3. Catherine II in her role as mediator between Britain and its enemies. Her first involvement was with the joint Austro-Russian mediation of the Anglo-French war and her second was as sole mediator of the Anglo-Dutch conflict. The Austro-Russian mediation discussed here was the more important of the two because of its effect on European diplomacy and JA's diplomatic status. For the parallel effort to mediate between Britain and the Netherlands, see Jean de Neufville's letter of 2 March
, and note 2
The joint mediation grew out of a meeting on 16 Dec. 1780 between Lord Stormont, the British foreign minister, and I. M. Simolin, the Russian ambassador to Britain. There the Russian diplomat officially informed Stormont of the creation of the armed neutrality and provided him with a verbal explanation of its purpose. He indicated that Catherine II expected the belligerents to abide by its principles and hoped that a mutually acceptable basis would be found to end the Anglo-French war. At no time did Simolin indicate that his statements were to be construed as a proposal to mediate the Anglo-French war.
Simolin's meeting with Stormont came on the eve of Britain's declaration of war against the Netherlands. Since the principal, if unstated, reason for the war was the Dutch accession to the League of Armed Neutrality, Britain's declaration constituted a direct challenge to the armed neutrality and its architect, Catherine II. This meant that Stormont needed to find some means to forestall intervention by Russia and the other members of the neutral confederation on behalf of the Netherlands, avoid alienating Catherine any further, and not further isolate Britain diplomatically and militarily. Stormont's solution was clear from his reply to Simolin on 23 Dec., in which he chose to take the Russian's comments on settling the Anglo-French war as an offer to mediate it. The resulting Austro-Russian mediation came to nothing because Britain demanded that France renounce its treaty with the U.S. as a precondition for negotiations and would not countenance any participation by the U.S. The mediation attempt did, however, create a diversion and lessen the pressure that might otherwise have been brought against Britain to make peace. For a detailed examination of the joint mediation and the motives of those involved, see De Madariaga, Armed Neutrality of 1780
, p. 264–288, 313–360.
Although JA never saw the Austro-Russian mediation as a viable option and expected it to fail, it significantly affected his efforts as a diplomat. France used the prospective mediation to convince Congress to replace JA as sole peace negotiator. The resulting five-member commission had instructions that seemed to tie any peace settlement to the dictates of French foreign policy. It also led to JA's journey to Paris in July to discuss with Vergennes the mediation and the role of the U.S. at any peace conference under its auspices. For JA's views on the Austro-Russian mediation as well as their effect on him, see Commissions and Instructions for Mediation and Peace, 15 June, Editorial Note
; JA's second letter of 16 May
to Congress, note 1
and references there; and his correspondence with the Comte de Vergennes in July
, all below.