France and Latin-American Independence

By William Spence Robertson | Go to book overview

CHAPTER I
THE HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

Through the tangled web of European relations with Latin America runs the golden thread of commerce. From an early period merchants of France took an interest in trade with the colonies of Spain and Portugal. By the middle of the sixteenth century the Portuguese were transporting French cloth and cordage to the Indies to exchange for products of the mines. During the next century, merchants brought into France from the Portuguese possessions sugar, tobacco, hides, gold, silver, precious stones, and Brazil wood. It appears that a French captain could even navigate to Portuguese America under his own flag. After the War of the Spanish Succession broke out, however, those friendly commercial relations were interrupted. A daring commander named Duguay-Trouin led a French squadron to Brazil in 1711, captured the city of Rio de Janeiro, and forced the governor to pay a large ransom in treasure.

During the negotiations that preceded the signing of the peace treaty on April 11, 1713, the Portuguese diplomats seem to have proposed not only an offensive and defensive alliance with France but also a treaty of commerce by which both Portugal and Brazil were to furnish a vent for French manufactures. This treaty would have enabled French merchants to regain the trade which they had lost during the protracted war. Yet the Treaty of Utrecht merely restored the commercial relations between France and Portugal to the condition that had existed before the outbreak of hostili-

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