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about the reconciliation of the mother country with the colonies by inducing her to yield to their demands. His advice was, to enable the colonists to procure more easily by commercial means the munitions of war and the money needed, without going beyond the bounds of official neutrality, and without giving direct assistance.*
This fear of a reconciliation between England and her colonies, to be cemented by a war with France, was, throughout, the vision present to the French statesmen. At a later period, the American agents made use of this fear for their own purposes.
The advice of Turgot coincided with thåt of M. de Vergennes, and was followed. Forty thousand pounds were secretly advanced by the French Government to Beaumarchais to establish a commercial house. Beaumarchais received the money on the 5th of June, 1776. The curious letter from M. de Vergennes to the King, of the 2nd of May, 1776, probably refers to this transaction. If not, it proves that an advance was made directly to the Americans within a few days of that to Beaumarchais. The Minister wrote, that he submitted for the King's approval "the warrant authorising him to advance one million francs for the service of the English colonies," and a draft of his answer to Beaumarchais. This answer was not to be written with his own hand, or by any of his secretaries, but by his son, whose writing could not be known, and for whose discretion, though only in his fifteenth year, he could answer. To prevent the transaction being imputed to the Government, he proposed to send for M. Montaudoin, upon the pretext of obtaining some information from him; but in reality to entrust him with the task of transmitting the money to the Americans, and of impressing upon them the precautions to be observed.t
Another forty thousand pounds was advanced by the Spanish Government through the influence of the French Minister; and the energy and enthusiasm of Beaumarchais found the
* Turgot, viii. pp. 496, 502.
† Martens' Nouv. Causes Célèbres, i. p. 380.
mouth, in New Hampshire, in 1777. But the Americans appear to have misunderstood the character of the transaction. One of their agents, it is said, misled them by mistaken information. They considered the munitions of war as presents from the French Government, and the demand for payment intended merely to give a mercantile colour to the gift. remittances were not made by Congress at the times stipulated for by the agents in Paris. In vain Beaumarchais pressed for payment. His biographer has remarked, that his letters might well deceive the Americans. Demands for payment were coupled with high-flown protestations of devotion to their cause. His letters might be those of an urgent creditor, but they might also be the letters of a political agent veiling the complicity of his Government by the assumption of a mercantile character. At length, the Amphitrite brought back a small cargo of indigo and rice. The cargo was consigned to the American agents, who considered it their own, and, as they were in want of money, took possession of it. The house of Hortalez was obliged to threaten legal proceedings to recover the first and small return for an enormous outlay.
Meanwhile, M. de Vergennes advanced another £40,000, and the affairs of Beaumarchais were so prosperous that he had a fleet of no fewer than twelve vessels. But it was long before the Americans believed in the reality of the claims; and when they admitted their reality they disputed their accuracy. In his old age, bankrupt and in exile, from his garret in Hamburg, Beaumarchais begged for payment, in language which this time admitted of no double meaning: "Americans, "I die your creditor. Let me on my death-bed leave my daughter as a legacy to you; and ask for her dowry your debt "to me. Give alms to your friend, the only reward for his "repeated services. Date obolum Belisario." Date obolum Belisario." He died unrewarded. Thirty-six years afterwards, in 1835, his representatives received £32,000 in satisfaction of his claim for £90,000.*
To return to the history of French policy. The events of this period are summed up by Martin, in his History of France :
*Beaumarchais et son Temps. ii. p. 83.
support her perfidy by open force. Advantage and dignity might be derived by striking the first blow, by producing the numberless proofs they had of the perfidy of France, and ordering the fleet to avenge it.*
On the 13th of March came the French official communication of their engagements, beginning with the following words :
"The United States of North America, which are in full possession of independence, as declared by their Act of the "4th of July, 1776, having proposed to the King to consolidate "the connexions that have begun to be established between the "two nations, the respective Plenipotentiaries have signed a "treaty of amity and commerce."
The concluding paragraph stated that Lewis had taken eventual measures in concert with the United States to protect the lawful freedom of the commerce of his subjects, and to sustain the honour of his flag.
On the 17th, George the Third sent a message to Parliament, announcing that he had withdrawn the English Ambassador from Paris, "in consequence of this offensive communication."
I have quoted the communication to point out that the "full possession of independence" was put forward as the justification of the engagements entered into. But no one was deceived. The communication was insulting: "assez brusquement remise," says Martens. The treaties had been made to prevent the reunion of the colonies with the mother country;† and though the letter of Lewis containing this statement was not then published, the fact was well known. All the attendant circumstances proved hostility. The recognition was the open act which closed a series of clandestine intrigues. The communication was felt on all hands to be intended as an insult. It was accepted as an insult.
The two countries were soon engaged in hostilities, though without any actual declaration of war; but it was not till the following year that M. de Vergennes published a manifesto in justification of the policy of France. The tone of the manifesto
* Stanhope's Hist. of England, vi., App. xxiii. † Flassan, vii. p. 179.