Billeder på siden


Difficulties in the way of negotiations with the Prassian Court-Note to the Prime Minister the celebrated Schulenburg-Memoire of Mr. Lee to the king of Prussia—Robbery of his papers at Berlin-Autographic note of Frederick the Great to Mr. Lee-He permits him to hold free though secret conferences with his Minister-Negotiations with the Prussian Court-Correspondence of SchulenburgThe results of Mr. Lee's mission to Prussia-His return to Paris—His correspondence with Vergennes respecting supplies of arms, &c. for Virginia—His letter by order of his colleagues to Lord North respecting the treatment of American prisoners--His letter to the Earl of Shelburne on this subject--His spirited Memorial to the Prime Minister of Spain on the subject of the Proclamation of the British Commissioners in the United States, threatening a war of extermination-Memorial of the American commissioners to the French Court is sent by Mr. Lee with a diplomatic note to the Spanish Minister at Paris—The object of Mr. Lee in this-Letters of Mr. Lee on the subject of the capture of Burgoyne-Letter to the Marquis of Rosignan-Anecdote of Dr. Young and Voltaire---Letter to Sir William Jones.

Tue part which Mr. Lee had to act at this period was delicate and difficult. To engage even the attention of the court of Berlin would require no ordinary weight of character, dignity of manners, skill and propriety of conduct. If the difficulty of access in any official or public character was great, the reader will readily apprehend the greater difficulty of removing the obstacles, which the times, the relations then existing between Great Britain and Prussia, the remoteness of the United States and the yet doubtful issue of their contest with the former, presented to every proposition of national association on the part of the latter power with the United States.

Prussia was at this time not only a neutral between Great Britain and the United States, but was bound by the superadded obligations of treaties with England. Although Frederick the great was an able and provident statesman, he might not readily perceive how the interests of bis kingdoin would be promoted by commercial intercourse with a country so remote from it, and whose resources and prospects were so little known and appre



ciated in Europe. His sympathies it could not rationally be expected would be easily excited towards the republicans of America, for he had never shown any partiality for free and republican institutions. Mr. Lee's task here then was indeed a difficult and a delicate one. No ordinary prudence, ability and skill were requisite, to gain the attention, enlist the seclings, and attract the interests of his Prussian majesty.

As soon as he arrived at Berlin he asked the honour of a conference with the prime minister, the celebrated Baron Schulenburg. He was permitted to reside at Berlin in a private character, and to hold a secret correspondence with the Prussian court. He received the following assurance of the good will of the king, and of an early attention to the propositions Mr. Lee had laid before the minister.

“Berlin, June 9th, 1777. I have received sir, the letter which you did me the honour to write to me yesterday, and I think I perceive from its conclusion that on account of the difference of languages you have mistaken the sense of one or other of the expressions I made use of in our last conversation. I do not hesitate therefore to assure you sir, as I did in my letter addressed to you in Paris, that your stay at Berlin will not be at all disagreeable to the king, provided you live as a private person, and do not assume a public character.

As to the directions which you have given me concerning commerce, you will be so good as to add a note, where ensurance can be made for vessels destined for America, and the premiums given. I will then examine your propositions, and shall inform you shortly whether or not we think ourselves in a condition to make a trial of this sort.

I have the honour to be, with very distinguished consideration, your very humble and obedient servant,

LE BARON SCHULENBURG.* To Arthur Lee, Esq. at Berlin.

* All the notes and correspondence of Schulenburg are written in French, with the autographic signatures of the Baron. Mr. Lee has left translations of all of them.

analls pub. Talit here ordi

gain Prests

Mr. Lee open

puroi Barce

Under the discouraging circumstances, and the many obstacles attending the mission of Mr. Lee to the court of Berlin, which have been briefly sketched, and which were all more fully known and more deeply felt by him than they can be now known or felt by the reader, the friendless and lonely citizen and unacknowledged commissioner of his bleeding and struggling country, commenced his negotiations with a great and renowned monarch, and a recent and favourite ally of its powerful enemy. Mr. Lee ed his mission by presenting the following “memoire,” in which he fashions with admirable ability and adroitness, its facts, arguments and conclusions, to the ends he was seeking to obtain. Baron Schulenburg had stated the obstacles to any measure on the part of Prussia in behalf of the United States. These Mr. Lee endeavours to remove. The intelligent reader cannot peruse without a deep interest this memoire, which sheds a lustre on the character of Mr. Lee.

