Read CHAPTER IX - LOUIS XVI-FRANCE ABROAD-UNITED STATES’ WAR OF INDEPENDENCE. 1775-1783. of A Popular History of France From The Earliest Times Volume VI., free online book, by Francois Pierre Guillaume Guizot, on

“Two things, great and difficult as they may be, are a man’s duty and may establish his fame.  To support misfortune and be sturdily resigned to it; to believe in the good and trust in it perseveringly. [M.  Guizot, Washington].

“There is a sight as fine and not less salutary than that of a virtuous man at grips with adversity; it is the sight of a virtuous man at the head of a good cause and securing its triumph.

“If ever cause were just and had a right to success, it was that of the English colonies which rose in insurrection to become the United States of America.  Opposition, in their case, preceded insurrection.

“Their opposition was founded on historic right and on facts, on rational right and on ideas.

“It is to the honor of England that she had deposited in the cradle of her colonies the germ of their liberty; almost all, at their foundation, received charters which conferred upon the colonists the franchises of the mother-country.

“At the same time with legal rights, the colonists had creeds.  It was not only as Englishmen, but as Christians, that they wanted to be free, and they had their faith even more at heart than their charters.  Their rights would not have disappeared, even had they lacked their charters.  By the mere impulse of their souls, with the assistance of divine grace, they would have derived them from a sublimer source and one inaccessible to human power, for they cherished feelings that soared beyond even the institutions of which they showed themselves to be so jealous.

“Such, in the English colonies, was the happy condition of man and of society, when England, by an arrogant piece of aggression, attempted to dispose, without their consent, of their fortunes and their destiny.”

The uneasiness in the relations between the mother-country and the colonies was of old date; and the danger which England ran of seeing her great settlements beyond the sea separating from her had for some time past struck the more clear-sighted.  “Colonies are like fruits which remain on the tree only until they are ripe,” said M. Turgot in 1750; “when they have become self-sufficing, they do as Carthage did, as America will one day do.”  It was in the war between England and France for the possession of Canada that the Americans made the first trial of their strength.

Alliance was concluded between the different colonies; Virginia marched in tune with Massachusetts; the pride of a new power, young and already victorious, animated the troops which marched to the conquest of Canada.  “If we manage to remove from Canada these turbulent Gauls,” exclaimed John Adams, “our territory, in a century, will be more populous than England herself.  Then all Europe will be powerless to subjugate us.”  “I am astounded,” said the Duke of Choiseul to the English negotiator who arrived at Paris in 1761, “I am astounded that your great Pitt should attach so much importance to the acquisition of Canada, a territory too scantily peopled to ever become dangerous for you, and one which, in our hands, would serve to keep your colonies in a state of dependence from which they will not fail to free themselves the moment Canada is ceded to you.”  A pamphlet attributed to Burke proposed to leave Canada to France with the avowed aim of maintaining on the border of the American provinces an object of anxiety and an everthreatening enemy.

America protested its loyalty and rejected with indignation all idea of separation.  “It is said that the development of the strength of the colonies may render them more dangerous and bring them to declare their independence,” wrote Franklin in 1760; “such fears are chimerical.  So many causes are against their union, that I do not hesitate to declare it not only improbable but impossible; I say impossible ­without the most provoking tyranny and oppression.  As long as the government is mild and just, as long as there is security for civil and religious interests, the Americans will be respectful and submissive subjects.  The waves only rise when the wind blows.”

In England, many distinguished minds doubted whether the government of the mother-country would manage to preserve the discretion and moderation claimed by Franklin.  “Notwithstanding all you say of your loyalty, you Americans,” observed Lord Camden to Franklin himself, “I know that some day you will shake off the ties which unite you to us, and you will raise the standard of independence.”  “No such idea exists or will enter into the heads of the Americans,” answered Franklin, “unless you maltreat them quite scandalously.”  “That is true,” rejoined the other, “and it is exactly one of the causes which I foresee, and which will bring on the event.”

The Seven Years’ War was ended, shamefully and sadly for France; M. de Choiseul, who had concluded peace with regret and a bitter pang, was ardently pursuing every means of taking his revenge.  To foment disturbances between England and her colonies appeared to him an efficacious and a natural way of gratifying his feelings.  “There is great difficulty in governing States in the days in which we live,” he wrote to M. Durand, at that time French minister in London; “still greater difficulty in governing those of America; and the difficulty approaches impossibility as regards those of Asia.  I am very much astonished that England, which is but a very small spot in Europe, should hold dominion over more than a third of America, and that her dominion should have no other object but that of trade. . . .  As long as the vast American possessions contribute no subsidies for the support of the mother-country, private persons in England will still grow rich for some time on the trade with America, but the State will be undone for want of means to keep together a too extended power; if, on the contrary, England proposes to establish imposts in her American domains, when they are more extensive and perhaps more populous than the mother-country, when they have fishing, woods, navigation, corn, iron, they will easily part asunder from her, without any fear of chastisement, for England could not undertake a war against them to chastise them.”  He encouraged his agents to keep him informed as to the state of feeling in America, welcoming and studying all projects, even the most fantastic, that might be hostile to England.

When M. de Choiseul was thus writing to M. Durand, the English government had already justified the fears of its wisest and most sagacious friends.  On the 7th of March, 1765, after a short and unimportant debate, Parliament, on the motion of Mr. George Grenville, then first lord of the treasury, had extended to the American colonies the stamp-tax everywhere in force in England.  The proposal had been brought forward in the preceding year, but the protests of the colonists had for some time retarded its discussion.  “The Americans are an ungrateful people,” said Townshend; “they are children settled in life by our care and nurtured by our indulgence.”  Pitt was absent.  Colonel Barre rose:  “Settled by your care!” he exclaimed; “nay, it was your oppression which drove them to America; to escape from your tyranny, they exposed themselves in the desert to all the ills that human nature can endure!  Nurtured by your indulgence!  Nay, they have grown by reason of your indifference; and do not forget that these people, loyal as they are, are as jealous as they were at the first of their liberties, and remain animated by the same spirit that caused the exile of their ancestors.”  This was the only protest.  “Nobody voted on the other side in the House of Lords,” said George Grenville at a later period.

In America the effect was terrible and the dismay profound.  The Virginia House was in session; nobody dared to speak against a measure which struck at all the privileges of the colonies and went to the hearts of the loyal gentlemen still passionately attached to the mother-country.  A young barrister, Patrick Henry, hardly known hitherto, rose at last, and in an unsteady voice said, “I propose to the vote of the Assembly the following resolutions:  ’Only the general Assembly of this colony has the right and power to impose taxes on the inhabitants of this colony; every attempt to invest with this power any person or body whatever other than the said general Assembly has a manifest tendency to destroy at one and the same time British and American liberties.’” Then becoming more and more animated and rising to eloquence by sheer force of passion:  “Tarquin and Cæsar,” he exclaimed, “had each their Brutus; Charles I. had his Cromwell, and George III. . . .”  “Treason! treason!” was shouted on all sides . . . “will doubtless profit by their example,” continued Patrick Henry proudly, without allowing himself to be moved by the wrath of the government’s friends.  His resolutions were voted by 20 to 19.

The excitement in America was communicated to England; it served the political purposes and passions of Mr. Pitt; he boldly proposed in the House of Commons the repeal of the stamp-tax.  “The colonists,” he said, “are subjects of this realm, having, like yourselves, a title to the special privileges of Englishmen; they are bound by the English laws, and, in the same measure as yourselves, have a right to the liberties of this country.  The Americans are the sons and not the bastards of England. . . .  When in this House we grant subsidies to his Majesty, we dispose of that which is our own; but the Americans are not represented here:  when we impose a tax upon them, what is it we do?  We, the Commons of England, give what to his Majesty!  Our own personal property?  No; we give away the property of the Commons of America.  There is absurdity in the very terms.”

The bill was repealed, and agitation was calmed for a while in America.  But ere long, Mr. Pitt resumed office under the title of Lord Chatham, and with office he adopted other views as to the taxes to be imposed; in vain he sought to disguise them under the form of custom-house duties; the taxes on tea, glass, paper, excited in America the same indignation as the stamp-tax.  Resistance was everywhere organized.

“Between 1767 and 1771 patriotic leagues were everywhere formed against the consumption of English merchandise and the exportation of American produce; all exchange ceased between the mother-country and the colonies.  To extinguish the source of England’s riches in America, and to force her to open her eyes to her madness, the colonists shrank from no privation and no sacrifice:  luxury had vanished, rich and poor welcomed ruin rather than give up their political rights” [M.  Cornelis de Witt, Histoire de Washington].  “I expect nothing more from petitions to the king,” said Washington, already one of the most steadfast champions of American liberties, “and I would oppose them if they were calculated to suspend the execution of the pact of non-importation.  As sure as I live, there is no relief to be expected for us but from the straits of Great Britain.  I believe, or at least I hope, that there is enough public virtue still remaining among us to make us deny ourselves everything but the bare necessaries of life in order to obtain justice.  This we have a right to do, and no power on earth can force us to a change of conduct short of being reduced to the most abject slavery. . . .”  He added, in a spirit of strict justice:  “As to the pact of non-exportation, that is another thing; I confess that I have doubts of its being legitimate.  We owe considerable sums to Great Britain; we can only pay them with our produce.  To have a right to accuse others of injustice, we must be just ourselves; and how can we be so if we refuse to pay our debts to Great Britain?  That is what I cannot make out.”

The opposition was as yet within the law, and the national effort was as orderly as it was impassioned.  “There is agitation, there are meetings, there is mutual encouragement to the struggle, the provinces concert opposition together, the wrath against Great Britain grows and the abyss begins to yawn; but such are the habits of order among this people, that, in the midst of this immense ferment among the nation, it is scarcely possible to pick out even a few acts of violence here and there; up to the day when the uprising becomes general, the government of George III. can scarcely find, even in the great centres of opposition, such as Boston, any specious pretexts for its own violence” [M.  Cornelis de Witt, Histoire de Washington].  The declaration of independence was by this time becoming inevitable when Washington and Jefferson were still writing in this strain: 

Washington to Capt.  Mackenzie.

