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Letter from Lord Howe to Dr. Franklin*.
Eagle, June the 20th, 1776.
I CANNOT, my worthy friend, permit the letters and parcels, which I have sent (in the state I received them) to be landed, without adding a word upon the subject of the injurious extremities in which our unhappy disputes have engaged us.
You will learn the nature of my mission, from the official dispatches which I have recommended to be forwarded by the same conveyance. Retaining all the earnestness I ever expressed, to see our differences accommodated; I shall conceive, if I meet with the disposition in the colonies which I was once taught to expect, the most flattering hopes of proving serviceable in the objects of the king's paternal solicitude, by promoting the establishment of lasting peace and union with the colonies. But if the deep-rooted prejudices of America, and the necessity of preventing her trade from passing into foreign channels, must keep us still a divided people; I shall, from every private as well as public motive, most heartily lament, that this is not the moment wherein those great objects of my ambition are
• In the year 1776 an act of parliament passed, to prohibit and restrain, on the one hand, the trade and intercourse of the refractory colonies respectively during the revolt; and on the other hand, to enable persons appointed by the crown to grant pardons and declare any particular district at the king's peace, fc. Lord Howe (who had been previously appointed commander of the fleet in North America) was, on May 3, declared joint conimissioner with his brother gen. Howe, for the latter purposes of the act. He sailed May 12; and while off the Massachusett's coast prepared a declaration announcing this commission, and accompanied it with circular letters. July 4, independence had been declared; but nevertheless congress (invited by various attempts made to procure a conference) resolved to send Messieurs Franklin, J. Adams, and E. Rutledge, to learn the propositions of the commissioners, by whom authorized, and to whom addressed. The commissioners having no power to treat with congress in its public capacity, and congress being impowered by their representatives to rescind the act of independence, the conferene was broken off. It remains only to add, that, on Sept. 19, the commissioners declared themselves ready to confer with any of the well-affected, on the means of restoring peace and permanent union with every colony as part of the British empire; and promised a revision of the several royal instructions supposed to lay improper restraints on colony-legislation, and also the king's concurrence in a revision of the objectionable acts of parliament
which seemed the ultimatum of the commission.— Parliament however, by a subsequent act (whicb, among other things, formally renounced taxation in North Anerica and the West Indies) authorized five commissioners to treat, settle, and agree, even with congress; but subject to the farther confirmation of parliament. Lord Carlisle, and Messieurs Johnson and Eden, with the cominanders in chief of the land and sea forces, were the conimissioners appointed by the crown under this act; and Dr. Adam Ferguson was made secretary to the commission.
Mr. Henry Strachey had been secretary to the first commission, attended with the following singular circumstance, as stated in the house of lords. In this commission for restoring peace to America, " (or in other words to induce America at once to put a confidence in the crown, and to believe that the parliament of England is a sufficiently powerful and honest barrier for them to trust to) the secretary (Mr. Strachey) had 5001. granted for lite out of the four and a half per cent. duty, filched by the crown from the West-India Islands, and in opposition to a solemn address of parliament desiring that it might be applied to the original purposes for which it was granted loy the respective assemblies of the islands."—What these original purposes of the grants were, I meant very briefly to have stated : but have not been able to procure the proper documents in time. B. V.
to be attained; and that I am to be longer deprived of an opportunity, to assure you personally of the regard with which I am
Your sincere and faithful
P.S. I was disappointed of the opportunity I expected for sending this letter, at the time it was dated; and have ever since been prevented by calms and contrary winds from getting here, to inform general Howe of the commission with which I have the satisfaction to be charged, and of his being joined in it. Off of Sandy Hook, 12th of July.
To Benjamin Franklin, Esq.
Dr. Franklin's Answer to Lord Howe.
Philadelphia, July 30, 1776. MY LORD, I RECEIVED safe the letters your lordship so kindly forwarded to me, and beg you to accept my thanks.
The official dispatches to which you refer me, contain nothing more than what we had seen in the act of parliament, viz. “ Offers of pardon upon submission;" which I was sorry to find; as it must give your lordship pain to be sent so far on so hopeless a business.
Directing Directing pardons to be offered to the colonies, who are the very parties injured, expresses indeed that opinion of our ignorance, baseness, and insensibility, which your uninformed and proud nation has long been pleased to entertain of us; but it can have no other effect than that of encreasing our resentments.- It is impossible we should think of submission to a government, that has, with the most wanton barbarity and cruelty, burned our defenceless towns in the midst of winter; excited the savages to massacre our (peaceful) farmers ; and our slaves to murder their masters; and is even now * bringing foreign mercenaries to deluge our settlements with blood. These atrocious injuries have extinguished every spark of affection for that parent country we once held so dear: but were it possible for us to forget and forgive them, it is not possible for you (I mean the British nation) to forgive the people you have so heavily injured; you can never confide again in those as fellow-subjects, and permit them to enjoy equal freedom, to whom you know you have given such just causes of lasting enmity; and this must impel you, were we again under your government, to endeavour the breaking our spirit by the severest tyranny, and obstructing by every means in your power our growing strength and prosperity.
But your lordship mentions “ the king's paternal solicitude for promoting the establishment of lasting peace and union with the colonies.” If by peace is here meant, a peace to be entered into by distinct states, now at war; and his majesty has given your lordship powers to treat with us of such a peace, I may venture to say, though without authority, that I think a treaty for that purpose not quite impracticable, before we enter into foreign alliances. But I am persuaded you have no such powers. Your nation, though, by punishing those American governors who have fomented the discord, rebuilding our burnt towns, and repairing as far as possible the mischiefs done us, she might recover a great share of our regard ; and the greatest share of our growing commerce, with all the advantages of that additional strength, to be derived from a friendship with us; yet I know too well her abounding pride and deficient wisdom, to believe she will ever take such salutary measures. Her fondness for conquest as a warlike nation; her lust of dominion as an ambitious one; and her thirst for a gainful monopoly as a commercial one (none of them legitimate causes of war) will join to hide from her eyes every view of her true interest, and continually goad her on in these ruinous distant expeditions, so destructive both of lives and of treasure, that they must prove as pernicious to her in the end, as the Croisades formerly were to most of the nations of Europe.
* About this time the Hessians, &c. had just arrived from Europe, at Staten Island and New York. B. V.
I have not the vanity, my lord, to think of intimidating, by thus predicting the effects of this war; for I know it will in England have the fate of all my former predictions ; not to be believed till the event shall ve
Long did I endeavour, with unfeigned and unwearied zeal, to preserve from breaking that fine and noble porcelaine vase—the British empire ; for I knew that being once broken, the separate parts could not retain even their shure of the strength and value that existed