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the treaty of alliance with France on the 6th February, 1778. They were presented to the King as representatives of an independent State on the 20th March, 1778. Dr. Franklin was appointed minister plenipotentiary to the court of France on the 14th September, 1778, at which time the commission was dissolved.
In a letter addressed by the committee to the commissioners on the 21st September, 1776, they were informed that a resolution had been passed by Congress, approving of armed vessels being fitted out by them on continental account provided the court of France disliked not the measure; and they were informed that blank commissions for this purpose would be sent to them by the next opportunity.
The commissioners arrived in Paris on the 22d of December, 1776, and on the 28th they were received by M. de Vergennes, the French minister for foreign affairs. They laid before him their commissions, with the articles of a proposed treaty of commerce. In their letter to the committee, reporting their reception, they also stated that the ports of France, Spain, and Florence, (that is, Leghorn in the Mediterranean,) were open to the American cruisers upon the usual terms of neutrality. . In March, 1777, the commissioners reported that the French court, while treating them privately with all civility, was cautious of giving umbrage to England, and was, therefore, desirous of avoiding an open reception and acknowledgment of them, or entering into any formal negotiation with them as ministers from the Congress. To make them easy, however, they were told that the ports of France were open to their ships as friends. Although it was no secret at the time that 200 field-pieces of brass and 30,000 fusils, with other munitions of war in great abundance, had been taken out of the King's magazines for exportation to America, the minister in their presence affected to know nothing of that operation.
During these conferences the commissioners stated that every step was taken to gratify England publicly by attending to the remonstrances of our ambassador, forbidding the departure of ships which had military stores on board, *recalling officers who had leave of absence and were going to join the Americans, and giving strict orders that our prizes should not be sold in French ports. • They also reported that Captain Wickes had made a cruise during the winter, (1776–977,) and had returned to France with five prizes, where they were sold, which proceeding caused some trouble and uneasiness to the French court. Money to the amount of 2,000,000 of livres was also supplied to the commissioners through the French government. Captain Wickes was directed by the commissioners to make another cruise previously to his return to America,
In May, 1777, the commissioners were directed to purchase in such port or place in Europe as it could be done with most convenience and dispatch, a fine, fast-sailing frigate or larger ship. They were instructed to place Captain Paul Jones in command of the vessel, and to employ him as they thought best. In June, 1777, they reported that the ship building at Amsterdam would be nearly as strong as a seventy-four, and might join the squadron in the months of February or March. . .
On the 16th of July, 1777, M. de Vergennes addressed a letter to the commissioners, complaining of the conduct of the American vessels in carrying on hostilities from the French ports, and at the same time informed them that orders had been sent to the ports for their sequestration and detention until sufficient securities could be obtained that they
* These were afterwards privately permitted to go, or went without permission.
should return directly to their country, and not expose themselves by new acts of hostility to the necessity of seeking asylum in French ports. With regard to the prizes, they had orders to go out immediately.
In a letter dated the 30th November, 1777, the commissioners refer to the difficulties arising out of the uncertain policy of the maritime powers, by which the American prizes could not be publicly sold, in consequence of which the purchasers took advantage to beat down the price, and sometimes the admiralty courts were obliged to lay hold of them in consequence of orders from court, obtained by the English ambassador.
On the 8th of February, 1778, the commissioners announced the signature of the treaties of commerce and alliance between France and the United States, the announcement of which subsequently led to hostilities between France and Great Britain.
In consequence of the proceedings of the American privateers in the French ports, numerous representations were made by Lord Storinont, the British ambassador at Paris, to the French government, during the years 1776–77; in fact, the correspondence with France of that period is principally upon that subject.
In a memorial addressed to M. de Vergennes on the 18th March, 1777, the English ambassador made the following demands on the French government:
*66 Il réclame donc l'accomplissement des assurances formelles qui lui ont été données que le vaisseau Américain commandé par le Sieur Wickes sortirait d'abord du port de l'Orient, et qu'il ne lui serait pas permis de croiser sur les côtes de France.
