Untitled Document

Treaty of Paris

Table of Contents

The Negotiators
The Negotiations
The Aftermath


The Treaty of Paris with Britain was signed by three American commissioners on September 3, 1783. American diplomats in Paris during the Revolutionary War had a long history of dissension that broke up previous American delegations there. It was not without difficulty that the American negotiators agreed among themselves, much less with the British, French and Spanish diplomats seeking an end to hostilities begun in 1775 at Lexington and Concord. Individually, the American negotiators had their own priorities for their country's relationships with England and France – and for the economic future of America.

In Paris, the American commissioners had been negotiating for more than a year, but the basic agreement with Britain had been concluded in the late fall of 1782. British politics and British negotiations on treaties with America's French and Spanish allies necessitated the delay. It was hard for British leaders to give up their former colonies. On December 5, 1782, Britain's King George III struggled to tell his Parliament that England would "offer to declare them [the former colonies] free and independent states." On the other hand, French aid to the Americans – that had been critical in the British defeat at Yorktown – was predicated on Americans not returning to British rule. The British prime minister had understood the implications of Yorktown immediately. "Oh, God, it is all over!" he reportedly exclaimed on hearing the news.1

Three successive British governments were involved in negotiations in 1782-83. By the time American General George Washington turned in his commission as the army commander to the Continental Congress in December 1783, a fourth British government would be in power. The war had bankrupted France and seriously strained the finances of England. America had been split into Patriot and Tory camps, and the economies of whole sections of the country were seriously impaired as British troops occupied American cities like Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Charleston. The Treaty of Paris needed to establish a new balance of power in both the Old and New Worlds. "England's overriding interest was to bring the war to an end, and thereby retain Canada; France's priority was to prolong it, thereby gaining revenge for its loss to England in the earlier French and Indian War, and to see England prostrated and forfeiting all its possessions in the New World," wrote historian John Patrick Diggins.2

The Paris negotiations were complicated by many differences and many dislikes. Britain's King George III didn't like the Americans, but he hated the thought of recognizing their independence. Members of the British government – Charles James Fox and the Earl of Shelburne – didn't like and undermined each other. Indeed, at one point in the late spring and early summer of 1782 there were competing British delegates in Paris. And after the English did settle on one negotiator, the British government decided he might be too flexible and sent along a sterner colleague to Paris in the fall. Meanwhile, the Americans didn't like the British. And, the American commissioners did not much like or trust each other. Benjamin Franklin didn't like John Adams. Adams and John Jay didn't much like the French, but even Adams was somewhat shocked by Jay's disdain for America's French allies. Adams was leery of Jay and more leery of Franklin, whose "cunning will be to divide us."3 Though Adams' had employed his own son as a diplomatic secretary, he resented Franklin's attempts to appoint his grandson as secretary of the delegation. Historian Robert H. Ferrell wrote: "The three American commissioners... were unlike in temperament and outlook. Franklin was full of equanimity and hope, trusting to time and the advantages of history. Adams was irascible, pugnacious, eager to force his presence upon the French court, desirous of defending every shred of American rights against France and all other powers on earth. Jay was distrustful, suspecting intrigue." 4

John Jay was naturally suspicious of any possible collaboration between the British and the French. Adams was naturally ornery. Franklin was naturally gregarious, but very experienced at political infighting when political collaboration did not work.. Each American commissioner had his own view of political reality, ego and propriety. They worried about history and they worried about their place in it. As political scientist Jack Rakove wrote of Adams: "In his own mind he remained a monument of American rectitude, immune to the ambition and vanity to which others succumbed. Adams could hardly grasp that his sense of rectitude was its own form of vanity."5 Vanity threatened to undermine the whole process. So did infirmity. Jay got sick soon after his arrival in Paris in June. Franklin was later sick much of the summer. South Carolina's Henry Laurens effectively refused to honor his appointment as a commissioner – made on July 15, 1781 – despite Congress's repeated insistence that his participation "could not be dispensed with."6

John Jay especially didn't like the Spanish, who were allies of the French but not very helpful in the American Revolution. Historian Thomas E. Chávez wrote that Jay developed a "distaste for Spain and Spaniards that only was surpassed by that of his wife."7 France and Spain very much did like not England, with whom they were engaged in an active war even as the war in America had wound down. John Jay didn't like his loyalist brother, an erstwhile Patriot who made a personal and highly unsuccessful visit to Paris in the middle of the peace negotiations to conduct his own commercial negotiations. Benjamin Franklin didn't like his loyalist son William, the former Tory governor of New Jersey who was in London lobbying against the treaty.

John Adams didn't much like anyone outside of his own family. He particularly didn't like the French or Franklin, on whom he initially refused to call once he arrived in Paris, contending that the elderly Franklin was obliged to call on him first. Sometimes, Adams could be his own worst enemy, even with his friends. In a letter to Thomas Jefferson in 1783, James Madison noted: "Congress yesterday received from Mr. Adams several letters dated September not remarkable for any thing unless it be a display of his vanity, his prejudice against the French Court & his venom against Doctor Franklin."8 Historian Bernard Bailyn noted that Adams saw enemies everywhere: "Sensitive to insults, imaginary and real, he felt the world was generally hostile, to himself and to the American cause, which was the great passion of his life. There were enemies on all sides."9 Congress did not particularly like or trust its own commissioners. In truth, Congress did not really understand the commissioners' problems. Thomas Jefferson was supposed to be the fifth commissioner, but he didn't like the appointment and stayed home.

Fortunately for the Americans, the British increasingly did not like the expenditures which continued war with America entailed. King George III hated to give in, but his long-serving prime minister, Lord North, eventually recognized military reality. North also recognized his own defeat and resigned. A new British government took over in the spring of 1782, laying the groundwork for negotiations. But first, King George and his country had to acknowledge that the colonies were lost. Lord's North successor that spring was Lord Rockingham, but Rockingham died of influenza after little more than three months in office. He was succeeded by the Earl of Shelburne, who had been secretary of state for the Home Department in Rockingham's brief government. Jack Rakove wrote that for the British: "To acknowledge that America was lost required an intellectual and emotional leap that remained inconceivable, not only for the king, who was the fiercest supporter of his government's policy, but also for a majority of members of Parliament who privately relished [Charles James] Fox's rhetoric [against the war] but rejected the defeatist conclusion to which it led."10

The financial reality was that all the countries involved in the American Revolution were broke. And nobody much trusted anybody else, at home or abroad. Back in America, George Washington struggled to keep his troops from revolting against their own government. Neither Britain, France, nor America was prepared to accept defeat. All wanted to protect their territorial and commercial interests. The American negotiators had to exploit the peculiarities of their allies and their enemies and secure not only a peace, but also secure a nation's borders and its economic future.

The Negotiators

John Adams thought he had a special responsibility for negotiating peace – having been specifically appointed to that position by the Continental Congress in 1779 when the delegates wanted someone whom they thought would stand up to both England and France. "John Adams was an upright, proud, and contentious republican," wrote historian John C. Miller. "His patriotism was beyond doubt; but like many people who hold convictions strongly, he was apt to assume that those who differed with him were not merely wrong but somehow leagued with the powers of darkness."11 Adams frequently said what was on his mind – without thinking of its probable impact on others. Nor did he always appreciate that America was operating from something less than a position of strength nor did he consider how others might interpret what he said. One contemporary wrote of Adams' diplomatic skills: "He can't dance, drink, game, flatter, promise, dress, swear with gentlemen, and small talk and flirt with the ladies – in short, he has none of the essential arts or ornaments which make a courtier."12

Meanwhile, Benjamin Franklin had, since 1776, been posted as the American representative to Paris and had worked assiduously to get critical French aid for the American cause. The French were great fans of the balding and somewhat eccentric American ambassador, who had settled easily into French society. The onetime Philadelphia printer had a tough job. Franklin biographer Alfred Owen Aldridge wrote: "In addition to the pressure from Congress for reports and increased funds, which weighed heavily on Franklin's spirits, he was also beset by local creditors and agents, who daily presented notes and invoices for payment and kept him in a flurry of worry and irritation. While waiting for a reply from [the Comte de] Vergennes, he wrote, 22 February 1781, with grim humor to Adams, who was attempting to negotiate a treaty in Holland, that if his endeavors should fail and his notes not be backed up, he would be 'ready to break, run away, or go to prison with you, as it shall please God.'"13 Historian Carl Van Doren wrote that "when it came to making terms of peace Franklin's instinct was towards the completest independence of America from all Europe. A cosmopolitan who had most of his dearest friends in England and France and was himself more renowned and honoured in Europe than in America, he moved boldly to separate the new republic from the parent continent. Let commerce and knowledge bind the continents naturally together. Let there be as few as possible of those artificial bonds which make unnatural wars."14

American diplomats in Europe had not only to be wary of European leaders like the French foreign minister, Charles Gravier, the comte de Vergennes. The Americans also had to be wary of each other and of their legal masters back in Congress who had little understanding of their problems and were much influenced by the French ambassador in Philadelphia. Alfred Owen Aldridge wrote of Franklin: "Harassed by his mercantile and consular duties, lacking a secretarial staff, alternately tormented by the gout and titillated by the dinners and receptions of his feminine friends and diplomatic associates, he kept his reports to Congress at a minimum. When [Chevalier Conrad Alexandre] Gérard had been French minister in Philadelphia, he had noticed that Franklin 'never writes,' and Vergennes soberly conceded that Franklin's 'age and his love for tranquillity [sic] give him an apathy incompatible with the business with which he is charged, which is all the more painful to me as there are important matters about which this minister keeps silent, while the good of the cause would require that he transmit his opinion to the Congress.'"15 Franklin's job was not made any easier by persistent jealousy from fellow American diplomats posted to Paris during the Revolutionary War and their peevish reports back to America. Nevertheless, noted historian Richard B. Morris: "It was somehow fitting that the most universally esteemed American of the age should be associated with the peacemaking, and that he should be one who had been long identified with humanitarian affairs and particularly with the cause of peace."16

John Adams did not approve of Franklin's easy relationship with the French and he did not approve of Franklin's easy personality. "The ever punctilious Adams was shocked by the disarray of official papers sitting around openly in the Hôtel de Valentinois. He considered Franklin lazy, not realizing that the older man's way of doing business suited the French temperament," wrote historian Thomas J. Schaeper. "Franklin's fame, his untroubled high spirits, his gaiety and wit, his social success, and above all his causal insouciance and apparent indolence drove Adams into fits of frustration," wrote historian Bernard Bailyn. "Franklin, he came to believe was corrupt, both morally and politically."17 The starchy Adams could hardly understand the flexible Franklin. Envy overwhelmed the insecure Adams. Historian Alfred Owen Aldridge cited a letter that Adams wrote in late 1778: "I am often astonished at the Boldness with which Persons make their Pretensions. A Man must be his own Trumpeter, he must write or dictate Paragraphs of Praise in the News Papers, he must dress, have a Retinue, and Equipage, he must ostentatiously publish to the World his own Writings with his Name, and must write even some Panegyrics upon them, he must get his Picture drawn, his Statue made, and must hire all the Artists in his Turn, to set about Works to spread his Name, make the Mob stare and gape, and perpetuate his fame."18

The relationship between Franklin and Adams was rocky long before the peace negotiations began in 1782. In 1779, Adams had written home to a member of Congress: "Franklin is a wit and a humorist, I know. He may be a philosopher, for what I know. But he is not a sufficient statesman for all the business he is in. He knows too little of American affairs, of the politics of Europe, and takes too little pain, to inform himself of either, to be sufficient for all these things to be ambassador, secretary, admiral, consular agent, &c. Yet such is his name, on both sides the water, that it is best, perhaps, that he should be left there; but a secretary and consuls should be appointed to do the business, or it will not be done; or, if done, it will be by people who insinuate themselves into his confidence, without either such heads or hearts as Congress should trust. He is too old, too infirm, too indolent and dissipated, to be sufficient for the discharge of all the important duties of ambassador, board of war, board of treasury, commissary of prisoners, &c., &c., &c., as he is at present, in that department, besides an immense correspondence and acquaintance, each of which would be enough for the whole time of the most active man in the vigor of youth.19 Adams had no problem making such criticism himself, but he would later become infuriated when Franklin passed along to Congress similar criticism of Adams.

