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from The Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin
by James Parton
Boston: Osgood, 1864
DR. FRANKLIN AT WORK.
To cheer the friends, and alarm the enemies of the United States, were among Dr. Franklin's first employments in France. His mere presence was cheering; his countenance, his demeanor, his words, all expressed an honest and perfect confidence in the final triumph of the United States. The circle of Americans and devotees of America at Paris heard with joy his exact and hopeful accounts of affairs at home. Besides putting new heart into the cause in France, he sent witty, warning letters across the channel, full of the unfaltering spirit of America; letters which he knew would be eagerly read in England, and diligently handed about. "We are better armed, better disciplined, better supplied, and more determined than ever," he would write to one friend. "England is undone if she perseveres in so mad a war," he would write to another. To a third, "I sometimes flatter myself that, old as I am, I may possibly live to see my country settled in peace and prosperity, when Britain shall make no more a formidable figure among the powers of Europe." Moral support was what the Cause needed in Europe at that time, and it was moral support that he brought to its aid.
Silas Deane and Beaumarchais, as before intimated, were at their wits’ end when Franklin reached Paris. Not only were their laden ships forbidden to depart, but, to complete their misery, the Amphitrite, the only ship they had succeeded in getting off, returned to port after having been at sea three weeks. The precious Du Coudray, peerless General of Artillery, was the cause of this mishap; he having ordered the ship back, alleging that the cabin was inconvenient, and the vessel otherwise unsuitable to his dignity. Beaumarchais raved and took to his bed, sick from disgust and anxiety; he ordered Du Coudray out of his ship, bag and baggage, and told him to go about his business. (1) Deane, too, tried to shake him off, and the French Cabinet interfered, revoked Du Coudray's leave of absence, and ordered him to join his corps. But the impracticable man had friends in the cabinet and at court, whom the American envoys dared not run the risk of disobliging; and so the dispute was arranged, and a passage was found for him and his train in another ship. By exertions that may be literally described as "unheard of," as well as unrecorded, Beaumarchais succeeded in quieting the apprehensions of the ministry, and in procuring permission, expressed or tacit, for the departure of his vessels. The Amphitrite reached Portsmouth in New Hampshire, in April, and two other vessels arrived in time to aid the campaign.
It was agreed between the three envoys, that, as Mr. Deane had alone been concerned with Roderique Hortalez and Co., he should continue to transact business with that mysterious house unassisted. I should not omit, however, to state, that Dr. Franklin joined Mr. Deane in recommending General du Coudray to the President of Congress as an officer of "great reputation." Mr. Deane explains how this came to pass: "M. du Coudray came secretly to Paris. I saw him and expostulated with him on what had passed, urging him to give up for the present all thoughts of prosecuting his voyage to America. He was unwilling to agree to it, and chose to go out at any rate. I told him he must not rely on my doing any thing further in his affairs; he was in danger of being arrested at Paris on account of the order (to join his corps), and left the city privately. After which two gentlemen of high rank, the Duc de Rochefaucault and the Chevalier de Chattelier, waited on Dr. Franklin and myself, Mr. Lee being to the best of my remembrance out of town, and urged that I should not oppose the going out of Monsieur du Coudray. I stated generally my situation, but the character and abilities of this gentleman were so strongly urged by his noble patrons, that Dr. Franklin resolved to write in his favor, and having written the letter, I could no longer refuse joining him in it, which I did, on condition that Monsieur du Coudray should not embark in any of the ships I ordered stores to be sent in, but that he should shift for himself as well as he could." (2)
So Du Coudray sailed, with his train of hungry officers, carrying in his pocket a letter of introduction signed by Dr. Franklin, and Mr. Deane, and a commission as general-in-chief of artillery in the army of the United States, granted and signed by Silas Deane only. His officers were of all grades, even to sergeants, and were all promised rank in the American army, each one grade higher than he had held in France.
December 28th, five days after Dr. Franklin's arrival in Paris, the three American envoys had their first interview with the Count de Vergennes. The official proceedings against the shipments of Hortalez and Co. were at their hight; i. e., M. de Vergennes was using all his art to soothe Lord Stormont. Nevertheless, he received the envoys with every mark of profound respect. They exhibited their commission, and an outline of such a treaty as Congress desired to conclude with France. They explained the difficulty of making remittances of tobacco and rice from America, the harbors and bays being blockaded by ships of war. America, they said, could cope with English frigates, because she now had frigates of her own, but ships of the line were too much for an infant navy, and, consequently, the resources of the States were locked up. They were instructed to ask the French government to lend Congress eight ships of the line, completely equipped and manned, the whole expense of which Congress would pay, and the possession of which would enable America to carry on with France that renowned commerce which for a hundred years had been enriching England. The minister replied with the vague but cordial politeness of a man who longs to say, Yes, and hopes ere long to be able to say it, but is compelled for the present to await the development of events. The prospects of America to a cool and well-informed minister were dark and darkening. The Count de Vergennes had probably by that time heard something of the great army of eight or ten thousand men with which General Burgoyne was on the point of sailing to America, to co-operate with the twice victorious troops of General Howe. He assured the envoys of the friendly protection of the king during their residence in France; asked them to state in writing the substance of what they had offered, and convey the document to M. Gerard; promised them that its contents should be duly considered; assured them, also (too vaguely for Mr. Deane's anxieties), that whatever commercial privileges France could grant America without violating treaties with Great Britain, should be granted; and, finally, advised them to seek an interview with the embassador of Spain, a power with which France acted in the strictest concert in all affairs that might be supposed to involve the peace of Europe.
The envoys presented their memorial as requested, and received through M. Gerard a polite reply which may be abbreviated thus: "Not yet, Messieurs! Meanwhile, we will do all we can for you short of obliging Lord Stormont to demand his passports. For that we are not quite ready. For the present, if a couple of millions of francs, without interest, to be repaid after the war, will be of any use to an illustrious Congress, why, the money is very much at their service. Only, don't say you had it from us." To which Arthur Lee penned a reply in his highes t style: "We beg to return our most grateful sense of the gracious intentions which his majesty has had the goodness to signify to our states, and to assure his majesty that we shall ever retain the warmest gratitude for the substantial proofs he has given us of his regard," etc., etc. And Dr. Franklin, towards the close of his next letter to the Secret Committee, dated Jan. 17th, observed: "So strong is the inclination of the wealthy here to assist us, that we are offered a loan of two millions of livres, without interest, and to be repaid when the United States are settled in peace and prosperity. No conditions or security are required, not even an engagement from us. We have accepted this generous and noble benefaction; five hundred thousand francs, or one quarter, is to be paid into the hands of our banker this day, and five hundred thousand more every three months…. P. S., Jan. 22d. We have received the five hundred thousand francs mentioned above, and our banker has orders to advance us the second payment if we desire it." Two months later, a very safe opportunity occurring, the envoys informed the Secret Committee of the truth with regard to this loan.
