"And whereas further, in pursuance of the said act, we did on the —— day of —— authorise and commission you, the said Richard Oswald, (here follows the commission.) Now, therefore, to the end that a period may be put to the calamities of war, and peace, commerce, and mutual intercourse the more speedily restored, we do hereby, in pursuance of our royal word, for ourselves and our successors, recognise the said thirteen Colonies as free and independent States. And it is our will and pleasure, that you do forthwith proceed to treat with the Commissioner or Commissioners already appointed, or to be appointed for that purpose by the Congress of the said States, and, with him or them only, of and concerning the objects of your said commission, which we do hereby confirm, and that this declaration be considered by you as a preliminary article to the proposed treaty, and be in substance or in the whole inserted therein, or incorporated therewith. And it is our further will and pleasure, that, on receiving these presents, which we have caused to be made patent, and our great seal to be hereunto affixed, you do deliver the same to the said Commissioner or Commissioners, to be by him or them transmitted to the Congress of the United States of America, as an earnest of the friendship and good will, which we are disposed to extend to them. Witness, &c. 15th of August, 1782."
Mr Oswald approved of the draft, and said he would recommend the measure to the Minister. The next day, however, he told me that he had an instruction, which he thought enabled him to make the declaration; but that it would be necessary to obtain the previous consent of the Minister for that purpose. He then read to me the fourth article of his instructions, of which the following is a copy, viz.
"In case you find the American Commissioners are not at liberty to treat on any terms short of independence, you are to declare to them that you have our authority to make that cession; our ardent wish for peace disposing us to purchase it at the price of acceding to the complete independence of the thirteen colonies."
He said he would immediately despatch a courier to London, and would press the Ministry for permission to acknowledge our independence without further delay, which he accordingly did.
At this time the commission under the great seal had arrived, and Dr Franklin and myself went to Versailles to communicate that circumstance to the Count de Vergennes, and (agreeably to our instructions) to inform him of what had passed between Mr Oswald and us.
The Count and myself again discussed the propriety of insisting, that our independence should be acknowledged previous to a treaty. He repeated, that it was expecting the effect before the cause, and many other similar remarks, which did not appear to me to be well founded. I told the Count, that a declaration of our independence was in my opinion, a matter of very little consequence; that I did not consider our independence as requiring any aid or validity from British acts; and provided, that nation treated us as she treated other nations, viz. on a footing of equality, it was all that I desired. He differed with me also in this opinion. He thought an explicit acknowledgment of our independence in treaty very necessary, in order to prevent our being exposed to further claims. I told him we should always have arms in our hands to answer those claims, that I considered mere paper fortifications as of but little consequence; and that we should take care to insert an article in the treaty, whereby the King of Great Britain should renounce all claims of every kind to the countries within our limits.
The Count informed us, he had delayed doing business with Mr Fitzherbert, until we should be ready to proceed with Mr Oswald, and that he expected to see him the next day or the day after.
Mr Fitzherbert went the next day to Versailles, and immediately despatched a courier to London.
The answer of the British Ministry to Mr Oswald is contained in the following extract of a letter to him from Mr Townshend, dated Whitehall, September 1st, 1782.
"I have received and laid before the King your letters of the 17th, 18th, and 21st ultimo, and I am commanded to signify to you, his Majesty's approbation of your conduct, in communicating to the American Commissioners the fourth article of your instructions; which could not but convince them, that the negotiation for peace, and the cession of independence to the Thirteen United Colonies, were intended to be carried on and concluded with the Commissioners in Europe.
"Those gentlemen, having expressed their satisfaction concerning that article, it is hoped they will not entertain a doubt of his Majesty's determination to exercise in the fullest extent the powers with which the act of Parliament has invested him, by granting to America, full, complete, and unconditional independence, in the most explicit manner, as an article of treaty."
When Mr Oswald communicated this letter to me, I did not hesitate to tell him, that his Court was misled by this, for that the language of Mr Townshend corresponded so exactly with that of the Count de Vergennes, and was at the same time so contrary to that of the instructions to Sir Guy Carleton, as to be inexplicable on any other principle. I also told him I suspected, that the courier despatched by Mr Fitzherbert on his return from Versailles had been the means of infusing these ideas. He smiled, and after a little pause said; why, Count de Vergennes told Mr Fitzherbert, that my commission was come and that he thought it would do, and therefore they might now go on, and accordingly they did go on to discuss certain points, and particularly that of Newfoundland.
Mr Oswald did not deny or contradict the inference I drew from this, viz. that Mr Fitzherbert, struck by this conduct of Count de Vergennes, and finding that the commission given to Mr Oswald was deemed sufficient by him, thought it his duty directly to inform his Court of it, and thereby prevent their being embarrassed by our scruples and demands on a point, on which there was so much reason to think, that our allies were very moderate.
For my own part I was not only persuaded that this was the case, but also that the ill success of Mr Oswald's application was owing to it.
These considerations induced me to explain to him, what I supposed to be the natural policy of this Court on the subject, and to show him that it was the interest of Britain to render us as independent on France, as we were resolved to be on her. He soon adopted the same opinion, but was at a loss to see in what manner Great Britain, considering what had just past, could consistently take further steps at present. I told him, that nothing was more easy, for that the issuing of another commission would do it. He asked me if he might write that to the Ministry; I told him he might; he then desired, in order to avoid mistakes, that I would give it to him in writing, which I did as follows, viz.
"A commission (in the usual form) to Richard Oswald to treat of peace or truce with Commissioners, vested with equal powers by and on the part of the United States of America, would remove the objections to which his present one is liable, and render it proper for the American Commissioners to proceed to treat with him on the subject of preliminaries."
I then reminded him of the several resolutions of Congress, passed at different periods, not to treat with British Commissioners on any other footing than that of absolute independence, and also intimated, that I thought it would be best to give him our final and decided determination not to treat otherwise in writing, in the form of a letter. He preferred this to a verbal answer, and the next day I prepared the following draft of such a letter.
"It is with regret, that we find ourselves obliged by our duty to our country, to object to entering with you into negotiations for peace on the plan proposed. One nation can treat with another nation only on terms of equality; and it cannot be expected, that we should be the first and only servants of Congress, who would admit doubts of their independence.
"The tenor of your commission affords matter for a variety of objections, which your good sense will save us the pain of enumerating. The journals of Congress present to you unequivocal and uniform evidence of the sentiments and resolutions of Congress on the subject, and their positive instructions to us to speak the same language.
"The manner of removing these obstacles is obvious, and in our opinion no less consistent with the dignity than the interest of Great Britain. If the Parliament meant to enable the King to conclude a peace with us on terms of independence, they necessarily meant to enable him to do it in a manner compatible with his dignity; and consequently that he should previously regard us in a point of view, that would render it proper for him to negotiate with us. What this point of view is you need not be informed.
"We also take the liberty of submitting to your consideration, how far his Majesty's now declining to take this step would comport with the assurances lately given on that subject, and whether hesitation and delay would not tend to lessen the confidence, which those assurances were calculated to inspire.
"As to referring an acknowledgment of our independence to the first article of a treaty, permit us to remark, that this implies, that we are not to be considered in that light until after the conclusion of the treaty, and our acquiescing would be to admit the propriety of our being considered in another light during that interval. Had this circumstance been attended to, we presume that the Court of Great Britain would not have pressed a measure, which certainly is not delicate, and which cannot be reconciled with the received ideas of national honor.
"You may rest assured, Sir, of our disposition to peace on reasonable terms, and of our readiness to enter seriously into negotiations for it, as soon as we shall have an opportunity of doing it in the only manner in which it is possible for one nation to treat with another, viz. on an equal footing.
"Had you been commissioned in the usual manner, we might have proceeded; and as we can perceive no legal or other objection to this, or some other such like expedient, it is to be wished that his Majesty will not permit an obstacle so very unimportant to Great Britain, but so essential and insuperable with respect to us, to delay the re-establishment of peace especially, and in case the business could be but once begun, the confidence we have in your candor and integrity would probably render the settling all our articles only the work of a few hours.
"We are, &c."
I submitted this draft to Dr Franklin's consideration. He thought it rather too positive, and therefore rather imprudent, for that in case Britain should remain firm, and future circumstances should compel us to submit to their mode of treating, we should do it with an ill grace after such a decided and peremptory refusal. Besides, the Doctor seemed to be much perplexed and fettered by our instructions to be guided by the advice of this Court. Neither of these considerations had weight with me; for as to the first, I could not conceive of any event, which would render it proper and therefore possible for America to treat in any other character than as an independent nation; and, as to the second, I could not believe, that Congress intended we should follow any advice, which might be repugnant to their dignity and interest.
On returning to town, Mr Oswald spoke to me about this letter. I told him that I had prepared a draft of one, but that on further consideration, and consulting with Dr Franklin, we thought it best not to take the liberty of troubling his Court with any arguments or reasonings, which without our aid must be very evident to them.
