The Pictorial Field-Book
of The Revolution
by Benson J. Lossing
Chapter Three, part two
first to last be permitted to wear their side-arms; 12th. That if the army found it .necessary to send for their clothing and other baggage from Canada, they should be permitted to do so, and have the necessary passports granted them; 13th. That these articles should be signed and exchanged on the following morning at nine o'clock, the troops to march out of their intrenchments at three o'clock in the afternoon. Appended (October 17.) to these articles was an addendum or postscript, signed by General Gates, declaring that General Burgoyne, whose name was not mentioned in the above treaty, was fully comprehended in it. (1)
During the night of the 16th Captain Campbell succeeded in eluding the American sentinels, and reached the British camp with dispatches from Sir Henry Clinton announcing his capture of the forts among the Hudson Highlands, and the expedition of Vaughan and Wallace as far up the river as Esopus. Here was a ray of hope, and Burgoyne felt disposed to withhold his signature from the "convention." General Gates was apprized of this, and of the cause which had excited new hopes in the British commander. He was better acquainted, too, with the threatening aspect below than Burgoyne, and he knew that "delays are dangerous." He drew up his army on the morning of the 17th in order of battle, and then sent a peremptory message to Burgoyne, that if the articles were not signed by him immediately, he should open a fire upon him. Under the circumstances, the terms were exceedingly humane and honorable; far more so than might be expected if the negotiation should be here broken off and again commenced. With reluctance Burgoyne subscribed his name, and preparations were immediately made for the ceremonies of surrender.
The British army left their camp upon the hills, and marched sorrowfully down upon the "green" or level plain in front of old Fort Hardy,(2) where the different companies were drawn up in parallel lines, and, by order of their several commanders, grounded their arms and emptied their cartridge-boxes. They were not subject to the mortification of thus submitting under the gaze of an exulting foe, for General Gates, with a delicacy and magna-
1 A copy of these articles, said to be in the
handwriting of General Gates, and signed by the two commanders, is in the
possession of the New York Historical Society, from which the above fac-similes
2 Fort Hardy was situated at the junction of the Fish Creek with the Hudson River, on the north side of the former. It was built of earth and logs, and was thrown up by the French, under Baron Dieskau, in 1755, when Sir William Johnson was making preparations at Albany to march against the French on Lakes Champlain and George. It was abandoned by the French, and named by the English Fort Hardy, in honor of Sir Charles Hardy, who was that year appointed Governor of New York. The lines of the intrenehments of the fort inclosed about fifteen acres, bounded south by the Fish Creek. and east by the Hudson River. This fort was a ruin at the time of the Revolution; yet, when I visited it (July, 1848), many traces of its outworks were still visible. Its form may be seen by reference to the map, page 77. Many military relics have been found near the fort, and I was told that, in excavating for the Champlain Canal, a great number of human skeletons were found. The workmen had, doubtless, struck upon the burial. place of the garrison.
nimity of feeling which drew forth the expressed admiration of Burgoyne and his officers, had ordered all his army within his camp, out of sight of the vanquished Britons.(1) Colonel Wilkinson, who had been sent to the British camp, and, in company with Burgoyne, selected the place where the troops were to lay down their arms, was the only American officer present at the scene.(2)
The sketch here presented, of the place where the British army surrendered, was made from one of the canal bridges at Schuylerville, looking east-northeast. The stream of water in the fore-ground is Fish Creek, and the level ground seen between it and the distant hills on the left is the place where the humiliation of the Britons occurred. The tree by the fence, in the center of the picture, designates the northwest angle of Fort Hardy, and the other three trees on the right stand nearly on the line of the northern breast-works. The row of small trees, apparently at the foot of the dIstant hills, marks the course of the Hudson; and the hills that bound the view are those on which the Americans were posted. This plain is directly in front of Schuylerville, between that village and the Hudson. General Fellows was stationed upon the high ground seen over the barn on the right, and the eminence on the extreme left is the place whence the American cannon played upon the house wherein the Baroness Reidesel and other ladies sought refuge.