A week after the date of the cheering postscript just quoted, the envoys received from England their first intelligence of the Burgoyne expedition, which, they were informed, was destined for the invasion of Virginia and Maryland. Arthur Lee, a Virginian, seized with consternation, drew up an earnest appeal to M. de Vergennes, which his colleagues approved and signed, urging France to declare war against England and thus divert this formidable force. If not diverted, argued Lee, "it will be in their power to destroy a great part of those states, as the houses and estates of the principal inhabitants are situated on the navigable waters, and so separated from each other as to be incapable of being defended from armed vessels conveying troops." And "great danger," he added, "is also to be apprehended from the blacks of those states, who, being excited and armed by the British, may greatly strengthen the invaders, at the same time that the fear of their insurrection will prevent the white inhabitants from leaving their places of residence, and assembling in such numbers for their own defense against the English as otherwise they might do." Moreover, "the destruction of these two states probably may make a great impression on the people in the rest, who, seeing no prospect of assistance from any European power, may be more inclined to listen to terms of accommodation." He urged in conclusion, "that notwithstanding the measures taken to convince the court of Britain that France does not countenance the Americans, that court, according to our information, believes firmly the contrary; and it is submitted to the consideration of your excellency, whether, if English made a conquest of the American states, they will not take the first opportunity of showing their resentment, by beginning themselves the war that would otherwise be avoided." Surely, then, the time for France to strike, is NOW! The answer to this memorial, if any written answer was given, has not come to light. Perhaps the arrival of information that General Burgoyne's field of operations was northern, instead of southern, calmed the apprehensions of Mr. Lee.
But, for the time, the envoys and their friends were penetrated with alarm. Even the faith of Dr. Franklin must have been a little shaken, when, besides the Burgoyne news, the intelligence came (and came through the gazettes of an exulting enemy), that General Washington, with a force of three thousand disheartened militia, was flying across New Jersey before General Howe's victorious troops. Not yet had tidings reached Europe of the battle of Trenton (fought December 26th), which snatched the perishing Revolution from the broken ice of the Delaware, and breathed into it the breath of a new and unquenchable life. The envoys appear to have seriously contemplated the possibility of their being left in Europe without a country. In this midnight of their hopes, they solemnly and formally agreed that, come what might, they would stand by their cause and by one another. They all signed a paper to the effect, that if France and Spain should conclude the desired treaty of amity and commerce with the United States, and should be drawn into a war with Great Britain, through granting aid to the United States, then "it will be right and proper for us" to bind our country to stand by France and Spain to the end, fighting with them and for them until the conclusion of a general peace. To this paper was appended the following mysterious and awful note, signed by the three envoys:
"It is further considered, that in the present peril of the liberties of our country, it is our duty to hazard every thing in their support and defense; therefore resolved unanimously, that if it should be necessary to the attainment of any thing in our best judgment essential to the defense and support of the public cause, that we should pledge our persons, or hazard the censure of the Congress, by exceeding our instructions, we will for such purpose most cheerfully resign our personal liberty or life." (3)
It was of just this period, and of the precise series of events which preceded the battle of Trenton, that Thomas Paine wrote that trumpet piece, "The American Crisis," Number One; beginning, "These are the times that try men's souls;" a composition of amazing spirit and variety. No wonder the American envoys, to whom the bad news from home came exaggerated and distorted, should have been dismayed and cast down.
It was at this dark period that Lafayette, against the advice of the American envoys, resolved to go to America in a ship of his own. His own artless narrative of this time, contained in the fragment of autobiography which he left, gives us an imperfect, hasty glimpse of the envoys:
"When I first learnt the subject of this (American) quarrel, my heart espoused warmly the cause of liberty, and I thought of nothing but of adding also the aid of my banner. Some circumstances, which it would be needless to relate, had taught me to expect only obstacles in this case from my own family; I depended, therefore, solely upon myself, and I ventured to adopt for a device on my arms these words, "Cur non?" (Why not?) that they might equally serve as encouragement to myself, and as a reply to others. Silas Deane was then at Paris; but the ministers feared to receive him, and his voice was overpowered by the louder accents of Lord Stormont. He dispatched privately to America some old arms which were of little use, and some young officers, who did but little good, the whole directed by M. de Beaumarchais; and when the English embassador spoke to our court, it denied having sent any cargoes, ordered those that were preparing to be discharged, and dismissed from our ports all American privateers. Whilst wishing to address myself in a direct manner to Mr. Deane, I became the friend of Kalb, a German in our employ, who was applying for service with the insurgents (the expression in use at that time), and who became my interpreter. He was the person sent by M. de Choiseul to examine the English colonies; and on his return he received some money, but never succeeded in obtaining an audience, so little did that minister in reality think of the revolution whose retrograde movements some persons have ascribed to him! When I presented to Mr. Deane my boyish face (for I was scarcely nineteen years of age), I spoke more of my ardor in the cause than of my experience; but I dwelt much upon the effect my departure would excite in France, and he signed our mutual agreement. The secrecy with which this negotiation and my preparations were made appears almost a miracle; family friends, ministers, French spies, and English spies, all were kept completely in the dark as to my intentions. Amongst my discreet confidants, I owe much to M. du Boismartim, secretary of the Count de Broglie, and to the Count de Broglie himself, whose affectionate heart, when all his efforts to turn me from this project had proved vain, entered into my views with even paternal tenderness.
"Preparations were making to send a vessel to America, when very bad tidings arrived from thence. New York, Long Island, White Plains, Fort Washington, and the Jerseys, had seen the American forces successively destroyed by thirty-three thousand Englishmen or Germans. Three thousand Americans alone remained in arms, and these were closely pursued by General Howe. From that moment all the credit of the insurgents vanished; to obtain a vessel for them was impossible; the envoys themselves thought it right to express to me their own discouragement, and persuade me to abandon my project. I called upon Mr. Deane, and I thanked him for his frankness. 'Until now, sir,' said I, 'you have only seen my ardor in your cause, and that may not prove at present wholly useless. I shall purchase a ship to carry out your officers; we must feel confidence in the future, and it is especially in the hour of danger that I wish to share your fortune.' My project was received with approbation; but it was necessary afterwards to find money, and to purchase and arm a vessel secretly: all this was accomplished with the greatest dispatch.