He appeared disappointed, and desired me to let him see the draft. I did. He liked it. He requested a copy of it; but as I doubted the propriety of such a step, I told him I would consider of it, and give him an answer the next day.
It appeared to me on further reflection, that no bad consequences would arise from giving him a copy of this paper; that, though unsigned, it would nevertheless convey to the Ministry the sentiments and opinions I wished to impress, and that if finally they should not be content to treat with us as independent, they were not yet ripe for peace or treaty with us; besides, I could not be persuaded, that Great Britain, after what the House of Commons had declared, after what Mr Grenville had said, and Sir Guy Carleton been instructed to do, would persist in refusing to admit our independence, provided they really believed, that we had firmly resolved not to treat on more humble terms.
I gave him a copy, and also copies of the various resolutions of Congress, which evince their adherence to their independence. These papers he sent by express to London, and warmly recommended the issuing a new commission to remove all further delay. This matter was not communicated to the Count de Vergennes, at least to my knowledge or belief, by either of us.
I might now enumerate the various expedients proposed by the Count de Vergennes and the Marquis de Lafayette to reconcile our difficulties. Such as Mr Oswald's writing a letter to us, signifying that he treated with us as independent, &c. &c. But as our independence was indivisible, there could not easily be contrived a half way mode of acknowledging it, and therefore any method of doing it short of the true and proper one could not bear examination.
Being convinced, that the objections to our following the advice of the Count de Vergennes were unanswerable, I proposed to Dr Franklin, that we should state them in a letter to him, and request his answer in writing, because, as we were instructed to ask and to follow his advice on these occasions, we ought always to be able to show what his advice was.
The Doctor approved of the measure, and I undertook to prepare a draft of such a letter.
I must now remind you of what some of my former letters informed you, viz. the propositions made to me by the Count d'Aranda on the part of Spain. It is necessary that I should in this place go into that detail, because they will be found in the sequel to be strongly connected with the subject more immediately under consideration.
On my arrival at Paris in June last, it being doubtful whether if I made a visit to Count d'Aranda he would return it, I thought it most advisable to avoid that risk, and to write him the following letter.
TO COUNT D'ARANDA.
"Paris, June 25th, 1782.
"On leaving Madrid his Excellency, the Count de Florida Blanca, informed me, that the papers relative to the objects of my mission there had been transmitted to your Excellency, with authority and instructions to treat with me on the subject of them.
"I arrived here the day before yesterday, and have the honor to acquaint your Excellency of my being ready to commence the necessary conferences at such time and place as your Excellency may think proper to name.
"Your Excellency's character gives me reason to hope, that the negotiation in question will be conducted in a manner agreeable to both our countries; and permit me to assure you, that nothing on my part shall be wanting to manifest the respect and consideration, with which I have the honor to be, &c.
The following is a copy of the Count's answer.
"Paris, June 27th, 1782.
"I have the honor to reply to your note of the 25th, informing me of your happy arrival at this Court. I shall also have the honor to receive you, when you shall intimate that it is proper, and whenever you will inform me of your intention, so that I may expect you at whatever hour shall be most convenient to you.
"I shall be pleased to make your acquaintance, and to assure you of the respect with which I have the honor, &c.
THE COUNT D'ARANDA."
It having been intimated to Dr Franklin, that if we paid a visit to Count d'Aranda, it would be returned, we waited on him on the 29th of June. He received us in a friendly manner, and expressed his wishes, that closer connexion might be formed between our countries on terms agreeable to both.
He returned our visit the next day, and gave us an invitation to dine with him a few days afterwards. On that day I was taken sick, and continued so for many weeks, nor, indeed, am I yet perfectly recovered from the effects of that illness, having a constant pain in my breast, and frequently a little fever.
Hence it happened, that I did not meet Count d'Aranda on business till a month afterwards, when agreeably to a previous appointment I waited upon him.
He began the conference by various remarks on the general principles on which contracting nations should form treaties, on the magnanimity of his sovereign, and on his own disposition to disregard trifling considerations in great matters. Then opening Michell's large Map of North America, he asked me what were our boundaries; I told him that the boundary between us and the Spanish dominions was a line drawn from the head of Mississippi, down the middle thereof to the thirtyfirst degree of north latitude, and from thence by the line between Florida and Georgia.
He entered into a long discussion of our right to such an extent, and insisted principally on two objections to it. 1st. That the western country had never belonged to, or been claimed as belonging to the ancient Colonies. That previous to the last war it had belonged to France, and after its cession to Britain remained a distinct part of her dominions, until by the conquest of West Florida and certain posts on the Mississippi and Illinois, it became vested in Spain. 2dly. That supposing the Spanish right of conquest did not extend over all that country, still that it was possessed by free and independent nations of Indians, whose lands we could not with any propriety consider as belonging to us. He therefore proposed to run a longitudinal line on the east side of the river, for our western boundary; and said, that he did not mean to dispute about a few acres or miles, but wished to run it in a manner that would be convenient to us; for though he could never admit the extent we claimed, yet he did not desire to crowd us up to our exact limits.
As it did not appear to me expedient to enter fully into the discussion of these objections, until after he had marked the line he proposed, I told him I would forbear troubling him with any remarks on the subject until the points in controversy should be reduced to a certainty; and, therefore, I desired him to mark on the map the line he proposed, and to place it as far to the west as his instructions would possibly admit of. He promised to do it, and to send me the map with his proposed line marked on it in a day or two.
I then gave him a copy of my commission, and showed him the original. He returned it to me with expressions of satisfaction, and then changed the subject, by desiring me, if after receiving his map and examining his lines, I should find it in any respect inconvenient, that I would mark such other line on it as would, in my opinion, be more agreeable to America; assuring me, that he had nothing more at heart, than to fix such a boundary between us as might be satisfactory to both parties. I told him, that on receiving his map, I would take all that he had said into consideration, and take the earliest opportunity of acquainting him with my sentiments respecting it. I then observed, that I hoped his powers to treat were equal with mine. He replied, that he had ample powers to confer, but not to sign anything without previously communicating it to his Court, and receiving their orders for the purpose; but to my surprise, he did not offer to show me any powers of any kind.
A few days afterwards he sent me the same map, with his proposed line marked on it in red ink. He ran it from a lake near the confines of Georgia, but east of the Flint River, to the confluence of the Kanawa with the Ohio, thence round the western shores of lakes Erie and Huron, and thence round lake Michigan to lake Superior.
On the 10th of August I carried this map to the Count de Vergennes and left it with him. Dr Franklin joined with me in pointing out the extravagance of this line; and I must do him the justice to say, that in all his letters to me, and in all his conversations with me respecting our western extent, he has invariably declared it to be his opinion, that we should insist upon the Mississippi as our western boundary, and that we ought not, by any means, to part with our right to the free navigation of it.
The Count de Vergennes was very cautious and reserved; but M. Rayneval, his principal Secretary, who was present, thought we claimed more than we had a right to.
Having thus clearly discovered the views of Spain, and that they were utterly inadmissible, I had little hope of our ever agreeing; especially as the Mississippi was, and ought to be, our ultimatum.
It was not long before I had another interview with M. Rayneval. He asked me whether I had made any progress in my negotiations with the Count d'Aranda. I told him, that the Count had not yet shown me any powers from his Court to treat. He expressed surprise that I should have any difficulties on that head; especially considering the public as well as private character of that nobleman. I replied, that I was very sensible of the respectability, both of his public and private character; but, that neither the one nor the other authorised him to negotiate treaties with the United States of America; and consequently, that his Court would be at liberty to disavow all his proceedings in such business. That it was my duty to adhere to the forms usual in such cases, and that those forms rendered it proper for Ministers to exchange copies of their commissions, before they proceeded on the business, which was the object of them.
The Count d'Aranda was very urgent, that I should mark on his map some line or other to the eastward of the Mississippi, to which we could agree; and on the 26th of August we had another conference on these subjects. I told him frankly, that we were bound by the Mississippi, and that I had no authority to cede any territories east of it to his Catholic Majesty, and that all I could do relative to it, was to transmit his proposition to Congress for their consideration.
He affected to be much surprised, that I should have no discretionary authority on that subject, and observed, that he had supposed I was a Minister Plenipotentiary. I told him, that few Ministers Plenipotentiary had discretionary power to transfer and cede to others the countries of their sovereigns. He denied, that the countries in question were our countries, and asked what right we had to territories, which manifestly belong to free and independent nations of Indians. I answered that those were points to be discussed and settled between us and them; that we claimed the right of preemption with respect to them, and the sovereignty with respect to all other nations. I reminded him, that Mexico and Peru had been in the same predicament, and yet that his Catholic Majesty had had no doubts of his right to the sovereignty of those countries.
He then desired me to write him a letter on the subject, in order that he might with the greater accuracy convey my sentiments to his Court.
On the 4th of September, I received the following letter from M. de Rayneval.
"Versailles, September 4th, 1782.