Five American peace commissioners had been named in July 1781 – before the Franco- American victory over the British at Yorktown in September 1781. One, Thomas, Jefferson, immediately declined. The others were already in Europe, but military victory did not trigger immediate diplomatic optimism among them given the continuing diplomatic and military conflicts among Britain, France and Spain. Political scientist Jack Rakove wrote that "neither Franklin, Jay, nor Adams thought that peace talks were nigh. Adams was particularly pessimistic. So what if the expansion of the peace mission had reduced nim 'to the Size of a Lillipution [sic], or of an Animalcule in Pepper Water,' he wrote to his friend Francis Dana...'There is no present Prospect of Peace' and Adams never expected to see one."20 Yorktown, however, helped change British opinion about the war – a shift which Franklin was the first to understand and to act upon.

In 1779, Adams had been named America's sole peace negotiator by the Continental Congress. Having squirmed in Benjamin Franklin's shadow during the first posting to Europe in 1777, Adams was not inclined to share responsibility for peace negotiations with Franklin, even though Franklin had cultivated excellent relationships with the French government. Nor was Adams inclined to share information. Political scientist Jack Rakove wrote: "By the time he reached Paris on February 9, 1780, Adams had determined a course of action. Franklin would have no part in it at all, for Adams refused to tell him anything about his mission. When they rode to Versailles to call on Vergennes, Adams balked at openly telling the foreign minister why he had returned to Paris, lest Franklin learn the secret as well."21 Adams tried to cut Franklin out of any contact with Vergennes regarding peace negotiations. Vergennes meanwhile distrusted Adams as a consequence of reports from his ambassador, the Chevalier de la Luzerene, in Philadelphia. So in attempting to undercut Franklin, Adams unknowingly encouraged Vergennes to undercut Adams. And thus, the American delegates weakened their own cause.

Vergennes himself was, according to John Ferling, "hobbled somewhat by rheumatism and given to bouts of depression." He "impressed others with his polished manners, considerable reserve of charm, and legendary industry."22 But Vergennes' polish was not used on Adams, whom he wrote "has an inflexiblity, a pedantry, an arrogance and a flatulent conceit which render him incapable of negotiating political matters."23 Adams's own reputation in the Continental Congress was in 1781 deliberately damaged by Vergennes who gave Franklin a packet of correspondence between himself and Adams and asked Franklin to forward it on to America. Franklin delayed but did so – infuriating Adams when he learned of it and understood how his standing had been undermined in Philadelphia. Having gotten nowhere with the French, Adams left for the Netherlands to try to negotiate a treaty of assistance with the Dutch. Adams's opinion of both Franklin and the French had been sorely injured. Also injured had been Adams's easily bruised vanity.

Adams had fancied himself the primary peace negotiator so he could not have been happy when instructions came from Congress in the fall of 1781 appointing a set of five commissioners, including Franklin and Adams. Almost as galling as the appointments were for Adams were the instructions for the commissioners that had been passed on June 15. Historian John C. Miller noted: "The instructions draw up by the Continental Congress for the guidance of American peace plenipotentiaries could hardly have been more favorable to France had they been written by Vergennes himself."24 The French had worked hard to extend their influence over the Continental Congress and undercut Adams. Historian Robert H. Ferrell write that Chevalier de la Luzerene "by extraordinary diplomatic talents coupled with careful use of money, had acquired influence over the American government. He claimed, in a letter to Vergennes, to have procured the election of Robert R. Livingston as secretary for foreign affairs, and Livingston appears to have been grateful for this assistance showed appreciation by appointing a French officer as his assistant."25 On May 28, 1781, Luzerne "communicated to the committee several observations respecting the conduct of Mr. Adams; and in doing justice to his patriotick character, he gave notice to the committee of several circumstances which proved it necessary that Congress should draw a line of conduct to that minister of which he might not be allowed to lose sight. The minister dwelt especially on a circumstance already known to Congress, namely, the use which Mr. Adams thought he had a right to make of his powers to treat with Great Britain. The minister concluded on this subject that if Congress put any confidence in the king's friendship and benevolence; if they were persuaded of his inviolable attachment to the principle of the alliance, and of his firm resolution constantly to support the cause of the United States, they would be impressed with the necessity of prescribing to their plenipotentiary a perfect and open confidence in the French ministers, and a thorough reliance on the king; and would direct him to take no step without the approbation of his Majesty; and after giving him, in his instructions, the principal and most important outlines for his conduct, they would order him, with respect to the manner of carrying them into execution, to receive his direction from the Count de Vergennes, or from the person who might be charged with the negotiation in the name of the [French] king."26 The French were placing diplomatic handcuffs on Adams. The terms of the congressional instructions were deliberately designed to reign in Adams's anti-French instincts, which ironically were why he had been appointed as the sole peace commissioner two years earlier. The goal had been to counter Franklin's perceived pro-French bias. Of the new instructions, historian Edmund S. Morgan noted that "Adams was horrified at this groveling subservience" to France. "He perceived, when British pride prevented the British from doing so, that it would be to the advantage of Britain in the European balance of power to court the favor of the independent United States."27 Adams was unhappy, but in a way he had only himself to blame.

Franklin understood Adams's sensitivities regarding the peace mission. Biographer Alfred Owen Aldridge wrote: "When writing about his joint appointment to Adams, who was still in Holland (12 October), Franklin cleverly played down the importance of his role in order to make it more palatable to his usually disgruntled countryman. He had never known any peace, he affirmed, even the most advantageous 'that was not censured as inadequate, and the makers condemned as injudicious or corrupt.' The peacemakers may be blessed in heaven, he added, but in this world 'they are frequently cursed.'"28 Relations between Adams and Franklin continued to be rocky as negotiations got underway although the distance between Paris and the Hague reduced their interactions.


In 1781, there had been no one for Adams to negotiate with – so the ever restless Adams had gone off to seek financial help for the Revolution in the Netherlands. He was in Holland when peace negotiations began in earnest in 1782. He remained there while pre-negotiations got underway – not believing that peace would be possible to negotiate until 1784 and not believing anything could happen until the British agreed to John Jay's demand for recognition of American independence. While Adams remained away from Paris in the summer and early fall, Jay took effective control of the negotiations. Jay was suspicious of both the British and the French. Adams's animus to the French was joined to that of Jay who had been in Madrid until the spring of 1782 when Franklin had summoned him to Paris. Jay's experiences in Spain had not been happy. The New York lawyer had been assigned as the American diplomat to Spain, but Spain had taken its time recognizing his credentials. In the meantime, Jay's newborn daughter died. When Jay was allowed to proceed to Madrid, the Spanish government stalled his appeal for financial funds to aid the Revolution. "Jay went to Spain with high expectations of carrying off a fat loan, a commercial treaty and a military alliance," wrote historian John C. Miller. "The mines of Mexico and Peru, treasure fleets, the Spanish treasury piled high with bullion – these visions floated pleasantly before Jay when he embarked upon his mission." Instead of gold, Jay encountered galling protestations of poverty and his own poverty because Congress failed to provide funds to pay his bills.29

In Paris, Jay's diplomatic suspicions quickly took a form of their own – toward both the French foreign minister, Vergennes, and the British ambassador, Richard Oswald. Political scientist Jack Rakove wrote: "Jay did have a naturally suspicious case of mind, and his excessive concern with the formal working of Richard Oswald's credentials probably delayed the negotiations in a way that did not serve American interests. Yet Jay also demonstrated a lawyer's ability to remember that he served only one client, the United States and that freed him to act against that client's express wishes when Jay concluded that separate negotiations with Britain offered the most promising course of action."30 Robert H. Ferrell wrote "Vergennes believed that he had maneuvered himself into controlling the American commissioners. The Commissioners, vigorous personalities in their own right, wished no such control."31 The French had only themselves to blame for fueling Jay's suspicions about their goals. Historian James Srodes wrote: "Gérard de Rayvenal, the secretary of Vergennes, had shown Jay a map that stake out the various claims in North America. All the land west of the Appalachians to the Mississippi, north of the Spanish corridor along the Gulf, was supposed to belong to France. Britain had in fact ceded much of that land to the French in the 1763 peace, but France also wanted control of the vital Newfoundland fishing grounds."32 France, along with Britain, was trying to box America in.

Franklin biographer Stacy Schiff wrote that Adams finally "arrived in Paris on October 26. Three things had kept him in Amsterdam until Jay's summons. He had not judged a peace likely for most of the summer. His loan was in its final stages; early in October he signed a treaty of commerce with the Dutch. And he had developed a violent aversion to Franklin. He was livid that Franklin had conveyed Vergennes's complaints against him to Congress, equally furious that Franklin had for so long failed to mention doing so."33 Historian Thomas Fleming wrote: "This undiplomatic diplomat arrived from Amsterdam in late October, his already large sense of self importance inflated by having obtained Dutch recognition of American independence, a treaty of commerce, and a loan of 5 million guilders – 2 million dollars. None of these successes would have been achieved without the victory at Yorktown and Britain's arrogant decision to declare war on Holland, making her a French ally."34

On October 26, Adams reached Paris. On October 28, Adams met with Jay. On October 29 Adams and Jay met with Franklin in Passy and argued that the Americans should negotiate alone with the British – without the French. The next day, Franklin acquiesced. Quickly, talks proceeded in earnest and virtually without interruption. On October 31, a few days after his arrival in Paris, Adams wrote the American secretary of foreign affairs, Robert Livingston: "I waited forthwith on Mr. Jay, and from him learned the state of the conferences. It is not possible at present to enter into details. All I can say is in general, that I had the utmost satisfaction in finding that he had been all along acting here upon the same principles upon which I had ventured to act in Holland, and that we were perfectly agreed in our sentiments and systems. I can not express it better than in his own words: 'to be honest and grateful to our allies, but to think for ourselves.' I find a construction put upon one article of our instructions by some persons which, I confess, I never put upon it myself. It is represented by some as subjecting us to the French ministry, as taking away from us all right of judging for ourselves, and obliging us to agree to whatever the French ministers should advise us to, and to do nothing without their consent. I never supposed this to be the intention of Congress; if I had, I never would have accepted the commission, and if I now thought it their intention I could not continue in it. I can not think it possible to be the design of Congress; if it is I hereby resign my place in the commission, and request that another person may be immediately appointed in my stead.

Yesterday we met Mr. Oswald at his lodgings; Mr. Jay, Dr. Franklin, and myself on one side, and Mr. Oswald, assisted by Mr. Strachey, a gentleman whom I had the honor to meet in company with Lord Howe upon Staten Island, in the year 1776, and assisted also by a Mr. Roberts, a clerk in some of the public offices, with books, maps, and papers relative to the boundaries.

I arrived in a lucky moment for the boundary of the Massachusetts, I brought with me all the essential documents relative to that object, which are this day to be laid before my colleagues in conference at my house, and afterwards before Mr. Oswald.

It is now apparent, at least to Mr. Jay and myself, that in order to obtain the western lands, the navigation of the Mississippi, and the fisheries, or any of them, we must act with firmness and independence, as well as prudence and delicacy. With these there is little doubt we may obtain them all."35

Adams' difficult personal relations with both Vergennes and Franklin continued throughout the negotiations and even after they had been effectively concluded. In March 1783 Franklin told fellow diplomat Henry Laurens: "I heard frequently of his [Adams's] ravings against M. De Vergennes and me whom he suspects of plots against him which have no existence but in his own troubled imagination. I take no notice, and we are civil when we meet."36 Franklin's good relations with Vergennes contributed to Adams' continued distemper. Alfred Own Aldridge wrote: "Even more rankling to Adams than Franklin's prestige with virtually all Frenchmen, was the jealous suspicion that Franklin would become the first ambassador from the United States to the Court of St James's, a position which Adams, like many others, regarded as 'the apple of paradise.'" That fear contributed to his unwillingness to do anything to help the Franklin family – including appointment of Franklin's grandson, William Temple Franklin, as secretary of the American peace commissioners. In his diary, Adams wrote that "Circumstances convince me that the Plan is laid between the C. de Vergennes and the Dr. to get Billy made Minister to this Court and not improbably the Dr. to London.'"37 Franklin's grandson made impolitic statements which contributed to the atmosphere of intrigue and distrust among the Americans.

