« AnteriorContinuar »
the British power remaining in the northern parts of America, or the islands of Bermudas, &c., those countries shall, in case of success, be confederated with, or dependent upon, the United States. For, if it had been understood by the parties that the western territory in question, known to be of so great importance to the United States, and a reduction of it so likely to be attempted by them, was not included in the general guaranty, can it be supposed that no notice would have 'been taken of it, when the parties extended their views, not only to Canada, but to the remote and unimportant island of Bermudas. It is true that these acts between France and the United States, are in no respects obligatory on his catholic majesty, unless he shall think fit to accede to them. Yet as they show the sense of his most christian majesty on this subject, with whom his catholic majesty is intimately allied; as it is in pursuance of an express reservation to his catholic majesty in a secret act subjoined to the treaties aforesaid of a power to accede to those treaties, that the present overtures are made on the part of the United States; and as it is particularly stated in that act, that any conditions which his catholic majesty shall think fit to add, are to be analogous to the principal aim of the alliance, and conformable to the rules of equality, reciprocity, and friendship, congress entertain too high an opinion of the equity, moderation, and wisdom of his catholic majesty not to suppose, that, when joined to these considerations, they will prevail against any mistaken views of interest that may be suggested to him.
The next object of the instructions is the free navigation of the Mississippi for the citizens of the United States, in common with the subjects of his catholic majesty.
On this subject, the same inference may be made from article seventh of the treaty of Paris, which stipulates this right in the amplest manner to the king of Great Britain; and the devolution of it to the United States, as was applied to the territorial claims of the latter. Nor can congress hesitate to believe, that even if no such right could be inferred from that treaty, that the generosity of his catholic majesty would not suffer the inhabitants of these states to be put into a worse condition, in this respect, by the alliance with him in the character of a sovereign people, than they were in when subjects of a power which was always ready to turn its force against his majesty; especially as one of the great objects of the proposed alliance is to give greater effect to the common exertions for disarming that power of the faculty of disturbing others. Besides, as the United States have an indispu table right to the possession of the east bank of the Mississippi for a very great distance, and the navigation of that river will essentially tend to the prosperity and advantage of the citizens of the United States that may reside on the Mississippi, or the waters running into it, it is conceived that the circumstances of Spain's being in possession of the banks on both sides near its mouth, cannot be deemed a natural or equitable bar to the free use of the river. Such a principle would authorize a nation disposed to take advantage of circumstances, to
contravene the clear indications of nature and Providence, and the general good of mankind.
The usage of nations accordingly seems in such cases to have given to those holding the mouth or lower parts of a river no right against those above them, except the right of imposing a moderate toll, and that on the equitable supposition, that such toll is due for the expense and trouble the former may have been put to. "An innocent passage, (says Vattel,) is due to all nations with whom a state is at peace; and this duty comprehends troops equally with individuals." If a right to a passage by land through other countries may be claimed for troops, which are employed in the destruction of mankind, how much more may a passage by water be claimed for commerce, which is beneficial to all nations.
Here again it ought not to be concealed, that the inconveniences which must be felt by the inhabitants on the waters running westwardly, under an exclusion from the free use of the Mississippi, would be a constant and increasing source of disquietude on their part, of more vigorous precautions on the part of Spain, and of an irritation on both parts, which it is equally the interest and duty of both to guard against.
But notwithstanding the equitable claim of the United States to the free navigation of the Mississippi, and its great importance to them, congress have so strong a disposition to conform to the desires of his catholic majesty, that they have agreed that such equitable regulations may be entered into as may be a requisite security against contraband; provided, the point of right be not relinquished, and a free port or ports below the thirty-first degree of north latitude, and accessible to merchant ships, be stipulated to them.
The reason why a port or ports, as thus described, was requested must be obvious. Without such a stipulation, the free use of the Mississippi would in fact amount to no more than a free intercourse with New Orleans and other ports of Louisiana. From the rapid current of this river, it is well known that it must be navigated by vessels of a particular construction, and which will be unfit to go to sea. Unless, therefore, some place be assigned to the United States where the produce carried down the river, and the merchandise arriving from abroad, may be deposited till they can be respectively taken away by the proper vessels, there can be no such thing as a foreign trade.
There is a remaining consideration respecting the navigation of the Mississippi which deeply concerns the maritime powers in general, but more particularly their most christian and catholic majesties. The country watered by the Ohio, with its large branches, having their sources near the lakes on one side, and those running north westward and falling into it on the other side, will appear from a single glance on a map to be of vast extent. The circumstance of its being so finely watered, added to the singular fertility of its soil, and other advantages presented by a new country, will occasion a rapidity of
population not easy to be conceived. The spirit of emigration has already shown itself in a very strong degree, notwithstanding the many impediments which discourage it. The principal of these impediments is the war with Britain, which cannot spare force sufficient to protect the emigrants against the incursions of the savages. In a very few years after peace shall take place, this country will certainly be overspread with inhabitants. In like manner as in all new settlements, agriculture, not manufactures, will be their employment. They will raise wheat, corn, beef, pork, tobacco, hemp, flax, and in the southern parts, perhaps, rice and indigo, in great quantities. On the other hand, their consumption of foreign manufactures will be in proportion, if they can be exchanged for the produce of their soil. There are but two channels through which such commerce can be carried on; the first is down the river Mississippi; the other is up the rivers having their sources near the lakes, thence by short portages to the lakes, or the rivers falling into them, and thence through the lakes and down the St. Lawrence. The first of these channels is manifestly the most natural, and by far the most advantageous. Should it however be obstructed, the second will be found far from impracticable. If no obstructions should be thrown in its course down the Mississippi, the exports from this immense tract of country will not only supply an abundance of all necessaries for the West India islands, but serve for a valuable basis of general trade, of which the rising spirit of commerce in France and Spain will no doubt particularly avail itself. The imports will be proportionally extensive; and from the climate, as well as from other causes, will consist of the manufactures of the some countries. On the other hand, should obstructions in the Mississippi force this trade into a contrary direction through Canada; France and Spain, and the other maritime powers will not only lose the immediate benefit of it themselves, but they will also suffer by the advantage it will give to Great Britain. So fair a prospect could not escape the commercial sagacity of this nation. She would embrace it with avidity. She would cherish it with the most studious care. And should she succeed in fixing it in that channel, the loss of her exclusive possession of the trade of the United States might prove a much less decisive blow to her maritime pre-eminence and tyranny than has been calculated.