''The period was, however, approaching, which had been long fixed, for my taking a journey to England. I could not refuse to go without risking the discovery of my secret, and by consenting to take this journey I knew I could better conceal my preparations for a greater one. This last measure was also thought most expediently MM. Franklin and Deane, for the doctor himself was then in France; and although I did not venture to go to his home, for fear of being seen, I corresponded with him through M. Carmichael, an American less generally known. I arrived in London with M. de Poix; and I first paid my respects to Bancroft, the American, and afterwards to his British Majesty. A youth of nineteen may be, perhaps, too fond of playing a trick upon the king he is going to fight with; of dancing at the house of Lord Germain, minister of the English colonies, and at the house of Lord Rawdon, who had just returned from New York; and of seeing at the opera that Clinton whom he was afterwards to meet at Monmouth. But whilst I concealed my intentions, I openly avowed my sentiment; I often defended the Americans; I rejoiced at their success at Trenton; and my spirit of opposition obtained for me an invitation to breakfast with Lord Shelburne." (4)
He sailed in May, to the delight of all France. "He is exceedingly beloved," wrote Franklin to the Secret Committee, "and everybody's good wishes attend him…. Those who censure his departure as imprudent in him, do, nevertheless, applaud his spirit; and we are satisfied that the civilities and respect that may be shown him will be serviceable to our affairs here, as pleasing, not only to his powerful relations and to the court, but to the whole French nation. He has left a beautiful young wife, and for her sake particularly, we hope that his bravery and ardent desire to distinguish himself will be a little restrained by the General's prudence, so as not to permit his being hazarded much, but on some important occasion."
Dr. Franklin, during this gloomy winter, presented to the gay world of Paris a serene and smiling face, and amused it with sallies that still form part of the common stock of that immense multitude who are indebted to their memory for their jests. To one who brought to him a story, as from the British embassador, that six battalions of American troops under General Washington had laid down their arms, and asked him if it was "a truth," he replied: "No, monsieur, it is not a truth; it is only a Stormont." The story had great vogue in the saloons, or, to speak in the French manner, "all Paris laughed at it." Franklin was the occasion of another remark which amused the few hundred persons who then constituted "all Paris." The Franklin stove coming into fashion at Paris, one of the French ministers was asked whether he would have one, "By no means," said he, "for if I should, Lord Stormont will never warm himself at my fire." At the time when the ships of Beaumarchais were struggling vainly to break out to sea through meshes of ministerial orders and counter-orders, Franklin dined in a numerous company, where one of the party informed him that his country at that moment presented a sublime spectacle! "Yes," said Franklin, "but the spectators do not pay."
His letters, too, were unusually merry. January 27th, he added to a letter to Mrs. Hewson in London, this postscript: "They tell me that in writing to a lady from Paris, one should always say something about the fashions. Temple observes them more than I do. He took notice that at the ball in Nantes there were no heads less than five, and a few were seven lengths of the face, above the top of the forehead. You know that those who have practiced drawing, as he has, attend more to proportions than people in common do. Yesterday we dined at the Duke de Rochefoucauld's, where there were three duchesses and a countess, and no head higher than a face and a half. So, it seems, the further from court, the more extravagant the mode." To Dr. Priestley, on the same day: "The hint you gave me jocularly, that you did not quite despair of the philosopher's stone, draws from me a request, that, when you have found it, you will take care to lose it again; for I believe in my conscience that mankind are wicked enough to continue slaughtering one another as long as they can find money to pay the butchers." February 8th, he begins a letter to "Mrs. Thompson at Lisle," in these words: "You are too early, hussy, as well as too saucy, in calling me rebel; you should wait for the event, which will determine whether it is a rebellion or only a revolution. Here the ladies are more civil; they call us les insurgens, a character that usually pleases them;" ending the letter with "Adieu, Madcap." Such utterances, we should suppose, were the expression of a light heart and unburdened mind, if we did not know that strong men are often gayest when their load presses heaviest.
It was in February, 1777, that the American envoys had that famous collision with the English embassador. They wrote to Lord Stormont, February 23d: "Captain Wickes, of the Reprisal frigate, belonging to the United States of America, has now in his hands near one hundred British seamen, prisoners. He desires to know whether an exchange may be made with him for an equal number of American seamen, now prisoners in England? We take the liberty of proposing this matter to your lordship, and of requesting your opinion (if there be no impropriety in your giving it), whether such an exchange will probably be agreed to by your court. If your people cannot be soon exchanged here, they will be sent to America."
No answer. The envoys waited one week, and then wrote again: "We did ourselves the honor of writing some time ago to your lordship, on the subject of exchanging prisoners. You did not condescend to give us any answer, and therefore we expect none to this. We, however, take the liberty of sending you copies of certain depositions, which we shall transmit to Congress, whereby it will be known to your court, that the United States are not unacquainted with the barbarous treatment their people receive, when they have the misfortune of being your prisoners here in Europe; and that, if your conduct towards us is not altered, it is not unlikely that severe reprisals may be thought justifiable, from the necessity of putting some check to such abominable practices.
"For the sake of humanity it is to be wished that men would endeavor to alleviate, as much as possible, the unavoidable miseries attending a state of war. It has been said that, among the civilized nations of Europe, the ancient horrors of that state are much diminished; but the compelling men by chains, stripes, and famine, to fight against their friends and relations, is a new mode of barbarity which your nation alone had the honor of inventing; and the sending American prisoners of war to Africa and Asia, remote from all probability of exchange, and where they can scarce hope ever to hear from their families, even if the unwholesomeness of the climate does not put a speedy end to their lives, is a manner of treating captives that you can justify by no other precedent of custom except that of the black savages of Guinea."
In reply, Lord Stormont sent immediately a "paper," undated and unsigned, bearing the well-known words: "The king's embassador receives no applications from rebels, unless they come to implore his majesty's mercy." Which the envoys thus acknowledged: "In answer to a letter which concerns some of the most material interests of humanity, and of the two nations, Great Britain and the United States of America, now at war, we received the inclosed indecent paper, as coming from your lordship, which we return, for your lordship's more mature consideration." Lord Stormont's reply extorted from two continents howls of disgust. He acted, however, strictly in character. As the nephew, pupil, and heir of Lord Mansfield, as the embassador of George III., as British tory of that day, what else could he have said? He was a stiff, precise, stingy, honorable man, intent on doing his duty to what he called his "King and country." The American prisoners, therefore, continued to languish in Portsmouth jail, while a large number of the English sea-captives (not less than seven hundred in the year) were set at liberty, from the difficulty and expense of transporting them to America.