"I should be glad to have a conversation with you on the subject of the boundaries in regard to Spain, but it is impossible for me to go to Paris for this purpose. You would oblige me, if you would have the goodness to come to Versailles tomorrow morning. It will give me great pleasure to see you at dinner. Meanwhile I have the honor, &c.
I accordingly waited upon M. de Rayneval. He entered into a long disquisition of our claims to the western country. It is unnecessary to repeat in this place what he said on those subjects, because I shall insert in this letter a copy of a paper, which at my request he wrote to me on them. That paper will speak for itself. You will be at no loss to form a judgment of the mode in which he proposed to reconcile us, by what he called a conciliatory line. We discussed very freely the propriety of my objecting to proceed with the Count d'Aranda; and among other reasons, which induced him to think I ought to go on, was my having already conferred with him on those subjects. My answer to this was obvious, viz. that though I had heard Count d'Aranda's propositions, yet that I had offered none of any kind whatever.
On the 6th of September, M. de Rayneval wrote me the following letter.
M. DE RAYNEVAL TO JOHN JAY.
"Versailles, September 6th, 1782.
"I have the honor, Sir, to send you as you desired me, my personal ideas on the manner of terminating your discussions about limits with Spain. I hope they will appear to you worthy to be taken into consideration.
"I have reflected, Sir, on what you said to me yesterday of the Spanish Ambassador's want of powers. You cannot in my opinion urge that reason to dispense treating with that Ambassador, without offending him, and without contradicting the first step you have taken towards him. This reflection leads me to advise you again to see the Count d'Aranda, and to make him a proposition of some sort or other on the object in question. That which results from my memoir appears to me the most proper to effect a reasonable conciliation; but it is for you to judge whether I am mistaken, because you alone have a knowledge of the title, which the United States can have to extend their possessions at the expense of nations, whom England herself has acknowledged to be independent.
"As to the rest, Sir, whatever use you may think proper to make of my memoir, I pray you to regard it at least as a proof of my zeal, and of my desire to be useful to the cause of your country.
"I have the honor to be, with perfect consideration, yours, &c. &c.
"P. S. As I shall be absent for some days, I pray you to address your answer to M. Stenin, Secretary to the Council of State, at Versailles.
"I must desire you not to let the perusal of the following memoir make you forget the postscript of the above letter, for in the sequel you will find it of some importance."
M. de Rayneval's Memoir respecting the Right of the United States to the Navigation of the Mississippi.
"The question between Spain and the United States of North America is, how to regulate their respective limits towards the Ohio and the Mississippi. The Americans pretend, that their dominion extends as far as the Mississippi, and Spain maintains the contrary.
"It is evident, that the Americans can only borrow from England the right they pretend to have to extend as far as the Mississippi; therefore, to determine this right, it is proper to examine what the Court of London has thought and done on this head.
"It is known, that before the treaty of Paris, France possessed Louisiana and Canada, and that she considered the savage people, situated to the east of the Mississippi, either as independent, or as under her protection.
"This pretension caused no dispute; England never thought of making any, except as to the lands situated towards the source of the Ohio, in that part where she had given the name of Alleghany to that river.
"A discussion about limits at that time took place between the Courts of Versailles and London, but it would be superfluous to follow the particulars; it will suffice to observe, that England proposed in 1755 the following boundary. It set out from the point where the River de Boeuf falls into the Ohio, at the place called Venango; it went up this river towards lake Erie as far as twenty leagues, and setting off again from the same place, Venango, a right line was drawn as far as the last mountains of Virginia, which descend towards the ocean. As to the savage tribes situated between the aforesaid line and the Mississippi, the English Minister considers them as independent; from whence it follows, that according to the very propositions of the Court of London, almost the whole course of the Ohio belonged to France, and that the countries situated to the westward of the mountains were considered as having nothing in common with the Colonies.
"When peace was negotiated in 1761, France offered to make a cession of Canada to England. The regulation of the limits of this Colony and Louisiana was in question. France pretended that almost the whole course of the Ohio made a part of Louisiana, and the Court of London, to prove that this river belonged to Canada, produced several authentic papers; among others, the chart which M. Vaudreuil delivered to the English commandant when he abandoned Canada. The Minister of London maintained at the same time, that a part of the savages situated to the eastward of the Mississippi were independent, another part under its protection, and that England had purchased a part from the five Irequois nations. The misfortunes of France cut these discussions short; the treaty of Paris assigned the Mississippi for the boundary between the possessions of France and Great Britain.
"Let us see the dispositions, which the Court of London has made in consequence of the treaty of Paris.
"If they had considered the vast territories situated to the eastward of the Mississippi as forming part of their ancient Colonies, they would have declared so, and have made their dispositions accordingly. So far from any such thing, the King of England, in a proclamation of the month of October, 1763, declares in a precise and positive manner that the lands in question are situated between the Mississippi and the ancient English establishments. It is, therefore, clearly evident, that the Court of London itself, when it was as yet sovereign of the Thirteen Colonies, did not consider the aforementioned lands as forming part of these same Colonies; and it results from this in the most demonstrative manner, that they have not at this time any right over these lands. To maintain the contrary, every principle of the laws of nature and nations must be subverted.
"The principles now established are as applicable to Spain as to the United States. This power cannot extend its claims beyond the bounds of its conquests. She cannot, therefore, pass beyond the Natchez, situated towards the thirtyfirst degree of latitude; her rights are, therefore, confined to this degree; what is beyond, is either independent or belonging to England; neither Spain nor the Americans can have any pretensions thereto. The future treaty of peace can alone regulate the respective rights.
"The consequence of all that has been said is, that neither Spain nor the United States has the least right of sovereignty over the savages in question, and that the transactions they may carry on as to this country would be to no purpose.
"But the future may bring forth new circumstances, and this reflection leads one to suppose, that it would be of use that the Court of Madrid and the United States should make an eventual arrangement.
"This arrangement may be made in the following manner. A right line should be drawn from the eastern angle of the Gulf of Mexico, which makes the section between the two Floridas, to Fort Toulouse, situated in the country of the Alabamas; from thence the river Loneshatchi should be ascended, from the mouth of which a right line should be drawn to the Fort or Factory Quenassee; from this last place, the course of the river Euphasee is to be followed till it joins the Cherokee; the course of this last river is to be pursued to the place where it receives the Pelisippi; this last to be followed to its source, from whence a right line is to be drawn to Cumberland river, whose course is to be followed until it falls into the Ohio. The savages to the westward of the line described should be free under the protection of Spain; those to the eastward should be free, and under the protection of the United States; or rather, the Americans may make such arrangements with them, as is most convenient to themselves. The trade should be free to both parties.
"By looking over the chart we shall find, that Spain would lose almost the whole course of the Ohio, and that the establishments, which the Americans may have on this river, would remain untouched, and that even a very extensive space remains to form new ones.
"As to the course and navigation of the Mississippi, they follow with the property, and they will belong, therefore, to the nation to which the two banks belong. If then, by the future treaty of peace, Spain preserves West Florida, she alone will be the proprietor of the course of the Mississippi from the thirtyfirst degree of latitude to the mouth of this river. Whatever may be the case with that part, which is beyond this point to the north, the United States of America can have no pretensions to it, not being masters of either border of this river.
"As to what respects the lands situated to the northward of the Ohio, there is reason to presume that Spain can form no pretensions thereto. Their fate must be regulated with the Court of London."
I did not return M. Rayneval any answer to his letter, nor any remarks on his memoir, but the first time I saw him afterwards I told him, I had received his letter and memoir he had done me the honor to write, and that I should send a copy of it to our Secretary for Foreign Affairs.
As both the letter and memoir were ostensibly written by him in a private character, it did not appear to me expedient or necessary to enter into any formal discussions with him on those subjects.
The perusal of this memoir convinced me,
1st. That this Court would, at a peace, oppose our extension to the Mississippi.
2dly. That they would oppose our claim to the free navigation of that river.
3dly. That they would probably support the British claims to all the country above the 31st degree of latitude, and certainly to all the country north of the Ohio.
4thly. That in case we should not agree to divide with Spain in the manner proposed, that then this Court would aid Spain in negotiating with Britain for the territory she wanted, and would agree that the residue should remain to Britain.
In my opinion, it was not to be believed that the first and confidential Secretary of the Count de Vergennes would, without his knowledge and consent, declare such sentiments, and offer such propositions, and that, too, in writing. I therefore considered M. Rayneval as speaking the sentiments of the Minister, and I confess they alarmed me, especially as they seemed naturally to make a part of that system of policy, which I believed induced him rather to postpone the acknowledgment of our independence by Britain to the conclusion of a general peace, than aid us in procuring it at present.
You will now be pleased to recollect the postscript to M. Rayneval's letter.
On the 9th of September I received certain information that on the 7th M. Rayneval had left Versailles, and was gone to England; that it was pretended he was gone into the country, and that several precautions had been taken to keep his real destination a secret.
A former page in this letter informs you, that a little before this, Mr Oswald had despatched a courier with letters, recommending it to his Court to issue a new commission, styling us United States, and that I had agreed to prepare a letter to the Count de Vergennes, stating our objections to treat with Mr Oswald under his present one.
