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C onsejiikgnces of
Yorktown
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News of the victory at Yorktown lit the bonfires of celebration up and down the Atlantic coast and breathed new life and optimism into the revolution. In the American camp at Yorktown a colonel wrote on the night of the surrender: “I noticed that the officers and soldiers could scarcely talk for laughing and they could scarcely walk for jumping and dancing and singing as they went about.” Washington gave the honor of conveying the victory dispatch to Congress to his trusted aide, Tench Tilghman. Although Tilghman reached Philadelphia with the dispatch on October 24, Congress had received first word of the victory from a messenger who pounded into the capital at 2 a.m. on October 22. The old German watchman who conducted the messenger to the President of Congress alerted the sleeping city to the happy news: "Basht dree o’ glock, und Cornal-lis isth da-ken!” Congress delighted in the dispatch which Tilghman brought, but the national treasury was so empty that each member of Congress had to contribute a dollar in hard money to meet Tilghman’s expenses in order to prevent the messenger of victory from being imprisoned for debt. Nothing better pointed up the importance of improving upon the victory by the diplomatic efforts being made in Europe.

It was not until the end of November that news of Yorktown reached Europe. In France, Vergennes received first word of the victory, and he called in Franklin for a victory toast. The victory was an important vindication of the efforts of both men in the struggle with Britain. The French Prime Minister, the Comte de Maurepas, who was on his deathbed, was

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La nouvelle de la victoire de Yorktown fit allumer des feux dejoie en guise de célébration le long de la côte atlantique, et apporta un souffle de vie et d’optimisme à la révolution. Dans le camp américain à Yorktown, un colonel écrivit la nuit de la capitulation: ‘j’ai remarqué que les officiers et les soldats pouvaient à peine parler sans éclater de rire ni marcher sans sauter, danser et chanter". Washington confia l’honneur de transmettre le message de la victoire au Congrès à son fidèle aide de camp Tench Tilghman. Bien que Tilghman parv_înt à Philadelphie chargé de son message le 24 octobre, le Congrès avait été averti de la victoire par un messager qui était entré dans la capitale le 22 octobre à deux heures du matin. Le vieux gardien allemand qui mena le messager au président du Congrès annonça l’heureuse nouvelle à la ville endormie: "Il est trois heures, et Cornwallis est pris!" Le Congrès fut enchanté du message transmis par Tilghman mais le trésor national était si démuni que chaque membre du Congrès dut faire don d’un dollar afin de couvrir les dépenses de Tilghman et éviter au héraut de la victoire d’être emprisonné pour dette. Rien ne souligna davantage l’importance de consolider la victoire par les efforts diplomatiques déployés en Europe.

Ce n’est qu’à la fin novembre que la nouvelle de Yorktown atteignit l’Europe. En France, Vergennes fut le premier averti de la victoire, et il convia Franklin à célébrer l’événement. La victoire marquait le couronnement des efforts des deux hommes dans la lutte contre la Grande-Bretagne. On rapporte que le premier ministre français, le comte de Maurepas, said to have responded to the news with a smile, saying, “Now I die content.” In London, Colonial Secretary Lord George Germain received the bad news on November 25. The following morning he informed Lord North, who mourned, “Oh God. It is all over. It is all over.”

American diplomats struggling to earn support for the revolution rejoiced over the news from Yorktown. On November 26, Franklin exulted in a letter to Adams in Holland: “With unfeigned joy I congratulate your excellency on the glorious news of the surrender of Cornwallis to the arms of the allies.” Recalling the similar triumph at Saratoga, Franklin added: “The infant Hercules in his cradle has now strangled his second serpent, and gives hope that his future history will be answerable.”

()n November 29, the Continental Congress sent a letter to Louis XVI through Franklin expressing its joy over the victory and American gratitude for F rench aid. The letter read, in part:

We wish to convey to your Majesty our sense of the victory obtained by the Count de Grasse over the enemy’sfleet on our coast, and the subsequent reduction of the British armament in Virginia; and we repeat our grateful acknowledgments for the various aids so seasonably extended to us.

Congress also paid grateful tribute to the accomplishments of Rochambeau, Lafayette, and the French troops serving in America.