John Jay, then 37, did not contribute much to the social relations of the American commissioners. He was perhaps as humorless as Adams and sometimes even more difficult to figure out. Historian David McCullough wrote: "Jay was younger than Adams by ten years. Born to wealth and position in New York, tall, slim and pale, he appeared somewhat haughty, carrying himself with a lift of the chin that made his hawk nose an even more pronounced feature."38 McCullough wrote: "Jay, too, could be combative and stubborn, and as the descendant of French Huguenots, he had little liking for the Bourbon Court."39 But Jay had started out the Revolution as a moderate and a conciliator so it was somewhat surprising to the British that he turned out to be America's toughest negotiator.40 Jay biographer Walter Stahr wrote: "Before Jay could do any real work in the peace negotiations, he fell ill, one of the thousands of victims of an influenza epidemic. He spent most of the month of July in his hotel room."41

Jay's mind, however, remain clear and focused. Jay was a nationalist ahead of his times and sometimes ahead of his contemporaries. Jay biographer Walter Stahr wrote: "Jay's letters from this period, indeed from his whole four-year stay in Europe, have remarkably little in them about Europe. Instead they are filled with his affection and concern for America. In one letter, Jay wrote that he had 'met with neither men nor things on this side of the water which abate my predilection, or if you please my prejudices, in favor of those on the other.' His 'affections are deeply rooted in America, and are of too long standing to admit of transplantation.' He could 'never become so far a citizen of the world as to view every part of it with equal regard, and perhaps nature is wiser in tying our hearts to our native soil.'" 42

Experience, however, had jaded Jay. Thomas Fleming noted that "Jay had gone to Europe an outspoken admirer of France and her alliance with America." He soon took up an adversarial approach toward the French.43 Jay biographer Walter Stahr wrote: "Jay disliked the French government, but he liked many individual Frenchmen, notably the Marquis de Lafayette."44 Ferling wrote that "as the summer wore on Jay grew ever more contumacious regarding Congress's directive, for he, like Adams, had become steadily more suspicious of France. He was certain that France and Spain desired to prevent the United States from acquiring the transmontane West; he also concluded that they preferred that Britain retain the area north of the Ohio and between the mountains and the Mississippi River, while Spain should gain the region south of the Ohio."45 His suspicions were rooted in fact.

On Jay's arrival in Paris in late June, noted Franklin biographer Stacy Schiff.. Jay "was displeased to find that British enthusiasm for a peace seemed to have evaporated since Franklin had so urgently summoned him, and that Fox and Shelburne were working at cross-purposes. With his partner in what he termed 'the skirmishing business' he was, however, delighted. 'He is in perfect good health, and his mind appears more vigorous than that of any man of his age I have known. He certainly is a valuable minister, and an agreeable companion,' Jay assured America's first secretary of foreign affairs, Robert Livingston."46 Franklin biographer Esmond Wright wrote that Jay "was, if not as pliant as Franklin, tougher and more single-minded, though perhaps more capable of error. But Jay's venom against Spain was dangerous. He sought the inclusion of a secret clause in the peace treaty encouraging Britain to recapture Florida from Spain. His rigidity of thinking led him to ignore the important Spanish contribution to American independence..."47 Franklin got along better with Jay than with Adams although they did not always agree on negotiating styles. "Too much has been made of differences between Jay and Franklin, who in Paris became the best of friends," wrote Franklin biographer Verner W. Crane. "But differences there were, both in diplomatic style and in their views of America's place in the postwar world."48

In September 1782 Jay wrote back to Congress that he "must...take the liberty of observing that however our situation may in the opinion of congress, render it necessary to relax their demands on every side, and even to direct their commissioners ultimately to concur (if nothing better can be done) in any peace or truce not subversive of our independence, which France may be determined to accede to, yet that this instruction, besides breathing a degree of complacency not quite republican, puts it out of the power of your ministers to improve those chances and opportunities which, in the course of human affairs happens more or less frequently unto all men. Nor is it clear that America, thus casting herself into the arms of the king of France, will advance either her interest or reputation with that or other nations."49

The fourth American commissioner, Henry Laurens, participated briefly in the negotiations but did not sign the final document. Historian Richard B. Morris noted that a contemporary "found him both garrulous and peevish, hardly the ideal combination of traits for a diplomat."50 In 1781, Laurens had informed Franklin that he "resolved to decline the honor intended me by Congress" on account of the ill health.51 Laurens had something of a conflict of interest since his erstwhile business partner in the slave trade, Richard Oswald, was the British negotiator. Laurens had strong British connections; he had lived there as a young man and again in the early 1770s as he supervised his sons' education there. Laurens, a South Carolina merchant, planter and former president of the Continental Congress, had been named the U.S. minister to the Netherlands, but had been captured by the British on his second ocean voyage to Europe, imprisoned in the Tower of London, and with Oswald's help released in December 1781.52 Afflicted by gout, he seemed in no hurry to return to diplomacy. When he was freed, he was more interested in the state of his family in France than in the state of the negotiations. Laurens' youngest son had remained in England to complete his education during the Revolutionary War. Laurens' reckless eldest son John, 27, had died in a South Carolina skirmish the previous August. In 1776, young Laurens had abandoned a legal education, a new wife, and a month-old daughter in Britain to return to American to fight in the Revolution. Henry Laurens wrote to Adams: "Thank God I had a son who dared to die in defence of his country." Laurens, however, "sank into inertia produced perhaps by sickness and grief over the death of his son," wrote historian Robert Middlekauff.53

The Negotiations.

Collectively, the American negotiators had a tremendous responsibility – cut off as they were by the Atlantic Ocean from the source of their authority – the Continental Congress in Philadelphia. Political scientist Jack Rakove wrote that their formal instructions from Congress "had been drafted under heavy, perhaps improper pressure from France, and which were meant to limit the very judgment and discretion for which Congress had presumably appointed them. In effect, for a few months the three diplomats were responsible for determining the national interest of the United States."54 The instructions stated: "You are to make the most candid and confidential communications upon all subject to the ministers of our generous ally, the King of France; to undertake nothing in the negotiations for peace or truce without their knowledge and concurrence; and ultimately to govern yourselves by their advice and opinion, endeavouring in your whole conduct to make them sensible how much we rely on his Majesty's influence for effectual support in every thing that may be necessary to the present security, or future prosperity, of the United States of America."55 Effectively, these instructions were diplomatic handcuffs – which the American commissioners quickly cut off, understanding that they could not wear them and still negotiate a treaty. They also understood that France's interests were not America's interests.

The negotiations got off to a slow start for the Americans. The commissioners were hard to get together. John Adams was in the Netherlands. John Jay was in Spain. Henry Laurens was disconnected and disengaged. Once Jay arrived in Paris, the summer of 1782 was difficult for the Americans with both Jay and Franklin bedridden at times. Jay and Adams were also particular about their British counterparts and their instructions. From the Hague, Adams wrote Jay on August 13:

I think we ought not to treat at all until we see a minister authorized to treat with "the United States of America" or with their ministers. Our country will feel the miserable consequence of a different conduct if we are betrayed into negotiations, in or out of a congress, before this point is settled; if gold and diamonds and every insidious intrigue and wicked falsehood can induce anybody to embarrass us and betray us into truces and bad conditions, we may depend upon having them played off against us. We are, and can be, no match for them at this game. We shall have nothing to negotiate with but integrity, perspicuity, and firmness. There is but one way to negotiate with Englishmen, that is clearly and decidedly; their fears only govern them. If we entertain an idea of their generosity or benevolence towards us, we are undone. They hate us universally, from the throne to the footstool, and would annihilate us, if in their power, before they would treat with us in any way. We must let them know that we are not to be moved from our purpose, or all is undone.56

On December 12, 1781, Vergennes had told the Americans that they could pursue peace negotiations with Britain as long as Americans did not negotiate a peace that involved continued subjection to the British government. Jack Rakove wrote: "Vergennes had to insist on this point because both he and the commissioners expected that 'probably Britain would be making some Propositions of Accommodation.' When those offers did come, they were more remarkable for Franklin's rebuff than the diplomatic openings they predictably failed to provide." Franklin was obdurate on British recognition of American independence.57 Vergennes wanted the Americans to proceed expeditiously with a deal with England, but he did not want the Americans to get too good a deal. Nor did he want England to get too good a deal. America was a pawn in European politics. Franklin, however, understood Vergennes. Robert H. Ferrell wrote : "Franklin's intelligence apparently had penetrated to the center of Vergennes's thinking on the business of peace, weeks before his meeting with the French foreign minister. Franklin had seen that Vergennes was growing weary of the connection with Spain....Franklin in his separate peace with the British seems to have done exactly what Vergennes desired: he offered to the foreign minister an excuse to get out of the Spanish attachment."58

At the beginning of the negotiations in the summer of 1782, the new English prime minister had sent mixed signals. In early July, Lord Shelburne had been named to replace Lord Rockingham as the British prime minister. Historian James Srodes wrote that "Franklin got a break" when "Lord Shelburne was elevated to prime minister. When Fox resigned in Protest, the full range of negotiations came under Shelburne's control. Shelburne knew he had a narrow window of opportunity to win the best peace he could before impatient rivals would combine to topple him; he had a few months at best."59 Shelburne's man in Paris was businessman Richard Oswald, who wrote back to London: "With respect to the Commissioners of the colonies, our conduct towards them, I think, ought to be of a style somewhat different. They have shown a desire to treat, and to end with us on a separate footing from the other powers; and, I must say, in a more liberal way, or at least with a greater appearance of feeling for the future interests and connexions of Great Britain, than I expected. I speak so from the text of the last conversation I had with Dr. Franklin, as mentioned in my letter of yesterday. And therefore we ought to deal with them tenderly, and as supposed conciliated friends, or at least well disposed to a conciliation, and not as if we had any thing to give them, that we keep from them, or that they are very anxious to have. Even Dr. Franklin himself, as the subject happened to lead that way, as good as told me yesterday, that they were their own masters, and seemed to make no account of the grant of independence as a favor. I was so much satisfied beforehand of their ideas on that head, that I will own to your Lordship, I did not read to the Doctor that part of your letter, wherein you mentioned that grant as if, in some shape, it challenged a return on their part."60

Lord Shelburne himself was a natural counterpart for Franklin. Historian Richard Kluger wrote: "Shelburne's arrival at the apex of Britain's government was a mixed blessing. The two men were disposed to each other, shared much the same social and political thinking, and had reestablished rapport at a remove through Oswald's useful services. But Franklin also knew that the new prime minister could be rather a slippery customer with a reputation for sometimes speaking out of both sides of his mouth, as he began doing now about American independence."61 Historian John C. Miller wrote that "the British government, under Lord Shelburne's leadership, began to treat them [the American negotiators] as equals and as friends."62 Nevertheless, Shelburne had to proceed cautiously. He did not have the confidence of the British king that Lord North had enjoyed and thus he needed to maximize the advantage to Britain of any peace treaty. In July 1782, noted Thomas Fleming, "Shelburne, operating under the baleful eye of George III, was obviously undecided whether independence for all thirteen rebellious colonies was either necessary or inevitable." Adams biographer John Ferling that Adams and Jay "saw what Franklin could not understand. Shelburne hoped to use the enticement of independence to seduce America to accept otherwise 'bad conditions.' Independence must be granted before serious talks commenced. Jay thus would not budge, even if Congress had instructed the envoys to be guided by the French government."63 Political scientist Jack Rakove wrote during the brief Rockingham government in the spring of 1782, Shelburne's rival Charles Fox "sent his own man, Thomas Grenville (son of the Stamp Act's architect), to Paris. By indicating that he preferred to deal with Oswald (Shelburne's emissary), Franklin inadvertently helped swing the advantage back to Shelburne."64 Historian Robert Middlekauff described Oswald, then 77, as "a Scot, a merchant, and a much more astute man than his political masters in the ministry believed. Years before when he was young he had lived for a time in Virginia, and he still owned land in America....His manner of presenting himself seemed to suggest that he was too old and philosophical for politics."65 Oswald's pro-American sympathies led his British handlers to question his judgment and limit his freedom of action.66

The Americans differed in their approach to diplomacy. Benjamin Franklin was America's most experienced diplomat, having spent two decades in England and six years in France. Historian Edmund S. Morgan wrote: "Franklin's way of dealing was to lay his cards on the table, and while he conducted negotiations on his own, he was able to do that. At the outset he exchanged cordial notes with Shelburne, who assured him that he wished 'to retain the same Good Faith and Simplicity, which subsisted between us in Transactions of less importance, when we were not at so great a distance.' Franklin got on well with Oswald, the principle envoy Shelburne sent to deal with him."67