As the spring opened, the envoys being assured that no further aid was to be expected of France until the prospect brightened in America, resolved to try other courts; Mr. Lee, that of Spain; Mr. Deane, the Dutch. Mr. Lee started on his mission, but was stopped before reaching Madrid by an official hint, that Spain tenderly loved the United States, but would prefer, just then, not to have an American plenipotentiary at her capital. He did, however, after delay, procure some supplies. Spain, having the fear of British fleets before her eyes, would concede nothing further to Mr. Lee; who returned to Paris, and proceeded thence to Berlin, to learn what Frederick the Great would do to pay off old scores against the tory party of Britain. The wary, wise old king would do nothing. So that the only advantage accruing from these swift, laborious journeys, in the spring and summer of 1777, was that they kept Arthur Lee out of Paris and out of mischief, leaving his colleagues to do their duty unmolested. Mr. Deane made no attempt upon the cautious Dutch, having endless work in Paris with his cargoes and the counter-orders.
It is scarcely just to say that the King of Prussia did nothing for America at this critical time. He performed in her favor, to the huge amusement of Europe, a practical joke. We find Franklin writing this spring to a Boston friend: "The conduct of those Princes of Germany who have sold the blood of their people, has subjected them to the contempt and odium of all Europe. The Prince of Anspach, whose recruits mutinied and refused to march, was obliged to disarm and fetter them, and drive them to the sea-side by the help of his guards; himself attending in person. In his return he was publicly hooted by mobs through every town he passed in Holland, with all sorts of reproachful epithets. The King of Prussia's humor of obliging those Princes to pay him the same toll per head for the men they drive through his dominions, as used to be paid him for their cattle, because they were sold as such, is generally spoken of with approbation, as containing a just reproof of those tyrants. I send you inclosed one of the many satires that have appeared on this occasion."
Dr. Franklin had been five months from home before he had a line from America, or America a line from him. It was in the very month after his departure that General Howe ravaged across New Jersey and threatened Philadelphia from the banks of the Delaware; his daughter and all her household retiring twenty miles into the country, carrying with them Franklin's library, apparatus, and papers, and all the furniture, except the mahogany. No sooner had the precious little victory at Trenton relieved Philadelphia from apprehension, and raised the spirits of the whole country from the deepest depression, than the Secret Committee resolved to get the good news undiminished across the ocean, if the thing was possible. The swift schooner, Jenifer, Captain Hammond, was expressly designated for this errand. The orders of the committee to Captain Hammond were, to make all speed to Nantes; leave the schooner there in command of the mate; get money from Mr. Thomas Morris or M. Penet; go post-haste to Paris; deliver dispatches to Messrs. Franklin, Deane, and Lee; await their orders and answers; which latter being received, fly over land and sea with them straight to Congress. "The dispatches," added the committee, " will be delivered to you in a box, which you must put into a bag with two shots; so that you can instantly sink them if in danger of capture. And, above all, secrecy!" The Jenifer sailed early in tempestuous January; was chased by cruisers; dodged into a Virginia river, where she lay snug for seventeen days, waiting for a chance to slip out to sea. At length, after storms, chasings, and adventures inumerable, Captain Hammond had the satisfaction of delivering his dispatches into the hands of Dr. Franklin at Passy; his news not the less joyful, because it was three months old.
It was agreeable to Dr. Franklin, on reading his dispatches, to find that the orders of the Secret Committee had been anticipated. The committee ordered them to have six men of war built in Europe; men of war were already in progress in Holland. The committee desired them to try for a loan of two millions sterling; they had themselves entertained such a project. The committee sent a commission to Dr. Franklin as plenipotentiary to the court of Spain. Arthur Lee had gone to Spain. The committee wished the envoys to assure the several courts of the unshaken determination of the United States to maintain their independence; they had held no other language. This was pleasant. Captain Hammond bore away dispatches that contained much cheering news for the committee and Congress; but, as ill luck would have it, he was taken by the enemy within sight of the American coast, but succeeded in sinking his dispatch box. It was eleven months, counting from May, 1777, before another letter reached America from the Americans serving Congress on the continent of Europe.
The good news brought by Captain Hammond, the departure of the Marquis de Lafayette, the revived enmity against Great Britain, the presence of Franklin, all contributed to inflame the ardor of Young France for taking part in the American war. Going to America to fight for the noble Insurgents and the illustrious Congress, was so much the rage in Paris, that the applications to Dr. Franklin for recommendatory letters and commissions became the torment of his life. To Dr. Dubourg he wrote, in reply to a letter in behalf of a young officer: "You can have no conception how I am harassed. All my friends are sought out and teazed to teaze me. Great officers of all ranks, in all departments; ladies, great and. small, besides professed solicitors, worry me from morning to night. The noise of every coach now that enters, my court terrifies me. I am afraid to accept an invitation to dine abroad, being almost sure of meeting with some officer or officer's friend, who, as soon as I am put in good humor by a glass or two of champagne, begins his attack upon me. Luckily I do not often in my sleep dream of these vexatious situations, or I should be afraid of what are now my only hours of comfort. If, therefore, you have the least remaining kindness for me, if you would not help to drive me out of France, for God's sake, my dear friend, let this your twenty-third application be your last."
For the benefit of young Frenchmen, whose enthusiasm would not permit them "to take No for an answer," he drew up a letter of introduction suited to their case: "The bearer of this, who is going to America, presses me to give him a letter of recommendation, though I know nothing of him, not even his name. This may seem extraordinary, but I assure you it is not uncommon here. Sometimes, indeed, one unknown person brings another equally unknown, to recommend him; and sometimes they recommend one another! As to this gentleman, I must refer you to himself for his character and merits, with which he is certainly better acquainted than I can possibly be. I recommend him, however, to those civilities, which every stranger, of whom one knows no harm, has a right to; and I request you will do him all the good offices, and show him all the favor, that, on further acquaintance, you shall find him to deserve." His grandson assures us that a form like this was actually employed by him on some occasions.
