Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Silas Deane, Arthur Lee, John Jay, Mississippi River and Dutch Treaty of Commerce and Friendship

Posted by PITHOCRATES - May 17th, 2012

Politics 101

Franklin spent a Great Deal of Time in France during the Revolution enjoying Social Gatherings and Social Drinking

People are disgusted by politics today.  Negative campaigns.  Personal attacks.  Special interests.  People using their public office for personal gain.  Scandals.  Intrigue.  It’s enough to turn anyone off of politics.  Forever.  For it seems like no matter what the politicians say nothing ever changes.  And you know what?  They haven’t changed.  For even before there was a United States of America this stuff was going on.  Even threatening the success of the American Revolutionary War.

George Washington is criticized for many things.  For owning slaves (which he released and trained to enter the workforce as free men in his will).  That he wasn’t a great general.  For he did lose more battles than he won.  But even his critics have to give him this at least.  He was a man of honor.  With impeccable integrity.  His men respected him.  His officers respected him.  His enemies respected him.  One of Britain’s last attempts of treachery was to try and bribe Washington to defect to the British side.  Where he could live out his life very comfortably.  Knowing the Americans would give up without him.  But he did not waiver.  Resolute to the end.  The indispensable one.  The Father of our Country. 

Sadly, though, there weren’t many indispensable ones.  And few that matched Washington’s stature.  Perhaps the one coming closest was Benjamin Franklin.  Our most respected diplomat.  Who played a large part in gaining French support for the American cause.  Franklin spent a great deal of time in France during the Revolution.  The French loved him.  And he loved his time there.  Perhaps a little too much.  Staying up late.  Getting up late.  Enjoying social gatherings.  And social drinking.  Something that John Adams couldn’t stand.  Who was very religious.  And all-business.  About as different from Franklin as you could get.  But the French liked Franklin.  And did not like Adams.  Because he was all-business.  And a bit insufferable.

It didn’t take a Genius to know that the Americans Planned on Moving West to the Mississippi River and Beyond

France was America’s most important ally during the war.  And technically speaking their only ally.  There were many foreigners who sought a commission in the American army.  But that was more for glory and fame than support of the cause.  France, though, entered into treaty with the independent United States.  And supplied a large part of the war effort in both money and arms.  Granted this was more to get back at their archenemy, the British, than it was to help the Americans.  But the love and respect for Franklin was real.

Franklin was a self-made man living his third life.  He was a small business owner and writer.  He was a scientist.  And now he was a diplomat.  He had little to prove.  And needed no money.  All he wanted was to enjoy what life he had left.  And champion the American cause.  Not so with his co-emissary Arthur Lee.  Whose interests centered more on Arthur Lee than the American cause.  He didn’t like Franklin because the French liked and respected him more.  And he didn’t like America’s other emissary, Silas Deane, who was in France before Franklin and Lee joined him.  And who the French liked and respected, too.  Which really annoyed him because the French didn’t like him at all.  In fact they thought Lee liked England just a little too much.  For he had a brother in England.  Which didn’t go over well with the French.  Despite his having two brothers in the Continental Congress you just didn’t know where his allegiance lay.  Lee aggressively tried to disgrace both Deane and Franklin to make his star shine brighter.  Franklin’s character was impeccable, though.  No one believed anything he said about Franklin.  But, alas, they did about poor Deane.  At least enough to recall him to Congress.  The French, though, respected Deane enough to give him safe passage back on a French warship with the new French minister to America.  This whole episode did little to impress upon the French the professional stature of American diplomacy.   Nor did it impress the other European courts.  America just wasn’t being taken seriously in Europe.

Except, perhaps, in Spain.  John Jay went to Madrid to get Spanish recognition.  And Spanish aid.  Getting little of either.  Spain entered the conflict.  As an ally to France, though.  Because they, too, hated the British.  And they used this opportunity to get Gibraltar back from the British.  (They didn’t.)  Other than that they had little interest in helping the Americans.  For they didn’t trust the Americans.  France may have lost all of their North American possessions to the British but they hadn’t.  They still had the Louisiana Territory.  Western Florida.  The land from the Texas Gulf coast to California.  As well as the port of New Orleans.  And control of the lower Mississippi River.  Which the Americans wanted navigation rights on.  And god knows what else.  For it was no secret that the Americans wanted to expand west.  That’s why they wanted the Ohio country.  And the Ohio River flowed into the Mississippi River.  It didn’t take a genius to know what that meant.  The Americans planned on moving west to the Mississippi River.  And beyond.  Using the Mississippi to ship all of their goods from the interior of the country to the Port of New Orleans.  And on to the world.  All they needed to do was to remove one last obstacle.  The Spanish.  And the Spanish grew weary of John Jay.  Who only wanted two things.  To get Spain to recognize their independence.  And for Spain to give them money.  Suffice it to say the Spanish did not enter into an alliance with the United States.  And gave little money.

