The Treaty Of Peace
Western Questions.—The conquests of George Rogers Clark, the entrance of Spain into the war, and the operations of Gálvez turned the attention of congressional leaders to peace terms. Would Spain be willing to grant the United States free navigation of the Mississippi? How much territory in the Southwest would Spain demand? Would France support Spanish pretensions? Such were the questions which disturbed American statesmen. To advance the interests of the United States, on October 4, 1779, Congress appointed John Adams peace commissioner and John Jay representative at Madrid.
Adams and Vergennes.—Adams arrived at Paris in February, 1780. He surprised Vergennes by disclosing powers to conclude treaties of peace and commerce with Great Britain. The protests and arguments of the French minister finally convinced Adams that he had better wait until he received new instructions from Congress, but he offended Vergennes by charging that France was purposely not exerting herself to the utmost. Vergennes distrusted Adams, for he thought that he represented the New England viewpoint which, Vergennes had been led to believe, was friendly to Great Britain. He informed Adams that in the future he would deal with Franklin.
Congressional instructions of June 15, 1781.—La Luzerne, the French representative at Philadelphia, made great efforts to have Adams curbed and to prevent a premature negotiation with Great Britain. In this he was assisted by the low state of affairs in the fall and winter of 1780. Congress finally decided to place the negotiations in the hands of a commission composed of Franklin, Jefferson, Jay, Adams, and Henry Laurens. Jefferson did not leave the United States and Laurens, who was captured by the British, did not arrive at Paris in time to take an important part in the negotiations. The instructions of the commissioners gave them considerable liberty of action, but they were to undertake nothing without the knowledge of the French ministers and were ultimately to be governed by their advice and opinion.
Jay in Spain.—In the meantime Jay had been having a difficult time in Spain. He was not officially received, and though granted occasional interviews by Florida Blanca, he was unable to make any progress toward the formulation of a treaty. When he was called to Paris in the summer of 1782 to take part in the peace negotiations, he had no illusions concerning the objects of Spain, objects which he seems to have believed were seconded by France.
The changed situation in 1782.—The commissioners were in a far stronger position than their instructions of 1781 implied. Yorktown had proved that American independence was assured, and Rodney's recent victory had weakened France at a time when her apparent support of Spain was liable to become troublesome. The situation in England had also changed. Lord North had fallen from power and at the head of the new ministry was Rockingham. Shelburne held the portfolio for the home and colonial departments and Fox was secretary of state for foreign affairs. This ministry held together from March until July, 1782, when Rockingham died. Fox, who had been unable to agree with Shelburne regarding the handling of American affairs, resigned, and Shelburne became Prime Minister.
Opening of negotiations with Great Britain.—On July 9, when Adams was at The Hague and before Jay had arrived, Franklin opened the negotiation with Oswald, the British agent, by presenting the basis of a treaty by which Great Britain was asked to acknowledge the independence of the United States, to settle boundaries and confine Canada within the bounds which maintained before the passage of the Quebec Act, and to acknowledge the right of Americans to fish on the Newfoundland banks and elsewhere.
Jay's suspicions of Vergennes.—The first hitch in the negotiations occurred when it was found that Oswald was instructed to conclude a peace or truce with the "colonies or plantations." On August 10 Jay and Franklin conferred with Vergennes about Oswald's commission. Jay contended that independence should be acknowledged by Great Britain before a treaty was negotiated, but Vergennes thought that this was of little consequence. When the question of conflicting Spanish and American claims was brought up, Vergennes became reticent, but his principal secretary, Rayneval, said that he thought the United States claimed too much. On September 7 Rayneval presented a memorial which proposed that the lands west of the mountains be divided into three Indian territories; lands north of the Ohio to be under the protection of Great Britain; south of the river the territory to be divided so that Spain would control the southwestern portion and the United States the northeastern part. On September 9 Jay learned that Rayneval had left secretly for England. Jay became thoroughly alarmed, for he believed that if the United States would not yield territory to Spain, Vergennes was ready to force his views by negotiating with England. Whether or not Jay was right in his suspicions has been a much argued question. No matter what the ultimate answer may be, the views of Jay became the determining factor in the course pursued by the American commissioners. Without consulting Franklin, Jay prevailed upon Benjamin Vaughan to visit Shelburne with the object of counteracting Rayneval's supposed mission and to let Shelburne know that the American commissioners were not to be bound by French views. A satisfactory commission was immediately issued to Oswald and negotiations proceeded with seriousness.
Proposal of October 8, 1782.—In October the American commissioners submitted proposals to Oswald. This preliminary draught provided that the independence of the United States be recognized by Great Britain and that the boundaries were to be as follows: "The said States are bounded north by a line drawn from the northwest angle of Nova Scotia, along the highlands which divide those rivers which empty themselves into the river St. Lawrence, from those which fall into the Atlantic Ocean, to the northernmost head of Connecticut River; thence down along the middle of that river to the 45th degree of north latitude, and thence due west in the latitude 45 degrees north from the equator, to the northwesternmost side of the river St. Lawrence...; thence straight to the south end of the Lake Nipissing, and thence straight to the source of the river Mississippi; west by a line to be drawn along the middle of the river Mississippi, from its source to where the said line shall intersect the 31st degree of north latitude; south by a line to be drawn due east from the termination of the line last mentioned, in the latitude of 31 degrees north of the equator, to the middle of the river Apalachicola or Catahouchi; thence along the middle thereof to its junction with the Flint River; thence straight to the head of St. Mary's River; thence down along the middle of St. Mary's River to the Atlantic Ocean, and east by a line to be drawn along the middle of St. John's River from its source to its mouth in the bay of Fundy...." The subjects of Great Britain and the United States were to enjoy the use of the fisheries, common commercial privileges, and the free navigation of the Mississippi. No provision was made for compensation to Loyalists, or for the collection by English merchants of debts in America.