As soon as the troops had laid down their arms, General Burgoyne proposed to be introduced to General Gates. They crossed Fish Creek, and proceeded toward headquarters, Burgoyne in front with his adjutant general, Kingston, and his aids-de-camp, Captain Lord Petersham and Lieutenant Wilford, behind him. Then followed Generals Phillips, Riedesel, and Hamilton, and other officers and suites, according to rank. General Gates was informed of the approach of Burgoyne, and with his staff met him at the head of his camp, about a mile south of the Fish Creek, Burgoyne in a rich uniform of scarlet and gold, and! Gates in a plain blue frock-coat. When within about a sword's length, they reined up and halted. Colonel Wilkinson then named the gentlemen, and General Burgoyne, raising his hat gracefully, said, "The fortune of war, General Gates, has made me your prisoner." The victor promptly replied, "I shall always be ready to bear testimony that it has not
1 Letter or Burgoyne to the Earl or Derby. Stedman, i.,
352. Botta, ii., 21
2 See Wilkinson.
been through any fault of your excellency." The other officers were introduced in turn, and the whole party repaired to Gates's headquarters, where a sumptuous dinner was served.(1)
After dinner the American army was drawn up in parallel lines on each side of the road, extending nearly a mile. Between these victorious troops the British army, with light infantry in front, and escorted by a company of light dragoons, preceded by two mounted officers bearing the AmerIcan flag, marched to the lively tune of Yankee Doodle. (3) Just as they passed, the two commanding generals, who were in Gates's marquee, came out together, and, fronting the procession, gazed upon it in silence a few moments. What a contrast, in every particular, did the two present! Burgoyne, though possessed of coarse features, had a large and commanding person; Gates was smaller and far less dignified in appearance. Burgoyne was arrayed in the splendid military trappings of his rank; Gates was clad in a plain and unassuming dress. Burgoyne was the victim of disappointed hopes and foiled ambition, and looked upon the scene with exceeding sorrow; Gates was buoyant with the first flush of a great victory. Without exchanging a word, Burgoyne, according to previous understanding, stepped back, drew his sword, and, in the presence of the two armies, presented it to General Gates. He received it with a courteous inclination of the head, and instantly returned it to the vanquished general. They then retired to the marquee together, the British army filed off and took up their line of march for Boston, and thus ended the drama upon the heights of Saratoga.
The whole number of prisoners surrendered was five thousand seven hundred and ninety one, of whom two thousand four hundred and twelve were Germans and Hessians. The force of the Americans, at the time of the surrender, was, according to a statement which General Gates furnished to Burgoyne, thirteen thousand two hundred and twenty-two, of which number nine thousand and ninety-three were Continentals, or regular soldiers, and four thousand one hundred and twenty-nine were militia. The arms and ammunition which came into the possession of the Americans were, a fine train of brass artillery, consisting of 2 twenty-four pounders, 4 twelve pounders, 20 sixes, 6 threes, 2 eight inch howitzers, 5 five and a half inch royal howitzers, and 3 five and a half inch royal mortars; 4 in all forty-two
1 See Wilkinson.
2 This view is taken from the turnpike, looking south. The old road was where the canal now is, and the place of meeting was about at the point where the bridge is seen.
3 Thatcher, in his Military Journal (p. 19), gives the following account of the origin of the word Yank.ee and of Yankee Doodle: "A farmer of Cambridge, Massachusetts, named Jonathan Hastings, who lived about the year 1713, used it as a favorite cant word to express excellence, as a yankee good horse or yankee good cider. The students of the college, hearing him use it a great deal, adopted it, and called him Yankee Jonathan; and as he was a rather weak man, the students, when they wished to denote a character of that kind, would call him Yankee Jonathan. Like other cant words, it spread, and came finally tv be applied to the New Englanders as a term of reproach. Some suppose the term to be the Indian corruption of the word English-Yenglees, Yangles, Yankles, and finally Yankee.
" A song, called Yankee Doodle, was written by a British sergeant at Boston, in 1775, to ridicule the people there, when the American army, under Washington, was encamped at Cambridge and Roxbury," See "Origin of Yankee Doodle," page 480, of this volume.