“You are taught to believe that the people of Massachusetts are a people of rebels in revolt for independence, and what not.  Permit me to tell you, my good friend, that you are mistaken, grossly mistaken. . . .  I can testify, as a fact, that independence is neither the wish nor the interest of this colony or of any other on the continent, separately or collectively.  But at the same time you may rely upon it that none of them will ever submit to the loss of those privileges, of those precious rights which are essential to the happiness of every free State, and without which liberty, property, life itself, are devoid of any security.”

Jefferson to Mr. Randolph.

“Believe me, my dear sir, there is not in the whole British empire a man who cherishes more cordially than I do the union with Great Britain.  But, by the God who made me, I would cease to live rather than accept that union on the terms proposed by Parliament.  We lack neither motives nor power to declare and maintain our separation.  It is the will alone that we lack, and that is growing little by little under the hand of our king.”

It was indeed growing.  Lord Chatham had been but a short time in office; Lord North, on becoming prime minister, zealously promoted the desires of George III. in Parliament and throughout the country.  The opposition, headed by Lord Chatham, protested in the name of the eternal principles of justice and liberty against the measures adopted towards the colonies.  “Liberty,” said Lord Chatham, “is pledged to liberty; they are indissolubly allied in this great cause, it is the alliance between God and nature, immutable, eternal, as the light in the firmament of heaven!  Have a care; foreign war is suspended over your heads by a thin and fragile thread; Spain and France are watching over your conduct, waiting for the fruit of your blunders; they keep their eyes fixed on America, and are more concerned with the dispositions of your colonies than with their own affairs, whatever they may be.  I repeat to you, my lords, if ministers persist in their fatal counsels, I do not say that they may alienate the affections of its subjects, but I affirm that they will destroy the greatness of the crown; I do not say that the king will be betrayed, I affirm that the country will be ruined!”

Franklin was present at this scene.  Sent to England by his fellow-countrymen to support their petitions by his persuasive and dexterous eloquence, he watched with intelligent interest the disposition of the Continent towards his country.  “All Europe seems to be on our side,” he wrote; “but Europe has its own reasons:  it considers itself threatened by the power of England, and it would like to see her divided against herself.  Our prudence will retard for a long time yet, I hope, the satisfaction which our enemies expect from our dissensions. . . .  Prudence, patience, discretion; when the catastrophe arrives, it must be clear to all mankind that the fault is not on our side.”

The catastrophe was becoming imminent.  Already a riot at Boston had led to throwing into the sea a cargo of tea which had arrived on board two English vessels, and which the governor had refused to send away at once as the populace desired; already, on the summons of the Virginia Convention, a general Congress of all the provinces had met at Philadelphia; at the head of the legal resistance as well as of the later rebellion in arms marched the Puritans of New England and the sons of the Cavaliers settled in Virginia; the opposition, tumultuous and popular in the North, parliamentary and political in the South, was everywhere animated by the same spirit and the same zeal.  “I do not pretend to indicate precisely what line must be drawn between Great Britain and the colonies,” wrote Washington to one of his friends, “but it is most decidedly my opinion that one must be drawn, and our rights definitively secured.”  He had but lately said:  “Nobody ought to hesitate a moment to employ arms in defence of interests so precious, so sacred, but arms ought to be our last resource.”

The day had come when this was the only resource henceforth remaining to the Americans.  Stubborn and irritated, George III. and his government heaped vexatious measures one upon another, feeling sure of crushing down the resistance of the colonists by the ruin of their commerce as well as of their liberties.  “We must fight,” exclaimed Patrick Henry at the Virginia Convention, “I repeat it, we must fight; an appeal to arms and to the God of Hosts, that is all we have left.”  Armed resistance was already being organized, in the teeth of many obstacles and notwithstanding active or tacit opposition on the part of a considerable portion of the people.

It was time to act.  On the 18th of April, 1775, at night, a picked body of the English garrison of Boston left the town by order of General Gage, governor of Massachusetts.  The soldiers were as yet in ignorance of their destination, but the American patriots had divined it.  The governor had ordered the gates to be closed; some of the inhabitants, however, having found means of escaping, had spread the alarm in the country; already men were repairing in silence to posts assigned in anticipation.  When the king’s troops, on approaching Lexington, expected to lay hands upon two of the principal movers, Samuel Adams and John Hancock, they came into collision, in the night, with a corps of militia blocking the way.  The Americans taking no notice of the order given them to retire, the English troops, at the instigation of their officers, fired; a few men fell; war was begun between England and America.  That very evening, Colonel Smith, whilst proceeding to seize the ammunition depot at Concord, found himself successively attacked by detachments hastily formed in all the villages; he fell back in disorder beneath the guns of Boston.

Some few days later the town was besieged by an American army, and the Congress, meeting at Philadelphia, appointed Washington “to be general-in-chief of all the forces of the united colonies, of all that had been or should be levied, and of all others that should voluntarily offer their services or join the said army to defend American liberty and to repulse every attack directed against it.”

George Washington was born on the 22d of February,

1732, on the banks of the Potomac, at Bridge’s Creek, in the county of Westmoreland in Virginia.  He belonged to a family of consideration among the planters of Virginia, descended from that race of country gentlemen who had but lately effected the revolution in England.  He lost his father early, and was brought up by a distinguished, firm, and judicious mother, for whom he always preserved equal affection and respect.  Intended for the life of a surveyor of the still uncleared lands of Western America, he had led, from his youth up, a life of freedom and hardship; at nineteen, during the Canadian war, he had taken his place in the militia of his country, and we have seen how he fought with credit at the side of General Braddock.  On returning home at the end of the war and settling at Mount Vernon, which had been bequeathed to him by his eldest brother, he had become a great agriculturist and great hunter, esteemed by all, loved by those who knew him, actively engaged in his own business as well as that of his colony, and already an object of confidence as well as hope to his fellow-citizens.  In 1774, on the eve of the great struggle, Patrick Henry, on leaving the first Congress formed to prepare for it, replied to those who asked which was the foremost man in the Congress:  “If you speak of eloquence, Mr. Rutledge of South Carolina is the greatest orator; but, if you speak of solid knowledge of things and of sound judgment, Colonel Washington is indisputably the greatest man in the Assembly.”  “Capable of rising to the highest destinies, he could have ignored himself without a struggle, and found in the culture of his lands satisfaction for those powerful faculties which were to suffice for the command of armies and for the foundation of a government.  But when the occasion offered, when the need came, without any effort on his own part, without surprise on the part of others, the sagacious planter turned out a great man; he had in a superior degree the two qualities which in active life render men capable of great things:  he could believe firmly in his own ideas, and act resolutely upon them, without fearing to take the responsibility.” [M.  Guizot, Washington].

He was, however, deeply moved and troubled at the commencement of a contest of which he foresaw the difficulties and the trials, without fathoming their full extent, and it was not without a struggle that he accepted the power confided to him by Congress.  “Believe me, my dear Patsy,” he wrote to his wife, “I have done all I could to screen myself from this high mark of honor, not only because it cost me much to separate myself from you and from my family, but also because I felt that this task was beyond my strength.”  When the new general arrived before Boston to take command of the confused and undisciplined masses which were hurrying up to the American camp, he heard that an engagement had taken place on the 16th of June on the heights of Bunker’s Hill, which commanded the town; the Americans who had seized the positions had defended them so bravely that the English had lost nearly a thousand men before they carried the batteries.  A few months later, after unheard of efforts on the general’s part to constitute and train his army, he had taken possession of all the environs of the place, and General Howe, who had superseded General Gage, evacuated Boston (March 17, 1776).

Every step was leading to the declaration of independence.  “If everybody were of my opinion,” wrote Washington in the month of February, 1776, “the English ministers would learn in few words what we want to arrive at.  I should set forth simply, and without periphrasis, our grievances and our resolution to have justice.  I should tell them that we have long and ardently desired an honorable reconciliation, and that it has been refused.  I should add that we have conducted ourselves as faithful subjects, that the feeling of liberty is too strong in our hearts to let us ever submit to slavery, and that we are quite determined to burst every bond with an unjust and unnatural government, if our enslavement alone will satisfy a tyrant and his diabolical ministry.  And I should tell them all this not in covert terms, but in language as plain as the light of the sun at full noon.”

Many people still hesitated, from timidity, from foreseeing the sufferings which war would inevitably entail on America, from hereditary, faithful attachment to the mother-country.  “Gentlemen,” had but lately been observed by Mr. Dickinson, deputy from Pennsylvania, at the reading of the scheme of a solemn declaration justifying the taking up of arms, “there is but one word in this paper of which I disapprove ­Congress.”  “And as for me, Mr. President,” said Mr. Harrison, rising, “there is but one word in this paper of which I approve ­Congress.”

Deeds had become bolder than words.  “We have hitherto made war by halves,” wrote John Adams to General Gates; “you will see in to-morrow’s papers that for the future we shall probably venture to make it by three-quarters.  The continental navy, the provincial navies, have been authorized to cruise against English property throughout the whole extent of the ocean.  Learn, for your governance, that this is not Independence.  Far from it!  If one of the next couriers should bring you word of unlimited freedom of commerce with all nations, take good care not to call that Independence.  Nothing of the sort!  Independence is a spectre of such awful mien that the mere sight of it might make a delicate person faint.”

Independence was not yet declared, and already, at the end of their proclamations, instead of the time-honored formula, ‘God save the king!’ the Virginians had adopted the proudly significant phrase, ’God save the liberties of America!’

The great day came, however, when the Congress resolved to give its true name to the war which the colonies had been for more than a year maintaining against the mothercountry.  After a discussion which lasted three days, the scheme drawn up by Jefferson, for the declaration of Independence, was adopted by a large majority.  The solemn proclamation of it was determined upon on the 4th of July, and that day has remained the national festival of the United States of America.  John Adams made no mistake when, in the transport of his patriotic joy, he wrote to his wife:  “I am inclined to believe that this day will be celebrated by generations to come as the great anniversary of the nation.  It should be kept as the day of deliverance by solemn thanksgivings to the Almighty.  It should be kept with pomp, to the sound of cannon and of bells, with games, with bonfires and illuminations from one end of the continent to the other, for ever.  You will think me carried away by my enthusiasm; but no, I take into account, perfectly, the pains, the blood, the treasure we shall have to expend to maintain this declaration, to uphold and defend these States; but through all these shadows I perceive rays of ravishing light and joy, I feel that the end is worth all the means and far more, and that posterity will rejoice over this event with songs of triumph, even though we should have cause to repent of it, which will not be, I trust in God.”

