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the fact of actual settlement as ground for claiming the
West was more emphatically stated. ". . . . The people
inhabiting these states," ran the instructions, "while con-
nected with Great Britain, and also since the Revolution,
have settled themselves at divers places to the westward
near the Mississippi ; are friendly to the Revolution, and
being citizens of the United States, and subject to the laws
of those to which they respectively belong, Congress can-
not assign them over as subjects to any other power." 18

During Oswald's first visit to Paris in April, 1782, Frank-
lin had shown a disposition to talk matters over, and with
the utmost sang-froid had suggested the cession of Canada
to the United States as a measure likely to promote a true
reconciliation. 19 If Canada were retained by Great Britain,
he thought it would involve perpetual friction between that
power and the United States. If ceded, the waste lands
there could be sold to indemnify the royalists for confisca-
tions, and to pay for some of the damage to American
private property caused by the British and the Indians. 20

"Sparks, op. cit., VII, 301-302; Sec. Journ. of Cong., Ill, 155.

19 Fitzmaurice, op. cit., Ill, 180-182.

20 Moore, op. cit., V, 634-635.


Oswald went back to England, and after a brief sojourn
returned with a paper refusing the cession of Canada. 21
He expressed his personal opinion, however, that a satis-
factory settlement on that point might be reached. 22 Indeed,
somewhat later, he went so far as to tell Franklin that he
personally agreed with him concerning Canada. 23 Franklin,
therefore, continued to hope for the acquisition of that

On April 23, an important meeting of the Rockingham
cabinet was held, a minute of which reads: ". . . . the
principal points in contemplation are the allowance of
independence to America upon Great Britain's being
restored to the situation she was placed in by the treaty of
I ?63-" 24 This meant that Canada was to be retained, and
also, presumably, the country between the Alleghanies and
the Mississippi, which had been relinquished by France in
the treaty referred to. Independence, moreover, was not
to be assumed as existing till granted by the proposed treaty.

Fox, in whose department negotiations with foreign
powers lay, sent Thomas Grenville, a son of the former
premier, to Paris early in May. As is well known, he
advanced the theory previously maintained by American
statesmen 25 that the United States was already independ-
ent. 26 Therefore, he argued, the conduct of negotiations
with the American commissioners belonged to his depart-
ment, since the United States was a foreign power. 27 Act-
ing on this theory, he instructed Grenville to "sound"
Franklin, and to inform him and Vergennes that independ-

21 Fitzmaurice, op. cit., Ill, 188-189.

22 Ibid., 191.

23 Ibid., 206.

24 Ibid., 183-184.

28 Sparks, op. cit., Ill, 42-43 ; VI, 129.

28 This theory may be considered finally to have prevailed, for the
treaty of peace was a recognition, not a grant of independence; see
Moore, op. cit., V, 695.

27 In this contention Fox was technically wrong ; till the independ-
ence of the United States was recognized, negotiations with the
American commissioners belonged to Shelburne's department, ibid.,


ence was to be the basis for negotiations. Grenville was
to find out whether, if a general pacification proved impos-
sible, there was any prospect of a separate peace between
England and the United States. 28 Fox thought it would be
easy to show the Americans that it was unreasonable that
they should be incumbered and obstructed by "powers who
have never assisted them during the war." 29 The foreign
secretary could not believe, he said, that Congress was
bound to support every claim set up by the court of Ver-
sailles and its allies. 30 Grenville reported that Franklin
earnestly desired peace, though he was determined to
adhere to the treaty obligations into which the United
States had entered; and that Vergennes would neither
make overtures nor answer propositions till after com-
munication with the allies of France. It was evident,
however, that France would demand for her exertions
in the war more than the independence of the United
States. The acknowledgement of that would not be
regarded by the French government as a favor con-
ceded by Great Britain to France, for, Vergennes signifi-
cantly observed, France had found and not made America
independent. 31 He desired a treaty more just and durable
than that of 1763, which he never could read without shud-
dering ("sans fremir"). "Justice" and "dignity," he said,
were the two chief points upon which his government would
insist in the proposed treaty. 32 Grenville, accordingly,
became convinced that the demands of France, and of Spain
also, would be so extensive that it would be difficult, if not
impossible, for Great Britain to accede to them. "It is from

28 Fox to Grenville, 30 Apr., 1782, Bancroft MSS., Peace Negotia-

29 Fox to Grenville, 21 May, 1782; ibid.

80 Fox to Grenville, 26 May, 1782, ibid. Fox, as a European states-
man, wanted to end the American war quickly and isolate the
Bourbon powers; see Wakeman, Charles James Fox, 70-71.

