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But, as I perceive, from the tenor of your letter, how little I am to reckon upon the advantage of your assistance, for restoring that permanent union which has long been the object of my endeavours, and which, I flattered myself when I left England, would be in the compass of my power; I will only add, that, as the dishonor, to which you deem me exposed by my military situation in this country, has effected no change in your sentiments of personal regard towards me, so shall no difference in political points alter my desire of proving how much I am your sincere and obedient humble servant,
"In Congress, September 2d, 1776. Congress being informed that Genera} Sullivan, who was taken prisoner on Long Island, was come to Philadelphia with a message from Lord Howe,
"Ordered, that he be admitted, and heard before Congress.
"General Sullivan being admitted, delivered the verbal message he had in charge from Lord Howe, which he was desired to reduce to writing, and withdrew.
"September 3d. General Sullivan having reduced to writing the verbal message from Lord Howe, the same was laid before Congress and read as follows.
"' That, though he could not at present treat with Congress, as such, yet he was very desirous of having a conference with some of the members, whom he would consider for the present only as private gentlemen, and meet them himself as such, at such place as they should appoint.
"' That he, in conjunction with General Howe, had full powers to compromise the disputes between Great Britain and America on terms advantageous to both, the obtaining of which delayed him near two months in England, and prevented his arrival at this place before the declaration of independence took place.
"' That he wished a compact might be settled at this time, when no decisive blow was struck, and neither party could say they were compelled to enter into such agreement.
"' That, in case Congress were disposed to treat, many things, which they had not as yet asked, might and ought to be granted to them; and that, if, upon the conference, they found any probable ground of an accommodation, the authority of Congress must be afterwards, acknowledged, otherwise the compact could not be complete.'
"September 5th. Resolved, that General Sullivan be requested to inform Lord Howe, that this Congress, being the representatives of the free and independent States of America, cannot, with propriety, send any of its members to confer with his Lordship in their private characters, but that, ever desirous of establishing peace on reasonable terms, they will send a committee of their body to know whether he has any authority to treat with persons authorized by Congress for that purpose on behalf of America, and what that authority is, and to heaf such propositions as he shall think fit to make respecting the same.
"Ordered, that a copy of the foregoing resolution be delivered to General Sullivan, and that he be directed immediately to repair to Lord Howe.
"September 6th. Resolved, that the committee 'to be sent to know whether Lor,d Howe .has any authority to treat with persons authorized by Congress for that purpose, on behalf of America, and what that authority is, and to hear such propositions as he shall think fit to make respecting the same,' consist of three.
"Congress then proceeded to the election, and, the ballots being taken, Mr. Franklin, Mr. Adams, and Mr. Rutledge were elected."
LORD HOWE TO BENJAMIN FRANKLIN.
Eagle, off Bedlow's Island, September 10th, 1776.
Lord Howe presents his compliments to Dr. Franklin, and according to the tenor of his favor of the 8th, will attend to have the pleasure of meeting him and Messrs. Adams and Rutledge to-morrow morning, at the house on Staten Island opposite to Amboy, as early as the few conveniences for travelling by land on Staten Island will admit. Lord Howe, upon his arrival at the place appointed, will send a boat (if he can procure it in time), with a flag of truce, over to Amboy; and requests the Doctor and the other gentlemen will postpone their intended favor of passing over to meet him, until they are informed as above of his arrival to attend them there.
Vol. v. 14
In case the weather should prove unfavorable for Lord Howe to pass in his boat to Staten Island' tomorrow, as from the present appearance there is some reason to suspect, he will take the next earliest opportunity that offers for that purpose. In this intention he may be further retarded, having been an invalid lately; but will certainly give the most timely notice of that inability. He, however, flatters himself he shall not have occasion to make further excuses on that account.*
"In Congress, September ISth., The committee appointed to confer with Lord Howe, having returned, made a verbal report.
"Ordered, that they make a report in writing, as soon as conveniently they can.
"September \7th. The committee appointed to confer with Lord Howe, agreeable to the order of Congress, brought in a report, in writing, which was read as follows.
"' In obedience to the orders of Congress, we have had a meeting with Lord Howe. It was on Wednesday last, upon Staten Island, opposite to Amboy, where his Lordship received and entertained us with the utmost politeness.
"' His Lordship opened the conversation by acquainting us, that, though he could not treat with us as a committee of Congress, yet, as his powers enabled him to confer and consult with any private gentlemen of influence in the colonies, on the means of restoring peace between the two countries, he was glad of this opportunity of conferring with us on that subject, if we thpught ourselves at liberty to enter into a conference with him in that character.
"' We observed to his Lordship, that, as our business was to hear, he might consider us in what light he pleased, and communicate'to us any proposition he might be authorized to make for the purpose mentioned; but that we could consider ourselves in no other character, than that in which we were placed by order of Congress.
* The committee being arrivcd.at Amboy, opposite to the Island, and in possession of the Americans, the admiral sent over his barge te receive and bring them to him, and to leave one of his principal officers as a hostage-, for their safe return. The committee of Congress had not desired a hostage, and they therefore took the officer back with them. The admiral met them at their landing, and conducted them through his guards to a convenient room for conference. — W. T. F.
"' His Lordship then entered into a discourse of considerable length, which contained no explicit proposition of peace except one, namely, that the colonies should return to their allegiance and obedience to the government of Great Britain. The rest consisted principally of assurances, that there was an exceeding good disposition in the King and his ministers to make that government easy to us, with intimations, that, in case of our submission, they would cause the offensive acts of Parliament to be revised, and the instructions to governors to be reconsidered; that so, if any just causes of complaint were found in the acts, or any errors in government were perceived to have crept into the instructions, they might be amended or withdrawn.
"' We gave it as our opinion to his Lordship, that a return to the domination of Great Britain was not now to be expected. We mentioned the repeated humble petitions of the colonies to the King and Parliament, which had been treated with contempt, and answered only by additional injuries; the unexampled patience we had shown under their tyrannical government; and that it was not till the last act of Parliament, which denounced war against us, and put us out of the King's protection, that we declared our independence; that this declaration had been called for by the people of the colonies in general; that every colony had approved of it, when made; and all now considered themselves as independent States, and were settling or had settled their governments accordingly; so that it was not in the power of Congress to agree for them, that they should return to their former dependent state; that there was no doubt of their inclination to peace, and their willingness to enter into a treaty with Britain, that might be advantageous to both countries; that, though his Lordship had at present no power to treat with them as independent States, he might, if there was the same good disposition in Britain, much sooner obtain fresh powers from thence, than powers could be obtained by Congress from the several colonies to consent to a submission.
"' His Lordship then saying, that he was sorry to find that no accommodation was likely to take place, put an end to the conference.
"' Upon the whole, it did not appear to your committee, that his Lordship's commission contained any other authority of importance than what is expressed in the act of Parliament, namely, that of granting pardons, with such exceptions as the commissioners shall think proper to make, and of declaring America, or any part of it, to be in the King's peace, upon submission ; for, as to the power qf inquiring into the state of America, which his Lordship mentioned to us, and of conferring and consulting with any persons the commissioners might - think proper, and representing the result of such conversation to the ministry, who, provided the colonies would subject themselves, might, after all, or might not, at their pleasure, make any alterations in the former instructions to governors, or propose in Parliament any amendment of the acts complained of, we apprehended any expectation from the effect of such a power would have been too uncertain and precarious to be relied on by America, had she still continued in her state of dependence.'