This, therefore, was a period of uncertainty and suspense, and whatever part Britain might take, must necessarily be followed by very important consequences. No time was, therefore, to be lost in counteracting what I supposed to be the object of M. Rayneval's journey. But before I enter into that detail, I must here insert a copy of the letter, which I wrote to the Count d'Aranda, agreeably to his request herein beforementioned.
TO THE COUNT D'ARANDA.
"Paris, September 10th, 1782.
"Agreeably to your Excellency's request, I have now the honor of repeating in writing, that I am not authorised by Congress to make any cession of any counties belonging to the United States, and that I can do nothing more respecting the line mentioned by your Excellency, than to wait for and to follow such instructions as Congress, on receiving that information, may think proper to give me on that subject.
"Permit me, nevertheless, to remind your Excellency that I have full power to confer, treat, agree, and conclude with the Ambassador or Plenipotentiary of his Catholic Majesty, vested with equal powers, of and concerning a treaty of amity and commerce and of alliance, on principles of equality, reciprocity, and mutual advantage.
"I can only regret, that my overtures to his Excellency, the Count de Florida Blanca, who was ex officio authorised to confer with me on such subjects, have been fruitless.
"It would give me pleasure to see this business begun, and I cannot omit this opportunity of assuring your Excellency of my wish and desire to enter upon it as soon as your Excellency shall be pleased to inform me, that you are authorised and find it convenient to proceed.
"I have the honor to be, &c.
To this letter, the Count returned the following answer.
COUNT D'ARANDA TO JOHN JAY.
"I have the honor to reply to your note of yesterday, that I am furnished with ample instructions from my Court, and am authorised by it to confer and treat with you on all points on which you may be instructed and authorised to treat by your constituents.
"As soon as you communicate your propositions, they will be examined, and I will submit to you my observations on them, in order that we may be able to agree on both sides.
"I have the honor to be, &c.
THE COUNT D'ARANDA."
On the same day, viz. the 10th of September, a copy of a translation of a letter from M. Marbois to the Count de Vergennes, against our sharing in the fishery, was put into my hands. Copies of it were transmitted to you, enclosed with my letter of the 18th of September, of which a duplicate was also forwarded.
I also learned from good authority, that on the morning of M. Rayneval's departure the Count d'Aranda had, contrary to his usual practice, gone with post horses to Versailles, and was two or three hours in conference with the Count de Vergennes and M. Rayneval before the latter set out.
All these facts taken together led me to conjecture, that M. Rayneval was sent to England for the following purposes.
1st. To let Lord Shelburne know that the demands of America, to be treated by Britain as independent previous to a treaty, were not approved or countenanced by this Court, and that the offer of Britain to make that acknowledgment in an article of the proposed treaty was in the Count's opinion sufficient.
2dly. To sound Lord Shelburne on the subject of the fishery, and to discover whether Britain would agree to divide it with France to the exclusion of all others.
3dly. To impress Lord Shelburne with the determination of Spain to possess the exclusive navigation of the Gulf of Mexico, and of their desire to keep us from the Mississippi; and also, to hint the propriety of such a line as on the one hand would satisfy Spain, and on the other, leave to Britain all the country north of the Ohio.
4thly. To make such other verbal overtures to Lord Shelburne, as it might not be advisable to reduce to writing, and to judge from the general tenor of his lordship's answers and conversation, whether it was probable that a general peace, on terms agreeable to France, could be effected, in order that if that was not the case an immediate stop might be put to the negotiation.
Having after much consideration become persuaded, that these were M. Rayneval's objects, I mentioned his journey to Mr Oswald, and after stating to him the first three of these objects, I said everything respecting them, that appeared to me necessary; but at the same time with a greater degree of caution than I could have wished, because I well knew it would become the subject of a long letter to the Ministry. On reflecting, however, how necessary it was, that Lord Shelburne should know our sentiments and resolutions respecting these matters, and how much better they could be conveyed in conversation than by letter; and knowing also, that Mr Vaughan was in confidential correspondence with him, and he was and always had been strongly attached to the American cause, I concluded it would be prudent to prevail upon him to go immediately to England.
I accordingly had an interview with Mr Vaughan, and he immediately despatched a few lines to Lord Shelburne, desiring that he would delay taking any measures with M. Rayneval until he should either see or hear further from him.
Mr Vaughan agreed to go to England, and we had much previous conversation, on the points in question; the substance of which was;
That Britain, by a peace with us, certainly expected other advantages than a mere suspension of hostilities, and that she doubtless looked forward to cordiality, confidence, and commerce.
That the manner as well as the matter of the proposed treaty was therefore of importance, and that if the late assurances respecting our independence were not realized by an unconditional acknowledgment, neither confidence nor peace could reasonably be expected; that this measure was considered by America as the touchstone of British sincerity, and that nothing could abate the suspicions and doubts of her good faith, which prevailed there.
That the interest of Great Britain, as well as that of the Minister, would be advanced by it; for as every idea of conquest had become absurd, nothing remained for Britain to do, but to make friends of those whom she could not subdue; that the way to do this was by leaving us nothing to complain of, either in the negotiation or in the treaty of peace, and by liberally yielding every point essential to the interest and happiness of America; the first of which points was, that of treating with us on an equal footing.
That if the Minister really meant to make peace with us, it was his interest to make us believe so, and thereby inspire us with a certain degree of confidence, which could no otherwise be obtained; that his enemies charged him with insincerity on this very point, and that it must be useful to him to convince all the world that such a charge was groundless.
That it would be vain to amuse themselves with expectations from the affected moderation of France on this head; for that America never would treat on any but an equal footing, and, therefore, although such expectations might cause delay, they would ultimately be fruitless.
That a little reflection must convince him, that it was the interest and consequently the policy of France to postpone if possible the acknowledgment of our independence, to the very conclusion of a general peace, and by keeping it suspended until after the war, oblige us by the terms of our treaty, and by regard to our safety, to continue in it to the end.
That it hence appeared to be the obvious interest of Britain immediately to cut the cords, which tied us to France, for that, though we were determined faithfully to fulfil our treaty and engagements with this Court, yet it was a different thing to be guided by their or our construction of it.
That among other things we were bound not to make a separate peace or truce, and that the assurance of our independence was avowed to be the object of our treaty. While therefore Great Britain refused to yield this object, we were bound, as well as resolved, to go on with the war, although perhaps the greatest obstacles to a peace arose neither from the demands of France nor America. Whereas, that object being conceded, we should be at liberty to make peace the moment that Great Britain should be ready to accede to the terms of France and America, without our being restrained by the demands of Spain, with whose views we had no concerns.
That it would not be wise in Great Britain to think of dividing the fishery with France and excluding us; because we could not make peace at such an expense, and because such an attempt would irritate America still more; would perpetuate her resentments, and induce her to use every possible means of retaliation by withholding supplies in future to the fishery, and by imposing the most rigid restraints on a commerce with Britain.
That it would not be less impolitic to oppose us on the point of boundary and the navigation of the Mississippi;
1st. Because our right to extend to the Mississippi was proved by our charters and other acts of government, and our right to its navigation was deducible from the laws of nature, and the consequences of revolution, which vested in us every British territorial right. It was easy therefore to foresee what opinions and sensations the mere attempt to dispossess us of these rights would diffuse throughout America.
2dly. Because the profits of an extensive and lucrative commerce, and not the possession of vast tracts of wilderness, were the true objects of a commercial European nation.
That by our extending to the Mississippi to the west, and to the proclamation bounds of Canada to the north, and by consenting to the mutual free navigation of our several lakes and rivers, there would be an inland navigation from the Gulf of St Lawrence to that of Mexico, by means of which the inhabitants west and north of the mountains might with more ease be supplied with foreign commodities, than from ports on the Atlantic, and that this immense and growing trade would be in a manner monopolized by Great Britain, as we should not insist, that she should admit other nations to navigate the waters that belonged to her. That therefore the navigation of the Mississippi would in future be no less important to her than to us, it being the only convenient outlet, through which they could transport the productions of the western country, which they would receive in payment for merchandise vended there.
That as to retaining any part of that country, or insisting to extend Canada, so as to comprehend the lands in question, it would be impolitic for these further reasons. Because it would not be in their power either to settle or govern that country; that we should refuse to yield them any aid, and that the utmost exertions of Congress could not prevent our people from taking gradual possession of it, by making establishments in different parts of it. That it certainly could not be wise in Britain, whatever it might be in other nations, thus to sow the seeds of future war in the very treaty of peace, or to lay in it the foundation of such distrusts and jealousies as on the one hand would forever prevent confidence and real friendship, and on the other, naturally lead us to strengthen our security by intimate and permanent alliances with other nations.
I desired Mr Vaughan to communicate these remarks to Lord Shelburne, and to impress him with the necessity and policy of taking a decided and manly part respecting America.