Franklin's pen was not idle during the first months of his residence in Europe. Of his literary efforts at this time, there was one, the interest and the importance of which readers of the present day cannot be made to conceive. I refer to the translation, executed, I believe, by Dr. Dubourg, but suggested and superintended by Dr. Franklin, of the new Constitutions of the States of the American Confederacy. France, dreaming already of the millenium which she consciously strove for in her own impending Revolution, read those to us so familiar and commonplace productions with the wild interest with which starving mariners on a desert coast might read the Bill of Fare of the last Lord Mayor's banquet. Those Constitutions, says Thomas Paine, in that happy way of his, "were to liberty what grammar is to language: they define its parts of speech, and practically construct them into syntax." (5) He tells us, also, that "Count de Vergennes resisted for a considerable time the publication in France of the American Constitutions translated into the French language; but even in this he was obliged to give way to public opinion, and a sort of propriety in admitting to appear what he had undertaken to defend."
The effect which this publication had in bringing on, and shaping the early course of the French Revolution, no writer, English, French, or American, appears to have sufficiently noticed. Franklin, who had in view only the honor and prosperity of his own country, had, nevertheless, the idea that the publication might indirectly benefit Europe also. "All Europe," he wrote, in May, 1777, to his old Boston friend, Rev. Samuel Cooper, "is on our side of the question, as far as applause and good wishes can carry them. Those who live under arbitrary power do nevertheless approve of liberty, and wish for it; they almost despair of recovering it in Europe; they read the translations of our separate colony constitutions with rapture; and there are such numbers everywhere who talk of removing to America, with their families and fortunes, as soon as peace and our independence shall be established, that it is generally believed we shall have a prodigious addition of strength, wealth, and arts, from the emigrations of Europe; and it is thought that, to lessen or prevent such emigrations, the tyrannies established there must relax, and allow more liberty to their people. Hence it is a common observation here, that our cause is the cause of all mankind, and that we are fighting for their liberty in defending our own."
Readers of Horace Walpole's letters and diaries remember how often he repeats the prediction, that if George III. should succeed in subduing America, he would call home his victorious armies only to crush the liberties of England. It could only have been a conviction like this, that induced such patriots as Fox and Burke to rejoice in the dishonor of their country's arms in America, and to count the loss of English armies there a gain to England.
To promote the loan ordered by Congress, Dr. Franklin wrote an ingenious piece, which he caused to be translated into French, Spanish, Dutch, and Italian, and sent to the moneyed capitals of Europe. In borrowing money, said he in this paper, a man's credit depends upon seven particulars, namely: His conduct respecting former loans; his industry; his frugality; the value and condition of his estate; his prospects; his business talent; his honesty. He endeavored to show that in each of these particulars America surpassed England. America at the peace of 1763 was ten millions sterling in debt, and had paid off the whole, principal and interest, in nine years; whereas England, in the same time, had not reduced her debt. With regard to industry and frugality, in America nearly every human being practiced those virtues; while in England there were large classes of people who were trained to despise both. All America had been governed for seventy thousand pounds a year, while England's king alone consumed a million. As to prudence — good Heavens! England was always plunging into wars with which she had no concern whatever. "But the most indiscreet of all her wars is the present against America, with whom she might for ages have preserved her profitable connection only by a just and equitable conduct. She is now acting like a mad shop-keeper, who, by beating those that pass his doors, attempts to make them come in and be his customers. America cannot submit to such treatment, without being first ruined, and, being ruined, her custom will be worth nothing. England, to effect this, is increasing her debt, and irretrievably ruining herself." And with regard to downright honesty, as shown in the voluntary payment of debts that might have been avoided, how bright and stainless the record of America! Private debts due to English merchants since the commencement of hostilities, had been paid with remarkable punctuality; though there had not been wanting politicians who had proposed a general stopping of payment until the end of the war.
The money-lending public were doubtless entertained with this production, but they showed not the least inclination to come forward with the two million pounds sterling. Franklin, indeed, had omitted all reference to the money-lender's first consideration — the probability of America maintaining her independence. His seven arguments were excellent; but there were seven on the other side which no capitalist could disregard: the battle of Long Island; the loss of New York; the capture of the upper forts; the affairs about White Plains; the retreat to the Delaware; the sailing of General Burgoyne; Lord Howe's blockading fleet. Penniless patriots and drawing-room enthusiasts see through such shallow reasoning as this, but moneyed men invariably attach to arguments of that description a certain weight.
Another "money article" Dr. Franklin wrote at this time, entitled, "A Catechism relative to the English National Debt;" in which he endeavored to give his readers a vivid conception of its vast amount — one hundred and ninety-five millions. The questions of this catechism elicited the information that it would take a man one hundred and forty-eight years to count the debt in shillings; that the weight of those shillings would be nearly sixty-two millions of pounds, a load for three hundred and fourteen ships, or thirty-one thousand carts. The catechism ended thus: "When will government be able to pay the principal? When there is more money in England's treasury than there is in all Europe. And when will that be? Never." Argument neutralized by the well-known fact that England had never failed to pay the interest of her debt on the day it was due; which is all the capitalist cares for. Where this catechism was published, or whether it was published at all, does not appear.
Another piece of Franklin's fun bears date at this time: "A Dialogue between Britain, France, Spain, Holland, Saxony, and America." To each of these nations in turn Britain applies for help in the business of chastizing rebellious America. Spain replies: "Have you forgotten, then, that when my subjects in the Low Countries rebelled against me, you not only furnished them with military stores, but joined them with an army and a fleet?" France replies: “Did you not assist my rebel Huguenots with a fleet and an army at Rochelle? And have you not lately aided privately and sneakingly my rebel subjects in Corsica? And do you not at this instant keep their chief pensioned, and ready to head a fresh revolt there, whenever you can find or make an opportunity? Dear sister, you must be a little silly!" Holland replies: "'Tis true you assisted me against Philip, my tyrant of Spain, but have I not assisted you against one of your tyrants, and enabled you to expel him?.... I shall only go on quietly with my own business. Trade is my profession; 'tis all I have to subsist on. And, let me tell you, I shall make no scruple (on the prospect of a good market for that commodity) even to send my ships to Hell and supply the Devil with brimstone. For you must know, I can insure in London against the burning of my sails." Whereupon, America breaks in: "Why, you old bloodthirsty bully! You, who have been everywhere vaunting your own prowess, and defaming the Americans as poltroons! You, who have boasted of being able to march over all their bellies with a single regiment! You, who by fraud have possessed yourself of their strongest fortress, and all the arms they had stored up in it! You, who have a disciplined army in their country, intrenched to the teeth, and provided with every thing! Do you run about begging all Europe not to supply those poor people with a little powder and shot?"
Poor Britain fares no better with Saxony, and cries out at length: "O Lord! where are my friends?" Upon which the nations with one voice inform her that she has no friends, and will have none, until she mends her manners.
