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Parliament should pass an act enabling the King to enter into a formal negotiation.
As to the mode of conducting the negotiations, Dr. Franklin said he thought it would be best for the British negotiators to appear under separate commissions, one for the American treaty, and another for those of the European powers, since the topics to be discussed were entirely distinct; and, as this mode would have greater simplicity, the object might be the sooner and more easily attained. The British ministry approved and adopted this suggestion, and their envoys were accordingly furnished with separate commissions.
Both Mr. Grenville and Mr. Oswald, at their several interviews, assured Count de Vergennes and Dr. Franklin, that the point of independence had been conceded, and that it was to be granted in the first instance, before the treaty was begun. It was agreed between the British and French cabinets, that the negotiations should take place at Paris. Mr. Grenville remained there. Mr. Oswald went back to London, but returned in a few days. In the mean time Mr. Grenville received a commission, which he understood to authorize him to treat with France and America; but there was not a word in it about any other power than France. When this defect was pointed out to Mr. Grenville, he said, that, though his commission was silent in regard to America, yet his instructions gave him ample powers. Dr. Franklin was not satisfied with this explanation, and he said that the commission must be put in a proper form for treating with the United States, or no treaty could be held. Finding him firm in this decision, Mr. Grenville despatched an express to London with the commission, which came back so altered as to authorize
him to treat "with France, or any other Prince or State." This form was no more satisfactory than the other. On perusing it, Dr. Franklin told Mr. Grenville, that he did not think it could be fairly supposed, that his court meant, by the general words any include a people whom they did not allow to be a State;" and he refused to consider Mr. Grenville as empowered to act in the American treaty under this commission.
other State, to
After what had been said and repeated, by Mr. Oswald and Mr. Grenville, of the readiness of the British government to enter into a treaty on reasonable terms, this kind of shuffling displeased both Dr. Franklin and Count de Vergennes. They began to suspect it to be an artifice to gain time, and that some recent successes in the West Indies had encouraged the court of St. James to prosecute the war, or, at least, to put off the treaty, with the hope of securing more favorable terms in consequence of these successes. There were, perhaps, some grounds for these suspicions, though the main difficulty arose, as soon appeared, from another cause. News arrived of the death of the Marquis of Rockingham, the dissolution of the British cabinet, and the formation of a new one. This happened in July, the Rockingham administration having existed only two months and a half. The Earl of Shelburne was raised to the station of prime minister; Mr. Fox retired, and the principal secretaries of State were Earl Grantham and Mr. Townshend.
Mr. Fox declared in Parliament, that he had left the cabinet wholly on the ground of American independence; that he had supposed this was to be granted in the first instance, and unconditionally; that he felt himself pledged to support this measure; that he
found other counsels prevailing in the cabinet; and that, consequently, his only course was to retire. It was known, also, that Lord Shelburne, though friendly to the colonies and opposed to the war, had often declared himself against independence; but, the new administration having come into power on the basis of peace, it was supposed that he had changed his mind in this particular. His friends in Parliament insisted that he had done so, notwithstanding Mr. Fox's explanation implying the contrary. It is moreover to be observed, that there were political and personal differences, of long standing, between Lord Shelburne and Mr. Fox, which prevented their acting together in harmony, and that they had not agreed with respect to the negotiations, which had been begun.
The new ministry being formed, however, under Lord Shelburne, he managed the peace in his own way; and it turned out, that Mr. Fox was right in saying, that the recognition of independence in the first instance was not a measure, which this minister had sought to promote, although the commissioners in Paris had been officially authorized to make this declaration to Dr. Franklin. After the Marquis of Rockingham's death, there was evidently an intention in the cabinet to establish the peace on a different basis, and to grant independence for an equivalent, to be rendered by the United States, either in commercial privileges or a cession of territory.
In this state of affairs, Mr. Grenville, who had been appointed by the influence of Mr. Fox, was recalled from Paris, and his place was supplied by Mr. Fitzherbert, properly commissioned to negotiate with France, Spain, and Holland. The American treaty was left in the hands of Mr. Oswald. As yet, neither Mr. Adams nor Mr. Jay, who were associated with Dr.
Franklin in the commission for peace, had arrived in Paris, the former being employed in Holland, and the latter in Spain; but Mr. Jay joined him soon afterwards. Mr. Laurens, the other commissioner, was in England, having recently been discharged from his imprisonment in the Tower, in exchange for Lord Cornwallis. He took no part in the treaty till just at its close.
Mr. Oswald received his instructions from Lord Shelburne, and was told that his commission would speedily follow. He had held many conversations with Dr. Franklin at various times during three months, in which all the fundamental articles of a treaty had been more or less canvassed. He now renewed these conversations with the direct aim of proceeding in the negotiation. At length Dr. Franklin read to him a paper, containing what he conceived to be the elements of a treaty, adding at the same time, that he could do nothing definitively without the concurrence of his colleagues. His suggestions comprised two classes of articles, the first of which he represented as necessary, and the second as advisable for England to offer, if she desired a complete reconciliation and a lasting peace. The substance of them is here presented in the language in which they were reported by Mr. Oswald to Lord Shelburne.
"The articles, necessary to be granted, were, First, independence, full and complete in every sense, to the Thirteen States; and all troops to be withdrawn from there. Secondly, a settlement of the boundaries of their colonies and the loyal colonies. Thirdly, a confinement of the boundaries of Canada; at least to what they were before the last act of Parliament, in 1774, if not to a still more contracted state, on an ancient footing. Fourthly, a freedom of fishing on
the Banks of Newfoundland and elsewhere, as well for fish as whales.
"The advisable articles, or such as he would, as a friend, recommend to be offered by England, were, First, to indemnify many people, who had been ruined by towns burnt and destroyed. The whole might not exceed five or six hundred thousand pounds. I was struck at this. However, the Doctor said, though it was a large sum, yet it would not be ill bestowed, as it would conciliate the resentment of a multitude of poor sufferers, who could have no other remedy, and who, without some relief, would keep up a spirit of revenge and animosity for a long time to come against Great Britain; whereas a voluntary offer of such reparation would diffuse a universal calm and conciliation over the whole country. Secondly, some kind of acknowledgment, in some public act of Parliament or otherwise, of our error in distressing those countries so much as we had done. A few words of that kind, the Doctor said, would do more good than people could imagine. Thirdly, colony ships and trade to be received, and have the same privileges in Britain and Ireland, as British ships and trade; British and Irish ships in the colonies to be in like manner on the same footing with their own ships. Fourthly, giving up every part of Canada."
These terms were sent over to the ministry, and Mr. Oswald was authorized to treat, by assuming the articles, here mentioned as necessary, for the basis of his negotiation. It hence appears, that, at the outset, Dr. Franklin not only insisted on the fisheries as necessary to be granted, but the British ministers decided to yield them, although they afterwards struggled hard to have this decision reversed.
Dr. Franklin was extremely desirous to procure the