81 Grenville to Fox, 10 May, 1782, Bancroft MSS., Peace Negotia-
tions ; Fitzmaurice, op. cit., Ill, 192.

"Grenville to Fox, 10 May, 1782, Bancroft MSS., Peace Negotia-


the expectation the courts of Madrid and Versailles entertain
of being supported by America in these claims," he wrote,
"that they will derive the greatest confidence in making
them." The obvious remedy for Great Britain to apply was,
if possible, to detach the United States from France. 38

The British foreign secretary, anxious for a speedy
escape from the American war, authorized Grenville to offer
independence "in the first instance, instead of making it
a conditional article of a general treaty." 34 On June 10,
he sent full powers to Grenville to treat with any of the
enemies of Great Britain, 35 and on the thirtieth he moved
in cabinet "that the independence of America should be
granted even without a treaty for a peace." 36 He thus hoped,
no doubt, to get the negotiations with the Americans com-
pletely out of the colonial secretary's hands. The cabinet,
however, decided against him and he resigned.

On July i Rockingham died, and the next day the king
offered the treasury to Shelburne, who accepted and formed
a new ministry. 37 The home and colonial departments were
given- to Thomas Townshend ; Lord Grantham took the
foreign office. Shelburne informed Grenville that neither
the resignation of Fox nor the death of Rockingham would
make any difference in the government's policy, 38 but Gren-
ville determined to retire with his chief, and "decline any
further prosecution of this business." 39 Benjamin Vaughan
was then sent to Paris to inform Franklin that the change
of administration would make no change in the progress of
the negotiations, and Alleyn Fitzherbert, British minister
at Brussels, was appointed to succeed Grenville in represent-
ing the British foreign secretary. Oswald remained the
ministry's representative as far as America was concerned. 40

33 Grenville to Fox, 14 May, 1782 ; ibid.

34 Fox to Grenville. 26 May, 1782; ibid.

35 Fox to Grenville, 10 June, 1782; ibid.
m Fitzmaurice, op. cit., Ill, 219.

37 Ibid., 222-223.

38 Shelburne to Grenville, 5 July, 1782, Bancroft MSS., Peace

39 Grenville to Shelburne, 9 July, 1782; ibid.

40 Moore, op. cit., V, 637.


Meanwhile Franklin had been joined by John Jay, who
reached Paris on June 23. Jay had been for several months
in Madrid as diplomatic agent of the United States, trying
to induce the Spanish government to recognize American
independence. 41 His residence there, however, was informal,
and did not bind Spain to recognize the United States as
an independent power. 42

The policy of Spain is a subject of importance in the
peace negotiations so far as they relate to the West. As
we have seen, that power had been secretly aiding the
Americans from the beginning of the Revolution. The
motives of the Spanish, like those of the French govern-
ment, were, of course, wholly unconnected with sentiments
of genuine friendship for the United States. Both powers
were actuated by a spirit of revenge toward England. The
Count of Floridablanca, the Spanish Minister of state, in
particular, was suspicious of the Americans and entertained
no belief in the integrity of Congress or its commis-
sioners. 43 He feared, indeed, the success and independence
of the United States. 44 Before the alliance of 1778 Ver-
gennes had pointed out that the Americans, if independent,
might turn conquerors and endanger Spanish America. 45
Lafayette, to whose efforts the final recognition by Spain
of the independence of the United States was partly due,
wrote from Madrid in March, 1783, that in his opinion
Spain feared the moral effect of that independence upon
her own colonies. 46

In April, 1779, Spain concluded a secret convention with
France, by which the Bourbon Family Compact was
renewed, and she bound herself to declare war on Eng-

tt Corresp. and Pub. Papers of John Jay, Johnston's ed., II, 21.
Moore, op. cit., I, 206-207.