The writing of dispatches vastly increased the general labors of the embassy. Not that the dispatches were very numerous, but many copies of each had to be made. Besides the first draft, a corrected copy for preservation and the copy transmitted to Congress, a fresh copy was sent by each of the next three, four, or five opportunities. Few of the more important dispatches were copied less than seven times, which involved, on an average, about a hundred pages of copying. Nor had the Secret Committee made the slighted provision in the way of secretary or clerk. With such prodigious quantities of writing to be executed, Dr. Franklin was compelled to postpone the sending of his grandson to a university, and employ him as a secretary; to whom he was obliged to add a French clerk at "fifty louis per annum." The university scheme was finally abandoned, Dr. Franklin having resolved to train the youth for the diplomatic service of his country, for which his appearance, manners, and tastes appeared to fit him. "Temple," therefore, remained in the household of his grandfather, plying the secretarial pen, during the whole of the revolutionary period.
It was only through this ceaseless multiplying of copies that any dispatches at all reached their destination. In one letter of this year, the envoys mention the loss of four sets of dispatches. "Adams," say they, "by whom we wrote early this summer, was taken on this coast, having sunk his dispatches. We hear that Hammond shared the same fate on your coast. Johnson, by whom we wrote in September, was taken going out of the channel, and poor Captain Wickes (of the Reprisal), who sailed at the same time, and had duplicates, we just now hear foundered near New Foundland, every man perishing but the cook." The affair of General Montgomery's monument gives a lively idea of the extreme difficulty and irregularity of intercourse between the two continents. Congress having ordered the envoys to have the monument made in Paris, the work was executed accordingly, and shipped for America in the summer of 1777. Months passed, and the envoys heard nothing of either the vessel or the marble. At the end of two years vague and casual tidings reached Paris that the ship had arrived at some port in North Carolina. Three years more elapsed, and we still find Franklin earnestly asking his correspondents if they had heard any thing of a very elegant, three-hundred-guinea monument he had sent to sea at the beginning of his residence abroad. Nor does it appear that he ever ascertained what had become of his monument. That it did reach America safely New Yorkers know, since it stands visible to the passing crowd of Broadway, affixed to the front of St. Paul's church. Congress designed it for a wall of the State House, in Philadelphia, Franklin records.
So of the tobacco. "The anxiety of Congress," wrote the committee once to their envoys in Paris, "to get tobacco to you is as great as yours to receive it. We have already lost vast quantities in the attempt, and thereby have furnished our enemies gratis with what was designed for the discharge of your contracts." And Mrs. Bache writes to her father: "The present you sent me this month two years, I received a few weeks ago." As late as 1782 the American plenipotentiaries had to complain that six months passed without their hearing from home.
Such vigilant cruising had the effect of rendering the commerce that did escape most temptingly profitable. Arthur Lee mentions in one of his letters of 1777, that a twenty-two franc French musket sold in America for fifty francs; and for fifty francs two hundred pounds of tobacco could be bought, worth in France one thousand dollars!
Happily, the cruising and the capturing were not all on one side. Dr. Franklin and Mr. Deane were busy enough this summer with the little navy under their direction; whose exploits in the British seas elicited universal applause at the time, and can never be forgotten by Americans who love their country's navy. We belong to a race who have been accustomed, from of old, to fight bunglingly on the land, brilliantly on the sea, successfully on both. Captain Wickes in the sloop-of-war, Reprisal, was the first of our naval officers who fired a hostile gun in European waters. Having admitted his two prizes to ransom, he refitted at Nantes, and boldly cruising in the Bay of Biscay, sent in prize after prize, a Lisbon packet among the rest; and returned to Nantes unharmed. Lord Stormont remonstrated now with such threatening vigor, that the Count de Vergennes was compelled to order both the prizes and the Reprisal to leave the harbor instantly. Whereupon, Captain Wickes invited some Nantes merchants on board of one of his prizes, took all the vessels just outside the port, and there sold them to the merchants, who immediately ordered them in again. As to the Reprisal, he informed the government that she was too leaky to go to sea; and the government was too humane to think of compelling a leaky vessel to encounter the perils of the deep. It was the hundred prisoners captured in these prizes that gave rise to the correspondence between the envoys and Lord Stormont given above. We cannot wonder that his lordship was in ill humor.
A still more dashing adventure was in reserve for Captain Wickes and his little sloop. In April, the arrival of the Lexington, sloop-of-war of fourteen guns, Captain Johnson, emboldened the American envoys to plan an expedition to capture the Belfast linen ships, expected to sail in June. About the first of that month the Reprisal, the Lexington, and a cutter of ten guns named the Dolphin (bought from M. de Chaumont to carry dispatches to Congress), the whole under command of Captain Wickes, sailed from Nantes. The little fleet ventured completely round Ireland. It missed the linen ships, but captured or destroyed sixteen prizes less important, and struck terror to the souls of British merchants and underwriters. Near the French coast a line-of-battle ship gave chase to the three vessels, but all escaped into port; the Reprisal having been compelled, however, to let go her guns and cut away her bulwarks. Again, Lord Stormont stormed remonstrance; again, Count de Vergennes issued stringent orders; again, Captain Wickes obediently took his prizes outside the harbor and sold them to French speculators.
Then came that well-contested action between the Lexington and a British cutter called the Alert. It was in September, one day after; the Lexington left port, that she fell in with the Alert, a vessel slightly inferior to herself in size and force, but splendidly handled by her commander, Lieutenant Bazely. Both vessels were ludicrously small, and their guns were only four-pounders. The sea being high, these two cock-boats popped away at one another from the foaming summits of Biscay waves, for two hours and a half, without either being able to cripple the other. Then the Lexington, her powder nearly exhausted, ran away before a stiff breeze, thinking to end the affair so, as the Alert had evidently received much damage in her rigging. But no; Lieutenant Bazely, sending all hands to splice and mend, was soon ready to follow, and after a four hours' chase, came up with the Lexington, got abreast of her, and renewed the battle. The American sloop held out for an hour, firing away her last charge of powder, and then struck.
The Reprisal, too, as we have seen, was lost at sea soon after, the gallant Wickes going down in her — to the great sorrow of Franklin who had himself witnessed and bore witness to his capacity and worth.
