→Secret Committee created to Communicate with Potential Allies
As the members of the Continental Congress considered declaring independence, they also discussed the possibility and necessity of foreign alliances and assigned a committee to draft a Model Treaty to serve as a guide for this work. After Congress formally declared independence from Great Britain in 1776, it dispatched a group of several commissioners led by Benjamin Franklin to negotiate an alliance with France. When news of the Declaration of Independence and the subsequent British evacuation of Boston reached France, French Foreign Minister Comte de Vergennes decided in favor of an alliance. However, once news of General George Washington’s defeats in New York reached Europe in August of 1776, Vergennes wavered, questioning the wisdom of committing to a full alliance.
Benjamin Franklin’s popularity in France bolstered French support for the American cause. The French public viewed Franklin as a representative of republican simplicity and honesty, an image Franklin cultivated. A rage for all things Franklin and American swept France, assisting American diplomats and Vergennes in pushing for an alliance. In the meantime, Vergennes agreed to provide the United States with a secret loan.
Vergennes finally decided in favor of an alliance when news of the British surrender at the Battle of Saratoga reached him in December 1777. Vergennes, having heard rumors of secret British peace offers to Franklin, decided not to wait for Spanish support and offered the United States an official French alliance. On February 6, 1778, Benjamin Franklin and the other two commissioners, Arthur Lee and Silas Deane, signed a Treaty of Alliance and a Treaty of Amity and Commerce with France.
The Treaty of Alliance contained the provisions the U.S. commissioners had originally requested, but also included a clause forbidding either country to make a separate peace with Britain, as well as a secret clause allowing for Spain, or other European powers, to ally with France and the American Colonies. Spain officially entered the war on June 21, 1779. The Treaty of Amity and Commerce promoted trade between the United States and France and recognized the United States as an independent nation.