Mr Vaughan set off the evening of the 11th of September. It would have relieved me from much anxiety and uneasiness to have concerted all these steps with Dr Franklin, but on conversing with him about M. Rayneval's journey, he did not concur with me in sentiment respecting the objects of it; but appeared to me to have a great degree of confidence in this Court, and to be much embarrassed and constrained by our instructions.
Nothing now remained to be done but to complete the letter we had agreed to write to the Count de Vergennes, stating our objections to treat with Mr Oswald under his present commission. I accordingly prepared the following draft of such a letter, and it was under Dr Franklin's consideration, when the news of our success in England rendered it unnecessary.
Proposed Draft of a Letter to Count de Vergennes.
"The question, whether we ought to exchange copies of our respective commissions with Mr Oswald, and proceed to business with him under his, is not only important and consequential in itself, but derives an additional degree of weight from the variance subsisting between your Excellency's sentiments and our own on that subject.
"The respect due to your Excellency's judgment, our confidence in the friendship of our good and great ally, and the tenor of our instructions from Congress, all conspire to urge us to lay before your Excellency a full state of the facts and circumstances, which create our objections to treating with Mr Oswald under the commission in question.
"We flatter ourselves, that in the course of this discussion, some light will be cast upon the subject, and it gives us pleasure to reflect, that our objections will be reviewed by a Minister, possessed of candor to acknowledge their force on the one hand, and talents to detect and discover to us their fallacy on the other.
"It appears to us unnecessary to premise, that on the 4th day of July, 1776, the representatives of the then late Thirteen United Colonies, in Congress assembled, did in the name and by the authority of the good people of those Colonies, and for the reasons in that act specified, 'solemnly publish and declare, that the said United Colonies were and of right ought to be free and independent States, that they were absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connexion between them and the State of Great Britain was and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as free and independent States, they had full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and to do all other acts and things, which independent nations might of right do. And for the support of that declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, they did mutually pledge to each other their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor.'
"This declaration was immediately ratified by legislative acts of the different States, all of whom have ever since so uniformly abided by it, that the authority of the King of Great Britain has never from that day to this extended over more ground in that country, than was from time to time under the feet of his armies.
"The United States also bound themselves to each other by a solemn act of confederation and perpetual union, wherein they declare, 'that the style of the Confederacy should be, the United States of America,' and by it they vested in Congress the sole and exclusive right and power of determining on peace and war, of sending and receiving Ambassadors, and entering into treaties and alliances.
"Thus becoming of right, and being in fact free, sovereign and independent States, their representatives in Congress did on the 15th day of June, 1781, grant a commission to certain gentlemen (of whom we are two) in their name to confer, treat, and conclude, with the Ambassadors, Commissioners, &c. vested with equal powers relating to the re-establishment of peace, &c.
"On the 25th of July 1782, his Britannic Majesty issued a commission under the great seal of his kingdom to Richard Oswald, reciting in the words following, 'that whereas by an act passed in the last session of Parliament, entitled, "An Act to enable his Majesty to conclude a peace or truce with certain Colonies in North America," therein mentioned, it recited, that it is essential to the interest, welfare, and prosperity of Great Britain, and the Colonies or Plantations of New Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, &c. (naming the thirteen) that peace, intercourse, trade, and commerce, should be restored between them, therefore, and for a full manifestation of our earnest wish and desire; and of that of our Parliament, to put an end to the calamities of war, it is enacted, that it should and might be lawful for us to treat, consult of, agree and conclude with any Commissioner or Commissioners, named or to be named, by the said Colonies or Plantations, or with any body or bodies, corporate or politic, or any assembly or assemblies, or description of men or any person whatsoever, a peace or truce with the said Colonies or Plantations, or any of them, or any part or parts thereof, any law, act or acts of Parliament, matter or thing to the contrary in anywise notwithstanding.' The commission then proceeds to appoint and authorise Mr Oswald to treat &c. in the very words of the act.
"We do not find ourselves described in this commission as the persons with whom Mr Oswald is authorised to treat.
"Nations, particularly corporations, mercantile companies, and indeed every private citizen, in every country, have their titles, their styles, their firms, and their additions, which are necessary to their being known in the law; that is to say, the law of nations requires, that national acts shall give to every sovereign and nation its proper political name or style, in the same manner as the municipal law of the land will only take notice of corporations, companies, and even private citizens by their proper names and legal descriptions.
"When the United States became one of the nations of the earth, they published the style or name, by which they were to be known and called, and as on the one hand they became subject to the law of nations, so on the other they have a right to claim and enjoy its protection, and all the privileges it affords.
"Mr Oswald's commission is a formal, national act, and no nation not mentioned or properly described in it can consider him properly authorised to treat with them. Neither the United States of America, nor Commissioners appointed by them, are mentioned in it, and, therefore, we as their servants can have no right to treat with him.
"We are apprised the word Colonies or Plantations of New Hampshire, &c. in North America, convey to the reader a geographical idea of the country intended by the commission, and of the manner of its first settlement, but it conveys no political idea of it, except perhaps a very false one, viz. as dependent on the British Crown; for it is to be observed, that the words Colonies or Plantations have constantly been used in British acts of Parliament, to describe those countries while they remained subject to that Crown, and the act holds up that idea in a strong point of light when it declares, that it is essential to the interest, welfare, and prosperity of the Colonies or Plantations of New Hampshire, &c. that peace, &c. should be restored, &c. For as independent States our interests, welfare, and prosperity, were improper objects for the Parliamentary discussion and provision of Great Britain.
"The United States cannot be known, at least to their Commissioners, by any other than their present, proper, political name, for in determining whether Mr Oswald's commission be such as that we ought to treat with him under it, we must read it with the eyes, and decide upon it with the judgment of American Ministers, and not of private individuals.
"But admitting that the studied ambiguity of this commission leaves every reader at liberty to suppose, that we are or are not comprehended in it, nay supposing it to be the better construction, that we are, still in our opinion it would ill become the dignity of Congress to treat with Mr Oswald under it.
"It is evident, that the design of the commission was, if possible, to describe the United States, the Congress, and their Commissioners, by such circumlocutory, equivocal, and undeterminate words and appellations, as should with equal propriety apply to the Thirteen States considered as British Colonies and territories, or as independent States, to the end, that Great Britain might remain in a capacity to say, that they either had the one or the other meaning, as circumstances and convenience might in future dictate.
"As Congress have no doubts of their own independence, they cannot with propriety sanctify the doubts of others, and, therefore, cannot admit the sufficiency or decency of any commission that contains them.
"It being well known, that the United States have vested in Congress the exclusive right to make peace, this commission, by authorising Mr Oswald to treat with them separately, and even with parts of them, and with any person or persons whatsoever, offers such open and direct violence to the honor and prerogatives of Congress, as to be better calculated to excite their resentment than their acquiescence. Nor can we conceive it very decent in Great Britain to expect that Congress, after having so long firmly and uniformly maintained the rights of independence, should now consent to deviate from that character by negotiating with her for peace, in any other capacity than the one in which they have carried on the war with her.
"It seems agreed on all hands, that the commission does not acknowledge us to be independent, and though the King of Great Britain consents to make it the first article of the proposed treaty, yet, as neither the first nor the last article of the treaty can be of validity till the conclusion of it, can it be reasonably expected, that we should consent to be viewed during all that interval as British subjects, there being no middle capacity or character between subjection and independence? Neither Congress nor their servants, if so inclined, have a right to suspend the independence of the United States for a single moment, nor can the States themselves adopt such a measure, while they remember the solemn manner in which they pledged to each other their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor, to support their independence.
"It gives us pleasure to find that these inferences and conclusions from the general nature and rights of independence, stand confirmed by the express acts and declarations of Congress on the subject, and in whatever view these acts may be regarded by others, they must be considered as authoritative by their servants.
"So early as the 17th of July, 1776, Congress resolved, 'that General Washington, in refusing to receive a letter said to be sent by Lord Howe, addressed to "George Washington, Esq." acted with a dignity becoming his station, and, therefore, that this Congress do highly approve the same, and do direct that no letter or message be received on any occasion whatever from the enemy by the Commander in Chief, or others, the commanders of the American army, but such as shall be directed to them in the characters they respectively sustain.'
"We conceive that the reason of this resolution extends with at least equal force to civil officers, and particularly to Commissioners appointed to treat of peace with Great Britain.
"On the 5th of September, 1776, Congress resolved, 'that General Sullivan be requested to inform Lord Howe, that this Congress, being the representatives of the free and independent States of America, cannot with propriety send any of its members to confer with his Lordship in their private characters, but that ever desirous of establishing peace on reasonable terms, they will send a committee of their body to know whether he has any authority to treat with persons authorised by them for that purpose in behalf of America, and what that authority is; and to hear such propositions as he shall think fit to make respecting the same; that the President write to General Washington and acquaint him, that it is the opinion of Congress, no proposals for making peace between Great Britain and the United States of America ought to be received or attended to, unless the same be made in writing, and addressed to the representatives of the said States in Congress, or persons authorised by them, and if application be made to him by any of the commanders of the British forces on that subject, that he inform them, that these United States, who entered into the war only for the defence of their lives and liberties, will cheerfully agree to peace on reasonable terms, whenever such shall be proposed to them in MANNER AFORESAID.'
