin Franklin, Benjamin Harrison, John Dickinson, Robert Morris, and John Jay.
Deane's mission was by no means fruitless; but, after the Declaration of Independence, measures of a more formal kind were taken. On September 17,
. 1776, Congress took into consideration the subject of treaties with foreign nations, and adopted a plan of a treaty of commerce to be proposed to the King of France. Comprehensive in scope and far-reaching in its aims, this remarkable state paper stands as a monument to the broad and sagacious views of the men who framed it and gave it their sanction. Many of its provisions have found their way, often in identical terms, into the subsequent treaties of the United States; while, in its proposals for the abolition of discriminating duties that favored the native in matters of commerce and navigation, it levelled a blow at the exclusive system then prevailing, and anticipated by forty years the first successful effort to incorporate into a treaty the principle of equality and freedom on which those proposals were based. On the other hand, as if with prophetic instinct, care was taken that the expansion of the United States in the western hemisphere should not be hampered. The new government, in turning to France for aid, did not labor under misconceptions. It little detracts from our obligations to France, for support afforded us in the hour of peril and need, to say that that support was not and could not have been given by the French monarchy out of sympathy with the principles announced by the American revolutionists. No matter what incipient tendencies may have existed among the French people, there could be on the part of the French government no such sentiment. In one point, however, the French government and the French people were in feeling completely united, and that was the determination if possible to undo the results of the Seven Years' War, as embodied in the peace of Paris of 1763. Under that peace France had given to Great Britain both Canada and the Island of Cape Breton, and had practically withdrawn her flag from the Western Hemisphere. To retrieve these losses was the passionate desire of every patriotic Frenchman; and it was believed by the better - informed among our statesmen that France would overlook the act of revolt and embrace the opportunity to deal a blow at her victorious rival. Nevertheless, in the plan of a treaty