Triumph of Freedom, 1775-1783

By John C. Miller | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XVI
First Fruits of the Alliance

THE Franco-American treaties had been duly signed by the American commissioners and the French government, yet it remained to be seen whether the Continental Congress would accept alliance with France or reconciliation with Great Britain. A few weeks after the treaties were signed in Paris, Lord North laid his Conciliatory Propositions before Parliament. Thus the Prime Minister moved to bid against France for the favor of Americans.

The Conciliatory Propositions were submitted to Parliament on February 17, 1778, but on February 20, before the legislature had acted upon them, the drafts of the bills were dispatched to America accompanied by the government's promise that it would stand by these terms. Lord North was prepared to yield much to bring the Americans back into the empire. He relinquished, for example, the claim of right by Parliament to tax the colonies; indeed, North now declared that he never believed that it was practicable to draw a large revenue from the colonies, and prided himself upon the fact that as Prime Minister he had never proposed a tax upon them. He was even willing to concede that revenue raised in the colonies in the course of regulating their commerce ought to be spent in the provinces rather than carried to the account of the British Exchequer. On the score of taxation, it is clear, the Prime Minister was ready to give the Americans everything they had asked for in 1775.

Moreover, although North had once boasted that he would put America at the feet of Great Britain, he now saw fit to request a conference with the former colonies, under the conviction that there was "so much affection still left in that country towards this, that barely to enter on a discussion is more than half the business." The Prime Minis-

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