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your letter of the 5th of this month, and signed by us all, which I thought had been sent to you till Mr. Lee informed me, that, having communicated to you the contents, you told him it would not be satisfactory, and desired it might be reconsidered, and he had accordingly stopped it for that purpose. We have not since had an opportunity of reconsidering it; and, as the end is now answered by the communication of the treaty, perhaps it is not necessary. I condole with you sincerely on the great loss sus. tained in Charleston by the fire in January last, said to have destroyed six hundred houses, valued with the goods at a million sterling. I have the honor to be, &c. * B. FRANKLIN.
clearly stated, in the several letters he had received from you, circumstances affording sufficient grounds of offence.’ He said, “he should be glad to know what those circumstances were.” I answered, in the first place, ‘that, conceiving it your duty as a member of the States, having a considerable fortune there, and intrusted with a commission from Congress, to communicate as occasion offered all the intelligence you could, you found this communication greatly obstructed by a concealment on the part of Dr. Franklin of proper opportunities, when it was quite unnecessary, or when the end of secrecy might be answered, though you had been intrusted with the knowledge of them.” Upon which Dr. Franklin told me, “that you had only complained of this in the present letter, and as to the particular opportunity you mentioned by M. Gérard, or Mr. Deane, he had not himself looked upon it as a good or proper one, and had not himself made use of it to write.’ “As another ground of complaint I observed, “that, while the commercial treaty was on the carpet, you considered one article as highly unreasonable and inexpedient, and therefore expressly objected to it; you had in a letter fully specified the reasons upon which your disapprobation was founded, and had sent this letter to Dr. Franklin, in hopes of his removing your scruples, and setting you right if you were wrong, or letting your reasons and objections, if they were just, produce some good effect before the conclusion of the treaty, but you had never been favored with any answer on the subject, though you had repeatedly requested it.' Dr. Franklin alleged, “that he would have given a full and satisfactory answer, but he had been prevented by business and various avocations; that he was still willing to give one, but could not conceive why you should be so impatient. Suppose he could not give it for a month hence, what great inconvenience would it occasion?' I observed, “that the sooner you had it, you might be the better prepared to guard against any misrepresentation.” Dr. Franklin assured me, that he had not been, nor would he ever be, guilty of any misrepresentation; so far from it, that he had not even written any thing concerning the matten. I told him, perhaps you might choose to lay it before Congress, and his answer might enable you to do it more fully and satisfactorily. Dr. Franklin said you should have an answer, but you must be patient; for he really was very much engaged by other business, and interrupted by people continually coming in upon him, though some upon frivolous errands, as was the case with the two Frenchmen, just gone away, who came only to ask him to buy cloth. “I suggested as a third ground of complaint, that you had been directed by the Congress to propose to the court of Tuscany a commercial treaty similar to the one concluded with this court, which you therefore required as necessary for your regulation, in pursuance of the instructions of Congress, who directed you should have, not only the original treaty, but also the alterations which might be proposed; both were nevertheless withheld from you by Dr. Franklin without the least regard to your applications. Dr. Franklin replied, ‘Did he go into Tuscany ? Has not the treaty been sent to him?' I said, you had good reasons for staying ; that the treaty was kept from you till the other day, when perhaps it was necessary for you to have had it as early as possible, even previous to your departure, to give it the maturer consideration, and because there might be explanations you would like to have made here; or observations might occur to you, which you might think it advisable to communicate to Congress, to have their further instructions as soon as you could. “I do not recollect, that Dr. Franklin made any direct reply to this. He observed, that he was clear he had not given you any just cause of offence, or reasonable grounds of complaint, that he was studious to avoid contention; he acknowledged that he owed you an answer, but, though he was in your debt, he hoped you would be a merciful creditor; he would say, as the debtor in the Scripture, ‘have patience, and I will pay thee all;’ that you certainly ought to give him time, as you had urged so much matter as would require a pamphlet in answer. I told him, that I was sure it was far from your disposition to court quarrels; that if the reasons he gave in his answer to you were just and satisfactory, you would undoubtedly allow them their full weight; that satisfaction you were desirous of having, and were anxious to have the affair ended. He said, he should endeavour to do it as soon as possible; in the mean time, he hoped to have no more such angry letters from you; his answer he promised should be a cool one, and that people who wrote such angry letters should keep them, till they sufficiently reflected on the contents, before they sent them.—.April 26th. * Mr. Pulteney was a member of Parliament, and had come over to Paris, as a secret agent from the ministry, for the purpose of consulting Dr. Franklin respecting the terms of a reconciliation with America, contained in Lord North's bill for appointing commissioners. That the object of his visit might not be publicly suspected, he assumed the name of Williams. The above letter is an answer to the following note; or rather the substance of a conversation, that had passed between them in consequence of it. The letter was not sent. See letter to David Hartley, dated October 26th, 1778.