43 Floridablanca to Marquis D'Ossun, 17 Oct., 1777, Stevens,
op. cit., XIX.

44 Bancroft, History of U. S., VI, 176.

45 Considerations, 12 March, 1776, by Vergennes, Stevens, op. cit.,
XIII, No. 1316.

46 Sparks, op. cit., X, 34.


land. 47 She did not, however, recognize the independence
of the United States. Among the avowed objects which
she expected to attain through her participation in the war
were the recovery of Gibraltar, Minorca and East Florida,
and the acquisition of Mobile. She desired to make the
Gulf of Mexico a Spanish lake, and to control the naviga-
tion of the Mississippi by possession of both banks at its
mouth. Floridablanca, indeed, expressly declared that
unless Spain could exclude all other nations from the Gulf,
she might as well admit all. In his opinion, the exclusive
navigation of the Mississippi was an essential feature of
Spanish policy, more important even than the restoration
of Gibraltar. 48 Spanish hopes of controlling the Mis-
sissippi were naturally raised by the work of Galvez in
Florida, for, before the end of the war, Spain actually held
both banks of the river at its mouth.

That at the time of this secret treaty the Spanish govern-
ment desired to secure the possession of any territory in
North America beside the provinces of East and West Flor-
ida cannot be categorically asserted. While Spain was still
nominally at peace with England, an agent, Juan de Miralles
by name, was sent to the United States to have an eye to
Spanish interests. In the instructions which were given to
him nothing was said about the conquest of territory. In
July, 1778, however, Gerard, the first French minister to the
United States, wrote to Vergennes about Miralles and his
mission. Gerard had not, indeed, seen his instructions, but
the Spaniard's conduct and language seemed to him to indi-
cate their nature. Among other objects of his mission he
was trying to show, Gerard thought, that France should con-
quer Canada, and that Spain should acquire all territory

" Text of the convention in Doniol, Histoire de la Participation
de la France a I'etablissement des Etats-Unis d'Amerique, III, 803
et seq.; or Wharton, op. cit., I, 356 et seq. For a brief discussion of
Spain's part in the war see Rousseau, "La Participation de 1'Espagne
a la guerre d'Amerique," in Revue des Questions Historiques for
1902, 444 et seq.

48 Rives, "Spain and the United States in 1795," Am. Hist. Rev.,
IV, 64-65.


received by England in 1763 in Florida and on the Missis-
sippi. 49 Though he was mistaken concerning Miralles'
instructions, his suppositions were not unnatural in view of
the intirnations made by the Spaniard on his own responsi-
bility. At all events, after the conquest of the Illinois vil-
lages by Clark, there is no doubt that Miralles actually
proposed the cession of Illinois to Spain, and, again without
authorization, urged the abandonment of American claims to
the Northwest. 50 As a result of the capture by Galvez of the
English settlements on the lower Mississippi, the Spanish
government itself began to view the situation in a different
light. In 1780 Gerard's successor, Luzerne, informed Con-
gress that the king of France, desiring an alliance between
his two allies, Spain and the United States, had directed
him to communicate to Congress conditions which the
king of Spain regarded as important. Among these
were, besides the possession of East and West Florida,
a precise and invariable western boundary of the United
States, the exclusive navigation of the Mississippi, and the
possession of the lands on the east bank of that river above
West Florida. In the opinion of the Spanish government,
wrote Luzerne, the United States should extend no farther
west than the proclamation line of 1763, and were entitled
to no lands on the Mississippi. The territory on the east
bank of that river was a possession of England, and a proper
object of Spanish conquest. 51 From Luzerne's communica-
tion to Congress we cannot avoid the conclusion that, what-
ever her previous policy may have been, Spain now desired
to acquire the whole east bank of the Mississippi's As
late as February, 1783, after the provisional treaty between
England and the United States had given the east bank of
that river to the latter, Lafayette wrote from Madrid
to Livingston that the Spaniards would "insist upon a pre-

48 Gerard to Vergennes, 25 July, 1778, Doniol, op. cit., Ill, 293.

50 For my information regarding Miralles' instructions and cor-
respondence, I am indebted to Professor William R. Shepherd of
Columbia University.

81 Sparks, op. cit., X, 402-403.


tended right to an extent of country all along the left shore
of the Mississippi. Not that they mean to occupy it, but
because they are afraid of neighbors that have a spirit of
liberty." 82 But suspicions of Spanish designs on the West
were not confined to officials connected with the French
court. Clark, in establishing Fort Jefferson, thought that
post would be useful in frustrating any plans which Spain
might have formed for seizing the country north of the
Ohio. Indeed, he believed that the Spaniards would have
been glad to see the American posts in Illinois conquered
by England, so that they might have the opportunity of
reconquering them. Todd had not been in Illinois long
before he, too, concluded that Spain had aggressive designs
on the country. 53 The opinions of Clark and Todd were, of
course, formed from their observations of the conduct of
the Spaniards around St. Louis.