The impudent doings of Captain Gustavus Conyngham made a great noise in Europe this season, and gave a world of trouble to parties concerned. In the spring our envoys, through a secret agent, bought at an English port a fast-sailing cutter, which they sent to Dunkirk, where she was fitted for her destined work of preying upon British commerce, and named the Surprise. Captain Conyngham was appointed to command her. One of his first exploits was the capture of the Prince of Orange packet, plying and carrying the mail between England and Holland. He did this so neatly, that he himself announced the capture to the captain of the packet as he was sitting in the cabin at breakfast with his passengers. Deeming the mail an important acquisition, he hastened into port with it, and dispatched it to the envoys at Paris. The capture of this vessel following quickly the loss of the Lisbon packet, produced in England the impression of being blockaded. Something like a panic arose. An insurance of ten per cent. was demanded upon the packets plying between Dover and Calais, and forty French ships, it was said, were loading in the Thames, merchants fearing to employ English vessels. Upon this occasion the remonstrances of Lord Stormont were such as compelled the French government to choose between complete restitution or instant war. Captain Conyngham and his crew were seized and imprisoned, the Surprise was confiscated, and the packet set free. The English government, believing from these vigorous measures that the French cabinet really meant peace, went so far as to send two men-of-war to Dunkirk for the purpose of receiving on board Captain Conyngham and his crew, and conveying them to England to be tried as pirates. On arriving, however, the British Captains learned that the "pirates" had escaped.
In fact, Messrs. Franklin and Deane had provided another task for the audacious Conyngham, and had "found means," aided by the indomitable Beaumarchais, to procure his release. He and his men, accordingly, exchanged a severe prison regimen of champagne and French cookery for the fare of seamen on active service; the envoys having prepared for them a second cutter, the Revenge, and ordered them to waylay and capture, if possible, some of the transports laden with Hessians. Captain Conyngham sent ashore his guns and crew, took in some freight, and announced his intention of making a commercial voyage to Norway. The French authorities demanding security for his good behavior on the ocean, the American firm of Hodge and Allen, merchants of Dunkirk, were bound for him, and he was permitted to depart. He lay to off the harbor where late at night came to him a barge bringing his guns and sailors, with which he bore away, and had his usual good luck, though missing the Hessians. The Count de Vergennes was soon notified of these maneuvers by the English embassador, and Mr. Hodge found himself a tenant of the Bastile, where he was confined six weeks, and was supplied with "all the delicacies of the season.” At the proper time Dr. Franklin applied for his release, which was granted. Captain Conyngham, however, continued to scour the Bntish seas in the Revenge. On one occasion, it is said, having received much damage in a storm, he stowed his guns below, disguised his vessel, and ran into a British port, where he leisurely repaired damages, and then put to sea again to continue his cruise. On another occasion he entered an Irish port and bought a supply of provisions. And, after all his adventures, he succeeded in getting his cutter safe to America.
Franklin's whole heart was in this business of giving the enemy a taste of the inconveniences of war. How deeply his placid nature had been moved by the atrocities committed on the American coast, we have already seen; he now burned with desire to bring the war to England's own doors. When the English were lulled to security by the apparent determination of the French government to put a stop to such enterprises as those of Captain Wickes and Captain Conyngham, he submitted to Congress a plan for striking a blow that would have most effectually dispelled that security. He advised Congress to send three frigates loaded with tobacco to Nantes or Bordeaux, manned and commanded in the best manner; which, on arriving, should assume all the appearance of common merchantmen; but, on a sudden, dart upon some unprotected British port, seize whole fleets of vessels, levy contributions, burn, plunder, and retire before the alarm could reach the capital. "The burning or plundering of Liverpool or Glasgow," he wrote, "would do us more essential service than a million of treasure and much blood spent on the continent. It would raise our reputation to the highest pitch, and lessen in the same degree that of the enemy. We are confident it is practicable, and with very little danger." Many months passed before the Foreign Committee read these lines, and many more before Franklin had an answer to them. He did not forget the scheme, however. There was one Paul Jones coming to him from over the sea, who would, perhaps, think it feasible.
Readers perceive that Franklin was for waging war on warlike principles. His blood was up. He thirsted for vengeance — vengeance for his country's cruel wrongs. Read his heart in the following eloquent letter, addressed, October 14th, 1777, to his English friend, David Hartley, M. P. The letter so belongs to this part of his history, that it would be essentially incomplete without it:
"I have been apprehensive that, if it were known that a correspondence subsisted between us, it might be attended with inconvenience to you. I have therefore been backward in writing, not caring to trust the post, and not well knowing whom else to trust with my letters. But being now assured of a safe conveyance, I venture to write to you, especially as I think the subject such a one as you may receive a letter upon without censure.
"Happy should I have been if the honest warnings I gave, of the fatal separation of interests, as well as of affections, that must attend the measures commenced while I was in England, had been attended to, and the horrid mischief of this abominable war been thereby prevented. I should still be happy in any successful endeavors for restoring peace, consistent with the liberties, the safety, and the honor of America. As to our submitting to the government of Great Britain, it is vain to think of it. She has given us, by her numberless barbarities (by her malice in bribing slaves to murder their masters, and savages to massacre the families of farmers, with her baseness in rewarding the unfaithfulness of servants, and debauching the virtue of honest seamen, intrusted with our property), in the prosecution of the war, and in the treatment of the prisoners, so deep an impression of her depravity, that we never again can trust her in the management of our affairs and interests. It is now impossible to persuade our people, as I long endeavored, that the war was merely ministerial, and that the nation bore still a good will to us. The infinite number of addresses printed in your gazettes, all approving the conduct of your government towards us, and encouraging our destruction by every possible means, the great majority in Parliament constantly manifesting the same sentiments, and the popular public rejoicings on occasion of any news of the slaughter of an innocent and virtuous people, fighting only in defense of their just rights; these, together with the recommendations of the same measures by even your celebrated moralists and divines, in their writings and sermons, that are still approved and applauded in your great national assemblies, all join in convincing us that you are no longer the magnanimous, enlightened nation we once esteemed you, and that you are unfit and unworthy to govern us, as not being able to govern your own passions.
"But, as I have said, [I] should be nevertheless happy in seeing peace restored. For though, if my friends and the friends of liberty and virtue, who still remain in England, could be drawn out of it, a continuance of this war to the ruin of the rest would give me less concern, I cannot, as that removal is impossible, but wish for peace for their sakes, as well as for the sake of humanity, and preventing further carnage.
"This wish of mine, ineffective as it may be, induces me to mention to you, that, between nations long exasperated against each other in war, some act of generosity and kindness towards prisoners on one side has softened resentment, and abated animosity on the other, so as to bring on an accommodation. You in England, if you wish for peace, have at present the opportunity of trying this means, with regard to the prisoners now in your jails. They complain of very severe treatment. They are far from their friends and families, and winter is coming on, in which they must suffer extremely, if continued in their present situation; fed scantily on bad provisions, without warm lodgings, clothes, or fire, and not suffered to invite or receive visits from their friends, or even from the humane and charitable of their enemies.
