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“MR. WILLIAM NEATE presents his most respectful compliments to Dr. Franklin, and, as a report prevailed yesterday evening, that all the disputes between Great Britain and the American colonies were, through his application and influence with Lord North, amicably settled, conformable to the wish and desire of the late Congress, W. N. desires the favor of Dr. Franklin to inform him by a line, per the bearer, whether there is any credit to be given to the report.
“St. Mary Hill, 24th December, 1774.”
My answer was to this effect; that I should be very happy to be able to inform him, that the report he had heard had some truth in it; but I could only assure him, that I knew nothing of the matter. Such reports, however, were confidently circulated, and had some effect in recovering the stocks, which had fallen three or four per cent. On Christmas-day evening, visiting Mrs. Howe, she told me as soon as I went in, that her brother, Lord Howe, wished to be acquainted with me; that he was a very good man, and she was sure we should like each other. I said, I had always heard a good character of Lord Howe, and should be proud of the honor of being known to him. “He is but just by,” said she; “will you give me leave to send for him 1" “By all means, Madam, if you think proper.” She rang for a servant, wrote a note, and Lord Howe came in a few minutes. After some extremely polite compliments, as to the general motives for his desiring an acquaintance with me, he said he had a particular one at this time, which was the alarming situation of our affairs with America, which no one, he was persuaded, understood better than myself; that it was the opinion of some friends of his, that no
man could do more towards reconciling our differences than I could, if I would undertake it; that he was sensible I had been very ill treated by the ministry, but he hoped that would not be considered by me in the present case; that he himself, though not in opposition, had much disapproved of their conduct towards me; that some of them, he was sure, were ashamed of it, and sorry it had happened; which he supposed must be sufficient to abate resentment in a great and generous mind; that, if he were himself in administration, he should be ready to make me ample satisfaction, which, he was persuaded, would one day or other be done; that he was unconnected with the ministry, except by some personal friendships, wished well however to government, was anxious for the general welfare of the whole empire, and had a particular regard for New England, which had shown a very endearing respect to his family; that he was merely an independent member of Parliament, desirous of doing what good he could, agreeably to his duty in that station; that he therefore had wished for an opportunity of obtaining my sentiments on the means of reconciling our differences, which he saw must be attended with the most mischievous consequences, if not speedily accommodated; that he hoped his zeal for the public welfare would, with me, excuse the impertinence of a mere stranger, who could have otherwise no reason to expect, or right to request, me to open my mind to him on these topics; but he did conceive, that, if I would indulge him with my ideas of the means proper to bring about a reconciliation, it might be of some use; that perhaps I might not be willing myself to have any direct communication with this ministry on this occasion; that I might likewise not care to have it known, that I had any indirect communication with them, till I could be well assured of their good dispositions ; that, being himself upon no ill terms with them, he thought it not impossible that he might, by conveying my sentiments to them and theirs to me, be a means of bringing on a good understanding, without committing either them or me, if his negotiation should not succeed; and that I might rely on his keeping perfectly secret every thing I should wish to remain so.
Mrs. Howe here offering to withdraw, whether of herself, or from any sign from him, I know not, I begged she might stay, as I should have no secret in a business of this nature, that I could not freely confide to her prudence; which was truth; for I had never conceived a higher opinion of the discretion and excellent understanding of any woman on so short an acquaintance. I added, that, though I had never before the honor of being in his Lordship's company, his manner was such as had already engaged my confidence, and would make me perfectly easy and free in communicating myself to him.
I begged him, in the first place, to give me credit for a sincere desire of healing the breach between the two countries; that I would cheerfully and heartily do every thing in my small power to accomplish it; but that I apprehended from the King's speech, and from the measures talked of, as well as those already determined on, no intention or disposition of the kind existed in the present 'ministry, and therefore no accommodation could be expected till we saw a change. That, as to what his Lordship mentioned of the personal injuries done me, those done my country were so much greater, that I did not think the other, at this time, worth mentioning; that, besides, it was a fixed rule with me, not to mix my private affairs with those of the public; that I could join with my personal enemy in
serving the public, or, when it was for its interest, with the public in serving that enemy; these being my sentiments, his Lordship might be assured, that no private considerations of the kind should prevent my being as useful in the present case as my small ability would permit. . He appeared satisfied and pleased with these declarations, and gave it me as his sincere opinion, that some of the ministry were extremely well disposed to any reasonable accommodation, preserving only the dignity of government; and he wished me to draw up in writing some propositions containing the terms on which I conceived a good understanding might be obtained and established, and the mode of proceeding to accomplish it; which propositions, as soon as prepared, we might meet to consider, either at his house, or at mine, or where I pleased; but, as his being seen at my house, or me at his, might, he thought, occasion some speculation, it was concluded to be best to meet at his sister's, who readily offered her house for the purpose, and where there was a good pretence with her family and friends for my being often seen, as it was known we played together at chess. I undertook, accordingly, to draw up something of the kind; and so for that time we parted, agreeing to meet at the same place again on the Wednesday following.
I dined about this time by invitation with Governor Pownall. There was no company but the family ; and after dinner we had a tête-à-tête. He had been in the opposition; but was now about making his peace, in order to come into Parliament upon ministerial interest, which I did not then know. He told me, what I had before been told by several of Lord North's friends, that the American measures were not the measures of that minister, nor approved by him; that, on the
contrary, he was well disposed to promote a reconciliation upon any terms honorable to government; that I had been looked upon as the great fomenter of the opposition in America, and as a great adversary to any accommodation; that he, Governor Pownall, had given a different account of me, and had told his Lordship that I was certainly much misunderstood. From the Governor's further discourse I collected, that he wished to be employed as an envoy or commissioner to America, to settle the differences, and to have me with him ; but, as I apprehended there was little likelihood that either of us would be so employed by government, I did not give much attention to that part of his discourse.
I should have mentioned in its place (but one cannot recollect every thing in order), that, declining at first to draw up the propositions desired by Lord Howe, I alleged its being unnecessary, since the Congress in their petition to the King, just then received and presented through Lord Dartmouth, had stated their grievances, and pointed out very explicitly what would restore the ancient harmony; and I read a part of the petition to show their good dispositions, which, being very pathetically expressed, seemed to affect both the brother and sister. But still I was desired to give my ideas of the steps to be taken, in case some of the propositions in the petition should not be thought admissible. And this, as I said before, I undertook to do.
I had promised Lord Chatham to communicate to him the first important news I should receive from America. I therefore sent him the proceedings of the Congress as soon as I received them ; but a whole week passed after I received the petition, before I could, as I wished to do, wait upon him with it, in order to obtain his sentiments on the whole ; for my time was taken up in meetings with the other agents to consult about