The last clause of the instructions, respecting the navigation of the waters running out of Georgia through West Florida, not being included in the ultimatum, nor claimed on a footing of right, requires nothing to be added to what it speaks itself.
The utility of the privileges asked to the state of Georgia, and consequently to the union, is apparent from the geographical representation of the country. The motives for Spain to grant it must be found in her equity, generosity, and disposition to cultivate our friendship and intercourse.
These observations you will readily discern are not communicated in order to be urged at all events, and as they here stand in support
of the claims to which they relate. They are intended for your private information and use, and are to be urged so far, and in such forms only, as will best suit the temper and sentiments of the court at which you reside, and best fulfil the objects of them.
Memorial of the French Minister to Congress, concerning the offered mediation of the Empress of Russia and the Emperor of Germany.
Philadelphia, May 26, 1781.
The underwritten minister plenipotentiary of France has received orders to communicate to congress some important details touching the present situation of sundry affairs in which the United States are immediately interested. The most essential respects some overtures which announce, on the part of Great Britain, a desire of peace. The empress of Russia having invited the king and the court of London to take her for mediatrix, the latter court considered this as a formal offer of mediation, and accepted it. It appeared at the same time to desire the emperor to take part therein; and this monarch has in fact proposed his co-mediation to the belligerent powers in Europe. The king could not but congratulate himself on seeing so important a negociation in the hands of two mediators whose understanding and justice are equal. Nevertheless, his majesty actuated by his affection for the United States, returned for answer, that it was not in his power to accept the offers made to him, and that the consent of his allies was necessary. The king wishes to have this consent before he formally accepts the proposed mediation. But it is possible that circumstances joined to the confidence he has in the mediators, and the justice of his cause, and that of the United States his allies, may determine him to enter upon a negociation before the answer of congress can reach him. But in either case, it is of great importance that this assembly should give their plenipotentiary instructions proper to announce their disposition to peace, and their moderation, and to convince the powers of Europe that the independence of the thirteen United States, and the engagements they have contracted with the king, are the sole motives which determine them to continue the war; and that whenever they shall have full and satisfactory assurances on these two capital points, they will be ready to conclude a peace. The manner of conducting the negociation, the extent of the powers of the American plenipotentiary, the use to be made of them, and the confidence that ought to be reposed in the French plenipotentiaries and the king's ministers, are points which should be fully discussed with a committee. And the underwritten minister entreats that congress would be pleased to name a committee, with whom he will have the honor to treat. He thinks that this assembly will be sensible that the king could not give a greater mark of his affection for the thirteen United States, or of his attachment to
the principles of the alliance, than by determining not to enter upon a negociation before they were ready to take part therein, although, in other respects, his confidence in the mediators, and the relation he stands in to one of them, were sufficient motives to induce him to accept their offers. Congress are too sensible of the uncertainty of negociations of this sort not to know, that the moment of opening them is that precisely when the efforts against the enemy ought to be redoubled; and that nothing can facilitate the operation of the negociators so much as the success of the arms of the allies; that a check would be productive of disagreeable consequences to both, and that would rise in their pretensions, their haughtiness and obstinacy, in proportion to the languor and slackness of the confederates.
The undersigned will have the honor to communicate to the committee some circumstances relative to the sending Mr. Cumberland to Madrid; to the use which Mr. Adams thought he was authorized to make of his plenipotentiary powers; to the mission of Mr. Dana; to the association of the neutral powers, and to the present state of affairs in the south. Congress will find new motives for relying on the good will of the king, and on the interest he takes in favor of the United States in general, and of each one of them in particular.
Report of a committee appointed by congress to confer with the French minister, on the subject of the mediation offered by the Empress of Russia, and the Emperor of Germany, &c. made in May, 1781.
That the minister communicated some parts of a despatch which he had received from the count de Vergennes, dated the 9th of March, 1781.
That the resolves of congress which had been adopted on the associations of the neutral powers, were found very wise by the council of the king; and that it was thought they might be of service in the course of the negociation. The French ministry did not doubt but they would be very agreeable to the empress of Russia. But they were not of the same opinion with respect to the appointment of Mr. Dana, as a minister to the court of Petersburg. The reason is that Catharine the second has made it a point, until now, to profess the greatest impartiality between the belligerent powers. The conduct she pursues on this occasion, is a consequence of the expectation she has that peace may be re-established by her mediation; therefore she could by no means take any step which might show on her side the least propension in favor of the Americans, and expose her to the suspicion of partiality towards America, and of course exclude her from the mediation. The appointment of Mr. Dana, therefore, appears to be at least, premature; and the opinion of the council is, that this deputy ought not to make any use of his powers at this moment. The case he applies to the count de Vergennes for advice,