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MSS., Peace Negotiations, and Minutes regarding the treaty,
29 Aug., 1782, ibid.

"Townshend to Oswald, i Sept., 1782, Bancroft MSS., Peace


its real possessors would be the Indian tribes who dwelt
there. 74 Aranda sent Jay a map on which he had indicated
what he considered an appropriate western boundary for
the United States. His line extended from the western con-
fines of Georgia to the mouth of the Kanawha, thence
around the western shores of Lake Erie, Huron and Michi-
gan to Lake Superior. Jay and Franklin both considered
this inadmissible. 75 Oswald believed that Spain wanted the
country from West Florida "of a certain width quite up
to Canada, so as to have both banks of the Mississippi clear,
and would wish to have such a cession from England before
a cession to the colonies takes place." 76

Jay was now fully convinced that Spain and the United
States could never agree on the boundary question, for
Spain, he believed, would not consent to the possession of
the east bank of the Mississippi by the United States. He
came, moreover, to the further conclusion that France was
in league with Spain to deprive his country of the Mis-
sissippi. The views of the French government were
expressed in a memoir written by M. de Rayneval, Ver-
gennes' principal secretary, and handed by him to Jay.
Rayneval denied that the country between the Alleghanies
and the Mississippi formed part of the United States,
and said that the proclamation of 1763 proved that it
was a distinct part of Great Britain's possessions, beyond
the limits of the colonies. He suggested a partition of the
West between Spain, England, the Indians and the United
States. By this arrangement the United States would not,
at least south of the Ohio, extend to the Mississippi,
and would be deprived of the navigation of that river in
its lower course. The east bank, as far north as the mouth
of the Ohio, was to be given to Spain. The southwestern
Indians, whose lands were to intervene between the posses-
sions of Spain and those of the United States, were to be

74 Sparks, op. cit., VIII, 150; Corresp. and Pub. Papers of John
Jay, Johnston's ed., II, 390.

75 Ibid.

78 Fitzmaurice, op. cit., Ill, 258.


divided into two zones or belts, the western under the pro-
tection of Spain, the eastern under that of the United States.
North of the Ohio, possession was to be determined as
Great Britain and the United States decided. 77 Jay was
justified in taking this paper as an authoritative expression
of the policy of the French government.

/ Though insisting on the independence of the United
States, Vergennes was for keeping them under European
tutelage. He opposed American claims to the West and
denied their validity^ At the beginning of the French alli-
ance in 1778 he had said that France insisted on independ-
ence only for the thirteen United States exclusive of any
of the British possessions which had not revolted.! 8 In
a letter to Luzerne in September, 1779, he spoke of the
pretended right of the United States to lands on the Mis-
sissippi. 79 In October, 1782, in the midst of the peace
negotiations, he wrote to that minister that according to
Congress the English charters extended the territory of the
United States from the Atlantic Ocean to the "South Sea,"
and that Jay was urging this theory as the basis of negotia-
tions. "Such folly," he said, "does not deserve to be
seriously refuted But I know, sir, all the extrava-
gance of the American pretensions and theories." 80 Jay

77 Carres p. and Pub. Papers of John Jay, Johnston's ed., II, 395
et seq.; Sparks, op. cit., VIII, 156-160.

78 Circourt, Histoire de faction commune de la France et de
I'Amerique pour I'independance des Etats-Unis, par George Bancroft,
III, 310. "Nous ne demandons I'independance que pour les treize
etats de I'Amerique qui seroht unis entre eux, sans y comprendre
aucune des autres possessions anglaises qui n'ont point participe a
leur insurrection."

79 Doniol, op. cit., IV, 357.

80 Circourt, op. cit., Ill, 290. "Suivant le Congres, les chartes
emanees de la couronne britanique etendent le domaine de I'Amer-
ique depuis 1'ocean jusqu' a la mer du Sud. Tel est le systeme
propose par M. Jay pour base de sa negotiation avec 1'Espagne. Un

pareil delire ne merite pas d'etre refute serieusement Au

surplus, je ne vois pas a quel titre les Americains formeraient des
pretensions sur les terrains qui bordent le lac Ontario. Ou ces
terrains appartiennent au sauvages, ou ils sont une dependance du


evidently had reason for suspicion of the hostility of
France toward the westward extension of the United States.
"This court," he wrote in September, 1782, "as well as