Catherine the Great’s League of Armed Neutrality isolated Britain and helped Adams in the Netherlands

Meanwhile John Adams, having annoyed the French, headed to the Netherlands.  And was more successful.  Not so much because they supported the American cause but because of their commerce.  The Dutch and the British had been bitter rivals.  The Dutch East (and West) India Company.  The English East India Company.  They both wanted what the other had.  Commerce.  They would actually go to war over this trade.  Some 4 times.  And now the British were interfering with their trade once again.  Interfering with their lucrative black market trade from the Dutch West Indies to the United States.  Through the British blockade.  Which may have broken a treaty they had with the British.  So Adams found commercial incentive for Dutch support.  But what he didn’t find was Dutch respect for the American cause.  And a general ignorance of the American cause.  There was just little information about the United States in the Netherlands.

They did see a rising commercial power in the U.S.  That would have a lot of food and materials to ship.  And being good businessmen they wanted a piece of that action.  And they certainly didn’t want to see the French and Spanish monopolize that trade.  Which could happen based on the treaty between France and America.  And the treaty between France and Spain.  Of course if they backed the wrong horse that could hurt them in post-war relations with Britain.  Should Britain win.  But neither was it in their best interests for Britain to win.  For that would only make their greatest rival stronger.  But what if the Americans won with the help of the Franco-Spanish alliance?  Would the Americans keep their independence?  Or would they get absorbed into France and/or Spain?  That wouldn’t be good.  For it wasn’t that long ago that they won their independence from Spain.  So making Spain stronger and/or richer wasn’t high in their to-do list. 

Catherine the Great of Russia finally helped push the issue.  Indirectly.  To keep the seas free and to protect neutral nations she organized a League of Armed Neutrality of which the Netherlands was signatory.  Neutral nations wanted no part of Britain’s war with America.  And they didn’t want it to interfere with their trade on the high seas.  Even if that trade favored the Americans somehow more than the British.  So if the British fired upon a neutral engaging in trade the British did not approve of these neutrals would fire back.  Thus isolating Britain.  And shortly thereafter Adams negotiated a couple of loans.  Got recognition as the minister representing the United States of America.  And as one of his first duties in that capacity he signed a treaty of commerce and friendship.  He may not have had the stature of a Washington or a Franklin but he had the same dedication to the cause.  And refused to quit.  He was successful.  But few other American diplomatic missions were.  And they probably caused more harm than good.  The antics of a few bringing ridicule to the new nation.  Franklin in fact did not approve of this ‘cold calling’ on countries for recognition and aid.  Perhaps explaining his laid back ways in France that so irritated Adams.  “A virgin state,” Franklin said, “should preserve its virgin character, and not go about suitoring for alliances, but wait with decent virgin dignity for the application of others.”  It seemed to do wonders for him.  And the nation.

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Jumonville, Washington, Ohio Country, French and Indian War, California, Louisiana Territory, Gibraltar and League of Armed Neutrality

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 12th, 2012

Politics 101

Washington’s Killing of Joseph Coulon de Jumonville Precipitated the Seven Years’ War

In the Revolutionary War the Americans were feeling out the French since hostilities broke out in 1775.  For good reason.  The French lost most of their North American possessions in their last war with Great Britain.  The Seven Years’ War (1756–1763).  Where the French were in Canada and in the great river valleys in the interior of North America.  And the British were in what is now the U.S. east of the Appalachians.  The British and their American colonists won that war.  And took the French possessions.  In fact, the American commander in the Revolutionary War, George Washington, opened hostilities against the French in the French and Indian War (1754–1763).  Which precipitated the subsequent world war.  The Seven Years’ War.

As the French and the British expanded their territories in North America they eventually bumped into each other.  And it was in the Ohio Country that the name George Washington entered our history books.  Then only a major.  Governor Dinwiddie of Virginia sent Washington into the Ohio Country to tell the French to kindly vacate their posts in the area.  The French refused.  Washington returned to Virginia.  Governor Dinwiddie sent him back to the Ohio Country to protect a fort the Ohio Company was building at present day Pittsburg.  Before he got there a French force had chased out the British.  And then began building Fort Duquesne for their own post at present day Pittsburg.

