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a negotiation, in the order you have placed them. If you will number them in your copy, you will readily see to which my observations refer, and I may therefore be the more concise. To the 1st,”—I do not see the necessity or use of five commissioners. A number of talkers lengthens discussions, and often embarrasses instead of aiding a settlement. Their different particular views, private interests, and jealousies of each other, are likewise so many rubs in the way; and it sometimes happens, that a number cannot agree to what each privately thinks reasonable, and would have agreed to, or perhaps proposed, if alone. But this as the parties please. To the 2d, – The term of twenty-one years would be better for all sides. The suspension of hostilities should be expressed to be between all parties at war; and that the British troops and ships of war now in any of the United States be withdrawn. To the 3d, – This seems needless, and is a thing that may be done or omitted as you please; America has no concern about those acts of Parliament. To the 4th, – The reason of proposing this is not understood, nor the use of it, nor what inducement there can be for us to agree to it. When you come to treat with both your enemies, you may negotiate away as much of these engagements as you can ; but powers, who have made a firm, solid league, evidently useful to both, can never be prevailed with to dissolve it for the vague expectation of another in nubibus ; nor even on the certainty, that another will be proposed, without knowing what are to be its articles. America has no desire of being free from her engagements to France. The chief is, that of continuing the war in conjunction with her, and not making a separate peace; and this is an obligation not in the power of America to dissolve, being an obligation of gratitude and justice towards a nation, which is engaged in a war on her account and for her protection; and would be for ever binding, whether such an article existed or not in the treaty; and, though it did not exist, an honest American would cut off his right hand, rather than sign an agreement with England contrary to the spirit of it.
* See above, p. 336.
To the 5th, – As soon as you please.
If you had mentioned France in your proposed suspension of arms, I should have immediately shown it to the minister, and have endeavoured to support that idea. As it stands, I am in doubt whether I shall communicate your paper or not, though by your writing it so fair it seems as if you intended it. If I do, I shall acquaint you with the result.
The bill, of which you send me a copy, was an excellent one at the time, and might have had great and good effects, if, instead of telling us haughtily, that our humble petition should receive no answer, the ministry had received and enacted that bill into a law. It might have erected a wall of brass round England, if such a measure had been adopted, when Friar Bacon’s brazen head cried out, TIME is But the wisdom of it was not seen, till after the fatal cry of TIME 's PAST | I am, my dear friend, &c.
To GENERAL BEckwitH.”
Discouraging his Project of joining the American
Having assured you verbally, that I had no authority to treat or agree with any military person, of any rank whatever, to go to America, I understand your expressions, that “you will take your chance, if I think you may be useful,” to mean, that you will go over without making any terms with me, on a supposition, which you also mention, that my recommendation will be regarded by the Congress, and that you shall thereupon be employed in our armies. ...Whoever has seen the high character given of you by Prince Ferdinand (under whom you served) to Lord Chatham, which I saw when in London, must think that so able an officer might have been exceedingly useful to our cause, if he had been in America at the beginning of the war. But there is a great difficulty at this time in introducing one of your rank into our armies, now, that they are all arranged and fully officered; and this kind of difficulty has been found so great, and the Congress has been so embarrassed with numbers of officers from other countries, who arrived under strong recommendations, that they have been at above one hundred thousand livres expense to pay the charges of such officers in coming to America and returning to Europe, rather than hazard the discontent, the placing them, to the prejudice of our own officers who had served from the beginning, would have occasioned.
* General Beckwith had distinguished himself in the battle of Minden, and he served afterwards in Germany. He sent to Dr. Franklin a copy of a letter, written by Prince Ferdinand of Brunswick to the Earl of Chatham, in 1767, highly commendatory of his character and military skill.
Under these circumstances they have not merely left me without authority, but they have in express terms forbid me to agree with or encourage by any means, the going over of officers to America in expectation of employment. As to my recommendation, whatever weight it might have had formerly, it has in several instances been so improperly employed through the too great confidence I had in recommendations from others, that I think it would at present be of no importance, if it were necessary; but after that above mentioned of so great a general, and so good a judge of military merit as Prince Ferdinand, a character of you from me would be impertinence.
Upon the whole, I can only say, that, if you choose to go over and settle in our land of liberty, I shall be glad to find you there on my return as a fellow citizen, because I believe you will be a very good one, and respected there as such by the people. But I cannot advise or countenance your going thither with the expectation you mention. With great esteem, I have the honor to be, &c.
TO THE COMMITTEE OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS.
Receives his Credentials as JMinister Plenipotentiary. — Presented to the King. — Paul Jones's Squadron. — Prisoners. — JWecker. — Lee and Izard. — Consuls. – Barbary Powers. — Spain. — France.
Passy, 26 May, 1779. GENTLEMEN,
The Marquis de Lafayette, who arrived here the 11th of February, brought me yours of October 28th, and the new commission, credentials, and instructions, which the Congress have honored me with. I have not since had an opportunity of writing, that I could trust; for I see, by several instances, the orders given to private captains to throw their despatches into the sea, when likely to be taken, are sometimes neglected, and sometimes so badly executed, that the letters are recovered by the enemy, and much inconvenience has attended their interception. You mention, that you should speedily have opportunities of forwarding duplicates and triplicates of the papers; none of them has ever come to hand, nor have I received any other line from you of later date.
I immediately acquainted the minister of foreign affairs with my appointment, and communicated to him, as usual, a copy of my credential letter, on which a day was named for my reception. A fit of the gout prevented my attendance at that time, and for some weeks after; but, as soon as I was able to go through the ceremony, I went to Versailles, and was presented to the King, and received in all the forms. I delivered the letter of Congress into his Majesty's own hands, who, in the most gracious manner, expressed his satisfaction. And J have since constantly attended