Jay's mission to Spain was a failure. Floridablanca
could not be induced to recognize the independence of the
United States. In his attempts to come to an understanding
with the Spanish minister, Jay was subjected to delay and
mortification. He even complained that his mails were
tampered with and sometimes destroyed. 54 Upon his arrival
at Madrid, Floridablanca, according to Jay, implied that the
Mississippi was to be regarded as the western boundary
of the United States. 55 If the Spanish minister meant to
convey this impression, he was misleading Jay, for he cer-
tainly was unwilling that the United States should possess
the left bank of the Mississippi. The slights which Jay
received while in Spain convinced him that the colonial
policy of that country was directly opposed to the interests
of the United States.

/ /Franklin, also, was suspicious of Spanish policy in the
West. Before Jay's arrival in France, he wrote to the

"Ibid., 26.

53 Cal. Va. St. Papers, I, 338, 358.

54 Corresp. and Pub. Papers of John Jay, Johnston's ed., II, 20,
165, 186, 242.

55 Sparks, op. cit., VIII, 203.


American foreign secretary, expressing fear that Spain was
trying to acquire the trans-Alleghany country at the expense
of the United States, and that she was using every pretext
to accomplish that end. 56 "I see by the newspapers," he
wrote, "that the Spaniards having taken a little post called
St. Joseph 67 pretend to have made a conquest of the Illinois
country. In what light does this proceeding appear to
Congress ? While they decline our proffered friendship, are
they to be suffered to encroach on our bounds and shut us
up within the Appalachian Mountains? I begin to fear
they have some such project." Jay, also, read a version of
the St. Joseph affair, published in a Spanish newspaper. 58
He came to Paris full of suspicions of Spanish policy, and
resolved that his country should not be at the mercy of the
European powers^

The situation confronting the two commissioners was
indeed serious. The treaty of 1778 bound the United States
to make no peace independent of France, and Congress had
supinely instructed its commissioners not to conclude any
arrangements with the English without the approval of the
French government. 59 "You are," ran the instructions, "to
make the most candid and confidential communications
upon all subjects to the ministers of our generous ally, the
King of France, to undertake nothing in the negotiations
for peace or truce without their knowledge and concur-
rence." These instructions were, no doubt, highly proper
and honorable so long as France was acting in the interests
of the United States. Congress, indeed, expected that the
French government would assist the United States in secur-
ing the Mississippi boundary. 60 But the French-Spanish
treaty of 1779, made without the knowledge of the United
States, introduced another factor into the war. By this

56 Sparks, op. cit., Ill, 339.

67 For the episode see supra, ch. VI.

58 Morton, "Robert R. Livingston, Beginnings of American
Diplomacy," John P. Branch Historical Papers of Randolph-Mac on
College, No. IV, 321.

59 For the instructions see Sec. Journ. of Cong., II, 446.

60 Sparks, op. cit., X, 87-88.


treaty France bound herself not to make peace till Spain
had accomplished her objects. The United States were
surely not bound in honor to further the plans of a govern-
ment which persistently refused to recognize their inde-
pendence, especially when those plans, as the American
commissioners were convinced, were opposed to their own
interests. To argue that Spain for her own purposes could
compel the United States to continue hostilities indefinitely
would be a manifest absurdity. By experience and inclina-
tion, no man was better qualified than Jay for the task of
defeating Spanish designs.

The first question on which his influence was decisive
was whether Great Britain should treat with the United
States as colonies, and acknowledge their independence in
the treaty, or whether she should conduct negotiations with
the United States as independent and sovereign. Shelburne,
as already stated, was anxious to end the American war
quickly. Parliament rose on July n, and he desired to be
able to announce peace with America when next it met. 61
Late in July a commission was sent to Oswald to treat with
commissioners of "the colonies," authorizing him to con-
cede independence. 62 Jay promptly expressed his dissatis-
faction. Independence, he thought, should be no part of
the treaty, but should have been expressly granted by Par-
liament, and all troops withdrawn prior to any proposal for
peace. Since this had not been done, he thought the crown
should do it by proclamation. 63 Franklin, however, did not
see much difference between independence granted before
the treaty, or by it. 64 He held that Oswald's acceptance of
the American commission, which described the commission-

81 Moore, op. cit., V, 686.

82 Fitzmaurice, op. cit., Ill, 249-251. For the commission see
Sparks, op. cit., X, 76-79.

88 Minutes of conversation with the American commissioners, 7
Aug., 1782, Bancroft MSS., Peace Negotiations, and Fitzmaurice,
op. cit., Ill, 251.