661. Il demande la restitution immédiate et plénière du paquebot de Falmouth, vaisseau appartenant au Roi son maître.
62. Celle des quatre vaisseaux marchands inentionnés dessus appartenant à des sujets de sa Majesté Très Chrétienne. Il deinande que cette restitution, avec la valeur de cette partie des cargaisons qui a été détour'nće, soit fait d'abord et bonâ fide aux propriétaires."
These demands arose out of the capture of five British vessels by the American ship Reprisal, which had been taken into the port of l'Orient, and there sold, and appear to be the only instance in which the ambassador made any claim for the value of the cargoes. · Notwithstanding these representations, assistance continued to be rendered to the vessels of the colonists in the French ports.
On the 4th July, 1777, Lord Stormont received instructions from his government, of which the following is an extract:
66 The proper representations made by your excellency to the French ministers with respect to the cutter fitting out at Dunkirk, the artillery and military stores colleeting for the use of the rebels, and several causes of complaint given by their governors in the West Indies, meet with his Majesty's approbation,
66 The inclosed copy of a letter from Whitehaven will show your excelleney that fresh proofs have been lately given of the protection held out to the rebels in the French ports, where the three privateers, the Repri
*“ He therefore claims the accomplishments of the formal assurances, which had been given to him, that the American vessel commanded by Mr. Wickes would first leave the port of l'Orient, and that he would be forbidden to cruise along the coasts of France.
$61. He would ask the immediate and full restitution of the packet of Faliouth, a vessel belonging to the King, his sovereign.
"2. That of the four merchant yessels above mentioned, belonging to the subject of liis most Catholic Majesty, he asks that that restitution, with the raluc of that part of the cargoes which has been embezzled, be made jirst et bona fide to the orchers," -- Translaíion.
sal, the Lexington, and the Dolphin, have been supplied with everything that was necessary to them for their cruise, the last of them wholly fitted out at Nantes; and it appears that after their cruise they returned to some of the ports of France.
"This account, by his Majesty's command, has been taken into consideration by his confidential servants, and their opinion thereon submitted to his Majesty.
46 In consequence thereof, I am commanded by his Majesty to signify to your excellency it is his pleasure that you acquaint the French ministers that, however desirous his Majesty may be to maintain the present peace, he cannot, from his respect to his honor and his regard to the interest of his trading subjects, submit to such strong and public instances of support and protection shown to the rebels by a nation that at the same time professes in the strongest terms its desire to maintain the present harmony subsisting between the two crowns. The shelter given to the armed vessels of the rebels, the facility they have of disposing of their prizes by the connivance of government, and the conveniences allowed them to refit, are such irrefragable proofs of support, that scarcely more could be done if there was an avowed alliance betwixt France and them, and that we were in a state of war with that kingdom.
666 The avidity of gain will tempt merchants in all countries to do very irregular things, and that avidity may not be easily controlled;' but the private views of the traders of France are not concerned in these transactions otherwise than by buying below their value what is supposed to be sold clandestinely in the case of the prizes carried into the French ports. Such a circumstance cannot weigh with a great state, whose views must be directed by greater considerations. The views of the rebels are evident; they know that the honor of this country and the proper feelings of the people in general will not submit to such open violation of solemn treaties and established laws acknowledged by all nations. The necessary consequence must be a war, which is the object they have in view; they are not delicate in the choice of means that may bring about an end so much desired by them.
66 These reflections, my lord, your excellency will communicate to the French ministers, expressing at the same time that an explanation is desired, not a menace intended; but on full consideration of the present circumstances they must be satisfied peace, however earnestly wished, cannot be maintained, unless an effectual stop is put to our just causes of complaint.
“Lord Macartney and Governor Shirley have transmitted many depositions on oath to ascertain the complaints, the particular subjects of which have been sent to your excellency; but I do not trouble you with them, as you need no proofs to be convinced that the French governors are acting the most unjustifiable conduct in the West Indies, where there is too much reason to suspect they are concerned in the piracies."