"These resolutions were passed at a time when the United States had formed no alliances, and when a formidable and hostile army had just arrived to invade their country. If such, therefore, were their sentiments, and such their resolutions at so early, so dangerous, and doubtful a period, there certainly is reason to presume, that the fortitude which influenced them has not been abated by the present aspect of their affairs.
"On the 22d of November, 1777, Congress resolved, 'that all proposals of a treaty between the King of Great Britain or any of his Commissioners and the United States, inconsistent with the independence of the said States, or with such treaties or alliances as may be formed under their authority, will be rejected by Congress.'
"We cannot consider the present proposals to treat with us in a character below independence to be consistent with it.
"Among other objections unanimously made by Congress, on the 22d of April, 1778, to certain bills of the British Parliament, then about to be passed into laws to enable the King of Great Britain to appoint Commissioners to treat, &c. is the following, viz.
'Because the said bill purports, that the Commissioners therein mentioned may treat with private individuals, a measure highly derogatory to national honor.'
"Mr Oswald's commission contains a similar clause, and, consequently, is liable to the same objection.
"The Congress did also, on the same day, unanimously declare, 'that these United States cannot with propriety hold any conference or treaty with any Commissioners on the part of Great Britain, unless they shall as a preliminary thereto, either withdraw their fleets and armies, or else in positive and express terms acknowledge the independence of the said States.' Neither of these alternatives have as yet been complied with.
"On the 6th of June, 1778, the Congress ordered their President to give an answer in the following words to the Commissioners appointed under the British acts of Parliament beforementioned, viz.
'I have had the honor to lay your Lordship's letter of May the 27th, with the acts of the British Parliament enclosed, before Congress, and I am instructed to acquaint your Lordship, that they have already expressed their sentiments upon bills not essentially different from those acts, in a publication of the 22d of April last.
'Your Lordship may be assured, that when the King of Great Britain shall be seriously disposed to put an end to the unprovoked and cruel war waged against these United States, Congress will readily attend to such terms of peace as may consist with the honor of independent nations, the interest of their constituents, and the sacred regard they mean to pay to treaties.'
"The honor of an independent nation forbids their treating in a subordinate capacity.
"On the 17th of June, 1778, Congress in another letter to the same Commissioners, unanimously join in saying;
'Nothing but an earnest desire to spare the further effusion of human blood could have induced them to read a paper containing expressions so disrespectful to his Most Christian Majesty, the good and great ally of these States, or to consider propositions so derogatory to the honor of an independent nation.
'The acts of the British Parliament, the commission from your sovereign, and your letter, suppose the people of these States to be subjects of the Crown of Great Britain, and are founded on an idea of dependence, which is utterly inadmissible.
'I am further directed to inform your Excellencies, that Congress are inclined to peace, notwithstanding the unjust claims from which this war originated, and the savage manner in which it has been conducted. They will therefore be ready to enter upon the consideration of a treaty of peace and commerce, not inconsistent with treaties already subsisting, when the King of Great Britain shall demonstrate a sincere disposition for that purpose. The only solid proof of this disposition will be an explicit acknowledgment of the independence of these States, or the withdrawing his fleets and armies.'
"On the 11th of July, 1778, the British Commissioners again endeavored to prevail upon Congress to treat with them on the humiliating idea of dependence. And on the 18th day of the same month, Congress came to the following resolution, viz.
'Whereas Congress, in a letter to the British Commissioners of the 17th of June last, did declare that they would be ready to enter into the consideration of a treaty of peace and commerce not inconsistent with treaties already subsisting, when the King of Great Britain should demonstrate a sincere disposition for that purpose, and that the only solid proof of this disposition would be an explicit acknowledgment of the independence of these States, or the withdrawing his fleets and armies; and whereas neither of these alternatives have been complied with, therefore resolved, that no answer be given to the letter of the 11th instant from the British Commissioners.'
"We find Congress still adhering to the same resolutions and principles, and in pursuance of them lately directing General Washington to refuse Sir Guy Carleton's request of a passport for one of his family to carry despatches from him to Congress. The late resolutions of the different States on that occasion show how exactly the sense of the people at large corresponds with that of their representatives in Congress on these important points.
"To our knowledge, there is not a single instance in which Congress have derogated from the practice and conduct of an independent nation. All their commissions, as well civil as military, are and always have been in that style. They have treated with France and the States-General of the United Provinces, and those powers have treated with them on an equal footing. What right, therefore, can Britain have to demand, that we should treat in a different manner with her? Or with what propriety can we pay marks of respect and reverence to our enemies, which we never have paid to our friends; friends too, who are at least equal to her in power and consideration; nor can we forbear observing, that the second article of our treaty of alliance with his Most Christian Majesty declares, 'That the essential and direct end of the present defensive alliance is, to maintain effectually the liberty, sovereignty, and independence, absolute and unlimited, of the said United States, as well in matters of government as of commerce.'
"Hence it appears, that not only the regard due to our own dignity, but also to the dignity of our great ally, and the faith of treaties, forbid our receding in the least from the rights of that sovereignty and independence, the support of which forms the direct end of our alliance.
"But although the United States as an independent nation can regard Great Britain in no other light, than they would any other Kingdom or State with whom they may be at war, yet we can easily perceive that Great Britain has stronger objections than other nations can have to treating with us as independent. But these objections, however strong, are more proper subjects for their deliberations whom they affect, than for ours, whom they do not respect. Britain may amuse herself with, and therefore be embarrassed by doubts of our title to independence, but we have no such doubts, and therefore cannot be perplexed or influenced by them.
"Other nations owe their origin to causes similar to those which gave birth to ours, and it may not be useless to inquire how they conducted themselves under similar circumstances.
"The tyranny of Philip II of Spain made his subjects in the Low Countries declare themselves independent; a long and cruel war ensued, which was suspended by a truce for twelve years, and afterwards concluded by a definitive treaty of peace.
"History bears honorable testimony to the wisdom and fortitude of that nation during that interval, and we think the following detail is so interesting, and so applicable to the case of our country in general, and particularly to the point in question, that we cannot forbear requesting your Excellency to peruse it.
"On the 26th of July, 1581, the United Provinces, by a formal act, declared that Philip II had forfeited his right to the sovereignty of those Provinces, and that consequently they were independent.
"On the last of June, 1584, the King of France sent an Ambassador (le Sieur Pruneaul) to Holland, and he in writing represented to the States assembled at Delft, that his Majesty had understood that they desired to treat with him, and that he had thought proper to inform them, that they should let him know on what terms they proposed to do it, with many reasons to induce the Provinces to come into such treaty.
"Queen Elizabeth did nearly the same thing by her letter of the last of October, 1584, which she sent to her Ambassador Davidson.
"The Deputies of the States soon after, by their order, returned thanks to the Queen and informed her, that they had resolved to accept the King of France for Prince of the country in the same manner as Charles V had been, but on condition to retain their rights and privileges.
"On the 3d of January, 1585, the States despatched Deputies to make this offer to the King of France. Spain remonstrated against their being admitted to an audience, calling them rebels, &c.
"To this remonstrance the King of France gave an answer, which does the highest honor to his magnanimity.
"On the 13th of February, 1585, the deputies had an audience of the King, and afterwards of the Queen Mother.
"On the 8th of March, 1585, the King gave for answer to the Deputies, that he could not at present accept their offer nor assist them; complained greatly of the violence done him by the Spaniards and Guises, and desired them, to provide for their own defence, until such time as he should be in quiet with his own subjects, and promised to recommend them to the Queen of England.
"On the 6th of June, 1585, the States-General resolved to transfer the sovereignty to the Queen of England, on lawful and reasonable conditions, or to treat with her to take them under her protection, or to obtain more aid and assistance from her.
"On the 9th of July, 1585, they had an audience of the Queen at Greenwich, and offered to her the sovereignty, &c.
"The Queen declined to accept the sovereignty or undertake the perpetual protection of the United Provinces, but on the 10th of August, 1585, she entered into a formal treaty with them to afford aid, &c.
"On the 16th of October, 1587, the States made a declaration to their Governor Leicester on the subject of some differences between them, in which they say, 'And as by divers acts, and particularly by a certain letter, which he wrote on the 10th of July to his secretary Junius, (as is said) the authority of these States is drawn into doubt; they think it proper to make a more ample declaration, containing a deduction of the rights of the States, which they are bound by oath to maintain. For in case they had not been well founded in the sovereignty of the Provinces, they could not have deposed the King of Spain, nor have defended themselves against his power. Nor would they have been able to treat with their Majesties of France and England, nor to have transferred the government to your Excellency,' &c. &c.