84 Minutes of conversation, by Oswald, 11-13 Aug., 1782, Bancroft
MSS., Peace Negotiations ; Corresp. and Pub. Papers of John Jay,
Johnston's ed., II, 372.


ers as ministers of the United States, was equivalent to an
acknowledgment of independence. 65 Jay's position here
corresponded to that of John Adams, who had said a year
before, "There are no American colonies at war with Great
Britain. The power at war is the United States of Amer-
ica." 66 Vergennes, however, advised the American com-
missioners to treat with Oswald under the commission
which he had received, but Jay positively refused. 67 His
firmness caused Oswald to write to Shelburne ". . . .
Your Lordship will see that the American commissioners
will not move a step until the independence is acknowl-
edged." 68

A decided difference of opinion was becoming manifest
between the two American commissioners. Jay was a
young man, a lawyer, and disposed to be somewhat assertive
and dogmatic. The purity of his patriotism could never
be questioned. Franklin, equally patriotic and equally dis-
posed to peace, was an old man, versed in diplomacy and
the ways of the world, benevolent and wise. He was on
excellent terms with both Shelburne and Vergennes, and
inclined to suspect neither.

On July 6, Franklin had handed Oswald a paper contain-
ing conditions of peace, some of which he regarded as
necessary, others advisable. Among the former were the
acknowledgment of entire independence, the extension of
the United States to the Mississippi, and a curtailment
of Canada to the extent it had possessed before the Quebec
Act; i. e., so as not to include the Northwest. Among
the latter he mentioned the cession of Canada. 69 Oswald

65 Hale, Franklin in France, II, 125.

66 Sparks, op. cit., VI, 129.
"/&*., VIII, 128, 135.

68 Oswald to Shelburne, 18 Aug., 1782, Bancroft MSS., Peace
Negotiations. Dr. Wharton thought that Jay's attitude towards
Oswald's first commission, while patriotic, tended to undermine the
goodwill between England and the United States which Shelburne
and Franklin were seeking to promote, and that, had Franklin been
left to conduct matters in his own way, the United States would
probably have acquired Canada ; Moore, op. cit., V, 638, 649.

60 Ibid., 637.


at once communicated these conditions to Shelburne. 70 In
August, numerous conferences were held between Oswald,
Jay and Franklin. The Americans sent to London for a set
of maps in order to discuss the boundary question more
intelligently. 71 Oswald concluded that to secure a lasting
peace, the abandonment by Great Britain of the Northwest,
which had been added to Canada in 1774, would be neces-
sary. A refusal on this point, he thought, "would occasion
a particular grudge," as the American commissioners would
maintain that the ungranted and unappropriated lands in
the West belonged to the states. He supposed this demand
would be granted "upon certain conditions." 72 On Septem-
ber i, Townshend authorized Oswald to concede Franklin's
"necessary" articles, implying the abandonment by Great
Britain of the West, and the curtailment of Canada to its
extent before I774- 73

/Viewing the peace negotiations as the last step in the
transition of which this study treats, the great problem con-
fronting the American commissioners was to defeat what
they regarded as the hostile designs of Spain, supported
as they were by France. Shortly after his arrival
in Paris, Jay had a long interview with the Spanish ambas-
sador to France, the Count of Aranda. The Spaniard, in
discussing the status of the West, gave it as his opinion
that this territory had belonged to France till 1763, when
it became a distinct part of Great Britain's dominions, out-
side of any existing colony, "until by the conquest of West
Florida, and certain posts on the Mississippi and Illinois,
it became vested in Spain." He went on to argue that even
if Spain's right of conquest did not extend over all the West,

70 Oswald to Shelburne, 10 July, 1782, Bancroft MSS., Peace

71 Minutes regarding the treaty, 29 Aug., 1782, Bancroft MSS.,
Peace Negotiations.

"Minutes of conversation 11-13 Aug., 1782, by Oswald, Bancroft

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Online LibraryRobert Livingston SchuylerThe transition in Illinois from British to American government → online text (page 11 of 13)