Historians have differed about the wisdom of Jay's negotiating strategy. Jay biographer Walter Stahr wrote that some historians "have suggested that he erred by insisting on some form of prior British recognition of American independence. Jay's stubborn demands on this issue delayed the negotiations by about two months, during which Britain's position strengthened, as a result of its victory at Gibraltar, and its sense of the division between France and the United States. It is hard to explain why Jay refused to deal with Oswald, simply because his commission did not refer in proper terms to the United States, after dealing for many months with [Spain's José Moñino y Redondo, Count of] Floridablanca, who of course did not admit that there was any such nation as the United States. It is also hard to explain what Jay thought America would gain by delay. On balance, although one can admire Jay's patriotism in wanting to see early recognition of America's status, one has to question his judgment in insisting that this be dealt with as a precondition."68

Historians have also criticized Franklin's opening negotiating gambit – taken shortly after Jay arrived in Paris on June 23. Franklin had an advantage over his colleagues in that before the American Revolution he had years of experience with several of the key British negotiators -- David Hartley, Benjamin Vaughan and Oswald. Franklin may presumed too much on those relationships and his knowledge of British politics. Historian Robert Middlekauff added: "Early in the discussions with Oswald he suggested that Britain might voluntarily cede Canada to the United States. Because giving up Canada in response to an American demand might be 'humiliating,' Franklin gently pointed out that a voluntary renunciation of ownership might serve British interests better."69 On July 9, Franklin sent Shelburne some "hints" for the content of a peace treaty – including cession of Canada to America. Earlier, after talking to Oswald, Franklin had written Lord Shelburne: "He appeared much struck with my discourse, and, as I frequently looked at my paper, he desired to see it. After some little delay, I allowed him to read it; the following is an exact copy.

To make a peace durable, what may give occasion for future wars should if practicable be removed. The territory of the United States and that of Canada, by long extended frontiers, touch each other. The settlers on the frontiers of the American provinces are generally the most disorderly of the people, who, being far removed from the eye and control of their respective governments, are more bold in committing offences against neighbors, and are forever occasioning complaints and furnishing matter for fresh differences between their States.

By the late debates in Parliament, and public writings, it appears that Britain desires a reconciliation with the Americans. It is a sweet word. It means much more than a mere peace, and what is heartily to be wished for. Nations make a peace whenever they are both weary of making war. But if one of them has made war upon the other unjustly, and has wantonly and, – unnecessarily done it great injuries, and refuses reparation, there may, for the present, be peace, the resentment of those injuries will remain, and will break out again in vengeance when occasions offer. These occasions will be watched for by one side, feared by the other, and the peace will never be secure ; nor can any cordiality subsist between them.

Many houses and villages have been burnt in America by the English and their allies, the Indians. I do not know that the Americans will insist on reparation; perhaps they may. But would it not be better for England to offer it? Nothing would have a greater tendency to conciliate, and much of the future commerce and returning intercourse between the two countries may depend on the reconciliation. Would not the advantage of reconciliation by such means be greater than the expense?

If then a way can be proposed, which may tend to efface the memory of injuries, at the same time that it takes away the occasions of fresh quarrels and mischief, will it not be worth considering, especially if it can be done, not only without expense, but be a means of saving?

Britain possesses Canada. Her chief advantage from that possession consists in the trade for peltry [furs]. Her expenses in governing and defending that settlement must be considerable. It might be humiliating to her to give it up on the demand of America. Perhaps America will not demand it; some of her political rulers may consider the fear of such a neighbor, as a means of keeping the thirteen States more united among themselves, and more attentive to military discipline. But on the mind of the people in general, would it not have an excellent effect, if Britain should voluntarily offer to give up this Province; though on these conditions, that she shall in all times coming have and enjoy the right of free trade thither, unincumbered with any duties whatsoever; that so much of the vacant lands there shall be sold, as will raise a sum sufficient to pay for the houses burnt by the British troops, and their Indians ; and also to indemnify the royalists for the confiscation of their estates?

This is mere conversation matter between Mr Oswald and Mr Franklin, as the former is not empowered to make propositions, and the latter cannot make any without the concurrence of his colleagues."<

He then told me, that nothing in his judgment could be clearer, more satisfactory and convincing, than the reasonings in that paper; that he would do his utmost to impress Lord Shelburne with them; that, as his memory might not do them justice, and it would be impossible for him to express them so well, or state them so clearly as I had written them, he begged I would let him take the paper with him, assuring me that he would return it safely into my hands. I at length complied with this request also. We parted exceeding good friends, and he set out for London.70

Historian Jonathan R. Dull wrote that "Franklin's proposal to Shelburne...was an inauspicious beginning for the negotiations. The recommendation was not only unrealistic in terms of what Shelburne was free to offer, but also was very imprudent. It was quickly rebuffed; indeed, Franklin was fortunate Shelburne was honorable enough not to reveal to the French the American suggestion."71 In response to Franklin's memo, Shelburne wrote Oswald: "Why does he say that he does not know of the Americans having any intentions of making claims of indemnification, he and others having full powers. That is not open. No reparation is to be thought of. The money spent in America is more than sufficient indemnification for all particular losses....Make early and strict conditions, not only to secure all debts whatever due to British subjects, but likewise to restore the Loyalists to a full enjoyment of their rights and privileges. And their indemnification to be considered. Lord Shelburne will never give up the Loyalists."72

Oswald was experienced with America – having lived in Virginia for six years and traded extensively, including slaves, with the colonies Oswald's commission to negotiate with "certain Colonies in North America" annoyed Jay in mid-summer because it failed to identify the official name of the entity with which he was negotiating and imply that Britain was prepared to negotiate with individual colonies. When Vergennes indicated that he thought Jay was being unrealistic, Jay took issue with Vergennes as well as Oswald: "To treat about this matter would be to suppose that our independence was incomplete until they pronounced it to be complete. But we hold it to be complete already."73

Jay was a tough negotiator – tougher than Franklin. Franklin biographer Verner W. Crane wrote that "Jay had alarmed Oswald with his menaces, though all the time he was personally convinced that after the peace the United States would have to do business chiefly with Britain. Franklin, it is clear, still hoped to make the best of both worlds, Britannic and Bourbon."74 John Ferling wrote that Adams and Jay "saw what Franklin could not understand. Shelburne hoped to use the enticement of independence to seduce America to accept otherwise 'bad conditions.' Independence must be granted before serious talks commenced. Jay thus would not budge, even if Congress had instructed the envoys to be guided by the French government."75

Britain did not want a strong America. Nor did Britain want a strong France. Britain did not want a treaty that resulted in an America subservient to France. France did not want a treaty that resulted in an America subservient to Britain. And America did not want a treaty that left America subservient to either. Historian Richard Morris noted that "Oswald's instruction empowered him to accept independence, if the Americans declined any form of union or league with Britain, as the first article of a treaty. The status was to be absolute, however. No national substitution – that is, France – was to be allowed in another dependent relationship."76

On July 12, Oswald wrote Shelburne after conversations with Franklin, but not yet with Jay: "With respect to the Commissioners for the Colonies, our conduct towards them, I think, ought to be of a style somewhat different; they have shown a desire to treat, and to end with us on a separate footing from the other powers, and I must say, in a more liberal way, or at least with a greater appearance of feeling for the future interests and connections of Great Britain, than I expected."77

Despite the rocky start to their relationship, Oswald and Jay eventually developed a working relationship. Indeed the relationship worked so well that the British cabinet decided that Oswald needed a backup (and a backbone) and sent Henry Strachey, who had met Adams and Franklin in the summer of 1776 when there were some abortive peace negotiations on Staten Island. Strachey had oral instructions regarding the proposed American boundaries which were tougher than those that had been given Oswald in writing. Historian Richard Morris wrote: "Henceforth the Tories, the debts, and the fisheries were the chief points at issue. The boundary concessions served as a club to hold over the heads of the American commissioners if they proved obdurate."78 Shelburne, somewhat erratically, was losing confidence in his own chief negotiator. The American negotiators had the advantage that they essentially had decided to ignore their own government's instructions when they disagreed with them. Oswald did not have that luxury.

Jay remained adamant that recognition of independence was the first step in negotiations. Franklin acquiesced. "Mr Jay was a Lawyer, and might think of things that did not occur to those who were not Lawyers," wrote Franklin later. As Jay wrote home to a friend in mid-October: I told the Minister that we neither could nor would treat with any nation in the world on any other than an equal footing."79 Political scientist Jack Rakove wrote that Jay "knew that his own stock at home stood at least as high as his colleague's – probably higher. Jay also knew Adams would support him."80 Robert Middlekauff wrote: "In September [1782], Jay and Franklin agreed to proceed with negotiations if Oswald's commission was altered to permit him to treat with them as the representatives of the United States. The formula adopted was ambiguous – Congress took it as recognition of American independence, the Shelburne ministry did not and, had negotiations broken off, would doubtless have denied that Britain had recognized the United States."81 The same month, the British fended off a French-Spanish attack on Gibraltar, strengthening the English bargaining position.

Jay's attitude toward France also hardened. John Ferling wrote: "In fact, as the summer wore on Jay grew ever more contumacious regarding Congress's directive, for he, like Adams, had become steadily more suspicious of France. He was certain that France and Spain desired to prevent the United States from acquiring the tramontane West; he also concluded that they preferred that Britain retain the area north of the Ohio and between the mountains and the Mississippi River, while Spain should gain the region south of the Ohio."82 The Continental Congress had clearly not anticipated that the French government would try to box in America's boundaries. Nor did the Congress anticipate that the Spanish would try to prolong the war so that could retake Gibraltar from the British. Adams and Jay understood the French and Spanish objectives. Historian Robert M. Morris observed: "While cautious in expressing himself in the presence of the Americans, the Comte de Vergennes made no secret among his subordinates that he considered the Americans to be extravagant in their boundary claims, not only because of their insistence on the Mississippi as the western boundary, but also for their venturing to assert title to the Northwest Territory, which France hoped England would retain as part of Canada."83

America's interests at this point were well served by the skeptical natures of both Jay and Adams. Political scientist Jack Rakove wrote: "Given the choice between seizing the main chance or deferring to French guidance, Jay and Adams never wavered in thinking that they understood the case for independent diplomacy far better than their superiors in Philadelphia. It helped that each was profoundly suspicious of France's ulterior ends." Rakove argued: "Perhaps Jay, Franklin, and Adams could have fared better on particular points. But a treaty that ended the war, recognized independence, secured a Mississippi boundary, and pledged Britain to abandon territory it still occupied was a peace worth having."84

On one point, Franklin was particularly helpful to his colleagues. In the fall of 1782, he decided that quietly said to his contentious colleagues: "I am of your opinion and will go on [with the negotiations] without consulting this court [France].' Ever the realist, Franklin had decided that this shift in his stance the Americans should meet with the English envoy without the French: 'I am of your opinion and will go on [with the negotiations] without consulting this Court [France]." Thomas Fleming wrote: " Ever the realist, Franklin had decided that this shift in his stance was necessary to present a united American front.... It was an adjustment to the diplomatic situation as it was evolving in Europe and America."85

Between late October and November, the primary negotiations took place. The British were under intense financial pressure at home. Historian James Srodes wrote that "speculation against the pound sterling was drawing traders from all over Europe. False rumors flew from one European financial center to another and then back to London, and the traders made a killing even when news of British victories was confirmed." Shelburne needed to complete a treaty before his political enemies could overthrow him.86 Historian Esmond Wright wrote: "When Franklin was ill in the fall of 1782 and Jay, with his suspicions of the Bourbons, was in charge of negotiations, the demand for Canada was abandoned and the boundaries dawn in the Quebec Act of 1773 disappeared."87 Thomas Fleming wrote: "When the Americans resumed negotiating with Richard Oswald on October 29, 1782, they discovered that the United States as well as France and Spain might have to pay for the defeat at Gibraltar.... Once and for all, Strachey excluded from the negotiations all [of] Franklin's advisory proposals – in particular the cession of Canada.."88

Slow to start the negotiations, Jay developed a need for speed during November. He justifiably worried about what the British and French were negotiating amongst themselves. Historian John C. Miller wrote: "Jay, once satisfied of Shelburne's sincerity regarding American independence, was eager to hasten the negotiations before Vergennes's treachery could do its work. In his desire to make peace in haste, he was little disposed to haggle over Canada – America, he said, would not permit 'a few acres' to stand in the way of a speedy settlement with Great Britain. Jay thereupon rushed into the negotiations and, somewhere along the road, Canada was jostled off – to the dismay of Dr. Franklin."89 On the surface, Adams and Franklin were cooperating. Robert Middlekauff wrote that "the two men managed to get along in November, at least until the preliminary version of the treaty was signed at the end of the month. But Adams could not resist opportunities to abuse his colleague behind his back; nor could he apparently avoid posturing in his letters to Abigail."90 On November 5, 1782, Adams wrote:

"Mr. Jay likes Frenchmen as little as Mr. Lee and Mr. Izard did. He says they are not a Moral People. They know not what it is. He don't like any Frenchman. – The Marquis de la Fayette is clever, but he is a Frenchman. – Our Allies don't play fair, he told me. They were endeavouring to deprive Us of the Fishery, the Western Lands, and the Navigation of the Mississippi. They would even bargain with the English to deprive us of them. They want to play the Western Lands, Mississippi and whole Gulph of Mexico into the Hands of Spain."