"On the 3d of September, 1587, the Earl of Leicester by order of the Queen intimated to them the propriety of negotiating for peace, for it seems the King of Denmark had privately sounded the King of Spain on that subject.
"The States answered, 'That they had never given any such commission to the King of Denmark, nor ever thought of it; but on the contrary, they had observed to the Earl of Leicester, in the year 1586, on his leaving Holland, and on his speaking to them about making peace, that there was nothing so dangerous and injurious in their condition as to speak or treat of peace, and that it was one of the old finesses of Spain; that neither a long war, the damages suffered, nor force, nor the unexpected deaths of their chiefs had been able to hinder their doing their duty, nor make them recede one step from that foundation of constancy on which they were fixed; but that seeing the honorable weapons which were left them, viz. firmness and resolution, they were sufficiently powerful to surmount their difficulties, in the same manner as the virtue of the Romans had made them triumph over Carthage.' They also reminded the Earl, that by pretext of treating of peace on a former occasion, they had lost Artois, Hainault, and other countries. That the treaties at Ghent and Bruges, which were prior to their independence, had cost the lives of more than a hundred thousand persons; that negligence and false security were always the consequences of such negotiations.
"On the 30th of October, 1588, the Queen again proposed their entering into negotiations for peace, and they again refused.
"In 1590 and 1591, the Emperor endeavored to persuade the United Provinces to enter into negotiations by the mediation of his good offices for a reconciliation with the King of Spain. And on the 7th of April, 1592, they gave a formal answer to the Emperor, containing their reasons for declining his proposal; on this occasion they struck a medal representing a Spaniard offering peace to a Zealander, who points to a snake in the grass, with these words, 'latet anguis in herba.'
"On the 6th of May, 1594, the Archduke of Austria sent a letter to the States on the same subject, and received the like answer, accompanied with a full state of their reasons for it.
"In the same year the United Provinces sent Ambassadors to Denmark, and received others from King James of Scotland, who desired them to send some persons on their behalf to assist at the baptism of his son, and to renew ancient treaties, &c.
"On the 31st of October, 1596, the King of France entered into a treaty of alliance with the United Provinces against Spain.
"On the 9th of August, 1597, the Emperor by his Ambassador, then at the Hague, proposed to the States to treat of peace. They refused, alleging that they had been lawfully separated from the dominion of the King of Spain, and had formed alliances with England, France, &c.
"On the 15th of October, 1597, Ambassadors from the King of Denmark arrived at the Hague, among other things to dispose the States to peace. On the 24th of October, the States gave them a long answer, recapitulating their reasons for refusing to negotiate.
"On the 2d of November, 1597, the King of France, having been offered advantageous terms of peace by Spain, hinted his pacific inclinations to the States. They earnestly dissuaded him from making either peace or truce. The King nevertheless began to treat under the mediation of the Pope, &c.
"The States sent Ambassadors to France with instructions dated 13th of January, 1598, to dissuade the King from peace, and to take measures with France against Spain for the ensuing campaign.
"On the 2d of May, 1598, peace was concluded between France and Spain, at Vervins.
"In treating of the articles of this peace, the Deputies of France declared, that they could not proceed to conclude it unless the Queen of England and the United Provinces, who were allied with his Christian Majesty, were received and admitted to the treaty. To which the Deputies of the King of Spain answered, that from the commencement of the conferences, they had declared that they were ready and content to receive and treat with the Deputies of the said Queen and Provinces, and that they had resided long enough in that place to give them time to come there if they had been so pleased; and it was concluded and agreed, that if in six months the Deputies of the said Queen and United Provinces should come with sufficient powers, and declare themselves willing to treat of peace, they should there be received, and for that purpose the Deputies of the King of Spain should be at Vervins, or such other place as by common consent of parties should be agreed upon; and at the instance of the Deputies of his Christian Majesty, it was further agreed, that there should be a cessation of arms and hostilities between his Catholic Majesty, the Queen of England, and the United Provinces for two months, to be computed from the day on which the said Queen and Provinces should inform the Archduke of Austria, that they accepted the said cessation, &c.
"On the 6th of May, 1598, the King of Spain conveyed the Low Countries and Burgundy to his daughter Isabella Clara Eugenia on certain conditions, the first of which was to marry Albert, the Archduke of Austria.
"On the 29th of June, 1598, the Queen of England, by her Ambassador Sir Francis Veer, addressed the States on the subject of the late peace between France and Spain, and left it to their choice to accede or continue the war. They resolved not to treat of peace.
"The Archduke expressed his astonishment, that the Queen should assist his rebellious subjects, on which she desired the King of France to tell him, that alliances with the States of the Low Countries was not a new thing; that they had not recognised him for their sovereign, and that though she respected him as the brother of the Emperor and Archduke of Austria, yet as the Lieutenant of the King of Spain she held him as an enemy.
"On the 16th of August, 1598, the Queen of England entered into a new convention with the United Provinces, confirming the treaty of 1585, with certain other stipulations.
"On the 28th of August, 1598, the Archduke wrote a letter to the States-General, to persuade them to accept him for their sovereign. To this letter they resolved not to give any answer.
"On the 13th of September, 1598, Philip II, King of Spain, died. In the year 1599, the Emperor again commissioned Ambassadors to persuade the United Provinces to treat of peace, &c. The States, in their answer of the 2d of December, 1599, refuse to treat, because among other reasons, 'the insolence of the Archduke and Infanta was such that although they knew very well that they could claim no right to the said United Provinces under the beforementioned donation, or by any other title, yet so it was, that by placards, by public and notorious libels, and by indecent and unjust acts, which they could never excuse, they held them for rebels.'
"On the 7th of June, 1600, the States, in their answer to another application to the Emperor, say among other things that the Archduke had 'treated the inhabitants barbarously, proclaiming those to be rebels who had nothing to do with him, and that well considering all these things, they had good reason to judge, that it would neither be consistent with their honor nor their interest to acknowledge the Archduke, or treat either with him or with Spain.'
"On the 3d of April, 1602, the Queen of England died.
"On the accession of James, the Archduke immediately sent Nicholas Schossy to sound the King on the subject of peace, and the next year sent Count Arembergh there for the same purpose. King James sent Rudolph Winwood to inform the States, that the Archduke had proposed to him to treat of peace, but that he would do nothing till he had informed them of it, and should be advised of their inclinations.
"On the 30th of July, 1603, the Kings of France and England concluded a treaty of confederation, principally for the defence of the United Provinces against the King of Spain. This treaty was secret.
"In May, 1604, conferences for a peace were opened at London between the Deputies of Spain and the Archduke on the one part, and those of England on the other.
"The Spaniards requested the King to mediate a peace between the Archduke and the United Provinces on reasonable and equal terms. The English answered, that it was not their business, and that they could treat together, without saying anything of the United Provinces.
"On the 28th of August, 1604, peace was concluded between Spain and the Archduke on the one part, and England on the other.
"On the last of May, 1605, the States, in answer to the propositions for peace made by the Emperor, Electors, Princes, and States of the empire say, 'that they had been legally discharged from their oaths to the late King of Spain; insomuch that all impartial Kings, Princes, and States did at present acknowledge and hold the Low Countries for a free State, qualified of right to govern itself in form of a republic, or to choose another Prince.
'That as to what they had been advised, viz. to enter into any treaty, contrary to the free government right, which they had obtained, and which they still enjoyed, they considered it as contrary to God, their honor, and their safety.'
"About the end of February, 1607, there came from Brussels to Holland, as Deputy from the Archduke, the Commissary-General of the minor brothers, whose father had formerly been well acquainted with the Prince of Orange.
"He came to learn the reasons, which had prevented the propositions of the Sieur Horst from being successful. After speaking often in private with Prince Maurice, he came to the Hague, where he also had an audience of Prince Maurice, to whom he said, that it was not the intention of his Highness either to better or to lessen his right by any treaty of truce, but to treat with the States in the state in which they were. And on being given to understand, that the Archduke must acknowledge the State for a free State before they would enter into any treaty, he undertook to bring the Archduke to consent to it, in order to avoid the effusion of blood. On the 9th, he went in Prince Maurice's boat to Antwerp, and returned on the 17th of March to the Hague, and did so much, that both parties finally agreed to come to some mutual treaty, agreeable to the conditions of the following Declaration, viz.
'The Archdukes have found it proper to make the following declaration, offer, and presentation to the States-General of the United Provinces of the Low Countries.
'That the Archdukes having nothing more at heart than to see the Low Countries and the inhabitants thereof delivered from the miseries of war, declare, by these presents, and with mature deliberation, that they are content to treat with the States-General of the United Provinces, in quality, and as holding them for free Countries, Provinces, and States, to which their Highnesses pretend nothing, either by way perpetual peace, or truce, or cessation of arms for twelve, fifteen, or twenty years, at the election of the said States, and on reasonable conditions;' then follow certain propositions for a truce, &c. and afterwards a condition, 'That the States agree to the aforesaid provisional truce in eight days after the delivery of these presents, and shall make a declaration to their Highnesses in writing, before the 1st of September next ensuing, touching the principal treaty aforesaid of truce or cessation of arms, with the time and place which they may have chosen. Done at Brussels, under the signatures and the seal of their Highnesses, the 13th of March, 1607.'