4 Two of these, drawings of which will be found on page 700, are now in the court of the laboratory of the West Point Military Academy, on the Hudson.
pieces of ordnance. There were four thousand six hundred and forty-seven muskets, and six thousand dozens of cartridges, besides shot, carcasses, cases, shells, &c. Among the English prisoners were six members of Parliament.(1)
Contemporary writers represent the appearance of the poor German and Hessian troops as extremely miserable and ludicrous. They deserved commiseration, but they received none. They came not here voluntarily to fight our people; they were sent as slaves by their masters, who received the price of their hire. They were caught, it is said, while congregated in their churches and elsewhere, and forced into the service. Most of them were torn reluctantly from their families and friends; hundreds of them deserted here before the close of the war; and many of their descendants are now living among us. Many had their wives with them, and these helped to make up the pitiable procession through the country. Their advent into Cambridge, near Boston, is thus noticed by the lady of Dr. Winthrop of that town, in a letter to Mrs. Mercy Warren, ail early historian of our Revolution: "On Friday we heard the Hessians were to make a procession on the same route. We thought we should have nothing to do but view them as they passed. To be sure, the sight was truly astonishing. I never had the least idea that the creation produced such a sordid set of creatures in human figure-poor, dirty, emaciated men. Great numbers of women, who seemed to be the beasts of burden, having bushel baskets on their backs, by which they were bent double. The contents seemed to be pots and kettles, various sorts of furniture, children peeping through gridirons and other utensils. Some very young infants, who were born on the road; the women barefooted,.clothed in dirty rags. Such effluvia filled the air while; they were passing, that, had they not been smoking all the time, I should have been apprehensive of being contaminated."(2)
The whole view of the vanquished army, as it marched through the country from Saratoga to Boston, a distance of three hundred miles, escorted by two or three American officers and a handful of soldiers, was a spectacle of extraordinary interest. Generals of the first order of talent; young gentlemen of noble and wealthy families, aspiring to military renown; legislators of the British realm, and a vast concourse of other men; lately confident of victory and of freedom to plunder and destroy, were led captive through the pleasant land they had cove ed, to be gazed at with mingled joy and scorn by those whose homes they came to make desolate. " Their march was solemn, sullen, and silent; but they were every where treated with such humanity, and even delicacy, that they were. overwhelmed with astonishment and gratitude. Not one insult was offered, not an opprobrious reflection cast ;"(3)and in all their long captivity(4) they experienced the generous kindness of a people warring only to be free.
1 Gordon, ii., 267.
2 Women of the Revolution, i., 97. 3 Mercy Warren, ii., 40.
3 Although Congress ratified the generous terms entered into by Gates with Burgoyne in the convention at Saratoga, circumstances made them suspicious that the terms would not be strictly complied with. They feared that the Britons would break their parole, and Burgoyne was required to furnish a complete roll of his army, the name and rank of every officer, and the name, former place of abode, occupation, age, and size of every non-commissioned officer and private soldier. Burgoyne murmured and hesitated. General Howe, at the same time, was very illiberal in the exchange of prisoners, and exhibited considerable duplicity. Congress became alarmed, and resolved not to allow the army of Burgoyne to leave our shores until a formal ratification of the convention should be made by the British government. Burgoyne alone was allowed to go home on parole, and the other officers, with the army, were marched into the interior of Virginia, to await the future action of the two governments. The British ministry charged Congress with positive perfidy, and Congress justified their acts by charging the ministers with meditated perfidy. That this suspicion was well founded is proved by subsequent events. In the autumn of 1778, Isaac Ogden, a prominent loyalist of New Jersey, and then a refugee in New York, thus wrote to Joseph Galloway, an American Tory in London, respecting an expedition of four thousand British troops which Sir Henry Clinton sent up the Hudson a week previous: "Another object of this expedition was to open the country for many of Burgoyne's troops that had escaped the vigilance of their guard, to come in. About forty of these have got safe in. If this expedition had been a week sooner, greater part of Burgoyne's troops probably would have arrived here, as a disposition of rising on their guard strongly prevailed, and all they wanted to effect it was some support near at hand."
The surrender of Burgoyne was an event of infinite importance to the struggling republicans. Hitherto the preponderance of success had been on the side of the English, and only a few partial victories had been won by the Americans. The defeat on Long Island had eclipsed the glory of the siege of Boston; the capture of Fort Washington and its garrison had overmatched the brilliant defense of Charleston; the defeat at Brandywine had balanced the victory at Trenton; White Plains and Princeton were in fair juxtaposition in the account current; and at the very time when the hostile armies at the north were fighting for the mastery, Washington was suffering defeats in Pennsylvania, and Forts Clinton, Montgomery, and Constitution were passing into the hands of the royal forces. Congress had lied from Philadelphia to York, and its sittings were in the midst of loyalists, ready to attack or betray. Its treasury was nearly exhausted; its credit utterly so. Its bills to the amount of forty millions of dollars were scattered over the country. Its frequent issues were inadequate to the demands of the commissariat, and distrust was rapidly depreciating their value in the public mind. Loyalists rejoiced; the middlemen were in a dilemma; the patriots trembled. Thick clouds of doubt and dismay were gathering in every part of the political horizon, and the acclamations which had followed the Declaration of Independence. the year before, died away like mere whispers upon the wind.
