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   Chapter 41 1780). No.41

Formation of the Union By Albert Bushnell Hart Characters: 2375

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02


[Sidenote: Interest of France.]

[Sidenote: English plan of reconciliation.]

From the beginning of the American struggle the French government had looked on with interest and pleasure. The arrogance of England during the previous war and during the negotiations of 1763 had excited a general dislike throughout Europe. When, in June, 1776, Silas Deane appeared at Paris as the American envoy, he found, not recognition, but at least sympathy and assistance. Beaumarchais, a play-writer and adventurer, was made an unofficial agent of France; and through him arms and supplies from royal arsenals came into the hands of the Americans. More to the purpose, money was placed at the disposal of the envoys. In 1776 a million francs were thus secured; in 1777 two millions. The arrival of Franklin in Paris in December, 1776, increased the American influence, and negotiations were entered upon for a treaty. The English cabinet, understanding the danger of a double war, made a last effort at reconciliation with the colonies. In 1778 Lord North brought forward an act declaring that Parliament "will not impose any duty, taxes, or assessment whatever … in North America or the West Indi

es, except only such duties as it may be expedient to impose for the regulation of commerce, the net produce of such duties to be always paid and applied to and for the use of the colony in which the same shall be levied." The principle which had been so strenuously asserted by the home government from 1765 to 1774 was now abandoned; it might reasonably be expected that the violent acts of Massachusetts directed against taxation would be forgiven. Commissioners were sent to America with almost unlimited powers to remove the grievances of the colonies, and to restore peace and concord.

[Sidenote: Alliance with France.]

Before they were appointed, a treaty of alliance had been made, Feb. 6, 1778, between the United States and France. With it went a treaty of commerce, insuring reciprocal trade with France. The colonies, which in 1758 had been fiercely fighting the French as their hereditary enemies, were now delighted at the prospect of their support. The peace commission remained in America from June to October; but though they offered every concession short of absolute independence, the Americans remained firm, and entered with confidence on the campaign of 1778.

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