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and read it, had poor Jay at his mercy. But Franklin was very strenuous on this point, and wrote to Jay,
“Poor as we are, yet, as I know we shall be rich, I would rather
agree with them to buy at a great price the whole of their right on the Mississippi, than sell a drop of its waters. A neighbor might as well ask me to sell my street door."
Jay grew more and more suspicious of France, and Adams reports him as saying, “Every day produces some fresh proof and example of their vile schemes." One of the British negotiators obtained for him a letter which Marbois, the secretary of the French legation in America, had written home, urging Vergennes not to support the commissioners in their claim to the right of fishing on the Newfoundland Banks. This he considered absolute proof; but the examination which has since been made of all the confidential correspondence of that period does not show that Marbois's suggestion was ever acted upon. Individuals doubtless cherished purposes of their own, but the French government in all its actions seems to have fully justified Franklin's confidence in it. Jefferson, who afterwards went to France, declared that there was no proof whatever of Franklin's subserviency.
When Adams arrived he was delighted to find himself in full accord with Jay. He had been in Holland, where he had succeeded in negotiating a loan and a commercial treaty, and consequently felt that he was somewhat of a success as a diplomatist, and need not any longer be so much overawed by Franklin. He relates in his diary how the French
courtiers heaped compliments on him. “Sir," they would say, "you have been the Washington of the negotiation." To which he would answer in his best French, "Sir, you have given me the grandest honor and a compliment the most sublime.” They would reply, “Ah, sir, in truth you have well deserved it." And he concludes by saying, “A few of these compliments would kill Franklin, if they should come to his ears.”
He uses strong language about the “base system" pursued by Franklin, and talks in a lofty way of the impossibility of a man becoming distinguished as a diplomatist who allows his passion for women to get the better of him. He and Jay conducted the rest of the negotiations and completed the treaty, Franklin merely assisting ; and Adams gloried in breaking the instruction of Congress to take the advice of France. He was still smarting under the rebuke administered for his interference and for the offence he gave Vergennes a year or two before, and after declaring that Congress in this rebuke had prostituted its own honor as well as his, he breaks forth on the subject of the instruction to take the advice of France :
“Congress surrendered their own sovereignty into the hands of a French minister, Blush ! blush ! ye guilty records! blush and perish! It is glory to have broken such infamous orders. Infamous,
I say, for so they will be to all posterity. How can such a stain be washed out? Can we cast a veil over it and forget it?” (Adams's Works, vol. iii. p. 359.)
Franklin finally agreed that they should go on with the negotiations and make the treaty without
consulting the French government. Vergennes was offended, but Franklin managed to smooth the matter over and pacify him. Congress censured the commissioners for violating the instruction, and they all made the best excuses they could. Franklin's was a very clever one.
“We did what appeared to all of us best at the time, and if we have done wrong, the Congress will do right, after hearing us, to
Their nomination of five persons to the service seems to mark, that they had some dependence on our joint judgment, since one alone could have made a treaty by direction of the French ministry as well as twenty.”
It is probable that Franklin agreed to ignore the instruction, and assented to all the other acts of the commissioners, because he thought it best to have harmony. Such an opportunity for a terrible quarrel could not have been resisted by some men, for Adams bluntly told him that he disapproved of all his previous conduct in the matter of the treaty. As Adams was the head of the commission, it would seem that Franklin, finding himself outvoted, took the proper course of not blocking a momentous negotiation by his personal feelings or opinions, so long as substantial results were being secured. In this respect he did exactly the reverse of what Adams had prophesied. In the beginning of the negotiations Adams entered in his diary, “Franklin's cunning will be to divide us ; to this end he will provoke, he will insinuate, he will intrigue, he will manoeuvre." Instead of that he encouraged their union.
Adams's writings are full of extraordinary suspicions of this sort which turned out to be totally
unfounded; but so fond was he of them that, after having been obliged to confess that Franklin had acted in entire harmony with the commissioners, and after all had ended well and Franklin had obtained another loan of six millions from Vergennes, he cannot resist saying, “I suspect, however, and have reason, but will say nothing.” Those familiar with him know that this means that he had no reason or evidence whatever, but was simply determined to gratify his peculiar passion.
Franklin wrote a long letter to Congress about the treaty, and after saying that he entirely discredited the suspicions of the treachery of the French court, he
squares accounts with Adams :
“I ought not, however, to conceal from you, that one of my col. leagues is of a very different opinion from me in these matters. He thinks the French minister one of the greatest enemies of our country, that he would have straitened our boundaries, to prevent the growth of our people ; contracted our fishery, to obstruct the increase of our seamen ; and retained the royalists among us, to keep us divided ; that he privately opposes all our negotiations with foreign courts, and afforded us, during the war, the assistance we received, only to keep it alive, that we might be so much the more weakened by it ; that to think of gratitude to France is the greatest of follies, and that to be influenced by it would ruin us. He makes no secret of his having these opinions, expresses them publicly, sometimes in presence of the English ministers, and speaks of hundreds of instances which he could produce in proof of them. None, however, have yet appeared to me, unless the conversations and letter above-mentioned are reckoned such.
“If I were not convinced of the real inability of this court to fur. nish the further supplies we asked, I should suspect these discourses of a person in his station might have influenced the refusal ; but I think they have gone no further than to occasion a suspicion, that we have a considerable party of Antigallicians in America, who are not Tories, and consequently to produce some doubts of the continuance
of our friendship. As such doubts may hereafter have a bad effect, I think we cannot take too much care to remove them; and it is therefore I write this, to put you on your guard, (believing it my duty, though I know that I hazard by it a mortal enmity), and to caution you respecting the insinuations of this gentleman againsi this court, and the instances he supposes of their ill will to us, which I take to be as imaginary as I know his fancies to be, that Count de Vergennes and myself are continually plotting against him, and employing the news-writers of Europe to depreciate his character, &c. But as Shakespeare says, “Trifles light as air,' &c. I am persuaded, however, that he means well for his country, is always an honest man, often a wise one, but sometimes, and in some things, absolutely out of his senses.
Adams never forgave this slap, and he and his descendants have kept up the "mortal enmity'' which Franklin knew he was hazarding.
Before he left France Franklin took part in making a treaty with Prussia, and secured the insertion of an article which embodied his favorite idea that in case of war there should be no privateering, the merchant vessels of either party should pass unmolested, and unarmed farmers, fishermen, and artisans should remain undisturbed in their employments. But as a war usually breaks all treaties between the contending nations, this one might have been difficult to enforce.
At last, in July, 1785, came the end of his long and delightful residence in a country which he seems to have loved as much as if it had been his own. No American, and certainly no Englishman, has ever spoken so well of the French. He never could forget, he said, the nine years' happiness that he had enjoyed there “in the sweet society of a people whose conversation is instructive, whose manners are highly pleasing, and who, above all the nations of the world,