The declaration of American Independence was solemn and grave; it began with an appeal to those natural rights which the eighteenth century had everywhere learned to claim.  “We hold as self-evident all these truths,” said the Congress of united colonies:  “All men are created equal, they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; among those rights are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  Governments are established amongst men to guarantee those rights, and their just power emanates from the consent of the governed.”

To this declaration of the inalienable right of people to choose their own government for the greatest security and greatest happiness of the governed, succeeded an enumeration of the grievances which made it forever impossible for the American colonists to render obedience to the king of Great Britain; the list was long and overwhelming; it ended with this declaration:  “Wherefore we, the representatives of the United States of America, met together in general Congress, calling the Supreme Judge of the universe to witness the uprightness of our intentions, do solemnly publish and declare in the name of the good people of these colonies, that the United colonies are and have a right to be free and independent States, that they are released from all allegiance to the crown of Great Britain, and that every political tie between them and Great Britain is and ought to be entirely dissolved. . . .  Full of firm confidence in the protection of Divine Providence, we pledge, mutually, to the maintenance of this declaration our lives, our fortunes, and our most sacred possession, our honor.”

The die was cast, and retreat cut off for the timid and the malcontent; through a course of alternate successes and reverses Washington had kept up hostilities during the rough campaign of 1776.  Many a time he had thought the game lost, and he had found himself under the necessity of abandoning posts he had mastered to fall back upon Philadelphia.  “What will you do if Philadelphia is taken?” he was asked.  “We will retire beyond the Susquehanna, and then, if necessary, beyond the Alleghanies,” answered the general without hesitation.  Unwavering in his patriotic faith and resolution, he relied upon the savage resources and the vast wildernesses of his native country to wear out at last the patience and courage of the English generals.  At the end of the campaign, Washington, suddenly resuming the offensive, had beaten the king’s troops at Trenton and at Princeton one after the other.  This brilliant action had restored the affairs of the Americans, and was a preparatory step to the formation of a new army.  On the 30th of December, 1776, Washington was invested by Congress with the full powers of a dictator.

Europe, meanwhile, was following with increasing interest the vicissitudes of a struggle which at a distance had from the first appeared to the most experienced an unequal one.  “Let us not anticipate events, but content ourselves with learning them when they occur,” said a letter, in 1775, to M. de Guines, ambassador in London, from Louis XVI.’s minister for foreign affairs, M. de Vergennes:  “I prefer to follow, as a quiet observer; the course of events rather than try to produce them.”  He had but lately said with prophetic anxiety:  “Far from seeking to profit by the embarrassment in which England finds herself on account of affairs in America, we should rather desire to extricate her.  The spirit of revolt, in whatever spot it breaks out, is always of dangerous precedent; it is with moral as with physical diseases, both may become contagious.  This consideration should induce us to take care that the spirit of independence, which is causing so terrible an explosion in North America, have no power to communicate itself to points interesting to us in this hemisphere.”

For a moment French diplomatists had been seriously disconcerted; remembrance of the surprise in 1755, when England had commenced hostilities without declaring war, still troubled men’s minds.  Count de Guines wrote to M. de Vergennes “Lord Rochford confided to me yesterday that numbers of persons on both sides were perfectly convinced that the way to put a stop to this war in America was to declare it against France, and that he saw with pain that opinion gaining ground.  I assure you, sir, that all which is said for is very extraordinary and far from encouraging.  The partisans of this plan argue that fear of a war, disastrous for England, which might end by putting France once more in possession of Canada, would be the most certain bugbear for America, where the propinquity of our religion and our government is excessively apprehended; they say, in fact, that the Americans, forced by a war to give up their project of liberty and to decide between us and them, would certainly give them the preference.”

The question of Canada was always, indeed, an anxious one for the American colonists; Washington had detached in that direction a body of troops which had been repulsed with loss.  M. de Vergennes had determined to keep in the United States a semi-official agent, M. de Bonvouloir, commissioned to furnish the ministry with information as to the state of affairs.  On sending Count de Guines the necessary instructions, the minister wrote on the 7th of August, 1775:  “One of the most essential objects is to reassure the Americans on the score of the dread which they are no doubt taught to feel of us.  Canada is the point of jealousy for them; they must be made to understand that we have no thought at all about it, and that, so far from grudging them the liberty and independence they are laboring to secure, we admire, on the contrary, the grandeur and nobleness of their efforts, and that, having no interest in injuring them, we should see with pleasure such a happy conjunction of circumstances as would set them at liberty to frequent our ports; the facilities they would find for their commerce would soon prove to them all the esteem we feel for them.”

Independence was not yet proclaimed, and already the committee charged by Congress “to correspond with friends in England, Ireland, and other parts of the world,” had made inquiry of the French government, by roundabout ways, as to what were its intentions regarding the American colonies, and was soliciting the aid of France.  On the 3d of March, 1776, an agent of the committee, Mr. Silas Deane, started for France; he had orders to put the same question point blank at Versailles and at Paris.

The ministry was divided on the subject of American affairs; M. Turgot inclined towards neutrality.  “Let us leave the insurgents,” he said, “at full liberty to make their purchases in our ports, and to provide themselves by the way of trade with the munitions, and even the money, of which they have need.  A refusal to sell to them would be a departure from neutrality.  But it would be a departure likewise to furnish then with secret aid in money, and this step, which it would be difficult to conceal, would excite just complaints on the part of the English.”

This was, however, the conduct adopted on the advice of M. de Vergennes; he had been powerfully supported by the arguments presented in a memorandum drawn up by M. de Rayneval, senior clerk in the foreign office; he was himself urged and incited by the most intelligent, the most restless, and the most passionate amongst the partisans of the American rebellion ­Beaumarchais.

Peter Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais, born at Paris on the 24th of January, 1732, son of a clockmaker, had already acquired a certain celebrity by his lawsuit against Councillor Goezman before the parliament of Paris.  Accused of having defamed the wife of a judge, after having fruitlessly attempted to seduce her, Beaumarchais succeeded, by dint of courage, talent, and wit, in holding his own against the whole magistracy leagued against him.  He boldly appealed to public opinion.  “I am a citizen,” he said; “that is to say, I am not a courtier, or an abbe, or a nobleman, or a financier, or a favorite, nor anything connected with what is called influence (puissance) nowadays.  I am a citizen; that is to say, something quite new, unknown, unheard of in France.  I am a citizen; that is to say, what you ought to have been for the last two hundred years, what you will be, perhaps, in twenty!” All the spirit of the French Revolution was here, in those most legitimate and at the same time most daring aspirations of his.

French citizen as he proclaimed himself to be, Beaumarchais was quite smitten with the American citizens; he had for a long while been pleading their cause, sure, he said, of its ultimate triumph.  On the 10th of January, 1776, three weeks before the declaration of independence, M. de Vergennes secretly remitted a million to M. de Beaumarchais; two months later the same sum was intrusted to him in the name of the King of Spain.  Beaumarchais alone was to appear in the affair and to supply the insurgent Americans with arms and ammunition.  “You will found,” he had been told, “a great commercial house, and you will try to draw into it the money of private individuals; the first outlay being now provided, we shall have no further hand in it, the affair would compromise the government too much in the eyes of the English.”  It was under the style and title of Rodrigo Hortalez and Co. that the first instalment of supplies, to the extent of more than three millions, was forwarded to the Americans; and, notwithstanding the hesitation of the ministry and the rage of the English, other instalments soon followed.  Beaumarchais was henceforth personally interested in the enterprise; he had commenced it from zeal for the American cause, and from that yearning for activity and initiative which characterized him even in old age.  “I should never have succeeded in fulfilling my mission here without the indefatigable, intelligent, and generous efforts of M. de Beaumarchais,” wrote Silas Deane to the secret committee of Congress:  “the United States are more indebted to him, on every account, than to any other person on this side of the ocean.”

Negotiations were proceeding at Paris; Franklin had joined Silas Deane there.  His great scientific reputation, the diplomatic renown he had won in England, his able and prudent devotion to the cause of his country, had paved the way for the new negotiator’s popularity in France:  it was immense.  Born at Boston on the 17th of January, 1706, a printer before he came out as a great physicist, Franklin was seventy years old when he arrived in Paris.  His sprightly good-nature, the bold subtilty of his mind cloaked beneath external simplicity, his moderation in religion and the breadth of his philosophical tolerance, won the world of fashion as well as the great public, and were a great help to the success of his diplomatic negotiations.  Quartered at Passy, at Madame Helvetius’, he had frequent interviews with the ministers under a veil of secrecy and precaution which was, before long, skilfully and discreetly removed; from roundabout aid accorded to the Americans, at Beaumarchais’ solicitations, on pretext of commercial business, the French Government had come to remitting money straight to the agents of the United States; everything tended to recognition of the independence of the colonies.  In England, people were irritated and disturbed; Lord Chatham exclaimed with the usual exaggeration of his powerful and impassioned genius “Yesterday England could still stand against the world, today there is none so poor as to do her reverence.  I borrow the poet’s words, my lords, but what his verse expresses is no fiction.  France has insulted you, she has encouraged and supported America, and, be America right or wrong, the dignity of this nation requires that we should thrust aside with contempt the officious intervention of France; ministers and ambassadors from those whom we call rebels and enemies are received at Paris, there they treat of the mutual interests of France and America, their countrymen are aided, provided with military resources, and our ministers suffer it, they do not protest!  Is this maintaining the honor of a great kingdom, of that England which but lately gave laws to the House of Bourbon?”

The hereditary sentiments of Louis XVI. and his monarchical principles, as well as the prudent moderation of M. Turgot, retarded at Paris the negotiations which caused so much illhumor among the English; M. de Vergennes still preserved, in all diplomatic relations, an apparent neutrality.  “It is my line (metier), you see, to be a royalist,” the Emperor Joseph II. had said during a visit he had just paid to Paris, when he was pressed to declare in favor of the American insurgents.  At the bottom of his heart the King of France was of the same opinion; he had refused the permission to serve in America which he had been asked for by many gentlemen:  some had set off without waiting for it; the most important, as well as the most illustrious of them all, the Marquis of La Fayette, was not twenty years old when he slipped away from Paris, leaving behind his young wife close to her confinement, to go and embark upon a vessel which he had bought, and which, laden with arms, awaited him in a Spanish port; arrested by order of the court, he evaded the vigilance of his guards; in, the month of July, 1777, he disembarked in America.