"To this declaration and offer, the States answered, 'That the States-General in quality of, and as free States, Countries, and Provinces, over which their Highnesses have nothing to pretend, and being equally desirous of nothing more than to consent to a Christian, honorable, and sure issue to, and deliverance from the miseries of this war, after mature deliberation, and with the advice of his Excellency, and of the Council of State, have accepted the said declaration of the Archdukes to regard their United Provinces as free Countries, to which their Highnesses have nothing to pretend, and also a truce for eight months, &c. &c. Their Highnesses further promising to obtain and deliver to the said States-General within three months next ensuing, the agreement of the King of Spain touching the treaty, under all the necessary renunciations and obligations, as well general as special.'
"On the last of June, 1607, the King of Spain ratified the truce, but omitted an acknowledgment of their independence.
"The States-General, on the 9th and 11th of August, 'declared these ratifications to be imperfect both in substance and in form.' The Archduke promised to procure a more complete one.
"On the 18th of September, 1607, the King of Spain made a new ratification containing the acknowledgment in question, but declaring that the said ratification should be void, unless the peace or truce in contemplation should take place.
"To this condition the States made strong objections.
"On the 2d of November, 1607, the States made various remarks on the ratification. They absolutely refused to accept, and protested against the condition contained in it, but offered to proceed on the footing of the declaration, provided the States should be firmly assured that nothing would be proposed either on the part of the Archduke or of the King contrary to the same, or prejudicial to the State or government of the United Provinces, and provided also, that the Archduke did send his Deputies to the Hague fully authorised, &c. within ten days after the receipt of that answer.
"On the 10th of November, the States-General adjourned to take the sense of their constituents on the subject of the ratification, and agreed to meet again on the 10th of December.
"On the 24th of December, 1607, they wrote to the Archduke, that under the protest and declaration contained in the answer of the 2d of November, they were content to enter into conferences with his Deputies at the Hague, and proposed to prolong the truce a month or six weeks.
"On the 7th of January, the answer of the Archduke arrived, in which he calls the States, 'tres chers et bons amis.' He observed, that he had learnt from their letter of the 24th of December, the resolution they had taken to enter into conferences with his Deputies about peace, and, in the meantime, to prolong the truce for a month or six weeks.
"That as to the first point, he had appointed for the said conferences the same persons whom he had before employed, and that they should set out the 15th of January, and that as to the truce, he was content to prolong it for six weeks.
"On the 6th of February, 1608, the Deputies of the States, and those of the Archduke, had their first meeting to exhibit their respective credentials. The Deputies of the Archduke produced two, one from him, and the other from the King of Spain.
"On the 8th of February, 1608, the Deputies of both parties had their second meeting. Those of the States asked the others if they were fully instructed (encharges) to acknowledge the United Provinces to be free Provinces and countries, and to treat with them in that capacity, to which they explicitly (rondement) answered, yes. The Dutch Deputies thereupon asked, why then the Archduke retained the arms and name of the said Provinces? They then replied, that it ought not to seem strange, for that the King of Spain retained the title of King of Jerusalem; the King of France that of King of Navarre, and the King of England retained the arms and title of France.
"On the 11th of February, 1608, they met again; the Deputies of the States presented to the others an article, which they had drawn up, by which the 'Provinces were declared to be free, and that the King of Spain and the Archdukes relinquished all their pretensions to the sovereignty of the said Provinces, &c. as well for themselves as for their successors and heirs, with the name and arms.'
"The others received the article and took time to consider of it, on which the meeting was adjourned. They immediately despatched a courier with a copy of it to Brussels, and received an answer on the 13th. They complained, however, to the Ambassadors of France and Great Britain, &c. of the States being so precise in that article.
"On the 13th of February, 1608, in the afternoon, the Deputies again assembled, and those of the Archduke consented to the article as it was drawn up, with reserve, nevertheless, that in case all the other points should be agreed upon, they hoped the States would do something for the King of Spain and the Archduke respecting the Indies, &c.
"On the 15th of February they again met; they agreed on the points of amnesty and oblivion; but on treating of reciprocal free trade and navigation to each other's ports and countries, the Deputies of the Archduke declared, that they did not mean to comprehend in that free trade, the navigation to the Indies and all the fortresses there, but, on the contrary, that all the subjects of these countries should forthwith desist therefrom. The Dutch Deputies opposed this strongly and firmly, saying, that it would prejudice the liberty of the Provinces and the free use of the sea, and, therefore, that they were not authorised to relinquish it. The others continued firm in their demand, and after long debates the Deputies separated.
"On the 19th, 23d, and 27th of February, and 4th of March, 1608, the Deputies met, but, except debating, did nothing, both parties continuing firm and resolved not to cede anything.
"The Deputies of Spain, finding they could not carry the point as to the Indies, declared, at length, that they would consult together on a proposition to make a truce for some years respecting the navigation, and that they were ready to go on to the other points, and try to agree upon some of them.
"On the 7th of March, they exchanged heads of articles for consideration. On the 11th and 12th of March they again met, and had fruitless debates about a free navigation to the Indies, &c. The Marquis Spinola proposed that the subject should be divided, and that two sets of propositions should be prepared, one for the navigation in Europe and the other for the Indies.
"On the 17th of March they again met, and the Dutch Deputies offered to the others two sets of propositions as had been proposed; they received them for consideration; but, after debate, they declared that they could not agree to them, and that they must make a journey to Spain for further instructions; for this reason the truce was prolonged to the end of May.
"The truce was continued from time to time, and sundry fruitless meetings held; but, on the 20th of August, 1608, the Deputies assembled; 'the Spanish ones declared, that they had lately received full instructions on the several points in question, viz. that the King and Archduke were content to quit the sovereignty of the United Provinces; but that he required two points to be yielded by the States by way of compensation, viz. the re-establishment of the Roman Catholic religion in every place in the Provinces, and that they should immediately desist from all navigation both to the East and West Indies.'
"The Dutch Deputies reported this to the States-General. On the 25th of August, the States-General made a long and spirited declaration on the subject of this report, resolving against negotiating any longer, and they ordered a copy of it to be delivered to the Spanish Deputies.
"On the 27th of August 1608, the Ambassadors of France and England, &c. came to the States-General and endeavored to prevail upon them to agree to a long truce.
"On the 30th of August, the States expressed their readiness to agree to a long truce, provided, the adverse party 'would so absolutely acknowledge them for free countries, as that it should not be questioned after the expiration of the truce, that otherwise they could not listen to a truce.'
"On the 3d of September, the Spanish Deputies said they had no instructions to treat of truce, in acknowledging the United Provinces to be absolutely free, and permitting the navigation to the Indies, but that they had sent the proposition to Brussels, in order to have further instructions.
"On the 7th of September, they received an answer from Brussels, and they declared, that they had no instruction to agree to a long truce with the States, on condition to acknowledge them to be States absolutely free, and without comprehending the re-establishment of the Roman religion, and the relinquishment of all navigation to the Indies, but that the Archduke would send the proposition to Spain, from whence he might expect an answer by the end of September.
"They then proposed either to wait for the answer of Spain, or continue the present truce for seven years, observing, that it had been made with an express declaration to hold the United Provinces for free countries, and that as to the trade to the Indies, the Archduke would promise to get it ratified by the King of Spain for that space of time.
"The States unanimously rejected this new proposition, but gave them the time they had demanded for the answer of Spain. On the 28th of September, the Spanish Deputies applied to the Ambassadors of France, &c. to ask ten days more from the States. The Ambassadors agreed to do it in the name of the Deputies, but they declined it.
"On the last of September they took their leave.
"The States-General became possessed by accident of the instructions given to Spinola, and the other Deputies; they were signed by the Archdukes, and dated at Brussels, the 6th of January, 1608. They were thereby instructed to insist on the free exercise of the Roman Catholic religion.
"As to independence the instructions say;
'As to the subject of liberty, since you know what we have granted, make no difficulty of arranging it as they wish; doing or saying nothing in opposition, which may make them suspect that we desire to revoke our declaration on that point, as we are determined to abide by it in all respects.'
"These instructions also directed them to insist, that the States should renounce, and entirely and absolutely desist from the trade of the East and West Indies, and should agree to punish those who might undertake such voyages, &c. &c.
"On the departure of the Spanish Deputies, the Ambassadors of France and Great Britain endeavored to prevail upon the States-General to listen to a truce, and proposed to their consideration certain articles, which they had prepared. The States after much deliberation, agreed to enter into further negotiations on that subject.
"On the 25th of March, 1609, the Deputies of both parties met at Antwerp, and on the 9th of April following, a truce for twelve years was concluded upon. It was forthwith ratified by the States and the Archdukes, and published on the 14th of April.