On November 8, Adams wrote: "The King of Great Britain, by a Commission under the great Seal of his Kingdom, has constituted Richard Oswald Esqr. his Commissioner to treat with the Ministers Plenipotentiary of the United States of America, and has given him full Powers which have been mutually exchanged. Thus G.B. has Shifted Suddenly about, and from persecuting Us with unrelenting Bowells, has unconditionally and unequivocally acknowledged Us a Sovereign State and independent Nation. It is surprizing that she should be the third Power to make this Acknowledgment. She has been negotiated into it, for Jay and I peremptorily refused to Speak or hear, before We were put upon an equal Foot. Franklin as usual would have taken the Advice of the C. [Comte] de V. [Vergennes] and treated, without, but nobody would join him.

On November 17, Jay wrote to Livingston back in Philadelphia: "These are critical times, and great necessity there is for prudence and secrecy." Jay warned that the French "are interested in separating us from Great Britain, and on that point we may, I believe depend upon them; but it is not their interest that we should become a great and formidable people, and therefore they will not help us to become so." Jay understood that America was a pawn between the great powers of Europe: "I think we have no rational dependence except on God and ourselves, not can I yet be persuaded that Great Britain has either wisdom, virtue or magnanimity enough to adopt a perfect and liberal system of conciliation. If they again thought they could conquer us, they would again attempt it."91

On November 21, Adams wrote Livingston about how British politics was affecting the course of the peace negotiations: "We live in critical moments. Parliament is to meet, and the King's speech will be delivered on the 26th. If the speech announces Mr. Oswald's commission, and the two houses, in their answers, thank him for issuing it, and there should be no change in the ministry, the prospect of peace will be flattering. Or, if there should be a change in the ministry, and the Duke of Portland, with Mr. Fox and Mr. Burke, should come in, it will be still more so. But if Richmond, Camden, Keppel, and Townshend should retire, and my Lord North and company come in, with or without the Earl of Shelburne, the appearances of peace will be very unpromising. My Lord North, indeed, cannot revoke the acknowledgment of our independence, and would not probably renounce the negociations for peace, but ill-will to us is so habitual to him and his master, that he would fall in earnestly with the wing-clipping system; join in attempts to deprive us of the fisheries and the Mississippi, and to fasten upon us the Tories, and in every other measure to cramp, stint, impoverish, and enfeeble us. Shelburne is not so orthodox as he should be, but North is a much greater heretic in American politics.

"It deserves much consideration what course we should take in case the old ministry should come in whole or in part. It is certain, at present, that to be obnoxious to the Americans and their ministers is a very formidable popular cry against any minister or candidate for the ministry in England, for the nation is more generally for recovering the good-will of the Americans than they ever have been. Nothing would strike such a blow to any ministry as to break off the negotiations for peace; if the old ministry come in, they will demand terms of us at first, probably, that we can never agree to. It is now eleven or twelve days since the last result of our conferences were laid before the ministry in London. Mr. Vaughan went off on Sunday noon, the 17th, so that he is no doubt before this time with my Lord Shelburne. He is possessed of an ample budget of arguments to convince his lordship that he ought to give up all the remaining points between us. Mr. Oswald's letters will suggest the same arguments in a different light, and Mr. Strachey, if he is disposed to do it, is able to enlarge upon them all in conversation. The fundamental point of the sovereignty of the United States being settled in England, the only question now is, whether they shall pursue a contracted or a liberal, a good-natured or an ill-natured plan towards us. If they are generous, and allow us all we ask, it will be the better for them; if stingy, the worst. That France don't wish them to be very noble to us may be true. But we should be dupes, indeed, if we did not make use of every argument with them to show them that it is their interest to be so, and they will be the greatest bubbles of all if they should suffer themselves to be derived by their passions, or by any arts, to adopt an opposite tenor of conduct."

Soon, the British negotiators received their new instructions. On November 25, Adams wrote in his diary: "Dr. F., Mr. J. and myself at 11 met at Mr. Oswalds Lodgings. Mr. Stratchey told Us, he had been to London and waited personally on every one of the Kings Cabinet Council, and had communicated the last Propositions to them. They every one of them, unanimously condemned that respecting the Tories, so that that unhappy Affair stuck as he foresaw and foretold that it would.

The Affair of the Fishery too was somewhat altered. They could not admit Us to dry, on the Shores of Nova Scotia, nor to fish within three Leagues of the Coast, nor within fifteen Leagues of the Coast of Cape Breton.

The Boundary they did not approve. They thought it too extended, too vast a Country, but they would not make a difficulty.

That if these Terms were not admitted, the whole Affair must be thrown into Parliament, where every Man would be for insisting on Restitution, to the Refugees.
He talked about excepting a few by Name of the most obnoxious of the Refugees."

The negotiations were coming to a close. The two important sticking points to the negotiations, noted Miller, were the fate of American Loyalists and American sovereignty over the vast American west. Franklin had hardened toward Britain – a fact perhaps influenced by his son William's loyalty to the country in which he had spent his teenage years. Benjamin Franklin was determined to show no favor to Tories like his son. The British also had toughened. Miller wrote: "Shelburne's good will toward the United States evaporated: in October 1782, the cabinet demanded that the United States renounce it its claims to all territory west of the Appalachians and surrender part of Maine, including Peobscot, to Great Britain. At the same time, the British seemed bent upon excluding Americans wholly from the Newfoundland and Nova Scotia fisheries."92 And John Adams was determined to retain rights to those fisheries for Massachusetts fishermen. He arrived in Paris in time to take up their cause.

Franklin showed a stubborn negotiating style. Historian Thomas Fleming wrote that "finally, just one thorny issue divided the antagonists: compensation for the colonial loyalists who had lost millions of dollars' worth of property to confiscation by the reel states, a concession the British were determined to exact. For a few days the conference teetered on the edge of dissolution. Franklin broke the impasse with a letter that he read aloud, which declared that the Americans would insist on a counterclaim for all the damages the British army and navy had inflicted since 1775." In the memo that Franklin read to Oswald, he said that "if a reconciliation was intended, no mention should be made in our negotiations of those people [Loyalists]; for they have done infinite mischief to our properties, by wantonly burning and destroying farm houses, villages, and towns, if compensation for their losses were insisted on, we should certainly exhibit against it an account of all the ravages they had committed, which would necessarily recall to view scenes of barbarity, that must inflame. Instead of conciliating, they tend to perpetuate an enmity that we all profess a desire of extinguishing."93 Fleming wrote that Franklin "listed burned towns such as Norfolk, Virginia, and Falmouth, Massachusetts, and reviewed the thousands of wrecked and looted houses in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and the southern states."94 Franklin concluded: "I must repeat my opinion, that it is best for you to drop all mention of the refugees. We have proposed indeed nothing but what We think best for you as well as ourselves. But if you will have them mentioned, let it be in an article which you may provide; that they shall exhibit accounts of their losses to commissioners, hereafter to be appointed, who should examine the same, together with the accounts how preparing in America, of the damages done by them, and state the account, and that if a balance appears in their favor, it shall be paid by us to you, and by you divided among them, as you shall think proper. And if the balance is found due to us, it shall be paid by you."95 Political scientist Jack Rakove wrote: "With the Americans adamant, the most Oswald and Strachey could gain was a weak concession that Congress would mere urge the states to allow loyalists to seek restitution of their property."96

On just one issue, Henry Laurens made his own unfortunate impact on the negotiations. Historian Gregory Massey noted: "On 12 November he received from John Adams a resolve from Congress that ordered all the commissioners to attend negotiations in Paris. In the same letter Adams transmitted the melancholy news of John's death" in battle. "Despite his anguish, Henry obeyed the call of duty and left London for Paris."97 Henry participated in the final day of negotiations. One of the difficulties with the peace treaty was determining the fate of black slaves who had escaped to British lines. Laurens, once a slave dealer and later briefly an advocate of slavery's abolition, insisted that American slaveowners be compensated. Historian Henry Wiencek wrote that Laurens "carried out one of the most abrupt turnabouts of policy one could imagine: the former advocate of liberating slaves inserted a clause in the treaty that compelled the British to hand over any slaves who had taken refuge with them, though the British had promised freedom to those refugees."98 Laurens insisted on writing into the draft treaty that British soldiers were prohibited from "carrying away any Negroes, or other property of the American inhabitants." Historian Ray Raphael noted that Britain's Oswald consented because like his erstwhile partner, he "believed in protecting the 'property' rights of slave owners."99 Jay biographer Walter Stahr wrote that "Jay would, within a few years, denounce this provision as immoral, at least as it applied to slaves who fled from American masters in response to British promises of freedom. But, now, perhaps in an effort to secure southern support for the treaty, Jay and the other two Americans agreed to the suggestion of Laurens," the only southerner among the commissioners.100

Political scientist Jack Rakove noted that the work of the diplomats was complicated by the network of spies in Paris – perhaps the "most effective" of which was Edward Bancroft, a scientist who was the Americans' secretary and the British government's mole.101 Biographer Thomas J. Schaeper wrote that Bancroft shared secrets with the British "through the latter half of 1782 and early 1783 and gave them oral reports....he let the British know the issues about which Americans were truly adamant and those on which they might be willing to compromise."102 It wasn't just the agents and spies in Paris that undermined the American position. France guarded its own interests, noted historian John C. Miller: "In September 1782, Vergennes sent his secretary, [Gerard de] Rayneval, upon a secret mission to London. In his conference with Shelburne, Rayneval deliberately arrayed France against American claims to the fisheries and to the Mississippi River boundary; on the other hand, he insisted upon the surrender of Gibraltar to Spain. After Rayneval had spread his cards upon the table, Shelburne might reasonably conclude, that, except for independence, he might write his own terms with the United States."103 In his discussions with the American commissioners, Vergennes pushed them repeatedly to concede rights to fishing and the Mississippi River. Clearly, he was not operating in America's best interests and the commissioners were right to suspect his motives.