Washington did not like France; he did not share the hopes which some of his fellow-countrymen founded upon her aid; he made no case of the young volunteers who came to enroll themselves among the defenders of independence, and whom Congress loaded with favors.  “No bond but interest attaches these men to America,” he would say; “and, as for France, she only lets us get our munitions from her, because of the benefit her commerce derives from it.”  Prudent, reserved, and proud, Washington looked for America’s salvation to only America herself; neither had he foreseen nor did he understand that enthusiasm, as generous as it is unreflecting, which easily takes possession of the French nation, and of which the United States were just then the object.  M. de La Fayette was the first who managed to win the general’s affection and esteem.  A great yearning for excitement and renown, a great zeal for new ideas and a certain political perspicacity, had impelled M. de La Fayette to America; he showed himself courageous, devoted, more judicious and more able than had been expected from his youth and character.  Washington came to love him as a son.

It was with the title of major-general that M. de La Fayette made his first campaign; Congress had passed a decree conferring upon him this grade, rather an excess of honor in Washington’s opinion; the latter was at that time covering Philadelphia, the point aimed at by the operations of General Howe.  Beaten at Brandywine and at Germantown, the Americans were obliged to abandon the town to the enemy and fall back on Valley Forge, where the general pitched his camp for wintering.  The English had been beaten on the frontiers of Canada by General Gates; General Burgoyne, invested on all sides by the insurgents, had found himself forced to capitulate at Saratoga.  The humiliation and wrath of the public in England were great, but the resolution of the politicians was beginning to waver; on the 10th of February, 1778, Lord North had presented two bills whereby England was to renounce the right of levying taxes in the American colonies, and was to recognize the legal existence of Congress.  Three commissioners were to be sent to America to treat for conditions of peace.  After a hot discussion, the two bills had been voted.

This was a small matter in view of the growing anxiety and the political manoeuvrings of parties.  On the 7th of April, 1778, the Duke of Richmond proposed in the House of Lords the recall of all the forces, land and sea, which were fighting in America.  He relied upon the support of Lord Chatham, who was now at death’s door, but who had always expressed himself forcibly against the conduct of the government towards the colonists.  The great orator entered the House, supported by two of his friends, pale, wasted, swathed in flannel beneath his embroidered robe.  He with difficulty dragged himself to his place.  The peers, overcome at the sight of this supreme effort, waited in silence.  Lord Chatham rose, leaning on his crutch and still supported by his friends.  He raised one hand to heaven.  “I thank God,” he said, “that I have been enabled to come hither to-day to fulfil a duty and say what has been weighing so heavily on my heart.  I have already one foot in the grave; I shall soon descend into it; I have left my bed to sustain my country’s cause in this House, perhaps for the last time.  I think myself happy, my lords, that the grave has not yet closed over me, and that I am still alive to raise my voice against the dismemberment of this ancient and noble monarchy!  My lords, his Majesty succeeded to an empire as vast in extent as proud in reputation.  Shall we tarnish its lustre by a shameful abandonment of its rights and of its fairest possessions?  Shall this great kingdom, which survived in its entirety the descents of the Danes, the incursions of the Scots, the conquest of the Normans, which stood firm against the threatened invasion of the Spanish Armada, now fall before the House of Bourbon?  Surely, my lords, we are not what we once were! . . .  In God’s name, if it be absolutely necessary to choose between peace and war, if peace cannot be preserved with honor, why not declare war without hesitation? . . .  My lords, anything is better than despair; let us at least make an effort, and, if we must fail, let us fail like men!”

He dropped back into his seat, exhausted, gasping.  Soon he strove to rise and reply to the Duke of Richmond, but his strength was traitor to his courage, he fainted; a few days later he was dead (May 11th, 1778); the resolution’ of the Duke of Richmond had been rejected.

When this news arrived in America, Washington was seriously uneasy.  He had to keep up an incessant struggle against the delays and the jealousies of Congress; it was by dint of unheard-of efforts and of unwavering perseverance that he succeeded in obtaining the necessary supplies for his army.  “To see men without clothes to cover their nakedness,” he exclaimed, “without blankets to lie upon, without victuals and often without shoes (for you might follow their track by the blood that trickled from their feet), advancing through ice and snow, and taking up their winter-quarters, at Christmas, less than a day’s march from the enemy, in a place where they have not to shelter them either houses or huts but such as they have thrown up themselves, ­to see these men doing all this without a murmur, is an exhibition of patience and obedience such as the world has rarely seen.”

As a set-off against the impassioned devotion of the patriots, Washington knew that the loyalists were still numerous and powerful; the burden of war was beginning to press heavily upon the whole country, he feared some act of weakness.  “Let us accept nothing short of Independence,” he wrote at once to his friends:  “we can never forget the outrages to which Great Britain has made us ­submit; a peace on any other conditions would be a source of perpetual disputes.  If Great Britain, urged on by her love for tyranny, were to seek once more to bend our necks beneath her iron yoke, ­and she would do so, you may be sure, for her pride and her ambition are indomitable, ­what nation would believe any more in our professions of faith and would lend us its support?  It is to be feared, however, that the proposals of England will produce a great effect in this country.  Men are naturally friends of peace, and there is more than one symptom to lead me to believe that the American people are generally weary of war.  If it be so, nothing can be more politic than to inspire the country with confidence by putting the army on an imposing footing, and by showing greater energy in our negotiations with European powers.  I think that by now France must have recognized our independence, and that she will immediately declare war against Great Britain, when she sees that we have made serious proposals of alliance to her.  But if, influenced by a false policy, or by an exaggerated opinion of our power, she were to hesitate, we should either have to send able negotiators at once, or give fresh instructions to our charges d’affaires to obtain a definitive answer from her.”

It is the property of great men, even when they share the prejudices of their time and of their country, to know how to get free from them, and how to rise superior to their natural habits of thought.  It has been said that, as a matter of taste, Washington did not like France and had no confidence in her, but his great and strong common sense had enlightened him as to the conditions of the contest he had entered upon.  He knew it was a desperate one, he foresaw that it would be a long one; better than anybody he knew the weaknesses as well as the merits of the instruments which he had at disposal; he had learned to desire the alliance and the aid of France.  She did not belie his hopes:  at the very moment when Congress was refusing to enter into negotiations with Great Britain as long as a single English soldier remained on American soil, rejoicings and thanksgivings were everywhere throughout the thirteen colonies greeting the news of the recognition by France of the Independence of the United States; the treaties of alliance, a triumph of diplomatic ability on the part of Franklin, had been signed at Paris on the 6th of February, 1778.

“Assure the English government of the king’s pacific intentions,” M. de Vergennes had written to the Marquis of Noailles, then French ambassador in England.  George III. replied to these mocking assurances by recalling his ambassador.

“Anticipate your enemies,” Franklin had said to the ministers of Louis XVI.;” act towards them as they did to you in 1755:  let your ships put to sea before any declaration of war, it will be time to speak when a French squadron bars the passage of Admiral Howe who has ventured to ascend the Delaware.”  The king’s natural straightforwardness and timidity were equally opposed to this bold project; he hesitated a long while; when Count d’Estaing at last, on the 13th of April, went out of Toulon harbor to sail for America with his squadron, it was too late, the English were on their guard.

When the French admiral arrived in America, hostilities had commenced between France and England, without declaration of war, by the natural pressure of circumstances and the state of feeling in the two countries.  England fired the first shot on the 17th of June, 1778.  The frigate La Belle Poule, commanded by M. Chaudeau de la Clochetterie, was cruising in the Channel; she was surprised by the squadron of Admiral Keppel, issuing from Portsmouth; the Frenchman saw the danger in time, he crowded sail; but an English frigate, the Arethusa, had dashed forward in pursuit.  La Clochetterie waited for her and refused to make the visit demanded by the English captain:  a cannon-shot was the reply to this refusal.  La Belle Poule delivered her whole broadside.  When the Arethusa rejoined Lord Keppel’s squadron, she was dismasted and had lost many men.  A sudden calm had prevented two English vessels from taking part in, the engagement.  La Clochetterie went on and landed a few leagues from Brest.  The fight had cost the lives of forty of his crew, fifty-seven had been wounded.  He was made postcaptain (capitaine de vaisseau).  The glory of this small affair appeared to be of good augury; the conscience of Louis XVI. was soothed; he at last yielded to the passionate feeling which was hurrying the nation into war, partly from sympathy towards the Americans, partly from hatred and rancor towards England.  The treaty of 1763 still lay heavy on the military honor of France.

From the day when the Duke of Choiseul had been forced to sign that humiliating peace, he had never relaxed in his efforts to improve the French navy.  In the course of ministerial alternations, frequently unfortunate for the work in hand, it had nevertheless been continued by his successors.  A numerous fleet was preparing at Brest; it left the port on the 3d of July, under the orders of Count d’Orvilliers.  It numbered thirty-two men-of-war and some frigates.  Admiral Keppel came to the encounter with thirty ships, mostly superior in strength to the French vessels.  The engagement took place on the 27th, at thirty leagues’ distance from Wessant and about the same from the Sorlingues Islands.  The splendid order of the French astounded the enemy, who had not forgotten the deplorable Journée de M. de Conflans.  The sky was murky, and the manoeuvres were interfered with from the difficulty of making out the signals.  Lord Keppel could not succeed in breaking the enemy’s line; Count d’Orvilliers failed in a like attempt.  The English admiral extinguished his fires and returned to Plymouth harbor, without being forced to do so from any serious reverse; Count d’Orvilliers fell back upon Brest under the same conditions.  The English regarded this retreat as a humiliation to which they were unaccustomed Lord Keppel had to appear before a court-martial.  In France, after the first burst of enthusiasm, fault was found with the inactivity of the Duke of Chartres, who commanded the rear-guard of the fleet, under the direction of M. de La Motte-Piquet; the prince was before long obliged to leave the navy, he became colonel-general of the hussars.  A fresh sally on the part of the fleet did not suffice to protect the merchant-navy, the losses of which were considerable.  The English vessels everywhere held the seas.