All eyes were turned anxiously to the army of the north, and upon that strong arm of Congress, wielded, for the time, by Gates, the hopes of the patriots leaned. How eagerly they listened to every breath of rumor from Saratoga! How enraptured were they when the cry of victory fell upon their ears! All over the land a shout of triumph went up, and from the furrows, and workshops, and marts of commerce; from the pulpit, from provincial halls of legislation, from partisan camps, and from the shattered ranks of the chief at White Marsh, it was echoed and re-echoed. Toryism, which had begun to lift high its head, retreated behind the defense of inaction; the bills of Congress rose twenty per cent. in value; capital came forth from its hiding-places; the militia readily obeyed the summons to the camp, and the great patriot heart of America beat strongly with pulsations of hope. Amid the joy of the moment, Gates was apotheosized in the hearts of his countrymen, mid they
The engraving exhibits a view of both sides of the medal, drawn the size of the original. On one side is a bust of General Gates, with the Latin inscription, "HORATIO GATES DUCl STRENUO COMITIA AMERICANA;" The American Congress, to Heratio Gates, the valiant leader. On the other side, Of reverse, Burgoyne is represented in the attitude of delivering up his sword and in the background, on either side or them, are seen the two armies of England and America, the former laying down their arms. At the top is the Latin inscription, "SALUS REGIONUM SEPTENTRIONAL ," literal English, Safety of the northern region or department. Below is the inscription, "HOSTE AD SARATOGAM IN DEDITION, ACCEPT O DIE xvii. OCT. MI CCLXXVII;" English, Enemy at Saratoga surrendered October 17th, 1777.
generously overlooked the indignity offered by him to the commander-in-chief when he refused, in the haughty pride of his heart in that hour of victory, to report, as in duty bound, his success to the national council through him. Congress, too, overjoyed at the result, forgot its own dignity, and allowed Colonel Wilkinson,(1) the messenger of the glad tidings, to stand upon their floor and proclaim, "The whole British army have laid down their arms at Saratoga; our own, full of vigor and courage, expect your orders; it is for your wisdom to decide where the country may still have need of their services." Congress voted thanks to General Gates and his army, and decreed that he should be presented with a medal of gold, to be struck expressly in commemoration of so glorious a victory.
This victory was also of infinite importance to the republicans on account of its effects beyond the Atlantic. The highest hopes of the British nation, and the most sanguine expectations of the king and his ministers, rested on the success of this campaign. It had been a favorite object with the administration, and the people were confidently assured that, with the undoubted success of Burgoyne, the turbulent spirit of rebellion would be quelled, and the insurgents would be forced to return to their allegiance.