In consequence of the seizure of the , English vessel Experience, the English ambassador addressed the following demand to the French government on the 8th July, 1777:
*"Que le vaisseau Anglais nommé l'Expérience, et sa cargaison, soient .* 66 That the English vessel called the 'Experience, and her cargo, be first given up to the owners or to their assign, and that the captors indemnify them for the damage made. It would be superfluous to insist any more upon the justice of that demand, in addressing a ministry as enlightened as that of France, and it is for that reason that the embassador avoids insisting upon the circumstances of that seizure; he will only state that that English vessel was near the port of Cherbourg when she was seizer by American pirates, who had left the same port for the purpose of taking that vessel ; and wlio had been accompanied by several subjects of his most Catholic Majesty, and even by some French soldiers who liad been accomplices of the deed.”-[Translation.
restitutés d'abord aux propriétaires ou à leur ayant-cause, et que les capteurs réparent tout le dommage qu'ils ont fait. Il serait superflu d'insister davantage sur la justice de cette demande, en parlant à un ministère aussi éclairé que celui de France, et c'est à dessein que l'ambassadeur évite d'appuier sur les circonstances de cette prise; il se bornera à dire que ce bâtiment Anglais étoit à l'avère près du port de Cherbourg quand il a été pris par les pirates Américains, qui sont sortis de ce même port pour s'emparer de ce vaisseau, et qui ont été accompagnés de plusieurs sujets de sa Majesté très Crétienne, et même de plusieurs soldats François qui ont été complices de cet attentat.”
In reply to those representations M. de Vergennes read a note verbale to Lord Stormont, the following extract of which relates to the conduct of the French government with regard to the privateers which had been admitted into the French ports: '
* 66 C'est d'après cette conviction que le Roime charge de déclarer à votre excellence, que fidèle à l'observation des traités, que sa Majesté s'attend qui ne seront pas moins exactement observés de la part de l'Angleterre, elle ne permettra rien qui pourrait y déroger; et que sensible aux plaintes que vous avez eu commission de me porter contre les trois corsaires (Américains) la Représaille, le Lexington, et le Dolphin, lesquels, après avoir eu injonction de sortir des ports de France pour n'y plus revenir, y sont cependant rentrés malgré cette défense; sa Majesté, bien élognée d'approuver cette navette que les traités réprouvent, en est au contraire très-mécontente, et ne peut mieux en témoigner son mécontentement qu'en ordonnant, comme elle le fait, de séquestrer les dits corsaires dans les ports où ils peuvent être relâchés, pour y être retenus jusqu'à ce qu'on puisse avoir des sûretés suffisantes qu'ils retourneront en droiture dans leur patrie, sans infester de nouveau les mers d’Europe...
66 Quant aux prises que ces corsaires ou d'autres peuvent avoir amenées, ou pourront amener pa la suite dans nos ports, les ordres sont renouvelés non seulement pour qu'on n'en permette pas la vente; mais encore pour qu'on les fasse partir aussitôt que le vent et les circonstances du temps pourront le permettre, sans se prêter à aucune des exceptions que la
. * "It is from that conviction that the King instructs me to declare to your excellency that, faithful to the observations of the treaties, his Majesty expects that they will not be the less observed by England, and that he will allow nothing that could derogate from them; and that sensible to the complaints which you have been commissioned to bring to my notice against the three corsairs, (American,) the Represaille, the Lexington, and the Dolphin, which after having been ordered to leave the ports of France never to return, came back notwithstanding that prohibition, his Majesty, far from approving that to and fro proceeding condemned by treaties, is, on the contrary, greatly displeased, and cannot testify his displeasure otherwise than in ordering, as he does, the retention of the said corsairs in the ports where they might put in, to be detained until sufficient securities are obtained that they will sais directly for their country, and rove no longer upon European waters.
"As to the prizes that those privateers or others have brought or may bring in our ports hereafter, orders have been renewed not only to forbid their sale, but also to oblige them to leave as soon as the wind and the state of the weather will permit, without complying with any exceptions which the cupidity of the sellers and buyers might form ; and it is ordered that the officers appointed for that purpose keep a strict watch, under the penalty of being personally responsible. It is further recommended to them to see carefully that the facilities of commerce enjoyed by Americans in the ports of France do not exceed those of an authorized trade. .: “If any English subjects think proper to bring a personal action against any one of the above-mentioned corsairs, the courts will be open to them here as well as in England. The law decides the affairs in litigation, but the authority of the government never.
