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delay should be given to the signing of the treaty after it was ready. But, if I had known that those objections would have been sent to the Committee, I should have sent the answers they received, which had been satisfactory to all the Commissioners, when the treaty was settled, and until the mind of one* of them was altered by the opinion of two other persons.f It is now too late to send those answers. But I wish, for the future, if such a case should again happen, that Congress would acquaint their Commissioners with such partial objections, and hear their reasons before they determine that they have done wrong. In the mean time this only to you in private; it will be of no use to communicate it, as the resolutions of Congress will probably be received and executed before this letter comes to hand.
Speaking of Commissioners in the plural, puts me in mind of inquiring, if it can be the intention of Congress to keep three Commissioners at this court; we have indeed four with the gentleman intended for Tuscany, who continues here, and is very angry that he was not consulted in making the treaty, which he could have mended in several particulars; and perhaps he is angry with some reason, if the instructions to him do, as he says they do, require us to consult him. We shall soon have the fifth; for the envoy to Vienna, not being received there, is, I hear, returning hither. The necessary expense of maintaining us all is, I assure you, enormously great. I wish that the utility may equal it. I imagine every one of us spends nearly as much as Lord Stormont did. It is true, he left behind him the character of a niggard; and, when the advertisement appeared for the sale of his household goods, all Paris laughed at an article of it, perhaps very innocently expressed, " line grande quantite du linge de table, qui n'a jamais servi." "Cela est tres vraisemblable," say they, "car il n'a jamais donne h manger."
* Arthur Lee. — See Diplomatic Correspondence, Vol. II. p. 127. t Ralph Izard and William Lee Ibid. p. 372.
But, as to our number, whatever advantage there might be in the joint counsels of three for framing and adjusting the articles of the treaty, there can be none in managing the common business of a resident here. On the contrary, all the advantages in negotiation that result from secrecy of sentiment, and uniformity in expressing it, and in common business from despatch, are lost. In a court, too, where every word is watched and weighed, if a number of Commissioners do not every one hold the same language, in giving their opinion on any public transaction, this lessens their weight; and when it may be prudent to put on, or avoid certain appearances of concern, for example, or indifference, satisfaction, or dislike, where the utmost sincerity and candor should be used, and would gain credit, if no semblance of art showed itself in the inadvertent discourse, perhaps of only one of them, the hazard is in proportion to the number. And where every one must be consulted on every particular of common business, in answering every letter, &c, and one of them is offended if the smallest thing is done without his consent, the difficulty of being often and long enough together, the different opinions, and the time consumed in debating them, the interruptions by new applicants in the time of meeting, &,c. &c, occasion so much postponing and delay, that correspondence languishes, occasions are lost, and the business is always behindhand.
I have mentioned the difficulty of being often and long enough together. This is considerable, where they cannot all be accommodated in the same house; but to find three people whose tempers are so good, and who like so well one another's company, and manner of living and conversing, as to agree well themselves, though being in one house, and whose servants will not by their indiscretion quarrel with one another, and by artful misrepresentations draw their masters in to take their parts, to the disturbance of necessary harmony, these are difficulties still greater and almost insurmountable. And, in consideration of the whole, I wish Congress would separate us.
The Spanish galleons, which have been impatiently expected, are at length happily arrived. The fleet and army returning from Brazil is still out, but supposed to be on the way homewards. When that and the South Sea ships are arrived, it will appear whether Spain's accession to the treaty has been delayed for the reasons given, or whether the reasons were only given to excuse the delay.
The English and French fleets, of nearly equal force, are now both at sea. It is not doubted, but that if they meet, there will be a battle; for, though England through fear affects to understand it to be still peace, and would excuse the depredations she has made on the commerce of France, by pretences of illicit trade, Slc, yet France considers the war begun, from the time of the King's message to Parliament, complaining of the insult France had given by treating with us, and demanding aids to resist it, and the answer of both Houses, offering their lives and fortunes. These, and the taking several frigates, are deemed indisputable hostilities. Accordingly, orders are given to all the fleets and armed ships to return hostilities, and encouragement is offered to privateers, &c. An ambassador from Spain is indeed gone to London, and joyfully received there, in the idea that peace may be made by his mediation. But as yet we learn nothing certain of his mission, and doubt his effecting any thing of the kind.
War in Germany seems to be inevitable, and this occasioning great borrowings of money in Holland and elsewhere, by the powers concerned, makes it more difficult for us to succeed in ours. When we engaged to Congress to pay their bills for the interest of the sums they should borrow, we did not dream of their drawing on us for other occasions. We have already paid of Congress' drafts, to returned officers, eightytwo thousand two hundred and eleven livres, and we know not how much more of that kind we have to pay, because the Committee have never let us know the amount of those drafts, or their account of them never reached us, and they still continue coming in. And we are now surprised with advice of drafts from Mr. Bingham, to the amount of one hundred thousand more. If you reduce us to bankruptcy here, by a nonpayment of your drafts, consider the consequences. In my humble opinion no drafts should be made on us without first learning from us that we shall be able to answer them.
M. de Beaumarchais has been out of town ever since the arrival of your power to settle with him. I hope he will be able to furnish the supplies mentioned in the invoice and contract. The settlement may be much better made with the assistance of Mr. Deane, we being not privy to the transactions. We have agreed to give M. Dumas two hundred louis a year, thinking that he well deserves it. With great esteem, I have the honor to be, &c.
FROM DAVID HARTLEY TO B. FRANKLIN.
Exchange of Prisoners. — Remarks concerning Peace.
Golden Square, 14 August, 1778.
I wrote to you as long ago as the 14th of the last month, to tell you, that the administration here had given their consent to the exchange of prisoners at Calais, and that they would agree to give any ship on your part a free passport from Brest to Calais, upon your sending to me a similar assurance that any British ship going to Calais and for the purpose of the exchange should have free entrance without molestation, and free egress with the prisoners in exchange. I have again received a confirmation of these assurances from the Board of Admiralty here, and we are now waiting for your answer, after the receipt of which, the exchange will be forwarded with all expedition.
I had written thus much to you by the last post, and then, as you know that peace with America is always uppermost in my thoughts, my pen ran on with some ideas and propositions to that end, which led me insensibly beyond the hour of the post. I see so little probability in my attempt, in the present state of things, that I confess I am quite disheartened, though I cannot keep my thoughts from the subject; but I think it not worth while to trouble you with any more propositions at present. I am confident, that the wishes of both nations are for peace, but the moment any proposition is reduced into shape or terms, its virtue ceases; and, instead of drawing parties together, it excites jealous repulsions between them. If more successful or more promising times should come, my thoughts will ever be upon the watch.