Parliament was in session when the intelligence of Burgoyne's defeat reached England; (December 3, 1777.) and when the mournful tidings were communicated to that body, it instantly aroused all the fire of opposing parties.(2)The opposition opened anew their eloquent batteries upon the ministers. For several days misfortune had been suspected. The last arrival from America brought tidings of gloom. The Earl of Chatham, with far-reaching comprehension, and thorough knowledge of American affairs, had denounced the mode of warfare and the material used against the Americans. He refused to vote for the laudatory address to the king. Leaning upon his crutch, he poured forth his vigorous denunciations against the course of the ministers like a mountain torrent. " This, my lords," he said, "is a perilous and tremendous moment! It is no time for adulation. The smoothness of flattery can not now avail-can not save us in this rugged and awful crisis. It is now necessary to instruct the throne in the language of truth. . . . . . . . . You can not. I venture to say it, you can not conquer America. What is your present situation there? We do not know the worst, but we know that in three campaigns we have suffered much and gained nothing, and perhaps at this moment the northern army (Burgoyne's) may be a total loss. . . . . . . . . You may swell every expense, and every effort, still more extravagantly; pile and accumulate every assistance you can buy or borrow; traffic and barter with every little pitiful German prince that sells and sends his subjects to the shambles of a foreIgn power; your efforts are forever vain and impotent; doubly so from this mercenary aid on which you rely, for it irritates to an incurable resentment the minds of your enemies. To overrun with the mercenary sons of rapine and plunder, devoting them and their possessions to the rapacity of hireling cruelty! If I were an American, as I am an Englishman, while a foreign troop was landed in my country, I never would lay down my arms-never, never, never !"(3)
The Earl of Coventry, Earl Temple Chatham's brother-in-law, and the Duke of Richmond, all spoke in coincidence with Chatham. Lord Suffolk, one of the Secretaries of State, undertook the defense of ministers for the employment of Indians, and concluded by saying, " It is perfectly justifiable to use all the means that God and nature have put into our hands." This sentiment brought Chatham upon the floor. "That God and nature put
1 James Wilkinson was born in Maryland about 1757, and,
by education, was prepared for the practice of medicine. He repaired to
Cambridge as a volunteer In 1775. He was captain of a company in a regiment
that went to Canada in 1776. He was appointed deputy adjutant general by
Gates, and, after the surrender of Burgoyne, Congress made him a brigadier
general by brevet. At the conclusion of the war he settled in Kentucky,
but entered the army in 1806, and had the command on the Mississippi. He
commanded on the northern frontier during our last war with Great Britain.
A t the age of 56 he married a young lady of 26. He died of diarrhea, in
Mexico, December 28th, 1825, aged 68 years.
2 Pitkin, i., 399.
3 Parliamentary Debates.
into our hands!" he reiterated, with bitter scorn. "I know not what idea that lord may entertain of God and nature, but I know that such abominable principles are equally abhorrent to religion and humanity. What! attribute the sacred sanction of God and nature to the massacres of the Indian scalping-knife, to the cannibal and savage, torturing, murdering. roasting, and eating-literally, my lords, eating-the mangled victims of his barbarous battles. . . . . . . . . These abominable principles, and this most abominable avowal of them, demand most decisive indignation. I call upon that right reverend bench (pointing to the bishops), those holy ministers of the Gospel and pious pastors of the Church-I conjure them to join in the holy work, and to vindicate the religion of their God."
In the Lower House, Burke, Fox, and Barre were equally severe upon the ministers: and on the 3d of December, when the news of Burgoyne's defeat reached London, the latter arose in his place in the Commons, and, with a severe and solemn countenance, asked Lord George Germain, the Secretary of War, what news he had received by his last expresses from Quebec, and to say, upon his word of honor, what had become of Burgoyne and his brave army. The haughty secretary was irritated by the cool irony of the question, but he was obliged to unbend and to confess that the unhappy intelligence had reached him, but added it was not yet authenticated.(1)
Lord North, the premier, with his usual adroitness, admitted that misfortune had befallen the British arms, but denied that any blame could be imputed to ministers themselves, and proposed an adjournment of (December, 1777.) Parliament on the 11th (which was carried) until the 20 of January.(2) It was (1778.) a clever trick of the premier to escape the castigations which he knew the opposition would inflict while the nation was smarting under the goadings of mortified pride. The victory over Burgoyne, unassisted as our troops were by foreign aid, placed the prowess of the United States in the most favorable light upon the continent. Our urgent solicitations for aid, hitherto but little noticed except by France, were now listened to with respect, and the American commissioners at Paris. Dr. Franklin, Silas Deane, (3) and Arthur Lee,(4) occupied a commanding position among the diplomatists of Europe, France, Spain, the States General of Holland, the Prince of Orange, and even Catharine of Russia and Pope Clement XIV. (Ganganelli), all
1 History of the Reign of George III., i., 326.
2 Pitkin, i., 391. Annual Register: 1178, p. 14.
3 Silas Deane was a native of Groton, Connecticut. He graduated at Yale College, 1158, and was a member of the first Congress, 1174. He was sent to France Early in 1776, as political and commercial agent for the United Colonies, and in the autumn of that year was associated with Franklin and Lee as commissioner. He seems to have been unfit, in a great degree, for the station he held, and his defective judgment and extravagant promises greatly embarrassed Congress. He was recalled at the close of 1117. and John Adams appointed in his place. He published a defense of his character in 1118, and charged Thomas Paine and others connected with public affairs with using their official influence for purposes of private gain. This was the charge made against himself, and he never fully wiped out all suspicion. He went to England toward the close of 1184, and died in extreme poverty at Deal, 1789.