To william PULTENEY.”
JAmerica cannot treat on any Terms short of Indepen
dence; nor at all in Case England makes War
Passy, 30 March, 1778. SIR,
When I first had the honor of conversing with you on the subject of peace, I mentioned it as my opinion, that every proposition, which implied our voluntarily agreeing to return to a dependence on Britain, was now become impossible; that a peace on equal terms undoubtedly might be made; and that, though we had no particular powers to treat of peace with England, we had general powers to make treaties of peace, amity, and commerce, with any State in Europe, by which I thought we might be authorized to treat with Britain; who, if sincerely disposed to peace, might save time and much bloodshed by treating with us directly. I also gave it as my opinion, that, in the treaty to be made, Britain should endeavour, by the fairness and generosity of the terms she offered, to recover the esteem, confidence, and affection of America, without which the peace could not be so beneficial, as it was not likely to be lasting; in this I had the pleasure to find you of my opinion. But I see, by the propositions you have communicated to me, that the ministers cannot yet divest themselves of the idea, that the power of Parliament over us is constitutionally absolute and unlimited; and that the limitations they may be willing now to put to it by treaty are so many favors, or so many benefits, for which we are to make compensation. As our opinions in America are totally different, a treaty on the terms proposed appears to me utterly impracticable, either here or there. Here we certainly cannot make it, having not the smallest authority to make even the declaration specified in the proposed letter, without which, if I understood you right, treating with us cannot be commenced. I sincerely wish as much for peace as you do, and I have enough remaining of good will for England to wish it for her sake as well as for our own, and for the sake of humanity. In the present state of things, the proper means of obtaining it, in my opinion, are, to acknowledge the independence of the United States, and then enter at once into a treaty with us for a suspension of arms, with the usual provisions relating to distances; and another for establishing peace, friendship, and commerce, such as France has made. This might prevent a war between you and that kingdom, which, in the present circumstances and temper of the two nations, an accident may bring on every day, though contrary to the interest and without the previous intention of either. Such a treaty we might probably now make, with the approbation of our friends; but, if you go to war with them on account of their friendship for us, we are bound by ties, stronger than can be formed by any treaty, to fight against you with them, as long as the war against them shall continue.
“29 March, 1778.
“Mr. Williams returned this morning to Paris, and will be glad to see Dr. Franklin, whenever it is convenient for the Doctor, at the Hôtel Frasilière, Rue Tournon. It is near the hotel where he lodged when the Doctor saw him a fortnight ago. He does not propose to go abroad, and therefore the Doctor will find him at any hour. He understands that Mr. Alexander is not yet returned from Dijon, which he regrets.”
Mr. Alexander soon returned to Paris, and wrote to Dr. Franklin, on the 4th of April, as follows.
“Upon a night's reflection, it is thought right that you should be possessed of the enclosed, to be afterwards returned to me without taking a copy, in case no business is done. Will you let me know by the bearer, if we are to see you in 12 win to-day, and when, that I may be at hand?”
The paper here mentioned, as enclosed probably contained the propositions, which had been brought by Mr. Pulteney, and the substance of which he had communicated to Dr. Franklin in conversation.
May God at last grant that wisdom to your national councils, which he seems long to have denied them, and which only sincere, just, and humane intentions can merit or expect. With great personal esteem, I have the honor to be, Sir, &c.
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Relating to JMr. Deane's Conduct in France.
Passy, 31 March, 1778. SIR,
My colleague, Mr. Deane, being recalled by Congress, and no reasons given that have yet appeared here, it is apprehended to be the effect of some misrepresentations from an enemy or two at Paris and at Nantes. I have no doubt, that he will be able clearly to justify himself; but, having lived intimately with him now fifteen months, the greatest part of the time in the same house, and been a constant witness of his public conduct, I cannot omit giving this testimony, though unasked, in his behalf, that I esteem him a