Count d’Estaing had at last arrived at the mouth of the Delaware on the 9th of July, 1778; Admiral Howe had not awaited him, he had sailed for the anchorage of Sandy Hook.  The heavy French ships could not cross the bar; Philadelphia had been evacuated by the English as soon as the approach of Count d’Estaing was signalled.  “It is not General Howe who has taken Philadelphia,” said Franklin; “it is Philadelphia that has taken General Howe.”  The English commander had foreseen the danger; on falling back upon New York he had been hotly pursued by Washington, who had, at Monmouth, gained a serious advantage over him.  The victory of the Americans would have been complete but for the jealous disobedience of General Lee.  Washington pitched his camp thirty miles from New York.  “After two years’ marching and counter-marching,” he wrote, “after vicissitudes so strange that never perhaps did any other war exhibit the like since the beginning of the world, what a subject of satisfaction and astonishment for us to see the two armies back again at the point from which they started, and the assailants reduced in self-defence to have recourse to the shovel and the axe!”

The combined expedition of D’Estaing and General Sullivan against the little English corps which occupied Rhode Island had just failed; the fleet of Admiral Howe had suddenly appeared at the entrance of the roads, the French squadron had gone out to meet it, an unexpected tempest separated the combatants; Count d’Estaing, more concerned for the fate of his vessels than with the clamors of the Americans, set sail for Boston to repair damages.  The campaign was lost; cries of treason were already heard.  A riot was the welcome which awaited the French admiral at Boston.  All Washington’s personal efforts, seconded by the Marquis of La Fayette, were scarcely sufficient to restore harmony.  The English had just made a descent upon the coasts of Georgia, and taken possession of Savannah.  They threatened Carolina, and even Virginia.

Scarcely were the French ships in trim to put to sea when Count d’Estaing made sail for the Antilles.  Zealous and brave, but headstrong and passionate, like M. de Lally-Tollendal, under whom he had served in India, the admiral could ill brook reverses, and ardently sought for an occasion to repair them.  The English had taken St. Pierre and Miquelon.  M. de Bouille, governor of Iles-du-Vent, had almost at the same time made himself master of La Dominique.  Four thousand English had just landed at St. Lucie; M. d’Estaing, recently arrived at Martinique, headed thither immediately with his squadron, without success, however:  it was during the absence of the English admiral, Byron, that the French seamen succeeded in taking possession first of St. Vincent, and soon afterwards of Grenada.  The fort of this latter island was carried after a brilliant assault.  The admiral had divided his men into three bodies; he commanded the first, the second marched under the orders of Viscount de Noailles, and Arthur Dillon, at the head of the Irish in the service of France, led the third.  The cannon on the ramparts were soon directed against the English, who thought to arrive in time to relieve Grenada.

Count d’Estaing went out of port to meet the English admiral; as he was sailing towards the enemy, the admiral made out, under French colors, a splendid ship of war, Le Fier-Rodrigue, which belonged to Beaumarchais, and was convoying ten merchant-men.  “Seeing the wide berth kept by this fine ship, which was going proudly before the wind,” says the sprightly and sagacious biographer of Beaumarchais, M. de Lomdnie, “Admiral d’Estaing signalled to her to bear down; learning that she belonged to his majesty Caron de Beaumarchais, he felt that it would be a pity not to take advantage of it, and, seeing the exigency of the case, he appointed her her place of battle without asking her proprietor’s permission, leaving to the mercy of the waves and of the English the unhappy merchant-ships which the man-of-war was convoying. Le Fier-Rodrique resigned herself bravely to her fate, took a glorious part in the battle off Grenada, contributed in forcing Admiral Byron to retreat, but had her captain killed, and was riddled with bullets.”  Admiral d’Estaing wrote the same evening to Beaumarchais; his letter reached the scholar-merchant through the medium of the minister of marine.  To the latter Beaumarchais at once replied:  “Sir, I have to thank you for having forwarded to me the letter from Count d’Estaing.  It is very noble in him at the moment of his triumph to have thought how very agreeable it would be to me to have a word in his handwriting.  I take the liberty of sending you a copy of his short letter, by which I feel honored as the good Frenchman I am, and at which I rejoice as a devoted adherent of my country against that proud England.  The brave Montault appears to have thought that he could not better prove to me how worthy be was of the post with which he was honored than by getting killed; whatever may be the result as regards my own affairs, my poor friend Montault has died on the bed of honor, and I feel a sort of childish joy in being certain that those English who have cut me up so much in their papers for the last four years will read therein that one of my ships has helped to take from them the most fertile of their possessions.  And as for the enemies of M. d’Estaing and especially of yourself, sir, I see them biting their nails, and my heart leaps for joy!”

The joy of Beaumarchais, as well as that of France, was a little excessive, and smacked of unfamiliarity with the pleasure of victory.  M. d’Estaing had just been recalled to France; before he left, he would fain have rendered to the Americans a service pressingly demanded of him.  General Lincoln was about to besiege Savannah; the English general, Sir Henry Clinton, a more able man than his predecessor, had managed to profit by the internal disputes of the Union, he had rallied around him the loyalists in Georgia and the Carolinas, civil war prevailed there with all its horrors; D’Estaing bore down with his squadron for Savannah.  Lincoln was already on the coast ready to facilitate his landing; the French admiral was under pressure of the orders from Paris, he had no time for a regular siege.  The trenches had already been opened twenty days, and the bombardment, terrible as it was for the American town, had not yet damaged the works of the English.  On the 9th of October, D’Estaing determined to deliver the assault.  Americans and French vied with each other in courage.  For a moment the flag of the Union floated upon the ramparts, some grenadiers made their way into the place, the admiral was wounded; meanwhile, the losses were great, and perseverance was evidently useless.  The assault was repulsed.  Count D’Estaing still remained nine days before the place, in hopes of finding a favorable opportunity; he was obliged to make sail for France, and the fleet withdrew, leaving Savannah in the hands of the English.  The only advantage from the admiral’s expedition was the deliverance of Rhode Island, abandoned by General Clinton, who, fearing an attack from the French, recalled the garrison to New York.  Washington had lately made himself master of the fort at Stony Point, which had up to that time enabled the English to command the navigation of the Hudson.

In England the commotion was great:  France and America in arms against her had just been joined by Spain.  A government essentially monarchical, faithful to ancient traditions, the Spaniards had for a long while resisted the entreaties of M. de Vergennes, who availed himself of the stipulations of the Family pact.  Charles III. felt no sort of sympathy for a nascent republic; he feared the contagion of the example it showed to the Spanish colonies; he hesitated to plunge into the expenses of a war.  His hereditary hatred against England prevailed at last over the dictates of prudence.  He was promised, moreover, the assistance of France to reconquer Gibraltar and Minorca.  The King of Spain consented to take part in the war, without however recognizing the independence of the United States, or entering into alliance with them.

The situation of England was becoming serious, she believed herself to be threatened with a terrible invasion.  As in the days of the Great Armada, “orders were given to all functionaries, civil and military, in case of a descent of the enemy, to see to the transportation into the interior and into a place of safety of all horses, cattle, and flocks that might happen to be on the coasts.”  “Sixty-six allied ships of the line ploughed the Channel, fifty thousand men, mustered in Normandy, were preparing to burst upon the southern counties.  A simple American corsair, Paul Jones, ravaged with impunity the coasts of Scotland.  The powers of the North, united with Russia and Holland, threatened to maintain, with arms in hand, the rights of neutrals, ignored by the English admiralty courts.  Ireland awaited only the signal to revolt; religious quarrels were distracting Scotland and England; the authority of Lord North’s cabinet was shaken in Parliament as well as throughout the country; the passions of the mob held sway in London, and among the sights that might have been witnessed was that of this great city given up for nearly a week to the populace, without anything that could stay its excesses save its own lassitude and its own feeling of shame " [M.  Cornelis de Witt, Histoire de Washington].

So many and such imposing preparations were destined to produce but little fruit.  The two fleets, the French and the Spanish, had effected their junction off Corunna, under the orders of Count d’Orvilliers; they slowly entered the Channel on the 31st of August, near the Sorlingues (Scilly) Islands; they sighted the English fleet, with a strength of only thirty, seven vessels.  Count de Guichen, who commanded the vanguard, was already manoeuvring to cut off the enemy’s retreat; Admiral Hardy had the speed of him, and sought refuge in Plymouth Sound.  Some engagements which took place between frigates were of little importance, but glorious for both sides.  On the 6th of October, the Surveillante, commanded by Chevalier du Couedic, had a tussle with the Quebec; the broadsides were incessant, a hail of lead fell upon both ships, the majority of the officers of the Surveillante were killed or wounded.  Du Couedic had been struck twice on the head.  A fresh wound took him in the stomach; streaming with blood, he remained at his post and directed the fight.  The three masts of the Surveillante had just fallen, knocked to pieces by balls, the whole rigging of the Quebec at the same moment came down with a run.  The two ships could no longer manoeuvre, the decimated crews were preparing to board, when a thick smoke shot up all at once from the between-decks of the Quebec; the fire spread with unheard of rapidity; the Surveillante, already hooked on to her enemy’s side, was on the point of becoming, like her, a prey to the flames, but her commander, gasping as he was and scarcely alive, got her loose by a miracle of ability.  The Quebec had hardly blown up when the crew of the Surveillante set to work picking up the glorious wreck of their adversaries; a few prisoners were brought into Brest on the victorious vessel, which was so blackened by the smoke and damaged by the fight that tugs had to be sent to her assistance.  A few months afterwards Du Couedic died of his wounds, carrying to the grave the supreme honor of having been the only one to render his name illustrious in the great display of the maritime forces of France and Spain.  Count d’Orvilliers made no attempt; the inhabitants upon the English coasts ceased to tremble; sickness committed ravages amongst the crews.  After a hundred and four days’ useless cruising in the Channel, the huge fleet returned sorrowfully to Brest; Admiral d’Orvilliers had lost his son in a partial engagement; he left the navy and retired ere long to a convent.  Count de Guichen sailed for the Antilles with a portion of the French fleet, and maintained with glory the honor of his flag in a series of frequently successful affairs against Admiral Rodney.  At the beginning of the war, the latter, a great scapegrace and overwhelmed with debt, happened to be at Paris, detained by the state of his finances.  “If I were free,” said he one day in the presence of Marshal Biron, “I would soon destroy all the Spanish and French fleets.”  The marshal at once paid his debts.  “Go, sir,” said he, with a flourish of generosity to which the eighteenth century was a little prone, “the French have no desire to gain advantages over their enemies save by their bravery.”  Rodney’s first exploit was to revictual Gibraltar, which the Spanish and French armaments had invested by land and sea.