4 Dr. Lee was born in Virginia in 1140-a brother to the celebrated Richard Henry Lee. He was educated at Edinburgh, and, on returning to America, practiced medicine at Williamsburgh about five years. He went to London in 1166, and studied law in the Temple. He kept his brother and other patriots of the Revolution fully informed of all political matters of importance abroad, and particularly the movements of the British ministry. He wrote a great deal, and stood high as an essayist and political pamphleteer. He was colonial agent for Virginia in 1115. In 1116 he was associated with Franklin and Deane, as minister at the court of Versailles. He and John Adams were recalled in 1119. On returning to the United States; he was appointed to offices of trust. He died of pleurisy, December 14th, 1182, aged nearly 42.
of whom feared and hated England because of her increasing potency in arms, commerce, diplomacy, and the Protestant faith, thought kindly of us and spoke kindly to us. We were loved because England was hated; we were respected because we could injure England by dividing her realm and impairing her growing strength beyond the seas. There was a perfect reciprocity of service; and when peace was ordained by treaty, and our independence was established, the balance-sheet showed nothing against us, so far as the governments of continental Europe were concerned.
In the autumn of 1776, Franklin and Lee were appointed, jointly with Deane. (November.) resident commissioners at the court of amity and commerce with with the French king. They opened negotiations early in December with the Count De Vergennes, the premier of Louis XVI. He was distinguished for sound wisdom, extensive political knowledge, remarkable sagacity, and true greatness of mind. He foresaw that generous dealings with the insurgent colonists at the outset would be the surest means of perpetuating the rebellion until a total separation from the parent state would be accomplished-an event eagerly coveted by the French government. France hated England cordially, and feared her power. She had no special love for the Anglo-American colonies, but she was ready to aid them in reducing, by disunion, the puissance of the British empire. To widen the breach was the chief aim of Vergennes. A haughty reserve, he knew, would discourage the Americans, while an open reception, or even countenance, of their. deputies might alarm the rulers of Great Britain, and dispose them to a compromise with the colonies, or bring on an immediate rupture between France and England. A middle line was, therefore, pursued by him. (1)
While the French government was thus vacillating during the first three quarters of 1777, secret aid was given to the republicans, and great quantities of arms and ammunition were sent to this country, by an agent of the French government, toward the close of the year, ostensibly through the channel of commercial operations.(2) But when the capture of
1 Ramsay, ii., 62, 63.
2 In the summer of 1776, Arthur Lee, agent of the Secret Committee of Congress, made an arrangement by which the French king provided money and arms secretly for the Americans. An agent named Beaumarehais was sent to London to confer with Lee, and it was arranged that two hundred thousand Louis d'ors, in arms, ammunition, and specie, should be sent to the Americans, but in a manner to make it appear as a commercial transaction. Mr. Lee assumed the name of Mary Johnson, and Beaumarchais that of Roderique, Hortales, & Co. Lee, fearing discovery if he should send a written notice to Congress or the arrangement, communicated the fact verbally through Captain Thomas Story, who had been upon the continent in the service of the Secret Committee. Yet, after all the arrangements were made, there was hesitation, and it was not until the autumn of 1777 that the articles were sent to the Americans. They were shipped on board Le Henreux, in the fictitious name of Hortales, by the way of Cape Francois, and arrived at Portsmouth, New Hampshire, on the 1st of November of that year. The brave and efficient Baron Steuben was a passenger in that ship.
This arrangement, under the disguise of a mercantile operation, subsequently produced a great deal of trouble, a more minute account of which is given in the Supplement to this work.
Beaumarchais was one of the most active business men of his time, and became quite distinguished in the literary and political world by his "Marriage of Figaro," and his connection with the French Revolution in 1793. Borne, in one of his charming Letters from Paris, after describing his visit to the house where Beaumarchais had lived, where "they now sell kitchen salt," thus speaks of him: "By his bold and fortunate commercial undertakings, he had become one or the richest men in France. In the war of American liberty, he furnished, through an understanding with the French government, supplies of arms to the insurgents. As in all such undertakings, there were captures, shipwrecks, payments deferred or refused, yet Beaumarchais, by his dexterity, succeeded in extricating himself with personal advantage from all these difficulties.
