« AnteriorContinuar »
springing out of the important questions of interest and territory presented to them, are to be seen the first strongly marked party divisions respecting the navigation of the Mississippi and the Eastern fisheries, which afterwards produced so much discord and jealousy. These points attracted the early attention of France and Spain, and there is little question that, besides their general hostility to Great Britain, those powers had their own separate views of gain. France was especially eager for a participation, if not an exclusive right, in the Newfoundland fisheries, to be conquered from Britain and secured by the gratitude of the States. Her views
upon Canada have been already alluded to. She was also anxious to further the plans of the other branch of the Bourbon family upon Florida and the Mississippi. Spain looked upon the possession of the Floridas, and the control of the navigation of the Mississippi, as her prize in the war against Britain. The French court entered into the alliance with the new States without having obtained any stipulation for these concessions. The time was critical, and her assent was given with the design of urging the same claims as an ally, generous and able to help them in their adversity, and entitled to liberal concessions of territory and privileges. The mediation offered by Spain, and the negotiations for her co-operation in the war, afforded an occasion for pressing these views, and making as profitable a bargain as possible with the Americans. The announcement by M. Gerard of the offered mediation, was accompanied by some suggestions to Congress of the necessity of moderation in the terms, upon which they would be willing to conclude peace, in case the mediation should be successful. He intimated the propriety of not insisting upon a formal and explicit acknowledgment of Independence, advising them to be content with a tacit recognition. He laid much stress upon the value of Spanish aid, enlarged upon the extent of the concessions which ought to be made to secure it, and finally re- id commended terms of peace to be offered embracing these 101 Beveral points, limiting the territory of the United States east of the Alleghany, abandoning the fisheries, and adopting am such an implied sovereignty as the Swiss Cantons enjoy. Pr Congress were willing to grant much for the value of the A expected alliance, but they were too sagacious not to see, sa that Spain would not be governed in her course by any regard for American liberty, or sympathy for republicanism,
out by political calculations and the hereditary hostility of the Bourbons against England. In settling the conditions to be insisted upon, under the proposed mediation, and to secure the Spanish alliance, warm and long continued debates took place, in which the States were differently swayed, according to their geographical position. The East were zealous for never yielding the fisheries, and the West insisted, as a sine qua non, on the navigation of the Mississippi These discussions were protracted until the mediation was finally rejected by the court of Great Britain ;
but the same arguments continued to be pressed upon Congress by M. Gerard, to induce them to offer to His Catholic Majesty “proper terms” to “reconcile him perfectly to the American interests." These “
proper terms,” were the same previously advocated. It should not be forgotten, in reciting these intrigues, that when the French minister was, in July, recommending the United States to make large concessions to induce Spain to go to war with England, a treaty was actually in existence between France and Spain, concluded in the preceding April, for making the war, independent of any American interests. Congress became strengthened in the belief that Spain would, at all events, for her own quarrels, join with France, and still held off, declining to accede to the French proposals. In a short time the war actually broke out in Europe and America. The object of all these intrigues was, however, not abandoned. Spain, by joining in the war, did not accede to the treaties between the United States and France. The same arguments were used to persuade Congress to pay highly for a treaty with Spain directly, of alliance, amity, and commerce. The utmost
concession which Congress would make, was to offer the Floridas with a guarantee—the fisheries and the Mississipßi they would not yield. Spain resented this obstinacy, and, though engaged in the war against the common enemy, did not acknowledge the Independence of the United States, hor receive nor send ambassadors.
To prevail upon her to do so, and to negotiate a treaty of amity and commerce, John Jay, at the time of his election President of Congress, was appointed a minister to Spain. At the same time John Adams was chosen minister for the same object, to negotiate a like treaty with Great Britain. The increase of the
hostile combination against Great Britain, led to the impression that the war would soon end. Samuel
Huntingdon, of Connecticut, succeeded Mr. Jay as President of Congress.
M. Gerard returned to France, and in the month of No vember, the Chevalier de la Luzerne was received by Con. gress as the French Minister Plenipotentiary.
Immediately after the Spanish declaration of war, the joint fleets of France and Spain, under the command of Count D’Orvilliers, consisting of sixty-five ships of the line, and numerous frigates, entered the British channel, and spread consternation along the coasts. They retired, however, without undertaking any enterprise of moment.
THE military operations during the year 1779, were carried on in three separate quarters. The fleets , of France and England contended for supe
1779. riority in the West Indies ;--Sir Henry Clinton, at New York, employed the troops under his command in harassing the country, to prevent Washington from detaching any aid to the South; and General Prevost, in Georgia, prosecuted the duty assigned to him of reducing Georgia and South Carolina.
The course of events in the West Indies does not bear materially upon the affairs of the American Revolution. It was a struggle by France chiefly for her own benefit, and served to retard that direct co-operation with the republican forces which had been expected from her. It had one great advantage of occupying a large part of the British fleet at a distance from the coast of the States. The French force in the West India Islands, in December, 1778, was under the command of the Marquis of Bouillè. By a sudden attack, he made himself master of Dominica. The British fleet was commanded by Admiral Barrington. It was reinforced by Commodore Hotham, with a division, having a land force of 5,000 men on board, under the command of General Grant, with which an attack was made upon St. Lucie. D'Estaing arrived with the French fleet from Boston to strengthen Bouillè. He made an attempt to relieve St. Lucie, which failed, and that island surrendered to the British. Admiral Byron, with the rest of the squadron, soon arrived, giving the British a preponderance of force, with which they kept D'Estaing blocked for several months at Fort Royal. Both sides received further reinforcements; the English by a squadron under Commodore Rowley, and the French by one under the Count de Grasse.
In the month of June, Admiral Byron having sailed to convoy a fleet of merchant ships, the French commenced offensive measures, and captured St. Vincents and Grenada, which, with Dominica, also in the power of the French, left the British only Tobugo of all their acquisitions in the
West Indies by the treaty of 1763. An indecisive action between the fleets of the two nations, in the month of July, terminated the operations of D’Estaing in that quarter. The season of hurricanes was approaching, and the remonstrancés and applications which he received from the United States, induced him to sail northwardly again; and on the 1st of September, he appeared on the coast of Georgia with twentyships of the line. His subsequent operations there are connected with the Southern campaign in the States, to be hereafter narrated.
In the North the war on both sides had been carried on languidly. The dissensions in Congress, the spirit of speculation which pervaded all classes, in consequence of the depreciation of paper and the indisposition to make any efforts or sacrifices for the common cause, and the delusive reliance upon the arms of France for securing Independence, produced such an apathy in making the necessary preparations for action in the field, that, notwithstanding the earnest, repeated entreaties of the Commander-in-chief, no recruits were voted until late in January, and the requisitions upon the States for their several quotas, were not made until March. When the army was about to take the field, alarming difficulties sprung up among the officers, running into acts of violence, which threatened the total dissolution of the army. The depreciation of the continental money had become so great, that the pay of the officers would not afford them even the necessaries of life, and in May, the officers of the Jersey brigade formally threatened to throw up their commissions, unless better provision were made for their support. It required all the patient sagacity, firmness, and personal popularity of Washington to prevent this catastrophe, and prevail upon the dissatisfied officers to delay their resolutions, and bear still longer with the hardships and injustice of which they complained with so much reason. They marched according to orders. The representations of Washington brought the subject strongly before the State legislature, and measures of relief were proposed, which had the effect of keeping them in the service. The May,1779.
1990 | disposable American force at this time was about
de sixteen thousand men, that of Sir Henry Clinton was nearly seventeen thousand. By means of the naval force under his control, he could transport them with little obstruction to any part of the coast, and make incursions at