Everywhere the strength of the belligerents was being exhausted without substantial result and without honor; for more than four years now America had been keeping up the war, and her Southern provinces had been everywhere laid waste by the enemy; in spite of the heroism which was displayed by the patriots, and of which the women themselves set the example, General Lincoln had just been forced to capitulate at Charleston.  Washington, still encamped before New York, saw his army decimated by hunger and cold, deprived of all resources, and reduced to subsist at the expense of the people in the neighborhood.  All eyes were turned towards France; the Marquis of La Fayette had succeeded in obtaining from the king and the French ministry the formation of an auxiliary corps; the troops were already on their way under the orders of Count de Rochambeau.

Misfortune and disappointments are great destroyers of some barriers, prudent tact can overthrow others.  Washington and the American army would but lately have seen with suspicion the arrival of foreign auxiliaries; in 1780, transports of joy greeted the news of their approach.  M. de La Fayette, moreover, had been careful to spare the American general all painful friction.  Count de Rochambeau and the French officers were placed under the orders of Washington, and the auxiliary corps entirely at his disposal.  The delicate generosity and the disinterestedness of the French government had sometimes had the effect of making it neglect the national interests in its relations with the revolted colonies; but it had derived therefrom a spirit of conduct invariably calculated to triumph over the prejudices as well as the jealous pride of the Americans.

“The history of the War of Independence is a history of hopes deceived,” said Washington.  He had conceived the idea of making himself master of New York with the aid of the French.  The transport of the troops had been badly calculated; Rochambeau brought to Rhode Island only the first division of his army, about five thousand men; and Count de Guichen, whose squadron had been relied upon, had just been recalled to France.  Washington was condemned to inaction.  “Our position is not sufficiently brilliant,” he wrote to M. de La Fayette, “to justify our putting pressure upon Count de Rochambeau; I shall continue our arrangements, however, in the hope of more fortunate circumstances.”  The American army was slow in getting organized, obliged as it had been to fight incessantly and make head against constantly recurring difficulties; it was getting organized, however; the example of the French, the discipline which prevailed in the auxiliary corps, the good understanding thenceforth established among the officers, helped Washington in his difficult task.  From the first the superiority of the general was admitted by the French as well as by the Americans; naturally, and by the mere fact of the gifts he had received from God, Washington was always and everywhere chief of the men placed within his range and under his influence.

This natural ascendency, which usually triumphed over the base jealousies and criminal manoeuvres into which the rivals of General Washington had sometimes allowed themselves to be drawn, had completely failed in the case of one of his most brilliant lieutenants; in spite of his inveterate and well-known vices, Benedict Arnold had covered himself with glory by daring deeds and striking bravery exhibited in a score of fights, from the day when, putting himself at the head of the first bands raised in Massachusetts, he had won the grade of general during his expedition to Canada.  Accused of malversation, and lately condemned by a court-martial to be reprimanded by the general-in-chief, Arnold, through an excess of confidence on Washington’s part, still held the command of the important fort of West Point:  he abused the trust.  Washington, on returning from an interview with Count de Rochambeau, went out of his way to visit the garrison of West Point:  the commandant was absent.  Surprised and displeased, the general was impatiently waiting for his return, when his aide-de-camp and faithful friend, Colonel Hamilton, brought him important despatches.  Washington’s face remained impassible; but throughout the garrison and among the general’s staff there had already spread a whisper of Arnold’s treachery:  he had promised, it was said, to deliver West Point to the enemy.  An English officer, acting as a spy, had actually been arrested within the American lines.

It was true; and General Arnold, turning traitor to his country from jealousy, vengeance, and the shameful necessities entailed by a disorderly life, had sought refuge at New York with Sir Henry Clinton.  Major Andre was in the hands of the Americans.  Young, honorable, brave, endowed with talents, and of elegant and cultivated tastes, the English officer, brought up with a view to a different career, but driven into the army from a disappointment in love, had accepted the dangerous mission of bearing to the perfidious commandant of West Point the English general’s latest instructions.  Sir Henry Clinton had recommended him not to quit his uniform; but, yielding to the insinuating Arnold, the unhappy young man had put on a disguise; he had been made prisoner.  Recognized and treated as a spy, he was to die on the gallows.  It was the ignominy alone of this punishment which perturbed his spirit.  “Sir,” he wrote to Washington, “sustained against fear of death by the reflection that no unworthy action has sullied a life devoted to honor, I feel confident that in this my extremity, your Excellency will not be deaf to a prayer the granting of which will soothe my last moments.  Out of sympathy for a soldier, your Excellency will, I am sure, consent to adapt the form of my punishment to the feelings of a man of honor.  Permit me to hope that, if my character have inspired you with any respect, if I am in your eyes sacrificed to policy and not to vengeance, I shall have proof that those sentiments prevail in your heart by learning that I am not to die on the gallows.”

With a harshness of which there is no other example in his life, and of which he appeared to always preserve a painful recollection, Washington remained deaf to his prisoner’s noble appeal:  Major Andre underwent the fate of a spy.  “You are a witness that I die like a man of honor,” he said to an American officer whose duty it was to see the orders carried out.  The general did him justice.  “Andre,” he said, “paid his penalty with the spirit to be expected from a man of such merit and so brave an officer.  As to Arnold, he has no heart. . . .  Everybody is surprised to see that he is not yet swinging on a gibbet.”  The passionate endeavors of the Americans to inflict upon the traitor the chastisement he deserved remained without effect.  Constantly engaged, as an English general, in the war, with all the violence bred of uneasy hate, Arnold managed to escape the just vengeance of his countrymen; he died twenty years later, in the English possessions, rich and despised.  “What would you have done if you had succeeded in catching me?” he asked an American prisoner one day.  “We would have severed from your body the leg that had been wounded in the service of the country, and would have hanged the rest on a gibbet,” answered the militiaman quietly.

The excitement caused by the treachery of Arnold had not yet subsided, when a fresh cup of bitterness was put to the lips of the general-in-chief, and disturbed the hopes he had placed on the reorganization of his army.  Successive revolts among the troops of Pennsylvania, which threatened to spread to those of New Jersey, had convinced him that America had come to the end of her sacrifices.  “The country’s own powers are exhausted,” he wrote to Colonel Lawrence in a letter intended to be communicated to Louis XVI.; “single-handed we cannot restore public credit and supply the funds necessary for continuing the war.  The patience of the army is at an end, the people are discontented; without money, we shall make but a feeble effort, and probably the last.”

The insufficiency of the military results obtained by land and sea, in comparison with the expenses and the exhibition of force, and the slowness and bad management of the operations, had been attributed, in France as well as in America, to the incapacity of the ministers of war and marine, the Prince of Montbarrey and M. de Sartines.  The finances had up to that time sufficed for the enormous charges which weighed upon the treasury; credit for the fact was most justly given to the consummate ability and inexhaustible resources of M. Necker, who was, first of all, made director of the treasury on October 22, 1776, and then director-general of finance on June 29, 1777, By his advice, backed by the favor of the queen, the two ministers were superseded by M. de Segur and the Marquis of Castries.  A new and more energetic impulse before long restored the hopes of the Americans.  On the 21st of March, 1780, a fleet left under the orders of Count de Grasse; after its arrival at Martinique, on the 28th of April, in spite of Admiral Hood’s attempts to block his passage, Count de Grasse took from the English the Island of Tobago, on the 1st of June; on the 3d of September, he brought Washington a reinforcement of three thousand five hundred men, and twelve hundred thousand livres in specie.  In a few months King Louis XVI. had lent to the United States or procured for them on his security sums exceeding sixteen million livres.  It was to Washington personally that the French government confided its troops as well as its subsidies.  “The king’s soldiers are to be placed exclusively under the orders of the general-in-chief,” M. Girard, the French minister in America, had said, on the arrival of the auxiliary corps.

After so many and such painful efforts, the day of triumph was at last dawning upon General Washington and his country.  Alternations of success and reverse had signalized the commencement of the campaign of 1781.  Lord Cornwallis, who commanded the English armies in the South, was occupying Virginia with a considerable force, when Washington, who had managed to conceal his designs from Sir Henry Clinton, shut up in New York, crossed Philadelphia on the 4th of September, and advanced by forced marches against the enemy.  The latter had been for some time past harassed by the little army of M. de La Fayette.  The fleet of Admiral de Grasse cut off the retreat of the English.  Lord Cornwallis threw himself into Yorktown; on the 30th of September the place was invested.

It was but slightly and badly fortified; the English troops were fatigued by a hard campaign; the besiegers were animated by a zeal further stimulated by emulation; French and Americans vied with one another in ardor.  Batteries sprang up rapidly, the soldiers refused to take any rest, the trenches were opened by the 6th of October.  On the 10th, the cannon began to batter the town; on the 14th an American column, commanded by M. de La Fayette, Colonel Hamilton and Colonel Lawrence, attacked one of the redoubts which protected the approaches to the town, whilst the French dashed forward on their side to attack the second redoubt, under the orders of Baron de Viomenil, Viscount de Noailles, and Marquis de St. Simon, who, ill as he was, had insisted on being carried at the head of his regiment.  The flag of the Union floated above both works at almost the same instant; when the attacking columns joined again on the other side of the outwork they had attacked, the French had made five hundred prisoners.  All defence became impossible.  Lord Cornwallis in vain attempted to escape; he was reduced, on the 17th of October, to signing a capitulation more humiliating than that of Saratoga:  eight thousand men laid down their arms, the vessels which happened to be lying at Yorktown and Gloucester were given up to the victors.  Lord Cornwallis was ill of grief and fatigue.  General O’Hara, who took his place, tendered his sword to Count de Rochambeau; the latter stepped back, and, pointing to General Washington, said aloud, “I am only an auxiliary.”  In receiving the English general’s sword, Washington was receiving the pledge of his country’s independence.