In Amsterdam, Adams, who was not given to easy optimism, wrote tojay in Madrid on November 28: “The capture of Cornwallis and his army is the most masterly measure, both in the conception and execution, which has been taken in this war.” He noted that the climate of opinion in which he operated in Amsterdam had improved measurably since news of the victory: “Our late triumphs have had an effect here. I have received several visits of congratulation in consequence affirma en souriant alors qu’il était sur son lit de mort: “A présent, je peux mourir en paix”. A Londres, le secrétaire aux affaires coloniales, Lord George Germain, reçut la mauvaise nouvelle le 25 novembre. Il informa le lendemain matin Lord North, qui murmura: "Dieu, c’est la fin, c’est la fin".

Les diplomates américains qui se débattaient afin de gagner le soutien pour la cause de la révolution se réjouirent de la dépêche en provenance de Yorktown. Le 26 novembre, Franklin envoya une lettre exultante à Adams: "C’est avec une joie sincère que je félicite Votre Excellence de l’heureuse nouvelle de la capitulation de Cornwallis en présence des alliés". Se souvenant de l’égal triomphe remporté à Saratoga, Franklin ajouta: "Hercule nouveau-né dans son berceau vient d’étouffer son second serpent, et laisse espérer que

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Le 29 novembre, le Congrès continental envoya une lettre à Louis XVI par le truchement de Franklin pour exprimer sa joie devant la victoire et la gratitude américaine à l’égard de l’aide française. La lettre disait entre autres:

Nous désirons faire part à Votre Majesté de notre sentiment vis-a-vis de la victoire remportæ par le comte de Grasse sur la flotte ennemie le long de nos côtes et de l’ane'antissement de l’armee britannique en Virginie; et nous reiterons nos sincères remerciements pour les divers appuis qui nous ont été si opportunément accordés

Le Congrès manifesta également sa reconnaissance pour les exploits de Rochambeau, Lafayette et des troupes françaises servant en Amérique. .

A Amsterdam, Adams, réputé pour sa sobriété, écrivait àJayà Madrid le 28 novembre: “La capture de Cornwallis et de son armée est la mesure la plus magistrale, tant au niveau de la conception que de l’exécution, qui ait été prise dans cette guerre". Il précisa que l’opinion à Amsterdam s’était sensiblement améliorée depuis l’annonce de la victoire: “Nos recents triomphes ne sont pas restés sans effets ici. of them from persons of consequence from whom I did not expect them.” On December 4, Adams reported to Congress that there no longer was any talk of a congress at Vienna to effect a mediated settlement of the war. “The late news of General Washington’s triumph in Virginia and of the friendly and effectual aid of the Counts de Rochambeau and de Grasse have made a great impression here and all over Europe.” Adams now found himself cooperating much more closely with the French ambassador in Holland than he had been before Yorktown. The Duc de la Vauguyon advised Adams that, in his dealings with the Dutch Government, he could “assume a higher tone, which the late ‘Cornwallization’ will well warrant.”

In Madrid,jay, despite continuing frustrations, found comfort in news of a campaign which had ended “gloriously.” jay’s secretary'in Spain, William Carmichael, reported on December 20, 1781 to Secretary of Foreign Affairs Robert Livingston that news of the Yorktown victory “was received apparently with great pleasure by the King and Prince of Asturias, as I was informed the same day by several of their officers in waiting.” He added that “the public at large was highly satisfied, and has spoken more favorably since of our allies than it has done from the commencement of the war.”

News of Yorktown also impressed the court of Catherine II. On March 5, 1782, Dana reported from St. Petersburg that the victory “seemed to have settled everyone’s mind upon the real state of desperation of the British affairs within the United States.” He noted, however, that Catherine remained bent upon her mediation efforts and that prospects for recognition were remote.

The victory at Yorktown made a great impression upon Europe and buoyed the efforts of American diplomats, but progress toward peace hinged upon the battle’s impact upon Great Britain. In Britain, the war in America, with its attendant costs in blood and treasure, had become increasingly unpopular as the conflict dragged on, and outspoken voices in and out of Parliament, led by Charles james Fox,

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