Spain will dispute our extension to the Mississippi

Dr. Franklin does not see the conduct of this court in the
light I do." 81 Pranklin, indeed, could not bring himself to
share Jay's well-grounded suspicions of the French govern-
ment. 82 Livingston, likewise, though aware of Spanish
designs on the West, did not believe that the French min-
ister was opposed to the expansion of the United States. 8J \
Jay was convinced that France would oppose this extension
and the free navigation of the Mississippi by the United
States, and believed, moreover, that she would support
British claims to the Northwest. 84

On September 9, shortly after receiving Rayneval's
memoir, Jay learned of the departure of its author for
England. He suspected that the purpose of the French-
man's mission was to impress Shelburne with the deter-
mination of Spain to possess the exclusive navigation
of the Mississippi, and to suggest a partition of the
West which would satisfy both Spain and England,
leaving the territory north of the Ohio to the latter power. 85
On September 10, the American commissioners learned
of an intercepted dispatch, written by Marbois, secretary of
the French legation at Philadelphia, advising that the

Canada. Dans l'un ou 1'autre cas, les Etats-Unis n'y ont aucun droit.
Mais je connais, monsieur, toute 1'extravagance des pretensions et
des vues americaines."

81 Sparks, op. cit., VIII, 126.

82 Moore, op. cit., V, 687. Sparks thought Jay was mistaken in his
suspicions of the French government, Dip. Corresp. of Am. Rev.,
VIII, 208-212; but the evidence in the third volume of Circourt's
work shows that he was not.

83 Morton, op. cit., John P. Branch Hist. Papers, I, No. IV, 321.

84 Sparks, op. cit., VIII, 160.

85 For Rayneval's mission to England, see Circourt, op. cit., Ill, 38
et seq. His purpose was to "sound" the British government on the
conditions on which peace would be made with Spain, and particu-
larly to urge the surrender of Gibraltar. Not much was really said
about the American boundaries, ibid., 46.


United States be excluded from a share in the fisheries. 86
This further aroused Jay, and he took a very important
step. 87 Without Franklin's knowledge, he induced Ben-
jamin Vaughan to return to England, in order to counter-
act influences which he believed were being brought to bear
on Shelburne, to suggest a separate negotiation between
England and the United States, and to show the premier
that it was England's interest to break the French-Amer-
ican alliance. 88 Jay told Vaughan that the right of the
United States to the West was proved by charters and
"other acts of government." He declared himself ready
to treat without prior acknowledgment of American inde-
pendence, provided Oswald should receive a commission
in which his country was referred to as the thirteen United
States of America. This meant, of course, an abandonment
of the instructions of Congress. Jay stood alone, for even
now Franklin refused to believe that the destinies of the
United States were not safe in Vergennes' hands. 89

The information brought by Vaughan showed Shelburne
that what he hoped for had come to pass : differences had
arisen between France and the United States. The altera-
tions in Oswald's commission necessary to meet Jay's
requirements were quickly made, and a new one, authorizing
him to treat with commissioners of the United States of
America, was sent on September 24 and received early
in October. 91

Formal negotiations without the knowledge of the French
minister were immediately begun between Oswald and the

"Ibid., II, 226-227.

87 Winsor, Narrative and Critical History of America, VII, 121-122.

88 For the Vaughan mission, see Sparks, op. cit., VIII, 165 et seq. ;
Fitzmaurice, op. cit., Ill, 267. John Fiske, Critical Period, ch. I,
considers this the crucial point in the negotiations. Fitzmaurice
thinks that from this point on Jay predominated over Franklin, Life
of Shelburne, III, 258.

89 Moore, op. cit., V, 687.

"Townshend to Oswald, 24 Sept., 1782, Bancroft MSS., Peace

"Oswald to Townshend, 2 Oct., 1782, Bancroft MSS., Peace
Negotiations. For this commission to Oswald see Sparks, op. cit.,
X, 80-83.