In a draft preamble to the American-British treaty, Jay wrote: "Whereas reciprocal advantages and mutual convenience are found by experience to form the only permanent foundation of peace and friendship between states, it is agreed to frame the articles of the proposed treaty on such principles of liberal quality and reciprocity, as that partial advantages (those seeds of discord) being excluded, such a beneficial and satisfactory intercourse between the two countries may be established, as to promise and secure to both, the blessings of perpetual peace and harmony." Jay Biographer Walter Stahr wrote: "Jay's words were not only an explanation of this particular treaty, but a preview of the long and vital friendship between Britain and the United States."104

Historian Ray Raphael wrote that most problems between American and Britain were ironed about "by November 25, when the final round of British-American negotiations commenced at the lodgings of Richard Oswald, the lead British negotiator. But John Adams was not satisfied, nor were Oswald and his colleagues. For Adams, the issue was fishing rights in the North Atlantic; for British negotiators, the key item was compensation to loyalists whose estates had been confiscated."105 Alfred Owen Aldridge wrote that "on 29 November 1782 Oswald and the American commissioners signed preliminary articles, granting to America the western lands as well as rights to the Newfoundland fisheries. Franklin confided to his friend La Rouchefoucauld that the events of the day had made him happier than he had ever hoped to be at his age."106 On November 30, Adams wrote in his diary that "we met first at Mr. Jays, then at Mr. Oswalds, examined and compared the Treaties. Mr. Stratchey had left out the limitation of Time, the 12 Months, that the Refugees were allowed to reside in America, in order to recover their Estates if they could. Dr. Franklin said this was a Surprize upon Us. Mr. Jay said so too. We never had consented to leave it out, and they insisted upon putting it in, which was done. Mr. Laurens said there ought to be a Stipulation that the British Troops should carry off no Negroes or other American Property. We all agreed. Mr. Oswald consented. Then The Treaties were signed, sealed and delivered, and We all went out to Passy to dine with Dr. Franklin. Thus far has proceeded this great Affair."107 Under terms of the treaty:

  • War between America and Britain was ended.
  • British soldiers were required to evacuate from the territory of the United States, including their forts in the Northwest.
  • America's boundaries were set at the Mississippi River on the west and the forty-fifth parallel in the South. The Great Lakes in the North formed a natural boundary.
  • Americans were required to pay prewar obligations to British merchants.
  • State governments were supposed to make appropriate payments to British loyalists.
  • Americans obtained some fishing rights in the Atlantic ocean off Newfoundland.

The American negotiators were not without concerns about the treaty's reception back home. Richard B. Morris wrote: "After signing the preliminaries Laurens and Adams exchanged half-hearted jests about the possible hanging that awaited them at home. 'John Adams & Co. may be hanged be hanged, but no damage will arise to the United States.'"108

On December 5, Franklin summarized the results of the treaty negotiations in a letter to Livingston: "It is in vain for me to repeat again what I have so often written, and what I find taken so little notice of, that there are bounds to every thing, and that the faculties of this nation are limited like those of all other nations. Some of you seem to have established as maxims the suppositions, that France has money enough for all her occasions, and all ours besides; and that, if she does not supply us, it is owing to her want of will, or to my negligence. As to the first, I am sure it is not true; and to the second, I can only say I should rejoice as much as any man in being able to obtain more; and I shall also rejoice in the greater success of those who may take my place. You desire to be very particularly acquainted with 'every step which tends to negotiation.' I am, therefore, encouraged to send you the first part of the 'Journal,' which accidents, and a long, severe illness interrupted; but which, from notes I have by me, may be continued if thought proper. In its present state, it is hardly fit for the inspection of Congress, certainly not for public view. I confide it therefore to your prudence.

The arrival of Mr. Jay, Mr. Adams, and Mr. Laurens has relieved me from much anxiety, which must have continued, if I had been left to finish the treaty alone; and it has given me the more satisfaction, as I am sure the business has profited by their assistance.

Much of the summer has been taken up in objecting against the powers given by Great Britain, and in removing those objections, in... using any expressions, that might imply an acknowledgment of our independence, seemed at first industriously to be avowed. But our refusing otherwise to treat, at length induced them to get over that difficulty, and then we came to the point of making propositions. Those made by Mr. Jay and me before the arrival of the other gentlemen, you will find in the paper A, which was sent by the British plenipotentiary to London for the King's consideration. After some weeks, an under-secretary, Mr. Strachey, arrived, with whom we had much contestation about the boundaries and other articles, which he proposed and we settled; some of which he carried to London, and returned with the propositions, some adopted, others omitted or altered, and new ones added, which you will see in paper B. We spent many days in disputing, and at length agreed on and signed the preliminaries, which you will see by this conveyance. The British minister struggled hard for two points, that the favors granted to the loyalists should be extended, and all our fishery contracted. We silenced them on the first, by threatening to produce an account of the mischief done by those people; and as to the second, when they told us they could not possibly agree to it as we requested it, and must refer it to the ministry in London, we produced a new article to be referred at the same time, with a note of facts in support of it, which you have...109

America's problems with Britain were largely over. The problems with France were beginning. "By treating separately, Britain and the United States were each able to get most of what they wanted," noted historian Ray Raphael. "When Vergennes saw how his allies had made out, he exclaimed that British concessions 'exceed all that I could have thought possible.' Privately he grumbled, but he decided to play along rather than jeopardize the peace."110 The British-American agreement was only one part of the peace process. An agreement was also necessary between France and England. Historian Thomas Fleming wrote: "While brawling in Parliament with his enemies, First Minister Lord Shelburne was negotiating with France in an attempt to reach a peace treaty before Parliament's wrath at the generous terms he had given the Americans destroyed his administration. Looming over the talks as a threat of a different order was the combined French and Spanish armada being assembled at Cadiz, with its Lafayette-led army of twenty-five thousand men and plans to seize Jamaica and then attack the British army in America."111

Having dealt with Britain, the American negotiators had to deal with France – and to deal with what they had not yet told France. Historian Thomas Fleming wrote: "Not another word was heard from the Comte de Vergennes until December 15, when Franklin wrote him a delicate letter. The ambassador reported that an American ship, appropriately named Washington, was about to sail to the United States with a British passport; it would carry a copy of the treaty with Great Britain. Would it be possible for it to also carry the first installment on the 6-million-livre loan? 'I fear Congress will be reduced to despair when they find that nothing is yet obtained,' he wrote. This was an implied threat that an exhausted American might drop out of the war."112 Fleming wrote: "Vergennes fired of a furious letter denouncing the Americans' conduct as a betrayal of France.'"113 Vergennes replied to Franklin: "I cannot but be surprised, that, after the explanation I have had with you, and the promise you gave, that you would not press the application for an English passport for the sailing of the packet Washington, you now inform me, that you have received the passport, and that at ten o'clock to-morrow morning your courier will set out to carry your despatches. I am at a loss, Sir, to explain your conduct, and that of your colleagues on this occasion. You have concluded your preliminary articles without any communication between us, although the instructions from Congress prescribe, that nothing shall be done without the participation of the King. You are about to hold out a certain hope of peace to America, without even informing yourself on the state of the negotiation on our part."

You are wise and discreet, Sir; you perfectly understand what is due to propriety; you have all your life performed your duties. I pray you to consider how you propose to fulfil those, which are due to the King? I am not desirous of enlarging these reflections; I commit them to your own integrity. When you shall be pleased to relieve my uncertainty, I will entreat the King to enable me to answer your demands."114

Franklin responded diplomatically: "Nothing has been agreed in the preliminaries contrary to the interests of France; and no peace is to take place between us and England, till you have concluded yours. Your observation is, however, apparently just, that in not consulting you before they were signed, we have been guilty of neglecting a point of bienseance. But as this was not from want of respect for the king, whom we all love and honour, we hope it will be excused; and that the great work which has hitherto been so happily conducted, is so nearly brought to perfection, and is so glorious to his reign, will not be ruined by a single indiscretion of ours. And certainly the whole edifice sinks to the ground immediately, if you refuse on that account to give us any farther assistance."

We nave not yet despatched the ship, and I beg leave to wait upon you on Friday for your answer. It is not possible for any one to be more sensible than I am, of what I and every American owe to the king, for the many and great benefits and favours he has bestowed upon us. All my letters to America are proofs of this; all tending to make the same impressions on the minds of my countrymen, that I felt in my own. And I believe that no prince was ever more beloved and respected by his own subjects, than the king is by the people of the United States. The English, I just now learn, flatter themselves they have already divided us. I hope this little misunderstanding will therefore be kept a secret, and that they will find themselves totally mistaken.—With great and sincere respect, I am, sir, your excellency's most obedient and most humble servant,115

Soon thereafter in January 1783, the British government developed domestic political problems. Historian Thomas Fleming wrote: "As the details of the treaties swirled through London, Shelburne was attacked from all points of the political compass. The most violent protests came from the loyalists, led by William Franklin and other prominent refugees. They formed a committee and managed to wangle an appointment with the embattled first minister on February 6, 1783. But he was fighting for his political life and could do little for them."116 William Franklin biographer Sheila L. Skemp wrote that "Franklin and his fellow petitioners put 'their Case in the strongest light.' But Parliament was divided on the issue of loyalist compensation, and was reluctant to spend a great deal of money on the refugees."117 Fleming wrote: "By a vote of 207-190, the House of Commons voted to censure Shelburne for his peacemaking. The disgusted first minister resigned and told his few friends that the man behind his fall was George III."118

The American negotiators were more fortunate than Shelburne. The Continental Congress was officially informed of the terms of the Treaty of Paris when a ship arrived in Philadelphia with the draft treaty on March 12, 1783. Congressmen were initially angry that the American peace commissioners had ignored their instructions.119 As James Madison summarized the problem faced by Congress when it discovered that its commissioners had disobeyed their instruction: "The dilemma to which Congress are reduced is infinitely perplexing. If they abet the proceedings of their ministers, all confidence with France is at an end, which in the event of a renewal of the war must be dreadfull, as in that of peace it may be dishonorable. If they avow the conduct of their ministers by their usual frankness of communication, the most serious inconveniences also present themselves. The torment of this dilemma cannot be justly conveyed without a fuller recital of facts than is permitted."120

Congress approved the terms of the treaty on April 15. On September 3, 1783, the Treaty of Paris was finally signed by the warring parties at the Hotel d'York. Adams, Jay and Franklin signed for the Americans. A new representative, David Hartley, signed for the British. John Adams wrote back to a friend: "The third of September will be more remarkable for the signature of the definitive treaties, than for the battle of Naseby or Worcester, or the death of Oliver Cromwell. We could obtain no alteration from the provisional articles. We could obtain no explanation of the articles respecting the tories, nor any limitation respecting interest or execution for debts. I am however less anxious about these things than others.

Our first object is to secure the liberties of our citizens in the separate states. Our second, to maintain and strengthen the confederation. Our third, to purge the minds of our people of their fears, their diffidence of themselves, and admiration of strangers; and our fourth, to defend ourselves against the wiles of Europe. My apprehensions of the importance of our foreign affairs have been much increased by a residence of five or six years in Europe. I see so much enmity to the principle of our governments, to the parity of our morals, the simplicity of our manners, the honest integrity and sincerity of our hearts, to oar contentment with poverty, our love of labour, our affection for liberty and one country; 1 see so many proofs of their hatred of all this and of their dread of it, both as a dangerous example among their own corrupted, debauched subjects, and as a sure and certain source of power and grandeur; I see so many artifices practised to debase every body you send, or who comes to Europe; so many practised by them in America itself, hidden, covered up, disguised under all shapes; and I see they will ever have it in their power to practise so many of these arts, and to succeed to such a degree, that I am convinced no pains or expenses should be spared to defend ourselves."121

The Aftermath

All the three active American negotiators had played an important role in the success of the negotiations. All of the American diplomats served a purpose. Historian John Ferling wrote: "Adams believed that Jay had been the most important of the three American envoys, but he acknowledged that Franklin too had been 'very able' at the bargaining table."122 Jack Rakove wrote that "the critical fact about American diplomacy in Paris was that key decisions were taken by a few men who needed to consult no one but one another."123 Franklin had set the stage and established the relationships that made the treaty possible. Robert Middlekauff wrote: "By the time the discussions had led to an admirable treaty, even Adams had mastered his revulsion for Franklin and admitted that his tactics had led to a treaty that served America's interests far more than praise could acknowledge."124 Historian Edmund S. Morgan concluded: "The final treaty was simply the best that could be obtained from people who could not or would not recognize the larger realities."125

Historian Richard. B. Morris called the Treaty of Paris "one of the two most advantageous treaties ever negotiated for the United States.126 Morris wrote: "What was so remarkable about the achievements of the American commissioners was that where they compromised it was on inessentials and where they conceded it was to yield the trivial. From beginning to end they remained unswerving on the score of obtaining both absolute independence and a continental domain for thirteen littoral states. On the main objects of national survival they proved uncompromising. Because the American commissioners resolutely contended for the right of a sovereign people, to choose their own form of government and because they secured grudging recognition of that right from the Old Order, a free people is eternally in their debt.."127