England felt this.  “Lord North received the news of the capitulation like a bullet in his breast,” said Lord George Germaine, secretary of state for the colonies; he threw up his arms without being able to utter a word beyond ‘My God, all’s lost!’” To this growing conviction on the part of his ministers, as well as of the nation, George III. opposed an unwavering persistency.  “None of the members of my cabinet,” he wrote immediately, “will suppose, I am quite sure, that this event can in any way modify the principles which have guided me hitherto and which will continue to regulate my conduct during the rest of this struggle.”

Whilst the United States were celebrating their victory with thanksgivings and public festivities, their allies were triumphing at all the different points, simultaneously, at which hostilities had been entered upon.  Becoming embroiled with Holland, where the republican party had prevailed against the stadtholder, who was devoted to them, the English had waged war upon the Dutch colonies.  Admiral Rodney had taken St. Eustache, the centre of an immense trade; he had pillaged the warehouses and laden his vessels with an enormous mass of merchandise; the convoy which was conveying a part of the spoil to England was captured by Admiral La Motte-Piquet; M. Bouille surprised the English garrison remaining at St. Eustache and recovered possession of the island, which was restored to the Dutch.  They had just maintained gloriously, at Dogger Bank, their old maritime renown.  “Officers and men all fought like lions,” said Admiral Zouttman.  The firing had not commenced until the two fleets were within pistol-shot.  The ships on both sides were dismasted, scarcely in a condition to keep afloat; the glory and the losses were equal; but the English admiral, Hyde Parker, was irritated and displeased.  George III. went to see him on board his vessel.  “I wish your Majesty younger seamen and better ships,” said the old sailor, and he insisted on resigning.  This was the only action fought by the Dutch during the war; they left to Admiral de Kersaint the job of recovering from the English their colonies of Demerara, Essequibo, and Berbice, on the coasts of Guiana.

A small Franco-Spanish army was at the same time besieging Minorca.  The fleet was considerable, the English were ill-prepared; they were soon obliged to shut themselves up in Fort St. Philip.  The ramparts were as solid, the position was as impregnable, as in the time of Marshal Richelieu.  The admirals were tardy in bringing up the fleet; their irresolution caused the failure of operations that had been ill-combined; the squadrons entered port again.  The Duke of Crillon, who commanded the besieging force, weary of investing the fortress, made a proposal to the commandant to give the place up to him:  the offers were magnificent, but Colonel Murray answered indignantly:  “Sir, when the king his master ordered your brave ancestor to assassinate the Duke of Guise, he replied to Henry III., Honor forbids!  You ought to have made the same answer to the king of Spain when he ordered you to assassinate the honor of a man as well born as the Duke of Guise or yourself.  I desire to have no communication with you but by way of arms.”  And he kept up the defence of his fortress, continually battered by the besiegers’ cannonballs.  Assault succeeded assault:  the Duke of Crillon himself escaladed the ramparts to capture the English flag which floated on the top of a tower:  he was slightly wounded.  “How long have generals done grenadiers’ work?” said the officers to one another.  The general heard them.  “I wanted to make my Spaniards thorough French,” he said, “that nobody might any longer perceive that there are two nationalities here.”  Murray at last capitulated on the 4th of February, 1782:  the fortress contained but a handful of soldiers exhausted with fatigue and privation.

Great was the joy at Madrid as well as in France, and deep the dismay in London:  the ministry of Lord North could not stand against this last blow.  So many efforts and so many sacrifices ending in so many disasters were irritating and wearing out the nation.  “Great God!” exclaimed Burke, “is it still a time to talk to us of the rights we are upholding in this war!  Oh! excellent rights!  Precious they should be, for they have cost us dear.  Oh! precious rights, which have cost Great Britain thirteen provinces, four islands, a hundred thousand men, and more than ten millions sterling!  Oh! wonderful rights, which have cost Great Britain her empire upon the ocean and that boasted superiority which made all nations bend before her!  Oh! inestimable rights, which have taken from us our rank amongst the nations, our importance abroad and our happiness at home, which have destroyed our commerce and our manufactures, which have reduced us from the most flourishing empire in the world to a kingdom circumscribed and grandeur-less!  Precious rights, which will, no doubt, cost us all that we have left!” The debate was growing more and more bitter.  Lord North entered the House with his usual serenity.  “This discussion is a loss of valuable time to the House,” said he:  “His Majesty has just accepted the resignation of his ministers.”  The Whigs came into power; Lord Rockingham, the Duke of Richmond, Mr. Fox; the era of concessions was at hand.  An unsuccessful battle delivered against Hood and Rodney by Admiral de Grasse restored for a while the pride of the English.  A good sailor, brave and for a long time successful in war, Count de Grasse had many a time been out-manoeuvred by the English.  He had suffered himself to be enticed away from St. Christopher, which he was besieging, and which the Marquis of Bouille took a few days later; embarrassed by two damaged vessels, he would not abandon them to the English, and retarded his movements to protect them.  The English fleet was superior to the French in vessels and weight of metal; the fight lasted ten hours; the French squadron was broken, disorder ensued in the manoeuvres; the captains got killed one after another, nailing their colors to the mast or letting their vessels sink rather than strike; the flag-ship, the Ville de Paris, was attacked by seven of the enemy’s ships at once, her consorts could not get at her; Count de Grasse, maddened with grief and rage, saw all his crew falling around him.  “The admiral is six foot every day,” said the sailors, “on a fighting day he is six foot one.”  So much courage and desperation could not save the fleet, the count was forced to strike; his ship had received such damage that it sank before its arrival in England; the admiral was received in London with great honors against which his vanity was not proof, to the loss of his personal dignity and his reputation in Europe.  A national subscription in France reinforced the fleet with new vessels:  a squadron, commanded by M. de Suffren, had just carried into the East Indies the French flag, which had so long been humiliated, and which his victorious hands were destined to hoist aloft again for a moment.

As early as 1778, even before the maritime war had burst out in Europe, France had lost all that remained of her possessions on the Coromandel coast.  Pondicherry, scarcely risen from its ruins, was besieged by the English, and had capitulated on the 17th of October, after an heroic resistance of forty days’ open trenches.  Since that day a Mussulman, Hyder Ali, conqueror of the Carnatic, had struggled alone in India against the power of England:  it was around him that a group had been formed by the old soldiers of Bussy and by the French who had escaped from the disaster of Pondicherry.  It was with their aid that the able robber-chief, the crafty politician, had defended and consolidated the empire he had founded against that foreign dominion which threatened the independence of his country.  He had just suffered a series of reverses, and he was on the point of being forced to evacuate the Carnatic and take refuge in his kingdom of Mysore, when he heard, in the month of July, 1782, of the arrival of a French fleet commanded by M. de Suffren.  Hyder Ali had already been many times disappointed.  The preceding year Admiral d’Orves had appeared on the Coromandel coast with a squadron; the Sultan had sent to meet him, urging him to land and attack Madras, left defenceless; the admiral refused to risk a single vessel or land a single man, and he returned without striking a blow to Ile-de-France.  Ever indomitable and enterprising, Hyder Ali hoped better things of the new-comers; he was not deceived.

Born at St. Cannat in Provence, on the 13th of July, 1726, of an old and a notable family amongst the noblesse of his province, Peter Andrew de Suffren, admitted before he was seventeen into the marine guards, had procured his reception into the order of Malta; he had already distinguished himself in many engagements, when M. de Castries gave him the command of the squadron commissioned to convey to the Cape of Good Hope a French garrison promised to the Dutch, whose colony was threatened.  The English had seized Negapatam and Trincomalee; they hoped to follow up this conquest by the capture of Batavia and Ceylon.  Suffren had accomplished his mission, not without a brush with the English squadron commanded by Commodore Johnston.  Leaving the Cape free from attack, he had joined, off Ile-de-France, Admiral d’Orves, who was ill and at death’s door.  The vessels of the commander (of the Maltese order) were in a bad state, the crews were weak, the provisions were deficient; the inexhaustible zeal and the energetic ardor of the chief sufficed to animate both non-combatants and combatants.  When he put to sea on the 7th of December, Count d’Orves still commanded the squadron; on the 9th of February he expired out at sea, having handed over his command to M. de Suffren.  All feebleness and all hesitation disappeared from that moment in the management of the expedition.  When the nabob sent a French officer in his service to compliment M. de Suffren and proffer alliance, the commander interrupted the envoy:  “We will begin,” said he, “by settling the conditions of this alliance;” and not a soldier set foot on land before the independent position of the French force, the number of its auxiliaries, and the payment for its services had been settled by a treaty.

Hyder Ali consented to everything.  M. de Suffren set sail to go in search of the English.

He sought them for three months without any decisive result; it was only on the 4th of July in the morning, at the moment when Hyder Ali was to attack Negapatam, that a serious engagement began between the hostile fleets.  The two squadrons had already suffered severely; a change of wind had caused disorder in the lines:  the English had several vessels dismantled; one single French vessel, the Severe, had received serious damage; her captain, with cowardly want of spirit, ordered the flag to be hauled down.  His lieutenants protested; the volunteers to whom he had appealed refused to execute his orders.  By this time the report was spreading among the batteries that the captain, was giving the order to cease firing; the sailors were as indignant as the officers:  a cry arose, “The flag is down!” A complaisant subaltern had at last obeyed the captain’s repeated orders.  The officers jumped upon the quarter-deck.  “You are master of your flag,” fiercely cried an officer of the blue, Lieutenant Dien, “but we are masters as to fighting, and the ship shall not surrender!” By this time a boat from the English ship, the Sultan, had put off to board the Severe, which was supposed to have struck, when a fearful broadside from all the ship’s port-holes struck the Sultan, which found herself obliged to sheer off.  Night came; without waiting for the admiral’s orders, the English went and cast anchor under Negapatam.