American commissioners, 92 for Franklin agreed to disre-
gard his instructions so far as to conduct separate negotia-
tions with the British government, though he continued to
believe in the candor of Vergennes. On October 8 a series
of articles was agreed upon by Oswald and the Americans, 93
less than a week after Congress had solemnly resolved that
it would listen to no propositions for peace, unless they were
discussed "in confidence and in concert" with the French
government. 94 Franklin feared that these articles would not
be satisfactory to the British government and this proved
to be the case. The boundaries and the West were not so
troublesome as the fisheries, treatment of the loyalists, and
debts in America due British creditors. Oswald, though
a man of intelligence and considerable information, was no
match as a diplomat for the American commissioners. His
handling of the Canada question had been anything but
diplomatic. Instead of making the most of Rodney's great
victory in May, as a means of securing better terms for
England, he had made the astonishing statement that she
must have peace, that her enemies might do as they pleased,
but it was hoped that they would show magnanimity. 95
Much opposition to him was expressed in Shelburne's cabi-
net, where Richmond and Keppel, leaders of the party
which was less inclined to peace, were especially bitter
against him. 96 Nevertheless, he was retained by the min-
istry. Henry Strachey, however, was sent to join him as
an additional envoy.

' The repulse of the Spanish and French forces at Gibral-
tar in September naturally caused the English to expect
more favorable terms. Strachey, therefore, was to induce

92 Wharton, op. cit., V, 748.

93 Ibid., 805 et seq.

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

95 Wakeman, op. cit., 75. Viscount Stormont, in criticizing the
negotiations, declared that Oswald was outmatched by any one of the
American commissioners, and described him as "a very extraordi-
nary geographer and politician," Parliamentary History of England,
XXIII, 397-

* Moore, op. cit., V, 640 ; Rousseau, op. cit., 486.


the Americans to modify their demands, and to urge Eng-
land's claims to the trans-Alleghany country. 97 Shelburne
may have felt that he had been too precipitate in conceding
Franklin's "necessary" articles, he may have believed it
politic to seem to abandon the West only as a great con-
cession to the United States or he may have come to feel
that the relinquishment of the whole West was too great
an apparent surrender. There is preserved among his
papers a letter written to him by an American Tory, which
was received in September, pointing out the importance of
the West, and saying that the cession of the Northwest to
the United States would deprive England of the peltry
trade, and render the part of Canada which was retained
of small value. 98 At any rate, after the articles of October
8 had been rejected and Strachey dispatched to Paris, Shel-
burne took strong ground against the American claims to
the West. "Independently of all the nonsense of charters,"
he wrote to Oswald, "I mean when they talk of extending
as far as the sun sets, the soil is and has always been
acknowledged to be the King's. 90 He suggested that the
back lands might be used as a fund to compensate the loyal-
ists for their losses. The commissioners later wrote to
Livingston that the question of the West was discussed at
length, and that the British commissioners advanced argu-
ments for the retention of the whole province of Quebec
as established by the act of I774. 100

About the time Strachey reached Paris, another of the
American peace commissioners, John Adams, arrived to
participate in making the treaty. Adams came fresh from
a diplomatic triumph at the Hague, where he had succeeded
in negotiating a treaty between the United States and Hol-
land. Jay told him what he firmly believed, that France
was not playing fair, and that it was her policy to give her
Bourbon ally the West, the Mississippi, and the whole Gulf

97 Fitzmaurice, op. cit., Ill, 281.

88 Lieutenant-Colonel Connolly to Shelburne, endorsed September,
1782, Bancroft MSS., Peace Negotiations.

99 Shelburne to Oswald, 21 Oct., 1782 ; ibid.

100 Sparks, op. cit., X, 117.


of Mexico. He at once sided with Jay and refused to con-
sider that the instructions of Congress bound himself and
his colleagues in all respects to the will of the French min-
isters. 101 In his opinion the instructions should be inter-
preted by "such restrictions and limitations as reason,
necessity, and the nature of things demand." 102 There is
not much doubt that a strict adherence to the letter of the
instructions would have meant the loss of the West for the
United States. Any designs which Spain might have
formed for the acquisition of territory in America would be
strengthened rather than weakened by the repulse which had
recently been inflicted upon her forces before Gibraltar. It
was now, indeed, out of her power to secure the recovery
of that fortress, and she might reasonably be expected to
look elsewhere for compensation. If the American com-
missioners were to secure the West and the Mississippi, "the
nature of things" demanded a separate treaty with Great
Britain. They must not be hampered by constant communi-
cation with a government which was supporting the policy
of Spain and was hostile to the object they had in
view. "Had I not violated the instructions of Congress,"
Jay wrote, "their dignity would have been in the dust." 103

