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EDITED UNDER DIRECTION OF CONGRESS
BY FRANCIS WHARTON,
PRELIMINARY INDEX, AND NOTES HISTORICAL AND LEGAL.
GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE.
Observations on Mr. J. Adams' Letter of July 17, 1780.*
1. The reasons which determined the Count de Vergennes to give Mr. Adams that advice are so plain that they must appear at first view:
(1) To be solicitious about a treaty of commerce before peace is established is like being busy about furnishing a house before the foundation is laid.
(*) In the situation in which America stands at present with regard to England, to announce to that power that they have forgotten her system of tyranny, her cruelties, and her perfidy, is discovering too great a degree of weakness, or at least too much good nature, and inviting her to believe that the Americans have an irresistible predilection for her, and to fortify her in the opinion she entertains, that the American patriots will submit through weariness or the preponderating influence of the tories.
(3) To propose a treaty of commerce which must be founded on confidence and on a union equivalent to an alliance, at a time when the war is raging in all its fury, when the court of London is wishing to ruin or to subjugate America, what is it but to give credit to the opinion which all Europe entertains, conformable to the assertions of the Eng. lish ministers, that the United States incline towards a defection, and that they will be faithful to their engagements with France only till such time as Great Britain shall furnish a pretext for breaking them ?
II. A person may be furnished eventually with plenipotentiary pow. ers without being under the necessity of publishing them until circumstances permit him to use them. This happens every day. Mr. Adams is charged with three distinct commissions: (1) To take a share in the future negotiations for peace ; (2) to conclude a treaty of commerce with Great Britain ; and (3) to represent the United States at the court of London. It requires no great effort of genius to show that these three objects can not be accomplished at the same moment of time, nor that the two last can not serve as an introduction to the first. It is necessary, first of all, to obtain from England an acknowledgment of the
* MSS. Dep. of State; 3 Sparks' Dip. Rev. Corr., 207, with verbal changes,