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TO DAVID HARTLEY.
Answer to Propositions for quitting the Alliance with France.
Passy, 3 February, 1779.
I have just received your favor of the 23d past, in which you mention, "that the alliance between France and America is the great stumblingblock in the way of making peace;" and you go on to observe, that "whatever engagements America may have entered into, they may, at least by consent of parties, be relinquished, for the purpose of removing so material an obstacle to any general treaty of free and unengaged parties;" adding, that, "if the parties could meet for the sake of peace upon free and open ground, you should think that a very fair proposition to be offered to the people of England, and an equitable proposition in itself."
The long, steady, and kind regard you have shown for the welfare of America, by the whole tenor of your conduct in Parliament, satisfies me, that this proposition never took its rise with you, but has been suggested from some other quarter; and that your excess of humanity, your love of peace, and your fear for us, that the destruction we are threatened with will certainly be effected, have thrown a mist before your eyes, which hindered you from seeing the malignity and mischief of it. We know that your King hates Whigs and Presbyterians; that he thirsts for our blood, of which he has already drunk large draughts; that weak and unprincipled ministers are ready to execute the wickedest of his orders, and his venal Parliament equally ready to vote them just. Not the smallest appearance of a reason can be imagined, capable of inducing us to think of relinquishing a solid alliance with one of the most amiable, as well as most powerful princes of Europe, for the expectation of unknown terms of peace, to be afterwards offered to us by such a government; a government, that has already shamefully broken all the compacts it ever made with us. This is worse than advising us to drop the substance for the shadow. The dog, after he found his mistake, might possibly have recovered his mutton; but we could never hope to be trusted again by France, or indeed by any other nation under heaven. Nor does there appear any more necessity for dissolving an alliance with France, before you can treat with us, than there would of dissolving your alliance with Holland, or your union with Scotland, before we could treat with you. Ours is, therefore, no material obstacle to a treaty, as you suppose it to be. Had Lord North been the author of such a proposition, all the world would have said it was insidious, and meant only to deceive and divide us from our friends, and then to rum us; supposing our fears might be so strong as to procure an acceptance of it . But, thanks to God, that is not the case. We have long since settled all the account in our own minds. We know the worst you can do to us, if you have your wish, is, to confiscate our estates and take our lives, to rob and murder us; and this you have seen we are ready to hazard, rather than come again under your detested government.
You must observe, my dear friend, that I am a little warm. Excuse me. It is over. Only let me counsel you not to think of being sent hither on so fruitless an errand, as that of making such a proposition.
It puts me in mind of the comic farce entitled, Godsend, or The Wreckers. You may have forgotten it; but I will endeavour to amuse you by recollecting a little of it.
Scene. Mount's Bay.
[Jl ship riding at anchor in a great storm. A Ice shore full of rocks, and lined with people, furnished with axes and carriages to cut up wrecks, knock the sailors on the head, and carry off the plunder; according to custom.}
1st Wrecker. This ship rides it out longer than I expected; she must have good ground tackle.
2d Wrecker. We had better send off a boat to her, and persuade her to take a pilot, who can afterwards run her ashore, where we can best come at her.
3d Wrecker. I doubt whether the boat can live in this sea; but if there are any brave fellows willing to hazard themselves for the good of the public, and a double share, let them say ay.
Several Wreckers. I, I, I, I. [The boat goes off, and comes under the ship's stern.}
Spokesman. So ho, the ship, ahoa!
Sp. Would you have a pilot?
Capt. No, no!
Sp. It blows hard, and you are in danger.
Capt. I know it.
Sp. Will you buy a better cable? We have one in the boat here.
Capt. What do you ask for it?
Sp. Cut that you have, and then we '11 talk about the price of this.
Capt. I shall do no such foolish thing. I have lived in your parish formerly, and know the heads of ye too well to trust ye; keep off from my cable there; I see you have a mind to cut it yourselves. If you go any nearer to it, I '11 fire into you and sink you.
Sp. It is a damned rotten French cable, and will part of itself in half an hour. Where will you be then, Captain? You had better take our offer.
Capt. You offer nothing, you rogues, but treachery and mischief. My cable is good and strong, and will hold long enough to baulk all your projects.
Sp. You talk unkindly, Captain, to people who came here only for your good.
Capt. I know you came for all our goods, but, by God's help, you shall have none of them; you shall not serve us as you did the Indiamen.
Sp. Come, my lads, let's be gone. This fellow is not so great a fool as we took him to be.
TO DAVID HARTLEY.
Passy, 22 February, 1779.
Dear Sir, I received your proposition for removing the stumblingblock. Your constant desire of peace ought to endear you to both sides; but this proposition seems to be naturally impracticable. We can never think of quitting a solid alliance, made and ratified, in order to be in a state for receiving unknown proposals of peace, which may vanish in the discussion. The truth is, we have no kind of faith in your government, which appears to us as insidious and deceitful as it is unjust and cruel; its character is that of the Spider in Thomson,
"Cunning and fierce,
Besides, we cannot see the necessity of our relinquishing our alliance with France in order to a treaty, any more than of your relinquishing yours with Holland. I am, very affectionately, yours,
TO PATRICK HENRY, GOVERNOR OF VIRGINIA.
On the Subject of procuring military Supplies in Europe for the State of Virginia.
Passy, 36 February, 1779.
I had the honor of receiving your Excellency's letter of March 3d, 1778, by Captain Lemaire, acquainting me, that the State of Virginia has desired Mr. William Lee, your agent, to procure a quantity of arms and military stores, and requesting me to assist him with my influence in obtaining them on credit.
Being glad of any opportunity of serving Virginia, and showing my regard to the request of a person whom I so highly esteem, and Mr. William Lee being absent, I found immediately three different merchants here, men of fortune, who were each of them willing to undertake furnishing the whole, and giving the credit desired. But, Mr. Arthur Lee being understood to have taken the management of the affair into his own hands, one of the three soon after refused to have any thing to do with it; a second, whose letter to me I enclose, apprehending difficulties from Mr. Lee's temper, required my name and Mr. Adams's to the agreement, which he supposes Mr. Lee did not like, as his offer was not accepted. I know not why the
* North America. The letter was written by Dr. Franklin, but signed with these initials.