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The assaults on the ministry were repeated at intervals throughout the winter, and on March 20, 1782, Lord North announced his resignation. He had many times before asked the king to relieve him from office, but he had retained his position because of the solicitation of his sovereign. With him disappeared all purpose of conquering America and all hope of maintaining in its impurity the personal and arbitrary government of George III.'
The king was so overcome with chagrin that he actually threatened to flee to Hanover. The royal yacht was said to be in readiness to carry the royal suite across the channel. He assured North that his sentiments of honor would not permit him to send for any of the party of the opposition and personally treat with them; but he soon took heart, and, though he insultingly refused to negotiate with Rockingham except through a mediator, he was ultimately compelled to accept that minister as the head of a new cabinet. Rockingham had been persistently the friend of the Americans. The Whigs whom he represented are said even to have called the American army
our army" and to have rejoiced at American successes.: George III. hated them with a virile hatred. Lord North is said to have jokingly remarked that the Whigs had accused him in the past of issuing false bulletins, but that he never issued one so false as that in which his successors announced their accession to office, each paragraph of which began with the words, “His majesty has been pleased to appoint."
· Donne, Correspondence of George III. with Lord North, II., 393, 398. See also Van Tyne, American Revolution (American Nation, IX.), chap. xvii.
May, Const. Hist. of England (Am. ed. of 1863), I., of Horace Walpole (Cunningham's ed.); VIII., 187; Donne, Cor. respondence of George III. with Lord North, II., 415; Albemarle, Memoirs of Rockingham, II., 451–464.
* Lecky, England in the Eighteenth Century, IV., 76.
Besides Rockingham, who was prime-minister and without whose influence a ministry could not have been formed, Lord Shelburne and Charles James Fox entered the cabinet; the former took the home and colonial departments; Fox, the brilliant debater, the ardent friend of America, was made secretary of state for foreign affairs. It was plain that peace must soon come on the basis of independence for the rebellious colonies; in fact, Rockingham had refused to take office on any other basis. The cabinet, however, was made up of diverse elements, was confronted with intricate problems, and was soon distracted by internal dissension. Fox and Shelburne were incompatible in temperament. Fox was frank, outspoken, and headstrong. Shelburne had the reputation of being insincere and fond of following devious paths to a goal that lay straight before him. False or not, he was a man of ideas and of broad statesmanship, and it is a matter of no small importance for America that there now came into commanding
· Fitzmaurice, Shelburne, III., 133; Albemarle, Memoirs of Rockingham, II., 452.
position a man who could look a big question in the face.
There were various grounds of dissension between the two secretaries, each of whom was suspicious of the other. Among other difficulties arose the question as to the method of treating with America. If the commissioners from the United States were to be considered representatives of a free country, negotiations would naturally be conducted by Fox. If, on the other hand, the states were to be granted their independence only as a result of the treaty, the business naturally fell in Shelburne's department. Fox contended that by a minute adopted on May 23 the cabinet had practically recognized American independence; but to this construction Shelburne could not agree. Fox also felt that the colonial secretary was not acting frankly in the conduct of certain negotiations which Mr. Oswald was carrying on quite informally with Dr. Franklin at Paris. The end came soon. Rockingham, who for some time past had been in ill health, died July 1, 1782; Fox immediately resigned and Shelburne was made prime-minister.
The American Congress had long since made preparations for peace. At first John Adams received appointment as sole commissioner. But Adams was intractable and blunt, and succeeded in getting into difficulties with Vergennes in Paris. The French minister to America, whose business it was to
· Secret Journals of Congress, October 4, 1779.
look out for his master's interests, secured the appointment of four additional commissioners-Benjamin Franklin, John Jay, Henry Laurens, and Thomas Jefferson.' Jefferson at first declined to serve, and, though he accepted a second appointment, he did not, in fact, leave America. Laurens, having been captured by the British in crossing the ocean, was, at the time of his appointment, a prisoner in London, and after his release was unable to take a prominent part in the negotiations for peace. Adams, in the summer of 1782, was busy at The Hague, where he at last succeeded in making a treaty with the Netherlands, winning for himself, to his infinite delight, the title of the “Washington of Negotiations.” He, too, was not ready in the spring to take part in the discussions that were beginning at Paris between Franklin and the English representative, Oswald.
Jay had for some time been in Spain, following the Spanish court about and seeking with such humility as he possessed to secure for his country an acknowledgment of independence and the grant of a few much-needed piasters. His experiences had been irritating in the extreme, and when Franklin summoned him to Paris in the spring of 1782 he shook the Spanish dust from willing feet and passed over the Pyrenees to the pleasanter task of negotiating for peace with men that were willing to treat
Secret Journals of Congress, June 13, 14, 1781.
him with respect and consideration. A good deal of American history is contained in Franklin's message asking Jay to come to his aid in France. “Spain has taken four years to consider whether she should treat with us or not,” said he. “Give her forty, and let us in the meantime mind our own business.” 1
The burden of the early negotiations fell, therefore, on the shoulders of Franklin and of his young colleague. Franklin was then one of the most famous men in Europe. He was versed in the methods of diplomacy, for his earlier experiences in England as colonial agent may well be called diplomatic, and during his stay in Paris, which was the centre of continental interest, he had taken many a lesson. He was naturally shrewd, discerning, and sagacious. He had become wonted to French society, which he doubtless found agreeable. He was a firm believer in Vergennes's fairness of purpose, and he was not ready or not willing to suspect foul play or insidious intrigue. Jay was then thirty-six years of age, but he had already played a conspicuous rôle in politics. He was proud-spirited, sensitive, and bold. His life in Spain had not been conducive to peace of mind, and even before he left that country he had gathered some serious doubts as to the good faith and friendly purpose of the French ministry. He did not fit easily into the life of Paris, but retained an en
* Jay, Corresp. and Public Papers, II., 193. Ibid., 62, 71, 72, 75, 96, 292.