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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 other State, to 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.
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
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
accession of Canada; he said, there could be no solid and permanent peace without it; that it would cost the British government more to keep it, than it was worth; it would be a source of future difficulties with the United States, and some day or other it must belong to them; and it was for the interest of both parties, that it should be ceded in the treaty of peace. Yet he did not think proper to urge such a cession
a necessary condition of peace, especially since Congress had forborne to instruct the commissioners on this subject, and since there was no claim on France, by the treaty of alliance, to sustain such a demand, as the pledge in that treaty was only to insure the independence of the old Thirteen Colonies, and Canada was not one of these. Mr. Oswald, in his conversations with Dr. Franklin, gave it as his opinion, that Canada should be given up to the United States, and said, that, when he mentioned it to the ministers, though they spoke cautiously, they did not express themselves as decidedly opposed to the measure. It was not pressed, however, by the American commissioners, and it would seem not to have been much dwelt upon in the subsequent progress of the negotiation.
At this stage of the business, Dr. Franklin was taken ill, and was confined for several weeks to his house. The negotiation was chiefly carried on by Mr. Oswald and Mr. Jay, though Dr. Franklin was consulted when occasion required it. Mr. Oswald at length produced his commission. It was first perused by Mr. Jay, who was so little pleased with it, that he refused to proceed with the treaty unless it should be altered. As it stood, Mr. Oswald was authorized to conclude a treaty "with commissioners named, or to be named, by the colonies or plantations in Amer