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I. The first of the two cases before us presents an angry correspondence, and a precedent of little value; but, in return, it presents an amusing story. The transactions which ended with the recognition of the United States by France in 1778, were marked throughout by a want of good faith to England. Lewis the Sixteenth, his Ministers, and the French people treated the propriety of the recognition of the United States not as a question of international law, but as a question of the interests of France. Arguments from international law were indeed appealed to, but in support of foregone conclusions, and of a policy adopted without regard to any law. Every fresh diplomatic and even literary discovery on the subject places this in a clearer light. The papers of Beaumarchais have filled up what the letters of Franklin left untold. The appeal to international law is of value to us in tracing the progress of international law, but the main interest of the whole transaction is historical. It was a political intrigue, in which Lewis the Sixteenth, the Comte de Vergennes, and Beaumarchais were the chief actors.
From the beginning, the dispute between England and her American colonies attracted the eager attention of the French Government, and of the French people. When the dispute became revolution, their interest in it deepened. The treaty of 1763, at the end of the seven years war, had always been felt in France to be a humiliation, and the nation hoped that the events in America would lessen the influence of England, and afford an opportunity of repairing their own disgrace. The sympathies of French society displayed themselves even in social habits. "With a frivolity," observes a French historian, "which we mix with our most serious business," whist was banished for a game called Boston. Some, too, saw in the declaration of independence of the 4th of July, 1776, the realisation of the theories of the "Contrat Social," and the opening of a new era. But all hated England.
In 1776, Beaumarchais, at once a secret envoy and the author of "Le Barbier de Seville," a politician and a speculator, presented a memoir to the Government on the subject, which ultimately determined their course of action. The memoir is