« PreviousContinue »
with courtesy, or even with a due and strict regard to their essential provisions. The congress, reflecting on these incidents, felt no small apprehension that if the army which had surrendered at Saratoga should be allowed to embark, instead of sailing for England, according to the terms of the capitulation, it would join the forces of General Howe. They therefore studied to find a pretext for breaking the convention. For this purpose they addressed a number of queries to General Gates, as to the manner in which the British had fulfilled the conditions of their sưrrender, but he assured them that on the part of the British the convention had been exactly observed. text, however, which they could not obtain from their gallant countryman, was supplied by the imprudence of Burgoyne.
Among other articles of the convention, it had been stipulated that the captive British officers should during their stay in America, be accommodated with quarters correspondent to their rank. This stipulation having been but ill observed in the crowded barracks at Cambridge, near Boston, where the surrendered army was quartered, Burgoyne addressed to Gates a letter of remonstrance on this subject, in which he declared that by the treatment which his officers had experienced, the public faith plighted at Saratoga, had been broken on the part of the United States. Gates, in the discharge of his duty, transmitted this letter to congress, who read it with joy; and affecting to find in the phrase above quoted, a pretext set up by the British general to vindicate a meditated violation of the convention, they resolved that “the embarkation of General Burgoyne and the troops under his command should be suspended till a distinct and explicit ratification of the con
vention of Saratoga should be properly notified by the court of Great Britain.' In vain did Burgoyne remonstrate against this resolution—in vain did he explain his phraseology, and offer to give any conceivable pledge of the sincerity of his intentions to fulfil his engagements. The congress was enexorable—his troops remained as prisoners; and after wasting some time in vain endeavors to procure them redress, he sailed on his parole for England, where he was refused admittance into the presence of his sovereign, denied the justice of a court-martial on his conduct, and subjected to a series of ministerial persecutions grievous, indeed, to a sensitive mind, but, in effect, more disgraceful to their inflictors than to their victim.
At the time when the American leaders contemplated the · declaration of independence, they entertained sanguine hopes that the rivalry which had so long subsisted between France and England would induce the former power to assist them in throwing off the yoke of the mother country; and early in the year 1776, the congress sent Silas Deane as their accredited agent to Paris, where he was afterwards joined by Dr. Franklin and Arthur Lee, and instructed to solicit the French court to enter into a treaty of alliance and commerce with the United States. The celebrity of Franklin gained him the respect, and his personal qualities obtained him the esteem of individuals of the highest rank in the French capital. But the Comte de Vergennes, then prime minister, acted with caution. He
the Americans secret aid, and connived at various measures
How was Burgoyne received in England?
which their agents took to further their cause, by the procuring of arms and military stores, and by annoying the British commerce. The encouragement which Franklin and his associates received, varied according to the success or disasters of the American forces.* But the capture of Burgoyne's army decided the hesitating councils of France; and on the 6th of February, 1778, his most christian majesty acknowledged and guaranteed the independence of the United States, and entered into a treaty of alliance and commerce with the infant republic of North America. Of this circumstance the French ambassador, on the 13th of March, gave official notice to his majesty's ministers in a rescript couched in respectful terms, but concluding with an intimation, that the French king, being determined effectually to protect the lawful commerce of his subjects, and to
* The American commissioners at Paris wrote to congress on the 18th of December, 1777, acknowledging the receipt of Despatches of the 6th of Octo. ber, dated at York Town. “ They came to us by a packet from Boston, which brought the great news of Burgoyne's defeat and surrender, news that apparently occasioned as much general joy in France, as if it had been a victory of their own troops over their own enemies; such is the universally warm and şincere good will and attachment to us and our cause in this nation. We took the opportunity of pressing the ministry, by a short memorial, to a conclusion of our proposed Treaty, which had so long been under their consideration, and been from time to time postponed. On signifying to the ministry the importance it might be at this juncture, when probably Britain would be making some proposition of accommodation, that the congress should be informed explicitly what might be expected from France and Spain, M. Gerard, one of the secretaries came yesterday to inform us by order of the king, that after long and full consideration of our affairs and propositions in council, it was decided, and his majesty was determined to acknowledge our Independence, and make Treaty with us of Amity and Commerce.”'
MS. Papers of the late Chief Justice Dana.
What was his conduct towards the American agents?
maintain the dignity of his flag, had, in consequence taken effectual measures for these purposes, in concert with the United States of America. With whatever urbanity this communication might be made by the ambassador, the British ministers regarded it, as it was intended to be, as a declaration of war; and on the 17th of March they notified its reception to the House of Commons. Their notification was accompanied by a message from the king, expressing the necessity he was under to resent this unprovoked aggression, and his firm reliance on the zealous and affectionate support of his faithful people. To this message the Commons returned a dutiful answer, assuring his majesty that they would stand by him in asserting the dignity of the crown, and the honor of the nation.
REJECTION OF LORD NORTH'S OVERTURES, JUNE, 1778.
The intelligence of the surrender of General Burgoyne and his army overwhelmed Lord North with dismay; and the annunciation of the treaty between the United States and France at once dissipated the feeble hope which he might yet have entertained of subduing the revolted colonies by force of arms. His only remaining resource, then, to prevent that jewel from being forever torn from the British crown, was to form, by an act of parliament, a kind of federal union with the North American provinces, which, whilst it reserved their allegiance to the British sovereign, should virtually concede to them the entire man
How was this regarded by the British ministers?
agement of their internal concerns. With this view, on the 17th of February, 1778, he introduced into the House of Commons two conciliatory bills, by which he proposed to concede to the colonies every thing which they demanded before their declaration of independence, viz: exemption from internal parliamentary taxation, the appointment of their own governors and superior magistrates; and, moreover, an exemption from the keeping up of any military force in any of the colonies without the consent of their respective assembles. It was provided, that commissioners should be appointed by the crown, to negotiate with the congress on the basis of these propositions. The speech in which his lordship introduced these bills into the House of Commons was marked by a curious mixture of humiliation of tone, and affected confidence and courage. The coercive acts, which under his influence had been passed into laws, were, said he, such as appeared to be necessary at the time, though in the event they had produced effects which he had never intended. As soon as he found that they had failed in their object, before a sword was drawn he brought forward a conciliatory proposition (meaning the act for admitting to the king's peace any individual colonies which might make the requisite concessions); but that in consequence of the proposition having been made the subject of debate in parliament, it went damned to America, so that the congress conceived, or took occasion to represent it, as a scheme for sowing divisions, and introducing taxation among them in a worse mode than the
What was the character of the two bills which he introduced into the
House of Commons?