George Rogers Clark: His Life and Public Services

By Temple Bodley | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXIII
PEACE DIPLOMACY AND THE TREATY OF PARIS

LEAVING Clark for the moment, attention should be directed to the diplomacy during the Revolution with reference to the region between the Alleghenies and the Mississippi. Aside from American independence, the possession of that western region was regarded as of paramount importance by Spain, France, and Great Britain alike, and it was the object of much anxiety to all of them in their diplomatic dealings with the United States.

Florida Blanca, the minister who directed Spain's diplomacy, aimed to make the Gulf of Mexico a closed Spanish sea, and for that purpose coveted Florida and the country north of it, at least to the Ohio. Spain's ministers always feared the Americans west of the Alleghenies would grow numerous and strong enough to wrest Louisana from Spain, and perhaps even Mexico and the West Indies. D'Aranda warned the Spanish King of this danger in these prophetic words: 'This federal republic is born a pigmy; a day will come when it will be a giant, even a Colossus, formidable to these countries. Liberty of conscience, the facility of establishing a new population on immense lands, as well as the advantages of a new government, will draw thither farmers and artisans from all nations. In a few years we shall watch with grief the tyrannical existence of this same Colossus.'

Throughout the Revolution, Florida Blanca's dealings with America were directed to gaining our surrender to Spain of the region north of British Florida, and our admission of her exclusive right to use the lower Mississippi; for he knew that by closing that river she could prevent the growth of American population west of the Alleghenies. He was resolved that Spain should not recognize American independence, or send a minister to Congress, until these points were gained; and in his efforts to win them he was secretly but powerfully aided by Vergennes, the able minister of foreign affairs for France.

Vergennes' main objects were to humiliate Great Britain and aggrandize France -- his methods shrewd, treacherous, and

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