From Diary of the American Revolution, Vol II. Compiled by Frank Moore and published in 1859.
This day, Mr. Simeon Deane arrived at Congress express from the American plenipotentiaries1 at the court of France, and delivered his despatches to the president. The important contents are, by a correspondent, thus communicated:
“The news of the defeat and captivity of General Burgoyne was received in France the beginning of December, with as much joy as if a victory by their own troops had been announced. Our plenipotentiaries took this opportunity again to attract the attention of the court of France to the object of their negotiation. On the 16th, Monsieur Gerard, royal syndic of Strasburgh, and secretary of his Majesty’s Council of State, waited on our plenipotentiaries, and informed them, by order of the King, ‘That after long and full consideration of our affairs and propositions in council, it was decided, and his Majesty was determined to acknowledge, our independence, and make a treaty with us of amity and commerce; that in the treaty no advantage would be taken of our present situation to obtain terms from us which otherwise would not be convenient for us to agree to, his Majesty desiring that the treaty, once made, should be durable, and our amity subsist forever, which could not be expected, if each nation did not find its interest in the continuance as well as in the commencement of it. It was therefore his intention that the terms of the treaty should be such as we might be willing to agree to if our state had been long established, and in the fulness of strength and power, and such as we should approve of when that time should come; that his Majesty was fixed in his determination not only to acknowledge, but to support our independence by every means in his power; that in doing this he might probably be soon engaged in war, with all the expenses, risk, and damage usually attending it; yet he should not expect any compensation from us on that account, nor pretend that he acted wholly for our sakes, since, besides his real good-will to us and our cause, it was manifestly the interest of France that the power of England should be diminished by our separation from it. He should, moreover, not so much as insist, that, if he engaged in a war with England on our account, we should not make a separate peace for ourselves, whenever good and advantageous terms were offered to us. The only condition he would require and rely on would be this: That we, in no peace to be made with England, should give up our independence and return to the obedience of that government.‘
“That upon such principles, by virtue of full powers by the King of France, to Monsieur Gerard, royal syndic of the city of Strasburgh, and secretary of his Majesty’s Council of State, dated the 30th of January, 1778, this minister, with our plenipotentiaries, signed at Paris on the 6th of February, a treaty of alliance and commerce between the crown of France and the United States of America, almost in the very terms in which the American plenipotentiaries had been instructed by Congress. In the treaty of alliance the following articles are conspicuous:
“Article I. If war should break out between France and Great Britain, during the continuance of the present war between the United States and England, his Majesty and the United States shall make it a common cause, and aid each other mutually with their good offices, their councils, and their forces, according to the exigence of conjunctures, as becomes good and faithful allies.
“Article II. 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.
“Article VI. The most Christian King renounces forever the possession of the island of Bermuda, as well as of any part of the continent of North America, which before the treaty of Paris, in 1763, or in virtue of that treaty, were acknowledged to belong to the crown of Great Britain, or to the United States, heretofore called British Colonies, or which are at this time, or have lately been, under the power of the King and crown of Great Britain.”2
The treaty of commerce stands upon the broad basis of equality; and considering the established great power of France, and the infancy of the United States, is an act without parallel. In a word, the sentiments delivered on the 16th of December by Monsieur Gerard, by order of the King of France, are sentiments rarely entertained by princes, and which, together with these equal treaties, must rank him, not only among the greatest monarchs of France, but in history.
These important advices were brought in the Le Sensible, M. Marignie commander, a royal frigate of France, of twenty-eight twelve-pounders, and three hundred men. She left Brest on the eighth of March, and, after a passage of thirty-five days, arrived at Casco Bay, from whence she sailed on her return, after two days’ stay to take in water.
Of this extraordinary publication, says the editor of the Pennsylvania Ledger, we doubt not but our readers will think as we do—that we have good reason to suspect it is, what many former publications from the same quarter certainly have been, a seasonable piece of misrepresentation. There is an art, well known by these adepts, of mixing truth and falsehood, or of conveying falsehood in the vehicle of truth.
The hasty resolution of Congress to reject all possible offers of accommodation with Great Britain, was found to alarm the people, who must be supposed to prefer a re-union with the mother country, on the generous terms proposed, before any romantic and hazardous scheme of ambition whatever. It was, therefore, necessary to pacify the popular alarm, and endeavor to reconcile us to the idea of a ruinous connection with France, by representing the terms of that connection in a flattering light. However, supposing this to be a true and faithful account, it certainly ought the more to alarm every true friend to the future peace and prosperity of America. Surely we have reason to distrust the restless and enterprising spirit of France, and of those other commercial powers who are said to favor the project of American independency! And, if the French King has agreed to such a treaty as this, of which, however, a sample only is given us, we must be madly credulous indeed if we believe it proceeds from any other motives than, at all events, to prevent our enjoying now the benefits of a happy reconciliation, and with a view, when the times will bear it, to bring us into such a state of domestic expense and foreign dependence, as must make us forever repent our folly in not having embraced the opportunity, now presented, of securing our civil and religious freedom, peace, and safety, against the arts or violence of all the world, by a cordial reunion with our mother country!