“In what relates to the Dolphin, which, as your excellency pretends, is a French vessel armed in France, with a crew of the same nation, and having but one American officer, the most impartial examination shall be made, and if the matter is really such as it has been represented to you, justice shall be done."--[Translation..
cupidité des vendeurs et des acheteurs est ingénieuse à former; et il est enjoint aux officiers préposés à cet effet, d'y tenir sévèrement la main, sauf à en répondre en leur propre et privé nom. Il leur est pareillement recommandé de veiller soigneusement à ce que les facilités de commerce dont les Américains jouissent dans les ports de France n'excèdent pas celles d’un commerce perinis.
“Si quelque sujet Anglais se croit fondé à intenter une action personnelle contre quelqu'un des susdits corsaires, la voie des tribunaux leur est ouverte ici comme en Angleterre. La loi décide les affaires contentieuses, et jamais l'autorité.
* Pour ce qui est du Dolphin,' que votre Excellence prétend être un bâtiment Français armé en France avec l'équipage de la même nation, et n'ayant qu'un seul officier Américain, l'examen le plus impartial en sera fait, et si la chose est effectivement telle qu'elle vous a été représentée, il en sera fait justice."
On the 15th of March, 1778, the French ambassador in London communicated to the English government the recognition of the independence of the American colonies, and the treaties which had been signed between France and the United States, which led to the withdrawal of the English ambassador from Paris, and to the subsequent hostilities between the two countries without any formal declaration of war.
In 1779 the French government published an Exposé des Motifs of its conduct relative to Great Britain, to which a reply was published by Great Britain, written by the historian Gibbon, and contained in volume iv of his miscellaneous works. In reply to the latter memorial the French government published a paper entitled 66 Observations de la cour de Versailles sur le Mémoire justificatif de la cour de Londres. 9* In this paper the following extracts occur in justification of the asylum granted to the American privateers in the French ports:
76 En donnant asile aux Américains, le Roi n'a fait que remplir un des
* See “Droit des Gens;” Martens, vol. i. Causes Célèbres, 1761-88, p. 462.-(F. 0. Lib., Oct. 730.)
t"In giving asylum to Americans, the King only fulfilled one of the first duties of humanity, at the same time he exercised an inherent right of sovereignty, a right belonging to all independent nations, and which can only be restrained by conventions, the exercise of which is more extended in England thai in any other state of Europe. The King has had no reason to abandon the exercise of that right to the detriment of Americans, inasmuch that that nation had never offended him, it would have been a tyranny, and an unheard-of cruelty on his part, to expel them from his dominions because they were unjustly oppressed by Great Britain Americans have resided in more than one part of Europe. Is there any from which they have been forced to leave? Is there any in which they have not enjoyed the right of hospitality? anywhere they have not been as tranquil and secured as in the most distant provinces of America? What right has the court of London. to accuse the King for not having expelled Ainericans from his dominions, as if it were a crime?
“The King has not only given asylum to Americans, but has also admitted their privateers and their prizes; and it is one of the principal complaints of the court of London, upon which it has insisted the most, and which has furnished ample matter for its invectives and reproaches. But few words will suffice to establish the true principles upon that subject, and to show that the English ministry have overlooked them voluntarily.
“The King has the right to admit in his ports the ships of all the nations of the world. That right is extended to men-of-war as well as to merchantmen, and admits 110 restrictions, but those established by treaties. The treaty of Utrecht contains some restrictions relating to war vessels. Article XV states, substantially, 'That the contracting parties’ (France and England) “will not allow their respective enemies to arm in their ports, to sell their prizes, nor to remain beyond the necessary time to repair
to go to sea. The King has faithfully observed this conduct towards American privateers. His disposition on that subject is shown by the most precise orders, and above all, by their execution. It is true that the English ministry alleges, “ That these order's