For Adams, the war with Britain may have been concluded, but the war with Franklin was rekindled. Historian Robert Middlekaupf wrote: "As fighting ended in the Revolution, aggression revived in the heart of John Adams. Unable to forget, let alone forgive, his old enemy, he once more began to belittle him. One of the reasons for the resurgence of his bile was his concern about his own future."128 Adams was afraid that Franklin, rather than Adams, might be named as the U.S. minister to London. Franklin biographer Alfred Owen Aldridge wrote: "From the start, Adams sensed that he was overshadowed in public esteem by someone whom he considered no more deserving than himself."129 On April 13, Adams wrote a Massachusetts friend: "You will form but an imperfect Idea after all of the Difficulties We have had to encounter, without taking into Consideration another Character equally selfish and interested – equally vain and ambitious – more jealous and envious, and more false & deceitful, I mean Dr. Franklin." Venom spewed from Adams's pen as he wrote: " A Reputation so imposing in a Man of Artifice and Duplicity, of Ambition and Vanity, of Jealousy and Envy, is as real a Tyranny as that of the Grand Seignior. It is in vain to talk of Laws of Justice, of Right, of Truth, of Liberty, against the Authority of such a Reputation. It produces all the Servility of Adulation – all the Fear, all the Expectation & Dependence in common Minds, that is produced by the imposing Pomp of a Court and of Imperial Splendour. He has been very sensible of this,, & has taken Advantage of it."130

Despite what Adams called "the Laziness, Inactivity and real Insignificance of his advanced Age," Franklin saw what happening and made his feelings clear in letters to Robert R. Livingston, the American secretary of foreign affairs back in Philadelphia. Biographer Alfred Owen Aldridge wrote: "As early as March 1783, Franklin had begun to call Adams a 'certain malicious madman' because of his ungrateful ravings against France and its ministers. And in writing to Livingston in July about the divergence of his opinions from Adams's on the good will of France, he admitted that he was risking the creating of 'a mortal Enmity,' probably not aware that this enmity had already developed. He warned Livingston against believing Adams's insinuations against the French court and assured him that the examples of alleged ill will were as imaginary as Adams's fancies that Franklin and Vergennes were 'continually plotting against him, and employing the News-Writers of Europe to depreciate his Character.'"131

Adams unleashed his pen against Franklin in a letter to Livingston on May 25, 1783, describing Franklin as "this unintelligible Politician." Adams tore down the French leadership and tore down Franklin's relationship to the French: "You may be told, they have Confidence in Dr. Franklin – It is not true," Adams had written to Livingston in March. "They never did, from first to last, consult with him or communicate any thing to him, more than to any other Minister, excepting in little Commerce & less Intrigues, to keep one in and get another out – And this for no other Reason, but because he was always easy, quiet, never advising any thing, never asking anything, doing always as they would have him – Their System has been to get your Confidence, & reserve their own – the constant Resource of Cunning without Wisdom."132

Franklin continued to preserve his equanimity. On July 22, 1783, Franklin wrote Livingston: "You have complain'd with reason, of not hearing from your foreign Ministers; we have had cause to make the same Complaint, six full Months having interven'd between the latest date of your preceding Letters and the receipt of those by Captain Barney. During all this time we were ignorant of the Reception of the Provisional Treaty, and the Sentiments of Congress upon it, which, if we had received sooner, might have forwarded the Proceedings on the Definitive Treaty, and, perhaps, brought them to a Conclusion at a time more favourable than the present. But these occasional Interruptions of Correspondence are the inevitable Consequences of a State of War, and of such remote Situations. Barney had a short Passage, and arrived some Days before Colonel Ogden, who also brought Dispatches from you, all of which are come safe to hand. We, the Commissioners, have in our joint Capacity written a Letter to you, which you will receive with this."

I will only add, that, with respect to myself, neither the Letter from M. Marbois,2 handed us thro' the British Negociators (a suspicious Channel), nor the Conversations respecting the Fishery, the Boundaries, the Royalists, &c., recommending Moderation in our Demands, are of Weight sufficient in my Mind to fix an Opinion, that this Court wish'd to restrain us in obtaining any Degree of Advantage we could prevail on our Enemies to accord; since those Discourses are fairly resolvable, by supposing a very natural Apprehension, that we, relying too much on the Ability of France to continue the War in our favour, and supply us constantly with Money, might insist on more Advantages than the English would be willing to grant, and thereby lose the Opportunity of making Peace, so necessary to all our Friends.

I ought not, however, to conceal from you, that one of my Colleagues is of a very different Opinion from me in these Matters. He thinks the French Minister one of the greatest Enemies of our Country, that he would have straitened our Boundaries, to prevent the Growth of our People; contracted our Fishery, to obstruct the Increase of our Seamen; and retained the Royalists among us, to keep us divided; that he privately opposes all our Negociations with foreign Courts, and afforded us, during the War, the Assistance we receiv'd, only to keep it alive, that we might be so much the more weaken'd by it; that to think of Gratitude to France is the greatest of Follies, and that to be influenc'd by it would ruin us. He makes no Secret of his having these Opinions, expresses them publicly, sometimes in presence of the English Ministers, and speaks of hundreds of Instances which he could produce in Proof of them. None of which however, have yet appear'd to me, unless the Conversations and Letter above-mentioned are reckoned such.133

On July 27, 1783, Franklin wrote Joseph Banks: "I join with you most cordially in rejoicing at the return of peace. I hope it will be lasting, and that mankind will at length, as they call themselves reasonable creatures, have reason and sense enough to settle their differences without cutting throats; for, in my opinion, there never was a good war, or a bad peace. What vast additions to the conveniences and comforts of living might mankind have acquired, if the money spent in wars had been employed in works of public utility! What an extension of agriculture, even to the tops of our mountains; what rivers rendered navigable, or joined by canals; what bridges, aqueducts, new roads, and other public works, edifices, and improvements, rendering England a complete paradise, might have been obtained by spending those millions in doing good, which in the last war have been spent in doing mischief; in bringing misery into thousands of families, and destroying the lives of so many thousands of working people, who might have performed the useful labor!"134

In the summer of 1783, Franklin receiving a warning from a Boston minster that New England was aflame with harsh criticism of Franklin's behavior in the negotiations, specifically his supposed subservience of the French. The Rev. Samuel Cooper wrote that rumors were circulating that in Boston: "It is confidently reported, propagated, and believed by some among us, that the Court of France was at the bottom against our obtaining the fishery and territory in that great extent, in which both are secured to us by the treaty; that our minister at that court favored, or did not oppose, this design against us; and that it was entirely owing to the firmness, sagacity, and disinterestedness of Mr. Adams, with whom Mr. Jay united, that we have obtained these important advantages." Franklin wrote his fellow commissioners, asking for their assistance to combat this interpretation of their work:

It is not my purpose to dispute any share of the honor of that treaty, which the friends of my colleagues may be disposed to give them; but, having now spent fifty years of my life in public offices and trusts, and having still one ambition left, that of carrying the character of fidelity at least to the grave with me, I cannot allow that I was behind any of them in zeal and faithfulness. I therefore think, that I ought not to suffer an accusation, which falls little short of treason to my country, to pass without notice, when the means of effectual vindication are at hand. You, Sir, were a witness of my conduct in that affair. To you and my other colleagues I appeal, by sending to each a similar letter with this, and I have no doubt of your readiness to do a brother Commissioner justice, by certificates that will entirely destroy the effect of that accusation.135 Jay immediately testified to Franklin's behavior throughout the negotiations. Adams was more grudging in his comments that the senior negotiator was "able and useful."136 It was such mistrust that had handicapped the American negotiations from the start.

Franklin wrote about Adams's attacks in a letter to Philadelphia financier Robert Morris in December 1783: "My Apprehension, that the Union between France and our States might be diminished by Accounts from hence, was occasioned by the extravagant and violent Language held here by a Public Person, in public company, which had that Tendency; and it was natural for me to think his Letters might hold the same Language, in which I was right; for I have since had Letters from Boston informing me of it. Luckily here, and I hope there, it is imputed to the true Cause, a Disorder in the Brain, which, thought not constant, has its Fits too frequent."137 Franklin biographer Alfred Owen Aldridge wrote: "By the time that Adams again took up residence in Paris, late in August 1784, however, he and Franklin once more lived in terms of open cordiality and frequently dined together. Perhaps harmony prevailed because the task of negotiating commercial treaties was easier on the nerves than the manifold cares of wartime or because Jefferson, who had finally joined his fellow commissioners, exercised a moderating influence. Adams acknowledged with surprise that 'The Dr. is very gracious, never so much so since he was born, at least since I knew him.'"138

Adams was particularly complimentary of Jay's role in negotiations, writing in his diary that Jay should be considered the "Washington of the negotiation..."139 Jay biographer Walter Stahr wrote: "Whatever tactical errors Jay made during the Paris peace negotiations should not obscure his great achievements. He secured the trust and admiration of the British negotiators, making them in many cases effective internal advocates for the American position. He bridged the differences between Franklin and Adams, enabling the three Americans to function as an effective team. He prepared the first and second drafts of the treaty, and many of the revisions thereafter, without the benefit of a file of precedents from which to work. Jay and his colleagues secured for the future United States an immense territory, whose boundaries formed the basis of the present outline of the United States. Above all, although there would be one more unfortunate war, Jay helped lay the 'permanent foundation' he envisaged for 'peace and friendship' between Britain and America.."140

After eight years of war, America had won the War for Independence. Robert Middlekauff wrote: "The celebrations in America greeting the news often included a long series of toasts. Americans lifted their glasses to the 'United States,' 'Congress,' the "American Army,' 'General Washington,' the 'memory of the heroes who died in war,' the 'Peace Commissioners,' 'Louis XVI,' 'Rochambeau,' and other son a list that must have drained bottles and barrels by the score."141 Most of the American army had already by demobilized in the spring of 1783. In the fall of 1783, the British troops prepared to depart from New York. Washington and his vestigial army prepared to enter the liberated city. On May 13, 1784, Franklin wrote: "Yesterday evening Mr. Hartley met with Mr. Jay and myself when the ratifications of the definitive Treaty were exchanged...Thus the great and hazardous enterprise we have been engaged in, is, God be praised, happily completed; an event I hardly expected I should live to see. A few years of peace, well improved, will restore and increase our strength; but our future safety will depend on our union and our virtue. Britain will be long watching for advantages, to recover what she has lost . If we do not convince the world, that we are a nation to be depended on for fidelity in treaties; if we appear negligent in paying our debts, and ungrateful to those who have served and befriended us; our reputation, and all the strength it is capable of procuring, will be lost, and fresh attacks upon us will be encouraged and promoted by better prospects of success. Let us therefore beware of being lulled into a dangerous security; and of being both enervated and impoverished by luxury; of being weakened by internal contentions and divisions; of being shamefully extravagant in contracting private debts, while we are backward in discharging honorably those of the public; of neglect in military exercises and discipline, and in providing stores of arms and munitions of war, to be ready on occasion; for all these are circumstances that give confidence to enemies, and diffidence to friends; and the expenses required to prevent a war are much lighter than those that will, if not prevented, be absolutely necessary to maintain it."142

The Treaty of Paris had ended the war. It did not guarantee the peace. In their history of the United States, Samuel Eliot Morison, Henry Steele Commager and William E. Leuchtenburg wrote: "The Treaty of Paris satisfied neither England nor the United States, and its terms provoked future quarrels. Boundary disputes, arising from loose wording and the ignorance of geography on the part of the negotiators, were postponed to a later generation."143 Appointed America's foreign secretary on his return to the United States, John Jay would have particular responsibility for implementation of the treaty. John Adams went on to be appointed to his desired position as American ambassador in London. Henry Laurens went home to rebuild his devastated estates. An aging and aching Benjamin Franklin went home to bask in his country's adulation.

A decade after the Treaty of Paris was concluded, John Jay, by then chief justice of the Supreme Court, was sent to London to conclude a new treaty – in part to deal with problems from the Treaty of Paris. Under pressure from the Canadian fur industry, for example, the British had not evacuated their seven forts along the border. Jay was a logical choice as negotiator since he was thoroughly familiar with the problems – both as a negotiator in Paris and as foreign secretary under the Articles of Confederation. By then, Jay knew that negotiators of treaties were often without honor – as Franklin had predicted.