Is it possible that we can now wish for a final separation from Britain, the ancient and chief support of the Protestant religion in the world, for the sake of upholding a little longer, at the expense of our lives and fortunes, the arbitrary power of that Congress, who without even asking our consent, have disposed of us, have mortgaged us like vassals and slaves, by refusing to treat with Britain, and by entering into a treaty with that ambitious and treacherous power, whose religious and political maxims have so often disturbed the peace and invaded the rights of mankind? The Congress have wonderfully altered their tone of late. The time was when the bare toleration of the Roman Catholic religion in Canada, though stipulated for by articles of capitulation, was treated as a wicked attempt to establish “a sanguinary faith, which had for ages filled the world with blood and slaughter!” But now the Congress are willing to make us the instruments of weakening the best friends, and of strengthening the most powerful and ambitious enemies of the Reformation to such a degree as must do more than all the world besides could do, towards the universal re-establishment of Popery through all Christendom. It will be said that the French are no longer such a bigoted people as they were in the day of the St. Bartholomew massacre, and that we need not fear imbibing any improper sentiments from her maxims of religion or government. That France is not so blindly bigoted to her religious faith as formerly, we readily grant—indeed, her religion is little more at this day than an outside show to cover a general infidelity; but there is, for this very reason, the more cause to fear and distrust her views, as the less real religion she has at heart, the more will she be disposed to encourage the political tenets of the Church of Rome, on account of the advantages they afford to her ambition, in the pious work of enslaving mankind. As to Spain, the confederated ally of France, we know how zealously she continues to support the horrid authority of an inquisition for the same reasons. Judge, then, what we have to hope or expect from such an alliance! We not only run a manifest risk of becoming slaves ourselves, under the treacherous title of independency, but we are doing every thing in our power to overturn the Protestant religion, and extinguish every spark, both of civil and religious freedom, in the world! These sentiments, no doubt, will be ridiculed by those who are interested in supporting the measures of Congress; but they surely demand the serious attention of every disinterested friend of this country, and of every man who wishes well to the rights of humanity and conscience in every part of the world.3
1 When Dr. Franklin and Silas Deane were introduced to the French King in the quality of ambassadors from North America, they went in elegant coaches, attended by domestics in superb French liveries, with a suite. On their entrance into the court-yard, martial music struck up, the soldiers were under arms, and the French flag was lowered as a solemn salute, which all the officers accompanied. In the inner part of the palace they were received by les cent Suisses, the major of which announced “Les ambassadeurs des treize provinces ‘unies,’” i. e., The ambassadors from the “Thirteen United Provinces.” When they were ushered into the royal presence, the college of Paris, the bishops, the nobility, ministers, foreign and domestic, and ladies arose and. saluted them. Old Franklin was observed to weep, but the Count de Vergennes relieved the confusion of the philosopher, by waiving certain forms, and immediately presenting him to the King, who, d l’Anglaise, took the ambassador by the hand, and viewing his credentials, entered directly into conversation.—New York Journal, July 6.
2 Pennsylvania Gazette, Postscript, May 2, “This,” says Rivington, in his Gazette of May 20th, “may be looked upon as the masterpiece, or keystone of the arch that supports that system of lies with which the good people of America have been gulled and deceived; but the foundation is rotten, and the whole fabric must soon fall to the ground. Franklin knew this, and makes use of the last effort to support his own consequence. But the deception is too gross, too palpable almost for the congress itself. They have only ventured to publish in an indirect manner, three of the most conspicuous articles, by which, supposing them to be really genuine, France engages to do nothing. She renounces the possession of a country to which she does not pretend to have the least claim. She will also be very glad to see the independency of America established, and enjoy a share of its trade, provided it can be done without hurting the little finger of one of her own subjects. And if ever she should be engaged in a war with England, she will then join her rebellious subjects, and give them all the aid in her power. 0 wonderful! But there is wanted no ghost, nor a Simeon Deane to tell us this! The truth is, the leaders of rebellion are alarmed for their own safety; they see peace and happiness held out to the people in the clearest and most unreserved terms; but for themselves there is no retreat, only what must ultimately end in infamy and disgrace.”
3 Pennsylvania Ledger, May 13.