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A Popular History of France from the Earliest Time

The articles of the treaty between Great Britain and America


was the first to make peace, without however detaching herself officially from the coalition which had been formed to maintain her quarrel and from which she had derived so many advantages. On the 30th of November, 1782, in disregard of the treaties but lately concluded between France and the revolted colonies, the American negotiators signed with stealthy precipitation the preliminary articles of a special peace, "thus abandoning France to the dangers of being isolated in negotiations or in arms." The votes of Congress, as well as the attitude of Washington, did not justify this disloyal and ungrateful eagerness. "The articles of the treaty between Great Britain and America," wrote the general to Chevalier de La Luzerne, French minister at Philadelphia, "are so far from conclusive as regards a general pacification, that we must preserve a hostile attitude and remain ready for any contingency, for war as well as peace."

On the 5th of December, at the opening of Parliament, George III. announced in the speech from the throne that he had offered to recognize the independence of the American colonies. "In thus admitting their separation from the crown of this kingdom, I have sacrificed all my desires to the wishes and opinion of my people," said the king. "I humbly pray Almighty God, that Great Britain may not feel the evils which may flow from so important a dismemberment of its empire, and that America may be a stranger to the calamities which

have before now proved to the mother-country that monarchy is inseparable from the benefits of constitutional liberty. Religion, language, interests, affections may still form a bond of union between the two countries, and I will spare no pains or attention to promote it." "I was the last man in England to consent to the Independence of America," said the king to John Adams, who was the first to represent the new republic at the Court of St. James; "I will be the last in the world to sanction any violation of it." Honest and sincere in his concessions as he had been in his persistent obstinacy, the king supported his ministers against the violent attacks made upon them in Parliament. The preliminaries of general peace had been signed at Paris on the 20th of January, 1783.

To the exchange of conquests between France and England was added the cession to France of the island of Tobago and of the Senegal River with its dependencies. The territory of Pondicherry and Karikal received some augmentation. For the first time for more than a hundred years the English renounced the humiliating conditions so often demanded on the subject of the harbor of Dunkerque. Spain saw herself confirmed in her conquest of the Floridas and of the island of Minorca. Holland recovered all her possessions, except Negapatam.

Peace was made, a glorious and a sweet one for the United States, which, according to Washington's expression, "saw opening before them a career that might lead them to become a great people, equally happy and respected." Despite all the mistakes of the people and the defects every day more apparent in the form of its government, this noble and healthy ambition has always been present to the minds of the American nation as the ultimate aim of their hopes and their endeavors. More than eighty years after the war of independence, the indomitable energy of the fathers reappeared in the children, worthy of being called a great people even when the agonies of a civil war without example denied to them the happiness which had a while ago been hoped for by the glorious founder of their liberties as well as of their Constitution.

France came out exhausted from the struggle, but relieved in her own eyes as well as those of Europe from the humiliation inflicted upon her by the disastrous Seven Years' War and by the treaty of 1763. She saw triumphant the cause she had upheld and her enemies sorrow-stricken at the dismemberment they had suffered. It was a triumph for her arms and for the generous impulse which had prompted her to support a legitimate but for a long while doubtful enterprise. A fresh element, however, had come to add itself to the germs of disturbance, already so fruitful, which were hatching within her. She had promoted the foundation of a Republic based upon principles of absolute right; the government had given way to the ardent sympathy of the nation for a people emancipated from a long yoke by its deliberate will and its indomitable energy. France felt her heart still palpitating from the efforts she had witnessed and shared on behalf of American freedom; the unreflecting hopes of a blind emulation were already agitating many a mind. "In all states," said Washington, "there are inflammable materials which a single spark may kindle." In 1783, on the morrow of the American war, the inflammable materials everywhere accumulated in France were already providing means for that immense conflagration in the midst of which the country well-nigh perished.

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