That Vergennes was opposed to the extension of the
United States to the Mississippi has been shown. The
ultimate policy of the French government respecting Amer-
ica is difficult to determine. Vergennes' position was not
easy. France was at the head of a heterogeneous alliance,
and was feeling severely the burdens imposed by the war.
She needed peace. There was a feeling in Parisian circles
that she had been duped by her allies 104 and that they would
win the rewards which her exertions had made possible.
She had agreed to further the territorial policy of Spain,

101 Sparks, op. cit., VI, 437.

102 For Adams' "Journal of the Peace Negotiations," see Wharton,
op. cit., V, 845 et seq.

103 Wharton, op. cit., V, 810.

104 Fitzherbert to Grantham, 3 Oct., 1782, Bancroft MSS., Peace


and Spain was opposed to the possession of the West by
the United States and was clamoring for exclusive control
of the Mississippi. Vergennes' attitude can be explained
without assuming that he had any designs on the West for
his own country. But he was not the statesman in whose
hands Congress should have placed the destinies of the
United States. 106

Another and radical view of French policy has been
advanced in a striking article by Mr. F. J. Turner. 106 He
calls attention to a document written in 1777, the authen-
ticity of which, however, is doubtful. It is entitled
"Memoire Historique et Politique sur la Louisiane," and
was written "par M. de Vergennes." If really written by
the French minister, it would prove that he had in mind
the reestablishment of the colonial empire of France. In
the "Memoire" it is stated that the United States cannot
rightfully claim the trans- Alleghany country on the basis of
colonial charters, and it is proposed that Great Britain be
obliged to restore to France at the close of the Revolution
all the conquests she had made in the Seven Years' War.
This revived colonial empire would involve the retrocession
by Spain to France of Louisiana west of the Mississippi,
a result which Vergennes actually tried to bring about. 107
It will be noticed, too, that the contention of the "Memoire"
respecting the invalidity of American claims to the West
is in harmony with Rayneval's memoir, and Vergennes'
views referred to above. Mr. Turner considers the subse-
quent conduct of Vergennes, after the date of the
"Memoire," as "entirely consistent" with the view that he
was its author, and thinks that his anxiety to forward the
interests of Spain between the Mississippi and the Alle-
ghanies becomes more intelligible if we suppose that he
expected France to supplant that power in the interior of

105 For a temperate view of Vergennes' part in the peace negotia-
tions, see McLaughlin, The Confederation and the Constitution, chs.
I and II.

'"The Policy of France towards the Mississippi Valley in the
Period of Washington and Jefferson," Am. Hist. Rev., X, 249 et seq.
., 254.


North America. From this point of view, De la Balme's
abortive attempt on Detroit 108 becomes part of a compre-
hensive scheme of French policy. Mr. Turner thinks that
Napoleon's efforts to reconstruct a French colonial empire
in America were along the lines planned by Vergennes.
His supposition regarding the latter's ultimate policy
is, however, conjectural. By the treaty of 1778, it
should be remembered, the king of France renounced for-
ever the possession of any territory in North America then
or previously belonging to Great Britain. Whatever the
ultimate policy of Vergennes may have been, his immediate
intention certainly was to prevent the acquisition of the
Wst by the United States^

Although in October, 1782, Shelburne showed a disposi-
tion to retain the West, he was not inclined to let the
boundary question wreck the negotiations and lose the
advantages which would come from a separate peace with
the United States. After much deliberation and discussion
a provisional treaty was signed at Paris on November 3O, 109
by which the West, from the Alleghanies to the Mississippi,
and from the Great Lakes to the 3ist degree, north latitude,
was secured by the United States> The American commis-
sioners who participated in making the treaty were Jay,
Franklin and Adams. Laurens arrived just in time to sign
it. Jefferson did not go to France at all. This territory
was not ceded to the United States, but was recognized as
included within their boundaries. To save the conscience
of the American commissioners, and to give them a technical
defense against France, these provisional articles were "to
be inserted in and to constitute the Treaty of Paris," but
the treaty was not to be concluded till England and France
made peace. 110 On December 5, the king's speech
announced to Parliament that a provisional treaty had been
made with the American commissioners. 111

