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in your intended motion for an address to the King. What reliance can we have on an act expressing itself to be only a declaration of the intention of Parliament, concerning the exercise of the right of imposing taxes in America, when in the bill itself, as well as in the title, a right is supposed and claimed, which never existed ; and a present intention only is declared not to use it, which may be changed by another act next session, with a preamble, that this intention being found expedient, it is thought proper to repeal this act, and resume the exercise of the right in its full extent. If any solid permanent benefit was intended by this, why is it confined to the Colonies of North America, and not extended to the loyal ones in the sugar islands? But it is now endless to criticise, as all acts that suppose your future government of the Colonies can be no longer significant.
In the act for appointing Commissioners, instead of full powers to agree upon terms of peace and friendship, with a promise of ratifying such treaty as they shall make in pursuance of those powers, it is declared, that their agreements shall have no force nor effect, nor be carried into execution till approved of by Parliament; so that every thing of importance will be uncertain. But they are allowed to proclaim a cessation of arms, and revoke their proclamation, as soon as in consequence of it our militia have been allowed to go home; they may suspend the operation of acts, prohibiting trade, and take off that suspension when our merchants, in consequence of it, have been induced to send their ships to sea; in short, they may do everything that can have a tendency to divide and distract us, but nothing that can afford us security. Indeed, Sir, your Ministers do not know us. We may not be quite so cunning as they, but we have really more sense, as well as more courage, than they have ever been willing to give us credit for; and I am persuaded, these acts will rather obstruct peace than promote it, and that they will not answer in America the mischievous and malevolent ends for which they were intended. In England they may indeed amuse the public creditors, give hopes and expectations, that shall be of some present use, and continue the mismanagers a little longer in their places. Voila tout !
In return for your repeated advice to us, not to conclude any treaty with the House of Bourbon, permit me to give (through you) a little advice to the whigs in England. Let nothing induce them to join with the tories in supporting and continuing this wicked war against the whigs of America, whose assistance they may hereafter want to secure their own liberties; or whose country they may be glad to retire to for the enjoyment of them.
If peace, by a treaty with America upon equal terms, were really desired, your Commissioners need not go there for it; supposing, as by the bill they are empowered “to treat with such person or persons, as in their wisdom and discretion they shall think meet," they should happen to conceive, that the Commissioners of the Congress at Paris might be included in that description. I am ever, dear Sir, &c.
P. S. Seriously, on further thoughts, I am of opinion, that if wise and honest men, such as Sir George Saville, the Bishop of St Asaph, and yourself, were to come over here immediately with powers to treat, you might not only obtain peace with America, but prevent a war with France.
TO JAMES HUTTON.
Passy, March 24th, 1778. My dear old friend was in the right, not “to call in question the sincerity of my words, where I say, February the 12th, we can treat if any propositions are made to us." They were true then, and are so still, if Britain has not declared war with France; for in that case we shall undoubtedly think ourselves obliged to continue the war as long as she does. But methinks you should have taken us at our word, and have sent immediately your propositions in order to prevent such a war, if you did not choose it. Still I conceive it would be well to do it, if you have not already rashly begun the war. Assure yourself, nobody more sincerely wishes perpetual peace among men than I do; but there is a prior wish, that they would be equitable and just, otherwise such peace is not possible, and indeed wicked men have no right to expect it. Adieu! I am ever yours most affectionately,
NOTE FROM WILLIAM PULTNEY TO B. FRANK
March 29th, 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 Hotel Frasiliere, 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 Pultney writes under the assumed name of Williams.
TO WILLIAM PULTNEY.
Passy, March 30th, 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 authorised 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 endeavor, 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 en 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.
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.