"I can assure you, from my own certain knowledge, that your people, prisoners in America, have been treated with great kindness; they have been served with the same rations of wholesome provisions with our own troops, comfortable lodgings have been provided for them, and they have been allowed large bounds of villages in the healthy air, to walk and amuse themselves with on their parole. Where you have thought fit to employ contractors to supply your people, these contractors have been protected and aided in their operations. Some considerable act of kindness would take off the reproach of inhumanity in that respect from the nation, and leave it where it ought with more certainty to lay, on the conductors of your war in America. This I hint to you, out of some remaining good will to a nation I once loved sincerely. But, as things are, and in my present temper of mind, not being over fond of receiving obligations, I shall content myself with proposing that your government would allow us to send or employ a commissary to take some care of those unfortunate people. Perhaps on your representation this might speedily be obtained in England, though it was refused most inhumanly at New York.
"If you could have leisure to visit the jails in which they are confined, and should be desirous of knowing the truth relative to the treatment they receive, I wish you would take the trouble of distributing among the most necessitous according to their wants, five or six hundred pounds, for which your drafts on me here shall he punctually honored. You could then be able to speak with some certainty to the point in Parliament, and this might be attended with good effects.
"If you cannot obtain for us permission to send a commissary, possibly you may find a trusty, humane, discreet person at Plymouth, and another at Portsmouth, who would undertake to communicate what relief we may be able to afford those unfortunate men, martyrs to the cause of liberty. Your king will not reward you for taking this trouble, but God will. I shall not mention the gratitude of America; you will have what is better, the applause of your own good conscience. Our captains have set at liberty above two hundred of your people, made prisoners by our armed vessels and brought into France, besides a great number dismissed at sea on your coasts, to whom vessels were given to carry them in. But you have not returned us a man in exchange. If we had sold your people to the Moors at Sallee, as you have many of ours to the African and East India Companies, could you have complained?
"In revising what I have written, I found too much warmth in it, and was about to strike out some parts. Yet I let them go, as they will afford you this one reflection: 'If a man naturally cool, and rendered still cooler by old age, is so warmed by our treatment of his country, how much must those people in general be exasperated against us? And why are we making inveterate enemies by our barbarity, not only of the present inhabitants of a great country, but of their infinitely more numerous posterity; who will in future ages detest the name of Englishman, as much as the children in Holland now do those of Alva and Spaniard.' This will certainly happen, unless your conduct is speedily changed, and the national resentment falls, where it ought to fall heavily, on your ministry, or perhaps rather on the king, whose will they only execute."
A noble, noble letter; the gush of a compassionate, brave heart, maddened by the spectacle of meanness and iniquity.
The envoys never ceased their exertions in behalf of their countrymen who languished in British prisons, always finding in Mr. Hartley a faithful and cordial co-operator. Mr. Hartley, it is extremely probable, showed Dr. Franklin's letter to Lord North, and Lord North was not a man who could have read it unmoved. For the moment, however, it produced no perceptible effects.
One unimportant incident of this year casts a gleam of light upon Franklin's way of life, and, therefore, deserves brief mention. The emperor, Joseph II., of Austria, brother of the Queen of France, was in Paris this summer, traveling under the title of Count Falkenstein: emperor only in name, until the death of his mother, King Maria Theresa. He sought an interview with Dr. Franklin, but with unusual precautions to make it appear accidental. Franklin received, one day in May, an invitation to breakfast with the envoy of the Grand Duke of Tuscany, in terms like these: “The Abbé Nicoli begs M. Franklin to do him the honor of breakfasting with him on Wednesday, the 28th instant, at nine o'clock. The Abbé promises him a good cup of chocolate. He assures Dr. Franklin of his respect." Upon this invitation, which was found among Franklin's papers, was written the following explanation: "The intention of the above was to give the emperor an opportunity of an interview with me, that should appear accidental. Monsieur Turgot and the Abbé were to be present, and by their knowledge of what passed, to prevent or contradict false reports. The emperor did not appear, and the Abbé Nicoli since tells me, that the number of other persons who visited him (the Abbé) that morning, of which the emperor was not informed, prevented his coming; that, at 12, understanding they were gone, he came, but I was gone also." (6) It is said that they afterwards met; which is not improbable, for the two men had much in common. Joseph II., indeed, endeavored to be a kind of crowned Franklin, when, at length, he was really emperor.
So passed the spring and the summer of the year 1777. It cannot be said, I think, that the prospects of America, as viewed by European observers, had materially brightened as the year wore on. As the two great British armies in America were acting upon a concerted plan, which could not begin to be developed till the spring was far advanced, the accounts of General Burgoyne's movements were late in reaching Europe, and came through England. No man could reasonably doubt that, with such a force as he commanded, he would do great mischief in New York, even if he failed to penetrate to the Hudson, and sever New England from the rest of the States. In June of this year, Dr. Franklin was shown a letter, written by his old friend Dr. Fothergill, and written with a view to its being shown, which contained this passage: "Should thy friend think proper to go to Passy, he may say to Dr. Franklin, that if he has enemies in this country, he has also friends, and must not forget these because the former are ignorant and malicious, yet all powerful. He will, doubtless, inform the Doctor, that there remains not a doubt on this side of the water that American resistance is all at an end — that the shadow of congressional authority scarce exists — that a general defection from that body is apparent — that their troops desert by shoals — that the officers are discontented — that no new levies can be made — that nothing can withstand the British forces, and prevent them from being masters of the whole continent; in short, that the war is at an end, and that nothing remains to be done but to divide the country among the conquerors. This is the general language; and that neither France nor Spain will afford them any other than a kind of paralytic aid; enough to enable them to protract a few months longer a miserable existence." (7)
People did not talk or write in that strain on the continent, but great numbers of them secretly thought so, particularly the better informed. The extreme care taken by the French Government to pacify Lord Stormont, the impossibility of borrowing money for Congress, the cautious movements of Spain, the timidity of Holland, the universal dread of giving offense to England, were evidences of a general distrust of the ability of America to maintain her independence.
1. "Beaumarchais and his Times," by M. de Loménie, p. 292.
2. Deane Papers, p.84.
3. Life of Arthur Lee, 1, 68.
4. Memoirs of Lafayette," vol i., p. 6.
5. "Rights of Man."
6. Memoirs of Dr. Franklin, by W. T. Franklin, p. 313.
7. Ibid., p. 313.
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