Affiliate Link

Effects of the French Treaty

From Diary of the American Revolution, Vol II. Compiled by Frank Moore and published in 1859.

August 1.—We hear, from good authority, that independent of the cruelties and oppressions of the new States, which have alienated the minds of the people from their new systems of government, and the petty tyrants in possession of them, there are other causes of disaffection, equally powerful and alarming to the liberties of America. Many of the warmest independents themselves, whose eyes are not blinded by a share in the power and emoluments of the tyranny, now confess their apprehensions that their country is sold to the French king, and that all their boasted struggles for liberty, will end in wretched submission to French despotism and Popish superstition, should Great Britain give up her colonies.

The solemn ceremony of delivering the turf and twig,1 performed by Mr. Deane, Ambassador of the Congress, to Mr. Gerard, the Plenipotentiary from the court of Paris, the people in general believe, was a transfer of some right, either absolute or conditional, to the territory of America, in pursuance of some of the six articles of their treaty, which Congress have perfidiously concealed from their constituents.2 This belief seems founded on very good reasons, because this ceremony was the ancient and almost universal mode of conveying real estates in England, derived from the customs of the civil law, which yet prevails in France, and has never been made use of on any other occasion; and the Congress, who must know the suspicions and anxiety of the people on this matter, and whose interest it is to remove their fears, have never yet attempted any other explanation of that ceremony; but, on the contrary, have observed a profound secrecy in regard to it, as well as to the six articles before mentioned; all which circumstances, if they do not amount to positive, it must be confessed do to the strongest presumptive proof, equal in the scale of credibility, to positive, that the people’s belief and fears are justly founded.3



1 The ceremony observed at the landing of the French ambassador and Mr. Silas Deane, has created a good deal of uneasiness in the minds of the spectators. Immediately on setting foot on shore, Mr. Deane cutting a piece of turf, formally delivered it to Monsieur Gerard, who received it with great solemnity, applied it to his lips and then crossed himself with much apparent devotion. The delivering of the turf may be easily construed, it being the well known and ancient symbol of giving possession of land, and was by the common law absolutely necessary to all transfers of real property. The receiving and kissing of it may denote the acceptance and taking possession of the gift. Julius Caesar, when he invaded Britain, is said to have made use of a similar ceremony to the same purpose. If this be considered as the cession of the whole or part of America, in consequence of the late treaty, the Congress have acted wisely in keeping back from the people’s view the secret articles which related to it: for we believe that however fond their constituents may now be of their great and good ally, the King of France, they are hardly yet so infatuated as to choose Louis for their master.— Extract of a letter from Philadelphia in Rivington’s Gazette, July 29.
2 A correspondent writes:—It is a maxim generally believed, the truth of which he has not the least doubt, that the people are the origin of all delegated powers. If so, he calls in question the propriety of keeping secret certain articles of the treaty subsisting between the court of France and the States. If it is said to keep them from the knowledge of the court of Great Britain, he thinks they may safely be communicated to the several assemblies of the United States at least, who are the legal representatives of the people, and who, he thinks, have a right to know them.—Pennsylvania Packet, November 3.
3 “An American Freeman,” in Rivington’s Gazette, August 22.