« ПретходнаНастави »
• Lord Howe, from his late interview with the American delegates, considering a reconciliation impossible, began to press vigorous measures. On the 22nd of August, an army composed of British and Hessian soldiers landed on Long Island, opposite to a body of American troops encamped near Brookline, under the command of general Washington, and constituting the flower of the American army. A ridge of hills intersected the island from east to west, and served at first as a separation between the two armies. Three passes which lay through them were commanded by different detachments of the Americans. Nothing remarkable occurred till the 26th, when the whole British army, under generals Cornwallis, Clinton, and Percy, marched forward, gained the eastern pass, and the next morning drew up in order of battle. The Americans followed the example; and at nine o'clock the action began by a heavy cannonade on the right wing of the Americans. Clinton now, by a skilful manquvre turning the left wing, took the right wing of the enemy in the rear; and the whole American army was thrown into confusion. They then commenced a retreat to the village of Brookline, in the course of which general Sullivan and two other officers, together with one thousand men, were taken prisoners of war, leaving two thousand dead upon the field; while the loss of the British and Hes. sians in this affair did not exceed three hundred and fifty men.
The Americans withdrew on the night of the 29th, crossing the channel to the island on which New York is situated, and at first taking up a position three miles from that city ; but Washington, finding the troops dispirited, was compelled to continue his retreat. Fort Washington, with its garrison of 2600 men, and Fort Lee, now fell into the hands of the British, who overran New Jersey as far as Brunswick. The army of the new republic, diminished by desertion and defeat, did not, on its reaching the Delaware, exceed 3000 effective men. The British commanders, Howe and
Cornwallis, did not act in concert; for the latter declared he could have dispersed the American army at this time, and thus have finished the war.
Amongst other gloomy circumstances for America, the capture of one of her ablest generals, Lee, in the neighbourhood of New York, was not the least considerable, he having formerly held a commission under the British crown: this officer united considerable military experience with great promptitude. England considered him a great acquisition as a prisoner of war, and at first affected to regard him as a traitor.
But the dignity and perseverance of the Congress were equal to every thing. They were careful to advertise the British authorities, that any treatment to captive Americans, contrary to the usual law of nations as prisoners of war, would be severely retaliated. They issued letters of marque and reprisal, and the privateers of their country spread themselves over the ocean; European nations looked toward them with respect, and even with envy. A diplomatic correspondence was opening with all Europe; and the year did not close without their publicly designating Franklin to the most important office he ever filled, that of minister plenipotentiary from the United States to France.
Dr Franklin was at this period in the 71st year of his age. No public man connected with its most polished courts had greater reputation in Europe. His philosophical attainments were the graceful ornaments of a solid and statesman-like mind; while his political sentiments and liberal tone of thinking were exactly adapted to his new station. Previously to his embarkation from America, he suggested the propriety of the Congress furnishing him with some bases of peace with England. These, he urged, would in case of capture be a protection to his person, if found upon him; while it was possible they would also facilitate his success in France. He therefore drew up a sketch of propositions for peace with England at this time, bold enough certainly in
their claims on the mother-country, but well calculated, as our author knew, to divide her councils, and to benefit America. In this paper he proposed. :S
I. That Great Britain should acknowledge the independence of the United States.
II. That the mother-country should cede to the United States, the provinces of Quebec, St. John's, Nova Scotia, Bermuda, East and West Florida, and the Bahama Isles, with all the dependent intermediate territories.
III. That the United States should pay to Great Britain an annual sum, say 100,000l. for ten years, in recompence for the abandonment of her sovereignty over the colonies.
IV. That America should also guarantee free trade to the subjects of Great Britain throughout all her territories, as well as the peaceable possession of the British West Indies.
Franklin calculated, that on the one hand his country night soon expend in war more than the sum stipulated, and that the being willing to pay it would on the other hand work upon the pecuniary feelings of England, and might, as he states, “ furnish a pretence” for his going there.
It does not appear that this paper was in any formal way adopted by his countrymen; but having thus expressed his mind on these important topics, he left Philadelphia for Marcus Hook, October 26, 1776, attended by his two grandchildren, William Temple Franklin and Benjamin Franklin Bache. The United States' sloop Reprisal, of sixteen guns, commanded by captain Wicks, was ordered to wait upon him. The party embarked at this place for France on the 28th. In her passage she captured two English brigs, and, being a good sailer, saw land at Belleisle on the 28th of November. On the 29th sho entered Quiberon Bay; but the wind being contrary for three or four days, she could not get up the Loire: Dr Franklin and his grandsons were therefore put on shore at Auray, December 3rd.
. During this passage Dr Franklin made daily experiments on the temperature of sea-water, with a view to ascertaining the ship's course in relation to the GULF STREAM. To this subject, as opportunity was afforded, he had directed his 'attention for several years; and it is to him, we believe, that the European maps of the Atlantic owe their first delineation of its course.
Dr Franklin and his young attendants had no very propitious entrance into France at this time. Auray was not a post town; and between that place and Vannes, where a chaise was procured for them the next day, they passed a wood late in the evening, where they had the felicity to be told of a robbery and murder committed a few days before. His grandsons noticed the remarkable fairness of the female complexion in this part of France; and our philosopher states that he saw on the road to Nantes the fairest woman he ever beheld. In the north of France, except about Abbeville, the complexion of both sexes, he says, was remarkably swarthy.
Although Dr Franklin did not at this time assume publicly a diplomatic character, he very cordially availed himself of every display of public feeling on behalf of his country. When therefore, at Nantes, a M. Gruel and several friends of America invited him as the representative of the United States to a public dinner, he accepted the compliment : the party afterwards adjourned for the evening to the country seat of this gentleman, and the American delegate was welcomed to France by “crowds” of respectable visitors.
He was solicited very hospitably to remain in this comparative retirement; and the invitation accorded with the state of his health. He therefore forwarded to Mr Silas Deane, at Paris, a copy of their joint commission from Congress, and requested all the information he could communicate of the state of parties, the disposition of the French court, &c., to be forwarded to him at this place; where he had the satis.
faction to learn that he was expected in France as the advocate of the new Republic, and that his predecessor had already prevailed with the government to despatch 30,000 firelocks, 200 brass field-pieces, and other military stores, under convoy of a sloop of war, to America. But so cautious were the French ministry at this time, on the subject of committing themselves with England, that Čaron de Beaumarchais, the agent of the court, was ordered to establish a commercial house at Paris, under the firm of Roderigue, Hortalez, and Co., which, though supplied with the cannon and stores from the arsenals of France, debited them to Congress in a regular way, and stipulated to receive in return tobacco and other articles of American produce to the full amount. The artillery, &c., employed in the capture of general Burgoyne's army, were obtained from France in the same way.
Dr Franklin left Nantes for Paris, 15th December, and resided for about three weeks in that capital; when he removed to Passy, a beautiful village about a league from the barriers, and occupied the house of his friend M. Le Roy de Chaumont.
He now deliberated, with a wisdom worthy the friend and adviser of Chatham, on the entire situation and prospects of his country. He knew that to obtain any alliances with European powers, she must earn a station of respectability and equality with them; as certainly as that, with regard to the mothercountry, she must conquer in war before she could expect her independence to be acknowledged by a peace. Dr Franklin therefore found it necessary to contradict the general report, that he was commissioned to Europe solely, or even principally, to negotiate a peace in the first instance. He was ordered thither, he stated, to procure aids for carrying on the just and unavoidable war in which his country was engaged: aids which, as he was prepared to shew, it was as much the interest of the principal European states to grant, as of the Americans to receive; since