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putting these resolutions into the instructions of your minister.
He denied that it would protract the war. Whenever Great Britain is ready to acknowledge your independence she will be ready to accede to all your other reasonable and fair demands. It is not to be expected that she will incline to diminish your boundaries either on the land or the ocean. Show her that this is your right, you will obtain it of her justice; or prove to her that it is your determination to maintain it, and you will secure it from her policy.
As to our right, Mr. Gerry said, the God of nature gave it to us.
He made the sea the common property of all mankind in a more strict sense than he had done the land. Land requires exclusive occupation for government, cultivation or property. But the great world of waters admits of no national appropriation. Where the winds can carry us upon the ocean, there we may sail, and where we sail, there we occupy, and what we occupy we may of right use for the purposes for which occupation is valuable; and it might as well be claimed by any nation to restrain us from navigation as fishery. We ask only the right of casting our hooks into the ocean and owning what we may catch; and to say that this is not the right of an independent people, is to say they have purchased a nominal independence, by affixing to themselves a constant mark of vassalage; for unless the right is bargained away by treaty it belongs to us by inheritance.
If it could be supposed that any obstruction to our rights originated in the policy of our ally, it would diminish the affection with which our great friend is now cherished in the hearts of our people. But before France had given us one encouraging word, the people of New-England had poured out their blood like water in defence of their rights; they had been cheered also by their southern friends, but at first they had stood alone ; and by God's blessing they would stand alone again without allies or friends, before they would barter away their rights.
If such a surrender could take place, the commerce of New-England will on the return of peace seek British channels. It will be the object of Britain to detach us from all commercial connexion with our ally, and she will find her objects greatly assisted by the temper of our people.
But if we insist on the right, Britain will yield it to us. Her policy will assist us. After a peace she will be desirous of our custom. She will not be likely to crowd the terms of a peace that looks disgraceful to us, and will be felt as oppressive. In making any peace she will have done much for her own humiliation, and she will do a little more for our favour. It will be her policy, when she is no longer our open enemy, to have us believe she is truly our friend ; and by the liberality of her conditions, to obliterate our animosity. Our commerce will be of little value to her unless we enjoy the fisheries, and any commerce with her would without them be ruinous to ourselves. By lessening our means of payment we must either stop the importations of her manufactures, or burthen ourselves with a constantly increasing debt.
In addition to a vast mass of facts relative to the number of seamen, value of property, course of exchange and other details connected with this subject, Mr. Gerry urged in the above language the adoption of his resolutions, and was supported by the whole delegation of New-England. The argument had more novelty at that day, though not less force, than the experience of fifty years has proved it to possess.
In fifteen divisions of the house, on questions by ayes and noes, the majority adhered to the original propositions, and rejected every alteration that was proposed. But they were finally reduced to the following clause. “ Although it is of the utmost importance to the peace and commerce of the United States that Canada and Nova Scotia should be ceded, and more particularly that their equal common right to the fisheries should be
guarantied to them, yet a desire of terminating the war has induced us not to make the acquisition of these objects an ultimatum on the present occasion."
The facts which this motion of Mr. Gerry drew forth were not without effect. They were followed by full explanations to one of the ministers, who negotiated the treaty of peace, and by his intelligence, perseverance and firmness, and the efficient aid of one of his colleagues, the common right of the United States to the fisheries was acknowledged and secured.
Appointment of a Minister to treat for Peace...... Conflicting
Claims of Candidates..... Letter of John Adams........ Francis Dana.
The instructions to the intended minister being completed, the next step was to make an appointment. There were two parties in congress, one of which nominated Mr. Jay and the other Mr. John Adams, who was then in the United States. At the first and second ballot twelve states were represented. Six voted for Mr. Adams, five for Mr. Jay, the other by division among its delegates counted for neither. Further proceedings were then postponed. On the next day a nomination was opened for a minister to Spain. The party, who had supported Mr. Adams for the former place, were desirous of sending Dr. Arthur Lee to the court of his catholic majesty, and the three gentlemen were severally placed before the house as candidates for this latter appointment.
In conducting the affairs of the United States in Europe, the usual consequences of a joint commission had been painfully experienced, and collision, controversy and reproach had extended from the bureaus of the ministers into the hall of the American government.