  1. Winston Churchill, The Great Republic, p. 87.
  2. John Patrick Diggins, John Patrick Diggins, p. 33.
  3. Thomas Fleming, The Perils of Peace, p. 229.
  4. Robert H. Ferrell, American Diplomacy,. P. 42.
  5. Jack Rakove, Revolutionaries: A New History of the Invention of America, p. 267.
  6. Ray Raphael, Founders, p. 399.
  7. Thomas E. Chávez, Spain and the Independence of the United States: An Intrinsic Gift, p. 209.
  8. (Letter from James Madison to Thomas Jefferson, February 11, 1783).
  9. Bernard Bailyn, To Begin the World Anew, p. 64.
  10. Jack Rakove, Revolutionaries: A New History of the Invention of America, p. 251.
  11. John C. Miller, Triumph of Freedom, p. 573.
  12. (Letter from Jonathan Sewall to Judge Lee, September 21, 1787).
  13. Alfred Owen Aldridge, Benjamin Franklin: Philosopher and Man, p. 317.
  14. Carl Van Doren, Benjamin Franklin, p. 699.
  15. Alfred Owen Aldridge, Benjamin Franklin: Philosopher and Man, p. 315.
  16. Richard B. Morris, The Peacemakers, p. 248.
  17. Bernard Bailyn, To Begin the World Anew, pp. 65-66.
  18. (Letter from John Adams to James Warren, December 12, 1788).
  19. (Letter from John Adams to Thomas McKean, September 20, 1779).
  20. Jack Rakove, Revolutionaries: A New History of the Invention of America, p. 271.
  21. Jack Rakove, Revolutionaries: A New History of the Invention of America, p. 263.
  22. John Ferling, Almost a Miracle, p. 115.
  23. John C. Miller, Triumph of Freedom, p. 577
  24. John C. Miller, Triumph of Freedom, p. 579.
  25. Robert H. Ferrell American Diplomacy, p. 43.
  26. Henry Steele Commager and Richard B. Morris, editor, the Spirit of 'Seventy-six: the Story of the American Revolution as Told by Participants, pp. 1250-1251.
  27. Edmund S. Morgan, The Meaning of Independence, p. 21.
  28. Alfred Owen Aldridge, Benjamin Franklin: Philosopher and Man, p. 322.
  29. John C. Miller, Triumph of Freedom, p. 565-568.
  30. Jack Rakove, Revolutionaries: A New History of the Invention of America, p. 287.
  31. Robert H. Ferrell, American Diplomacy, p. 43.
  32. James Srodes, Franklin: The Essential Founding Father, p. 31.
  33. Stacy Schiff, A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France and the Birth of America, p. 315.
  34. Thomas Fleming, The Perils of Peace, p. 229.
  35. Henry Steele Commager and Richard B. Morris, editor, the Spirit of 'Seventy-six: the Story of the American Revolution as Told by Participants, p. 1264 (Letter from John Adams to Robert R. Livingston, October 31, 1782).
  36. Stacy Schiff, A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France and the Birth of America, p. 331 (Letter from Benjamin Franklin to Henry Laurens, March 20, 1783).
  37. Alfred Owen Aldridge, Benjamin Franklin: Philosopher and Man, p. 354.
  38. David McCullough, John Adams, p. 275.
  39. David McCullough, John Adams, p. 275.
  40. Richard B..Morris, The Peacemakers, p. 297.
  41. Walter Stahr, John Jay, p. 149.
  42. Walter Stahr, John Jay, Founding Father, pp. 185-186.
  43. Thomas Fleming, The Perils of Peace, p. 218.
  44. Walter Stahr, John Jay, Founding Father, p. 176.
  45. John Ferling, John Adams: A Life, p. 245.
  46. Stacy Schiff, A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France and the Birth of America, p. 308.
  47. Esmond Wright, Franklin of Philadelphia, p. 308.
  48. Verner W. Crane, Benjamin Franklin and a Rising People, p. 187.
  49. Henry Steele Commager and Richard B. Morris, editor, the Spirit of 'Seventy-six: the Story of the American Revolution as Told by Participants, p. 1252 (Letter from John Jay to Thomas McKean, September 20, 1781)
  50. Richard B. Morris, The Peacemakers, p. 516.
  51. Ray Raphael, Founders, p. 399 (Letter from Henry Laurens to John Adams, November 12, 1782).
  52. Jack Rackove noted: "Lauren would play only a cameo role in [the Paris] negotiations, but his confinement in the Tower had at least one other notable effect: it freed John Adams to shift his own base of operations from Paris to Holland, and thus to escape the unique purgatory he would have felt had he remained in the French capital and continued to work in Doctor Franklin's shadow." Jack Rakove, Revolutionaries: A New History of the Invention of America, p. 246.
  53. Robert Middlekauff, The Glorious Cause: the American Revolution, 1763-1789, p. 573.
  54. Jack Rakove, Revolutionaries: A New History of the Invention of America, pp. 246-247.
  55. Ray Raphael, Founders, p. 400.
  56. (Letter from John Adams to John Jay, August 13, 1782).
  57. Jack Rakove, Revolutionaries: A New History of the Invention of America, p. 259.
  58. Robert H. Ferrell, American Diplomacy, p. 45.
  59. James Srodes: Franklin: The Essential Founding Father, p. 361
  60. Henry Steele Commager and Richard B. Morris, editor, the Spirit of 'Seventy-six: the Story of the American Revolution as Told by Participants, p. 1262 (Letter from Richard Oswald to Lord Shelburne, July 12, 1782).
  61. Richard Kluger, Seizing Destiny: How America Grew from Sea to Shining Sea, p. 141.
  62. John C. Miller, Triumph of Freedom, p. 634
  63. John Ferling, John Adams: A Life, p. 245.
  64. Jack Rakove, Revolutionaries: A New History of the Invention of America, p. 275.
  65. Robert Middlekauff, The Glorious Cause: the American Revolution, 1763-1789, p. 573.
  66. John C. Miller, Triumph of Freedom, p. 635.
  67. Edmund S. Morgan, Benjamin Franklin, p. 285.
  68. Walter Stahr, John Jay, Founding Father, pp. 172-173.
  69. Page Talbott, Benjamin Franklin: In Search of a Better World, editor, p. 227 (Robert Middlekauff, "Benjamin Franklin, Pragmatic Visionary: Politician, Diplomat, Statesman").
  70. Henry Steele Commager and Richard B. Morris, editor, the Spirit of 'Seventy-six: the Story of the American Revolution as Told by Participants, p. 1257-1258 (Letter from Benjamin Franklin to Lord Shelburne, April 18, 1782).
  71. Jonathan R. Dull, Franklin the Diplomat: The French Mission, p. 55.
  72. (Memorandum to Richard Oswald, April 28, 1782.
  73. Richard Kluger, Seizing Destiny: How America Grew from Sea to Shining Sea, p. 145.
  74. Verner W. Crane, Benjamin Franklin and a Rising People, p. 187.
  75. John Ferling, John Adams: A Life, p. 245.
  76. Richard B. Morris, Peace and the Peacemakers, p. 90.
  77. (Letter from Richard Oswald to Lord Shelburne, July 12, 1782).
  78. Richard B. Morris, The Peacemakers, p. 351.
  79. (Letter from John Jay to Gouverneur Morris, October 13, 1782).
  80. Jack Rakove, Revolutionaries: A New History of the Invention of America, p. 277.
  81. Robert Middlekauff, The Glorious Cause: the American Revolution, 1763-1789, pp. 573-574.
  82. John Ferling, John Adams: A Life, p. 245.
  83. Richard B. Morris, The Peacemakers, p. 308.
  84. Jack Rakove, Revolutionaries: A New History of the Invention of America, pp. 285, 287.
  85. Thomas Fleming, The Perils of Peace, p. 230.
  86. James Srodes, Franklin: The Essential Founding Father, p. 362.
  87. Esmond Wright, Franklin of Philadelphia, p. 310.
  88. Thomas Fleming, The Perils of Peace, p. 231.
  89. John C. Miller, Triumph of Freedom, p. 641.
  90. Robert Middlekauf, Benjamin Franklin and His Enemies, p. 197
  91. (Letter from John Jay to Robert R. Livingston, November 17, 1782).
  92. John C. Miller, Triumph of Freedom, p. 637.
  93. (Memo from Benjamin Franklin to Sir Richard Oswald, November 26, 1782).
  94. Thomas Fleming, "Franklin Saves the Peace," American Heritage, Winter 2010, pp. 37-38.
  95. CHECk
  96. Jack Rakove, Revolutionaries: A New History of the Invention of America, p. 283.
  97. Gregory D. Massey, John Laurens and the American Revolution, p. 231.
  98. Henry Wiencek, An Imperfect: George Washington, His Slaves and the Creation of America, p. 254.
  99. Ray Raphael, Founders, p. 402.
  100. Walter Stahr, John Jay, p. 171.
  101. Jack Rakove, Revolutionaries: A New History of the Invention of America, p. 249.
  102. Thomas J. Schaeper, Edward Bancroft, p. 167.
  103. John C. Miller, Triumph of Freedom, p. 630.
  104. Walter Stahr, John Jay, p. 159-160
  105. Ray Raphael, Founders, p. 401.
  106. Alfred Owen Aldridge, Benjamin Franklin: Philosopher and Man, p. 338.
  107. (Letter from John Adams to Abigail Adams, November 30, 1782).
  108. Richard B. Morris, Peacemakers, p. 439.
  109. (Letter from Benjamin Franklin to Robert R. Livingston, December 5, 1782).
  110. Ray Raphael, Founders: the People Who Brought You a Nation, p. 401.
  111. Thomas Fleming, The Perils of Peace: America's Struggle for Survival After Yorktown, p. 243.
  112. Thomas Fleming, The Perils of Peace: America's Struggle for Survival After Yorktown, p. 238.
  113. Thomas Fleming, "Franklin Saves the Peace," American Heritage, Winter 2010, p. 38.
  114. (Letter from Benjamin Franklin to Comte de Vergennes, December 15, 1782).
  115. (Letter from Benjamin Franklin to the Comte de Vergennes, December 17, 1782).
  116. Thomas Fleming, The Perils of Peace: America's Struggle for Survival After Yorktown, p. 247.
  117. Sheila L. Skemp, William Franklin, p. 268.
  118. Thomas Fleming, The Perils of Peace: America's Struggle for Survival After Yorktown, p. 249.
  119. Thomas Fleming, The Perils of Peace, p. 275.
  120. Edmund Cody Burnett, The Continental Congress, p. 565 (Letter from James Madison to Edmund Randolph, March 18, 1783).
  121. (Letter from John Adams to Elbridge Gerry, September 3, 1783).
  122. John Ferling, John Adams: A Life, p. 254.
  123. Jack Rakove, Revolutionaries: A New History of the Invention of America, p. 250.
  124. Page Talbott, Benjamin Franklin: In Search of a Better World, editor, p. CHECK (Robert Middlekauff, "Benjamin Franklin, Pragmatic Visionary: Politician, Diplomat, Statesman").
  125. Edmund S. Morgan, Benjamin Franklin, pp. 276-277.
  126. Richard Brandon Morris, The Peacemakers, p. 438.
  127. Richard Brandon Morris, The Peacemakers, p. 459.
  128. Robert Middlekauff, Benjamin Franklin and His Enemies, p. 198.
  129. Alfred Owen Aldridge, Benjamin Franklin: Philosopher and Man, p. 354.
  130. (Letter from John Adams to James Warren, April 13, 1783).
  131. Alfred Owen Alridge, Benjamin Franklin: Philosopher and Man, p. CHECK
  132. (Letter from John Adams to Robert Livingston, May 25, 1783).
  133. (Letter from Benjamin Franklin to Robert Livingston, July 22, 1783).
  134. (Letter from Benjamin Franklin to Joseph Banks, July 27, 1783).
  135. (Letter from Benjamin Franklin to John Adams and John Jay, September 10, 1783).
  136. Thomas Fleming, The Perils of Peace, p. 295.
  137. (Letter from Benjamin Franklin to Robert Morris, December 25, 1783).
  138. Alfred Owen Aldridge, Benjamin Franklin: Philosopher and Man, p. 361.
  139. Walter Stahr, John Jay, Founding Father, p. 172.
  140. Walter Stahr, John Jay, Founding Father, p. 174.
  141. Robert Middlekauff, The Glorious Cause: the American Revolution, 1763-1789, p. 575.
  142. (Letter from Benjamin Franklin to Charles Thomson, May 13, 1784).
  143. Samuel Eliot Morison, Henry Steele Commager and William E. Leuchtenburg, editors, The Growth of the American Republic, Volume I, p. 233.

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