" Yet this same Beaumarchais showed himself, in the (French) revolution, as inexperienced as a child and as timid as a German closet. scholar. He contracted to furnish weapons to the revolutionary government, and not only lost his money, but was near losing his head into the bargain. Formerly he had to deal with the ministers of an absolute monarchy. The doors of great men's cabinets open and close softly and easily to him who knows how to oil the locks and hinges. Afterward Beaumarchais had to do with honest, in other words with dangerous people; he had not learned to make the distinction, and accordingly he was ruined." He died in 1799, in his 70th year, and his death, his friends suppose, was voluntary.
Burgoyne and his army (intelligence of which arrived at Paris by express on the 4th of December) reached Versailles, and the ultimate success of the Americans was hardly problematical, Louis cast off all disguise, and informed the American commissioners, through M. Gerard, one of his Secretaries of State, that the treaty of alliance and commerce, already negotiated, would be ratified, and" that it was decided to acknowledge the independence of the United States." He wrote to his uncle, Charles IV. of Spain, urging his co-operation; for, according to the family compact of the Bourbons, made in 1761, the King of Spain was to be consulted before such a treaty could be ratified.(1) Charles refused to cooperate, but Louis persevered, and in February, 1778, he acknowledged the independence of the United States, and entered into treaties of alliance and (February 6.) commerce with them on a footing of perfect equality and reciprocity. War against England was to be made a common cause, and it was agreed that neither contracting party should conclude truce or peace with Great Britain without the formal consent of the other first obtained; and it was mutually covenanted not to lay down their arms until the independence or the United States should be formally or tacitly assured by the treaty or trea.ties that should terminate the war.(2) Thus allied, by treaty, with the ancient and powerful French nation, the Americans felt certain of success.
1 This letter of Louis was brought to light during the Revolution
of 1793. It is a curious document, and illustrates the consummate duplicity
practiced by that monarch and his ministers. Disclosing, as it does, the
policy which governed the action of the French court, and the reasons which
induced the king to accede to the wishes of the Americans, its insertion
here will doubtless bc acceptable to the reader. It was dated January 8th,
"The sincere desire," said Louis, "which I feel of maintaining the true harmony and unity of our system of alliance, which must always have an imposing character for our enemies, induces me to state to your majesty my way of thinking on the present condition of affairs. England, our common and inveterate enemy, has been engaged for three years in a war with her American colonies. We had agreed not to intermeddle with it, and, viewing both sides as English, we made our trade free to the one that found most advantage in commercial intercourse. In this manner America provided herself with arms and ammunition, of which she was destitute; I do not speak of the succors of money and other kinds which we have given her, the whole ostensibly on the score of trade. England has taken umbrage at these succors, and has not concealed from us that she will be revenged sooner or later. She has already, indeed, seized several or our merchant vessels, and refused restitution. We have lost no t.ime on our part. We have fortified our most exposed colonies, and placed our fleets upon a respectable footing, which has continued to aggravate the ill humor of England.
"Such was the posture of affairs in November last. The destruction of the army of Burgoyne and the straitened condition of Howe have lately changed the face of things. America is triumphant and England cast down; but the latter has still a great, unbroken maritime force, and the hope of forming a beneficial alliance with the colonies, the impossibility of their being subdued by arms being now demonstrated. All the English parties agree on this point. Lord North has himself announced in full Parliament a plan of pacification for the first session, and all sides are assiduously employed upon it. Thus it is the same to us whether this minister or any other be in power. From different motives they join against us, and do not forget our bad offices. They will fall upon us in as great strength as if the war had not existed. This being understood, and our grievances against England notorious, I have thought, after taking the advice or my council, and particularly that of M. D'Ossune, and having consulted upon the propositions which the insurgents make, to treat with them, to prevent their reunion with the mother country. I lay before your majesty my views of the subject. I have ordered a memorial to be submitted to you, in which they arc presented in more detail. I desire eagerly that they should meet your approbation. Knowing the weight of your probity, your majesty will-not doubt the lively and sincere friendship with which I am yours," &c. Quoted by Pitkin (i., 399) from Histoire, &c., de la Diplomatique Francaise, vol. vii.
2 Sparks's Life of Franklin, 430, 433.
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