Journal of Arthur Lee

December 12, 1777

My colleagues did not reach Versailles till half after eleven o’clock, when, upon
sending notice by a servant to Mr. Girard, his servant came with a hackney coach
and carried us to a house about half a mile from Versailles, where we found Count
Vergennes and his secretary….

The minister took our last memorial from his secretary and read it. He then desired
we would give him the information it promised, and any thing we had new to offer.
Dr. F [ranklin] said that the entering into the treaty proposed was the object, and
that if there were any objections to it, we were ready to consider them. The count
said that it was the resolution of his court to take no advantage of our situation, to
desire no terms of which we might afterwards repent and endeavour to retract; but
to found whatever they did so much upon the basis of mutual interest as to make it
last as long as human institutions would endure. He said that entering into a treaty
with us would be declaring our independency, and necessarily draw on a war. In
this, there-fore, Spain must be consulted, without whose concurrence nothing
could be done….

The next objection was that Spain would not be satisfied with the indeterminate
boundary between their dominions and the United States, for that the state of
Virginia, being supposed to run to the South Sea, might trench upon California. It
was answered that the line drawn by the last treaty of peace with England, the
Mississippi, would be adopted and would prevent all disputes. For that, though its
source was not yet known, yet it might be agreed that a line drawn straight from
its source, when found, should continue the boundary. This was admitted, as
adjusting the matter properly. . . . It was, too, a first principle with us that fishing
was free to all.

The conference ended with the count’s observing that we must consider our
independence as yet in the womb, and must not endeavour to hasten its birth
immaturely. That he would despatch a courier to Spain, and it would be three
weeks before his return. That the order for presenting clearances for the United
States was recalled, and he would speak with Mons. de Sartine [Minister of Marine] about giving us a convoy for our supplies.

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