Proposals of November 5.—The preliminary proposal was unsatisfactory to Shelburne. He accordingly sent Henry Strachey, an under official, to assist Oswald in making other arrangements. About this time Adams also arrived from The Hague. The negotiations proceeded without serious complications and in November a second draught was ready. In several important particulars it differed from the previous document. The Maine boundary on the east was to be a line drawn through the middle of the St. Croix River to its source, and thence directly north to the highlands which divide the rivers of the Atlantic from those which empty into the St. Lawrence; the line was to follow those highlands to the northwesternmost head of the Connecticut River, thence down that river to the forty-fifth parallel, and then straight west until it struck the Mississippi. British creditors were to "meet with no lawful impediment to recovering the full value or sterling amount of such bona fide debts as were contracted before the year 1775," but compensation to Loyalists was studiously omitted. A secret article was added to the effect, that if at the end of the war Great Britain should be, or should be put, in possession of West Florida, the boundary separating that province from the United States should be "a line drawn from the mouth of the river Yazoo,... due east to the river Apalachicola, and thence along the middle of that river to its junction with the Flint River, etc."
British proposal of November 25.—The failure to provide for the Loyalists caused the English government to submit other propositions which differed in two important particulars from the previous proposals. The northern boundary was changed west of the point where the Connecticut River crossed the forty-fifth parallel. From that point it was to follow the present international boundary to the Lake of the Woods, and from the northwestern point of that lake was to run due west to the Mississippi. The southern boundary was to leave the Mississippi at "the northernmost part of the 31st degree of north latitude," then "to be drawn due east ... in the latitude of 31 degrees north of the equator to the middle of the river Apalachicola," and from there it was to follow the line of the proposal of October 8. Articles were also inserted which provided that restitution should be made of all estates, rights, and properties in America which had been confiscated during the war, that no one was to suffer in life or person, or be deprived of property on account of the part which he had taken in the war, that imprisoned Loyalists were to be set at liberty and pending prosecutions dropped. The right of Americans in the use of the fisheries were somewhat abridged.
Provisional articles of November 30.—The British proposals were satisfactory to the American commissioners except those regarding the Loyalists and the fisheries. After considerable discussion an agreement was reached and provisional articles were signed. The people of the United States were given unrestricted fishing privileges "on the Grand Bank and on all the other banks of Newfoundland," in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and elsewhere, and the right of curing fish along the unsettled bays, harbors, and creeks of Nova Scotia, and on the shores of the Magdalen Islands and Labrador. The idea of indemnity for Loyalists was not incorporated, the articles merely pledging that Congress would make recommendations to the state legislatures that there should be no more confiscations or prosecutions, and that claimants of confiscated lands be allowed to use legal means of recovering them and might go at liberty for one year without personal risk. The articles also provided that the treaty should not be concluded until terms of peace had been agreed upon between France and Great Britain. The action of the American commissioners in arriving at an agreement without consulting the French ministers was not pleasing to Vergennes, but Franklin adroitly pacified him. It is probable that Vergennes did not have a deep feeling of resentment, for he soon obtained a loan of six million livres for the United States.
Preliminary agreements between England, France, and Spain.—Preliminary articles between England, France, and Spain were drawn in January, 1783. Spain failed to obtain Gibraltar, but received Minorca and the Floridas. France received no territory on the mainland of North America. French fishermen were granted important rights in the Newfoundland fisheries, and Great Britain gave to France Dunkirk, St. Lucia and Tobago, Senegal, and Gorée, and certain recent conquests, and guarantees of commercial privileges in India. France restored to Great Britain Grenada, the Grenadines, St. Vincent, Dominica, St. Christopher, Nevis, and Montserrat, and territory on the Gambia River.
Final agreements.—On September 3, 1783, all the definitive treaties were signed, the treaty between the United States and Great Britain being the same as the provisional articles of November 30. In the treaty the boundaries of the United States were apparently defined with exactness, but the statement of the Maine and northwestern boundaries proved to be ambiguous and became the subject of future disputes with Great Britain; the southern boundary agreement led to future difficulties with Spain, as did the question of the navigation of the Mississippi. The treaty was, however, a great triumph for American diplomacy. The United States had emerged from the contest as an independent power, with a vast domain stretching from the Mississippi to the Atlantic, and from the Great Lakes to the Floridas.
The dispersion of the Loyalists.—During the war many Loyalists had fled to England, to Canada, to the West Indies, or to Florida. A still larger number had taken refuge behind the British lines, or had joined the British Army. After the treaty, as persecutions continued, the British government arranged for the transportation of all who wished to leave the United States, offered them homes in the other British colonies, granted half pay to the officers after their regiments were reduced, and appointed a commission to provide compensation for losses. Many thousands of Loyalists left the country. Of these the more influential went to England. About two hundred families went to the West Indies. The larger number migrated to Canada, where, as "United Empire Loyalists," they laid the foundation of British Canada.
The Association a step toward sovereignty.—The First Continental Congress was called to deliberate and determine upon measures to recover rights and liberties of which the colonies had been deprived and to restore harmony with Great Britain. Although the Congress was consultative in nature, it completed the revolutionary organization and made unity of action possible. The adoption of the Association was a fundamental step toward sovereignty. It could only be interpreted to mean that the colonies intended to enforce their will upon the mother country. Furthermore, Congress provided means to enforce the Association within colonies. While the petitions and addresses which were sent forth were couched in respectful terms, the tone of the declaration and resolves was distinctly revolutionary, and when considered in connection with the Association, it becomes evident that the iron hand of a sovereign power was even then visible through the mists of revolution.
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