While on the march to what was now going to be Fort Duquesne Washington’s Indian allies discovered a small French force led by Joseph Coulon de Jumonville.  Which the Americans and their Indian allies ambushed.  The facts are a little hazy about what exactly happened but Jumonville ended up dead.  And the French blamed Washington.  Said that he killed a diplomat who was doing exactly what Washington had done earlier.  Trying to reach a foreign power with a diplomatic message about the Ohio Country.  Only the French didn’t kill Washington.  As Washington (or someone under his command) had killed Jumonville.  Both sides debated the truth for a long time to come.  But the French response was to attack the nearby Fort Necessity that Washington built to keep an eye on Fort Duquesne.  Captured Washington and his men.  But then let them go.  And shortly thereafter France and Great Britain declared war on each other.  To settle the Ohio Country question.  As well as other outstanding issues between the two great powers.  Which precipitated the Seven Years’ War.  That didn’t end well for the French.

The French hoped to Dictate the Terms of Peace once the Americans won the Revolutionary War

Flash forward some twenty years and here were the Americans feeling out the French to help them in their cause.  So they could gain their independence from Great Britain.  So they could control the Ohio Country.  And other parts of North America.  Whose military was led by the guy that killed Joseph Coulon de Jumonville.  And started the war that lost France her North American possessions.  Which created a very interesting political picture. 

The French hated the British.  That goes without saying.  For they gave the French a humiliating defeat.  But the British had help from their British North American colonists to win that fight.  Who also helped to take away not only the Ohio Country but New France itself.  All of Quebec.  And the Surrounding areas of the St. Lawrence Seaway and the Great Lakes.  So would they enter into another costly war with Great Britain?  To help someone obtain their independence from Britain’s constitutional monarchy?  Would the French, an absolute monarchy, help the Americans?  Of course they would.  If the Americans could just impress them enough that they might win this thing.  So the French wouldn’t risk losing anything more to the British.

Well the French were impressed with the American win at Saratoga.  And they joined the Americans.  Made some treaties with them that were favorable to the French.  And hoped that once they won that it would be the French who would dictate the terms of the peace.  For one of their conditions of joining the Americans was that there would be no separate peace between the Americans and the British.  No.  That peace would involve the French.  As the French were already going into great debt helping the Americans in every way short of fighting alongside of them, they were going to make sure they got a favorable return on their investment when taking that last step. 

When Aid came it was not to Support the Americans but to Gain Something from their Common Enemy, the British Empire

After negotiating this treaty the French turned to the Spanish.  Another longtime foe of Great Britain.  And who still had sizeable possessions in the New World.  From South America all the way up the Pacific coast to California.  And up through Mexico all the way through the Mississippi River and surrounding areas.  That big chunk of North America between the Mississippi and the Rocky Mountains we called the Louisiana Territory.  And parts of southern Florida they ceded to Great Britain in the last war that they wanted back.  So unlike the French the Spanish worried more about the Americans than the British.  Especially their southern and western boundaries.  But the French made their case anyway. 

France’s foreign minister, the Comte de Vergennes, said the Spanish had much to lose if the Americans lost.  For a strong British presence in North America would eventually threaten California.  And her other possessions.  Great Britain was the threat.  Not the Americans.  Who had no Army, Navy or manufacturing base that could threaten Spain’s North American possessions.  At least, not in the immediate future.  Whereas the British did.  So it was in Spanish interests to help the Americans.  And weaken the British Empire.

Well, the Spanish were all for weakening the British Empire.  But they didn’t trust the ambition of the Americans.  They still saw them as the immediate threat to Spanish territory in North America.  Besides, the whole idea about rebelling against sovereign authority didn’t sit well with them.  Sovereigns had sacred rights to their territory.  They may not have liked the British but they believed in those sacred rights.  Especially when they were holding a lot of territory in the New World.  And the idea about supporting a people in their rebellion against their sovereign was risky business.  It just might give their own people ideas.  They would enter the war.  But not in an American alliance.  They made a treaty with the French.  Offered little to the Americans in blood or treasure.  Then declared war on Great Britain.  Her immediate goal being Gibraltar.  The southern tip of the Spanish peninsula.  That the British had taken in a previous war.

As the Americans approached other European nations the result was pretty much the same.  When aid came it was not so much to support the Americans.  But to gain something from their common enemy.  The British Empire.  Most European nations stayed out of the war.  At most joining in the League of Armed Neutrality to protect their commercial trade.  To protect their ships from the Royal Navy trying to prevent arms and supplies reaching America.  Though this didn’t help the Americans in the short run.  It did make the war far more costly for the British.  Which helped the Americans in the long run.

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