[ocr errors]
[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]



[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

"BERLIN, July 29, 1777. Sire.-The singular wisdom with which your majesty has made your kingdom so flourishing, the wise steps which have carried the prosperity of your dominions to a degree truly astonishing, will nevertheless not prevent me from saying to your majesty, that means may yet be found for augmenting the number and affluence of

your subjects.

No maxim is more true, than that the number of their subjects forms the riches of kings. Both ancient and modern history proves without exception, that commerce is the mother of population. There is no necessity for bringing proofs of this to the view of one of the wisest kings that has ever existed. Such is the fact, and the Teason is evident. There is therefore every reason to conclude that the king who wishes to increase the number of his subjects to the greatest possible extent, ought to establish and encourage the commerce of his kingdom.

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

The dominions of your majesty are admirably situated for commerce. The three great rivers that intersect them ought to furnish the greatest facilities for it. What then is wanting? Only an object sufficiently distant to make seamen; and sufficiently extensive to commence and keep up commercial intercourse. Such is America; and the unexpected events which have rendered the commerce of that country free, invite to the use of it. The monopoly of this commerce, which according to the opinion of that great and wise man Mr. Pitt, has sustained the power of England, no longer exists, and without a miracle will never again exist. Those nations who will exert themselves to attach to them a young and

grateful people by aiding them to resist their oppressors, must profit by it. But those who look tranquilly on, waiting to see the issue of this war, must not hope to change the course which commerce shall before have taken from habit and gratitude. So that this is the moment to be seized on by those who may wish to participate in the commerce of America hereafter.

But obstacles present themselves; for in the first place you have not ships of war sufficient to sustain the honour of your flag. But, sire, you have the finest regiments in the world, and Great Britain, deprived as she at present is of wise counsellors, is not yet so mad as to run the risk of obliging your majesty to join those formidable regiments to the force of her rivals. Besides, such is the present weakness of England, so much is she exhausted and pressed by the war with America, that she is obliged to shut her eyes to transactions much stronger, and which pass immediately before them.

2dly. It is impracticable to have at the same time as numerous an army as that of your majesty, and a respectable fleet; because too many men would be required for them both, and the country would be ruined.

This objection would be a solid one if population was blessed by commerce. But the fact is otherwise. Instead of diminishing it augments it. Thus it is found that the most commercial countries are most populous. Population is always in proportion to the means of living. Commerce, by increasing these means, of course


them ther nake and and


the Etain thout

Who rate


e the

from o be

a the

increases population. Instead then of lessening the means of keeping up a large army, commerce affords the surest means of doing it.

3d. But sailors are wanting for such an enterprise.

It is the enterprise itself that will make sailors. A handful of experienced seamen are enough to encourage others; and the thing once put in motion will progress by itself. If the ports of your majesty were opened io our armed vessels, so that they might freely enter them, deliver their cargoes, refit, and secretly sell their prizes, then instruction and encouragement would be given to your seamen; and if above all some of them were permitted to make a voyage in our vessels, in a very little time seamen would be furnished from your own subjects, and would draw to your ports many of other countries, with a view of cruising in the American seas.

But it may be said this would be giving too much into the business at once, and tantamount to deciding upon the question of American Independence. Not more so than is now warranted by the fact.

the fact. Not more so than the laws of nations grounded upon the fairest principles of state necessity require. The fact is, we have the sword in our hands, and that we carry on the war openly. Can there be a more convincing proof of independency? We are in possession of the country, the articles of our commerce are the produce of our labours, and are our own.

In law and in fact, we have the sole right of disposing of them. Is it right then that other nations should wait and suffer the greatest privations, whilst England is doing all in her power to cut our throats, and take possession of our property to sell it to them? Or can they not at once go and buy those things they want, and which the English cannot supply them with, without violating their neutral character. It is not difficult to say which is most reasonable and of course most conformable to the law of nations. Neutral nations in carrying on this commerce decide upon the fact and not the law. This very distinction is made by the law of England ; as it is permitted to an Englishman to obey the powers that be, although they

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]
« ForrigeFortsæt »