M. de Suffren supposed that hostilities would be resumed; but, when the English did not appear, he at last prepared to set sail for Gondelour to refit his vessels, when a small boat of the enemy’s hove in sight:  it bore a flag of truce.  Admiral Hughes claimed the Severe, which had for an instant hauled down her flag.  M. de Suffren had not heard anything about her captain’s poltroonery; the flag had been immediately replaced; he answered that none of the French vessels had surrendered.  “However,” he added with a smile, “as this vessel belongs to Sir Edward Hughes, beg him from me to come for it himself.”  Suffren arrived without hinderance at Gondelour (Kaddalore).

Scarcely was he there, when Hyder Ali expressed a desire to see him, and set out for that purpose without waiting for his answer.  On the 26th of July, M. de Suffren landed with certain officers of his squadron; an escort of cavalry was in waiting to conduct him to the camp of the nabob, who came out to meet him.  “Heretofore I thought myself a great man and a great general,” said Hyder Ali to the admiral; “but now I know that you alone are a great man.”  Suffren informed the nabob that M. de Bussy-Castelnau, but lately the faithful lieutenant of Dupleix and the continuer of his victories, had just been sent to India with the title of commander-in-chief; he was already at Ile de France, and was bringing some troops.  “Provided that you remain with us, all will go well,” said the nabob, detaching from his turban an aigrette of diamonds which he placed on M. de Suffren’s hat.  The nabob’s tent was reached; Suffren was fat, he had great difficulty in sitting upon the carpets; Hyder Ali perceived this and ordered cushions to be brought.  “Sit as you please,” said he to the commander, “etiquette was not made for such as you.”  Next day, under the nabob’s tent, all the courses of the banquet offered to M. de Suffren were prepared in European style.  The admiral proposed that Hyder Ali should go to the coast and see all the fleet dressed, but, “I put myself out to see you only,” said the nabob, “I will not go any farther.”  The two great warriors were never to meet again.

The French vessels were ready; the commander had more than once put his own hand to the work in order to encourage the workmen’s zeal.  Carpentry-wood was wanted; he had ransacked Gondelour (Kaddalore) for it, sometimes pulling down a house to get hold of a beam that suited him.  His officers urged him to go to Bourbon or Ile-de-France for the necessary supplies and for a good port to shelter his damaged ships.  “Until I have conquered one in India, I will have no port but the sea,” answered Suffren.  He had re-taken Trincomalee before the English could come to its defence.  The battle began.  As had already happened more than once, a part of the French force showed weakness in the thick of the action either from cowardice or treason; a cabal had formed against the commander; he was fighting single-handed against five or six assailants:  the main-mast and the flag of the Heros, which he was on, fell beneath the enemy’s cannon-balls.  Suffren, standing on the quarter-deck, shouted beside himself “Flags!  Set white flags all round the Heros!” The vessel, all bristling with flags, replied so valiantly to the English attacks, that the rest of the squadron had time to re-form around it; the English went and anchored before Madras.

Bussy had arrived, but aged, a victim to gout, quite a stranger amid those Indian intrigues with which he had but lately been so well acquainted.  Hyder Ali had just died on the 7th of December, 1782, leaving to his son Tippoo Sahib affairs embroiled and allies enfeebled.  At this news the Mahrattas, in revolt against England, hastened to make peace; and Tippoo Sahib, who had just seized Tanjore, was obliged to abandon his conquest and go to the protection of Malabar.  Ten thousand men only remained in the Carnatic to back the little corps of French.  Bussy allowed himself to be driven to bay by General Stuart beneath the walls of Gondelour; he had even been forced to shut himself up in the town.  M. de Suffren went to his release.  The action was hotly contested; when the victor landed, M. de Bussy was awaiting him on the shore.  “Here is our savior,” said the general to his troops, and the soldiers taking up in their arms M. de Suffren, who had been lately promoted by the grand master of the order of Malta to the rank of grand-cross (bailli), carried him in triumph into the town.  “He pressed M. de Bussy every day to attack us,” says Sir Thomas Munro, “offering to land the greater part of his crews and to lead them himself to deliver the assault upon our camp.”  Bussy had, in fact, resumed the offensive, and was preparing to make fresh sallies, when it was known at Calcutta that the preliminaries of peace had been signed at Paris on the 9th of February.  The English immediately proposed an armistice.  The Surveillante shortly afterwards brought the same news, with orders for Suffren to return to France.  India was definitively given up to the English, who restored to the French Pondicherry, Chandernuggur, Mahe, and Karikal, the last strips remaining of that French dominion which had for a while been triumphant throughout the peninsula.  The feebleness and the vices of Louis XV.’s government weighed heavily upon the government of Louis XVI. in India as well as in France, and at Paris itself.

It is to the honor of mankind and their consolation under great reverses that political checks and the inutility of their efforts do not obscure the glory of great men.  M. de Suffren had just arrived at Paris, he was in low spirits; M. de Castries took him to Versailles.  There was a numerous and brilliant court.  On entering the guards’ hall, “Gentlemen,” said the minister to the officers on duty, “this is M. de Suffren.”  Everybody rose, and the body-guards, forming an escort for the admiral, accompanied him to the king’s chamber.  His career was over; the last of the great sailors of the old regimen died on the 8th of December, 1788.

Whilst Hyder Ali and M. de Suffren were still disputing India with England, that power had just gained in Europe an important advantage in the eyes of public opinion as well as in respect of her supremacy at sea.

For close upon three years past a Spanish army had been investing by land the town and fortress of Gibraltar; a strong squadron was cruising out of cannon-shot of the place, incessantly engaged in barring the passage against the English vessels.  Twice already, in 1780 by Admiral Rodney, and in 1781 by Admiral Darby, the vigilance of the cruisers had been eluded and reinforcements of troops, provisions, and ammunition had been thrown into Gibraltar.  In 1782 the town had been half destroyed by an incessantly renewed bombardment, the fortifications had not been touched.  Every morning, when he awoke, Charles III. would ask anxiously, “Have we got Gibraltar?” and when “No” was answered, “We soon shall,” the monarch would rejoin imperturbably.  The capture of Fort Philip had confirmed him in his hopes; he considered his object gained, when the Duke of Crillon with a corps of French troops came and joined the besiegers; the Count of Artois, brother to the king, as well as the Duke of Bourbon, had come with him.  The camp of St. Roch was the scene of continual festivities, sometimes interrupted by the sallies of the besieged.  The fights did not interfere with mutual good offices:  in his proud distress, General Eliot still kept up an interchange of refreshments with the French princes and the Duke of Crillon; the Count of Artois had handed over to the English garrison the letters and correspondence which had been captured on the enemy’s ships, and which he had found addressed to them on his way through Madrid.

Preparations were being made for a grand assault.  A French engineer, Chevalier d’Arcon, had invented some enormous floating batteries, fire-proof, as he believed; a hundred and fifty pieces of cannon were to batter the place all at once, near enough to facilitate the assault.  On the 13th of September, at 9 A. M., the Spaniards opened fire:  all the artillery in the fort replied at once; the surrounding mountains repeated the cannonade; the whole army covered the shore awaiting with anxiety the result of the enterprise.  Already the fortifications seemed to be beginning to totter; the batteries had been firing for five hours; all at once the Prince of Nassau, who commanded a detachment, thought he perceived flames mastering his heavy vessel; the fire spread rapidly; one after another, the floating batteries found themselves disarmed.  “At seven o’clock we had lost all hope,” said an Italian officer who had taken part in the assault; “we fired no more, and our signals of distress remained unnoticed.  The red-hot shot of the besieged rained down upon us; the crews were threatened from every point.”  Timidly and by weak detachments, the boats of the two fleets crept up under cover of the batteries in hopes of saving some of the poor creatures that were like to perish; the flames which burst out on board the doomed ships served to guide the fire of the English as surely as in broad daylight.  At the head of a small squadron of gunboats Captain Curtis barred the passage of the salvors; the conflagration became general, only the discharges from the fort replied to the hissing of the flames and to the Spaniard’s cries of despair.  The fire at last slackened; the English gunboats changed their part; at the peril of their lives the brave seamen on board of them approached the burning ships, trying to save the unfortunate crews; four hundred men owed their preservation to those efforts.  A month after this disastrous affair, Lord Howe, favored by the accidents of wind and weather, revictualled for the third time, and almost without any fighting, the fortress and the town under the very eyes of the allied fleets.  Gibraltar remained impregnable.

Peace was at hand, however:  all the belligerents were tired of the strife; the Marquis of Rockingham was dead; his ministry, after being broken up, had re-formed with less lustre under the leadership of Lord Shelburne.  William Pitt, Lord Chatham’s second son, at that time twenty-two years of age, had a seat in the cabinet.  Already negotiations for a general peace had begun at Paris; but Washington, who eagerly desired the end of the war, did not yet feel any confidence.  “The old infatuation, the political duplicity and perfidy of England, render me, I confess, very suspicious, very doubtful,” he wrote; “and her position seems to me to be perfectly summed up in the laconic saying of Dr. Franklin ’They are incapable of continuing the war and too proud to make peace.’  The pacific overtures made to the different belligerent nations have probably no other design than to detach some one of them from the coalition.  At any rate, whatever be the enemy’s intentions, our watchfulness and our efforts, so far from languishing, should become more vigorous than ever.  Too much trust and confidence would ruin everything.”

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

On the 5th of December, at the opening of Parliament, George III. announced in the speech from the throne that he had offered to recognize the independence of the American colonies.  “In thus admitting their separation from the crown of this kingdom, I have sacrificed all my desires to the wishes and opinion of my people,” said the king.  “I humbly pray Almighty God, that Great Britain may not feel the evils which may flow from so important a dismemberment of its empire, and that America may be a stranger to the calamities which have before now proved to the mother-country that monarchy is inseparable from the benefits of constitutional liberty.  Religion, language, interests, affections may still form a bond of union between the two countries, and I will spare no pains or attention to promote it.”  “I was the last man in England to consent to the Independence of America,” said the king to John Adams, who was the first to represent the new republic at the Court of St. James; “I will be the last in the world to sanction any violation of it.”  Honest and sincere in his concessions as he had been in his persistent obstinacy, the king supported his ministers against the violent attacks made upon them in Parliament.  The preliminaries of general peace had been signed at Paris on the 20th of January, 1783.

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

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

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