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"I beg your pardon, sir ; Philadelphia has taken Howe.”
But in his heart Franklin was bowed down with anxiety and apprehension. We all know what happened. Burgoyne and Howe failed to connect, and Burgoyne surrendered his army to the American general, Gates. That was the turning-point of the Revolution, and there was now no doubt in France of the final issue. A young man, Jonathan Austin, of Massachusetts, was sent on a swift ship to carry the news to Paris. The day his carriage rolled into the court-yard of Chaumont's house at Passy, Franklin, Deane, both the Lees, Izard, Beaumarchais,-in fact, all the snarling and quarrelling agents,—were there, debating, no doubt, where they would drag out the remains of their miserable lives.
They all rushed out to see Austin, and Franklin addressed to him one sad question which they all wanted answered, whether Philadelphia really was taken.
“Yes, sir," said Austin.
The old philosopher clasped his hands and was stumbling back into the house.
“But, sir, I have greater news than that. General Burgoyne and his whole army are prisoners of war.”
Beaumarchais drove his carriage back to Paris so fast that it was overturned and his arm dislocated. Austin relates that for a long time afterwards Franklin would often sit musing and dreaming and then break out, “Oh, Mr. Austin, you brought us glorious news.” Austin had arrived on December 3, 1777. On the
6th of the same month the French government requested the commissioners to renew their proposals for an alliance. Eleven days after that they were told that the treaty would be made, and within two months,-namely, on February 6, 1778,-after full discussion of all the details, it was signed. This was certainly very prompt action on the part of France and shows her eagerness.
On the day that he signed the treaty, Franklin, it is said, wore the same suit of Manchester velvet in which he had been dressed when Wedderburn made his attack upon him before the Privy Council in London, and after the signing it was never worn again. When asked if there had not been some special meaning attached to the wearing of these clothes at the signing, he would make no other reply than a smile. It was really beautiful philosophic vengeance, and adds point to Walpole's epigram on the scene before the Council :
“Sarcastic Sawney, swol'n with spite and prate,
On silent Franklin poured his venal hate.
There was much discussion among the three envoys over the terms of the treaty, and their love for one another was not increased. The principal part of Izard's bitterness against Franklin is supposed to have begun at this time. Lee made a point on the question of molasses. In the first draft of the treaty it was agreed that France should never lay an export duty on any molasses taken
from her West India islands by Americans. Vergennes objected that this was not fair, as the Americans bound themselves to no equivalent restriction on their own exports. Franklin suggested a clause that, in consideration of France agreeing to lay no export duty on molasses, the United States should agree to lay no export duty on any article taken by Frenchmen from America, and this was accepted by Vergennes.
Lee, however, objected that we were binding ourselves on every article of export, while France bound herself on only one.
In this he was entirely right, and it was not an officious interference, as Franklin's biographers have maintained. He pressed his point so hard that it was finally agreed with the French government that Congress might accept or reject the whole arrangement on this question, if it saw fit. Congress supported Lee and rejected it.
The signing of the treaty of course rendered Beaumarchais's secret work through Hortalez & Co. of less importance. France was now the open ally of the United States; the French government need no longer smuggle arms and clothing into America, but was preparing to send a fleet and an army to assist the insurgents, as they were still called in Paris. All this rendered the labors of the embassy lighter and less complicated.
In April, 1778, a few months after the signing of the treaty, John Adams, after a most dangerous and adventurous voyage across the Atlantic, arrived to take the place of Silas Deane. He has left us a very full account of the condition of affairs and his
efforts at reform. Franklin's biographers have been sorely puzzled to know what to do with these criticisms;
but any one who will take the trouble to read impartially all that Adams has said, and not merely extracts from it, will easily be convinced of his fairness. He makes no mistake about Lee; speaks of him as a man very difficult to get on with, and describes Izard in the same way. There is not the slightest evidence that these two men poisoned his mind against Franklin. He does not side with them entirely ; but, on the contrary, in the changes he undertook to make was sometimes on their side and sometimes against them. He held the scales very evenly.
Lee wanted all the papers of the embassy brought to his own house, and Adams wrote him a letter which certainly shows that Adams had not gone over to the Lee party, and is also an example of the efforts he was making to improve the situation.
“ I have not asked Dr. Franklin's opinion concerning your proposal of a room in your house for the papers, and an hour to meet there, because I know it would be in vain ; for I think it must appear to him more unequal still. It cannot be expected, that two should go to one, when it is as easy again for one to go to two; not to mention Dr. Franklin's age, his rank in the country, or his character in the world ; nor that nine-tenths of the public letters are constantly brought to this house, and will ever be carried where Dr. Franklin is. I will venture to make a proposition in my turn, in which I am very sincere; it is that you would join families with us. There is room enough in this house to accommodate us all. You shall take the apartments which belong to me at present, and I will content myself with the library room and the next to it. Appoint a room for business, any that you please, mine or another, a person to keep the papers, and certain hours to do business. This arrangement will save a large sum of money to the public, and, as it would
give us a thousand opportunities of conversing together, which now we have not, and, by having but one place for our countrymen and others to go to, who have occasion to visit us, would greatly facilitate the public business. It would remove the reproach we lie under, of which I confess myself very much ashamed, of not being able to agree together, and would make the commission more respectable, if not in itself, yet in the estimation of the English, the French, and the American nations; and, I am sure, if we judge by the letters we receive, it wants to be made more respectable, at least in the eyes of many persons of this country.” (Bigelow's Franklin from His Own Writings, vol. ii. p. 424.)
Adams had none of the rancor of Lee and Izard, but he tells us candidly that he found the public business in great confusion. It had never been methodically conducted. “There never was before I came a minute book, a letter book, or an account book; and it is not possible to obtain a clear idea of our affairs." Of Deane he says that he “lived expensively, and seems not to have had much order in his business, public or private ; but he was active, diligent, subtle, and successful, having accomplished the great purpose of his mission to advantage."
Adams procured blank books and devoted himself to assorting the papers of the office at Passy, where Franklin had allowed everything to lie about in the greatest confusion. He found that too many people had been making money out of the embassy, and of these Jonathan Williams appears to have been one. He united with Lee in demanding Williams's accounts, and compelled Franklin to join in dismissing him. A man named Ross was another delinquent who was preying on the embassy, and the arrangement by which he was allowed to do it is