108 Supra, ch. VI.

109 Wharton, op. cit., VI, 96 et seq.

110 Fitzmaurice, op. cit., Ill, 302.

111 Par. Hist, of Eng., XXIII, 206.


On November 29, Franklin wrote Vergennes that pre-
liminary articles had been agreed upon with the British com-
missioners. 112 The French minister was naturally surprised.
He felt that the American commissioners in violating their
instructions had acted towards France in a manner both
boorish and dishonorable. 113 He does not appear, however,
to have been displeased that the terms were so favorable
to the United States. 114 Franklin admitted that he and his
colleagues had neglected a point of "bienseance," but
asserted that they had concluded nothing that was preju-
dicial to France. 116 The truth is that the American com-
missioners and the English government had stolen a march
on the Bourbon courts.

Historians have been puzzled to account for the very
favorable terms secured by the Americans. So far as
the acquisition of the West was concerned, the Ameri-
can claims, based upon colonial charters or the right
of succession of the United States collectively to the
sovereignty over the West previously vested in the British
crown, probably counted for as little as theoretical claims
usually do. Laughed at by European statesmen, they can-
not explain why Shelburne's government abandoned the
domain which England had wrested from France a few
years before.

Another explanation has appealed strongly to a large
number of writers. Clark's conquest and the establishment
of Virginia government in the Northwest have frequently
been pointed to as the decisive factor in the winning of
that territoryN Clark has been metamorphosed into a con-
scious empire-builder, and the state of Virginia represented
as possessing in 1782 the entire territory from Lake
Superior to the southern boundary of Kentucky. 116 Indeed,
in the opinion of some of his contemporaries, Clark's work

112 Complete Works of Benjamin Franklin, Bigelow's ed., VIII, 213.

113 Moore, op. cit., V, 654.

114 Sparks, op. cit., X, 120.

115 Com. Works of Franklin, Bigelow's ed., VIII, 228, 234.
n 'Fiske, Crit. Period, 18; Lodge, The Story of the Revolu-
tion: New York, 1903, 337.


was an argument of great importance in favor of Amer-
ican claims to the Northwest. 117 /But if this were really the
case, we should surely encounter frequent mention of that
work and the establishment of Virginia government in Illi-
nois in the documents relating to the peace negotiations.
This we do not find. It may be that the American com-
missioners intentionally refrained from referring to what
had been done in the Northwest, for, as we have seen in
the preceding chapter, the fair hopes aroused by Clark's con-
quest in 1778 had been dissipated, and Virginia's govern-
ment in Illinois had utterly collapsed. The Americans in
1782 could scarcely with good grace argue the principle of
"uti possidetis" as ground for claiming that territory. 118

When we turn to the diplomatic situation confronting
Shelburne, we find a more satisfactory explanation of his
compliance with the American demands concerning the
West. In Europe, France, Spain and Holland were at war
with England. It was, of course, very much to his interest
to make a speedy peace with the United States, which
would place his government in a better position respecting
its European enemies, and at the same time break the
French-American alliance^ We have seen how eager he
was to open discussion with Franklin, how readily he
accepted the latter's "necessary" articles, and how com-
pliantly he met Jay's advances for a separate negotiation.
He was willing to concede much for the sake of peace, and
the American commissioners stood firm on the Mississippi

117 Rowland, op. cit., I, 365.

118 Mr. Van Tyne naively argues thus, American Revolution,
284 : "These posts [ Vincennes, Cahokia, and Kaskaskia] were
sufficient to insure the American hold upon the Northwest, until, in
the peace negotiations of 1782, the military prowess of Clark was
followed up by the diplomatic triumph of Jay. Although no mention
of Clark's work is found among the papers of the diplomats, yet the
fact of 'possession must have had weight." The italics are mine. Mr.
Van Tyne's statement is, of course, a mere conjecture. It would
be indeed strange if the decisive factor in causing Great Britain to
abandon the Northwest were not referred to in any of the documents.
As a matter of fact, by 1782, the "American hold upon the North-
west" amounted to nothing.


boundary. To them, even more than to him, a separate
treaty was of vital importance. In a general treaty it is
difficult to see how they could have secured the West, to
say nothing of other advantages; and from the point of
view of later development, the acquisition of the West was,
next to independence, the most important provision of the

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Online LibraryRobert Livingston SchuylerThe transition in Illinois from British to American government → online text (page 12 of 13)