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Oswald. We agreed that the interview should be on Wed. nesday at ten o'clock.
Immediately on my return home I wrote to Mr. Oswald, acquainting him with what had passed at Versailles, and proposing that he should be with me at half past eight the next morning, in order to proceed thither. I received from him the following answer:
" Sir, I HAVE the honor of yours by the bearer, and shall be, sure to wait on you to-morrow, at half past eight, and I am, with much respect, &c.
He came accordingly, and we arrived at Versailles punctually. M. de Vergennes received him with much civility. Mr. Oswald, not being ready in speaking French, M. de Rayneval interpreted. The conversation continued near an hour. Mr. Oswald, at first, thought of sending an express, with an account of it, and was offered a passport, but finally concluded to go himself, and I wrote the next day to lord Shelburne the following letter.
“ Passy, April 18, 1782. MÝ LORD, I HAVE received the letter your lordship did me the honor of writing to me the 6th instant. I congratulate you on your new appointment to the honorable and important office you formerly filled so worthily, an office which must be so far pleasing to you, as it affords you more opportunities of doing good, and serving your country essentially in its great concerns. I have conversed a good deal with Mr. Oswald, and am much pleased with him; he appears to me a wise and honest man. I acquainted him that I was cominissioned, with others, to treat of and conclude a peace : that full powers were given us for that purpose'; and that the congress promised, in good faith, to ratify, confirm, and cause to be faithfully observed the treaty we should make; but that we would not treat separately from France; and I
proposed introducing him to M. le compte de Vergennes, to whom I communicated your lordship's letter, containing Mr. Oswald's character, as a foundation for the interview. He will acquaint you, that the assurance he gave of his Britannic majesty's good disposition towards peace was well received, and assurances returned of the same good disposi. tions, on the part of his most Christian majesty. With regard to circumstances relative to a treaty, M. de Vergennes observed, that the king's engagements were such, as that he could not treat without the concurrence of his allies ; that the treaty should therefore be for a general, not a partial, peace; and if the parties were not disposed to finish the war speedily by themselves, it would perhaps be best to treat at Paris, as an embassador from Spain was already there, and the commissioners from America might easily and soon be assembled there: Or if they chose to make use of the proposed mediation, they might treat at Vienna; but that the king was truly willing to put a speedy end to the War: that he would agree to any place the king of England should think proper. I leave the rest of the conversation, to be related to your lordship by Mr. Oswald ; and that he might do it more easily and fully than he could by letter, I was of opinion with him, that it would be best he should return immediately, and do it vivâ voce,
Being myself but one of the four persons now in Europe, commissioned by the congress to treat of peace, I can make no proposition of much importance, without them. I can only express my wish that, if Mr. Oswald returns hither, he may bring with him the agreement of your court to treat for a general peace, and the proposal of place and time, that I may immediately write to Messrs. Adams, Laurens, and Jay. I suppose that, in this case, your lordship will think it proper to have Mr. Laurens discharged from the engagements he entered into, when he was admitted to bail. I desire no other channel of communication between us, than that of Mr. Oswald, which I think your lordship has chosen with much judgment. He will be witness of my acting with all the simplicity, and good faith, which you do me the
honor to expect from me; and if he is enabled, when he returns hither, to communicate more fully your lordship's mind on the principal points to be settled, I think it may contribute much to the blessed work our hearts are engaged in.
By the act of parliament, relative to American prisoners, I see the king is empowered to exchange them. I hope those you have, in England and Ireland, may be sent home soon to their country in flags of truce, and exchanged for an equal number of your people. Permit me to add, that I think it would be well if some kindness were used in the transaction, with regard to their comfortable accommodation on ship-board, as those poor unfortunate people have been long absent from their families and friends, and rather hardly treated. With great regard, and sincere respect, . I have tủe honor to be, my lord, &c.
To the account, contained in this letter, of what passed in the conversation with the minister, I should add his frank declaration, that as the foundation of good and durable peace should be laid in justice, whenever a treaty was entered upon, he had several demands to make of justice from England. Of this, says he, I give you previous no. tice. What these demands were, he did not particularly say; one occurred to me, to wit,. reparation for the injury done in taking several French ships by surprise, before the declaration of the preceding war, contrary to the law of nations. Mr. Oswald seemed to wish obtaining some propositions to carry back with him ; but M. de Vergennes said to him very properly, there are four nations engaged in the war against you, who cannot, till they have consulted and known each other's minds, be ready to make propositions. Your court, being without allies, and alone, knowing its own mind, can express it immediately. It is therefore more natural to expect the first propositions from you,
On our return from Versailles, Mr. Oswald took occasion to impress me with ideas, that the present weakness of the government in England, with regard to continuing the war, was owing chiefly to the division of sentiments about it. That in case France should make demands too humiliating for England to submit to, the spirit of the nation would be roused, unanimity would prevail, and resources would not be wanting. He said, there was no want of money in the nation : that the chief difficulty lay in the finding out new taxes to raise it; and perhaps that difficulty might be avoided, by shutting up the exchequer; stopping the payment of the interest of public funds, and applying that money to the support of the war. I made no reply to this ; for I did not desire to discourage their stopping payment, which I consider as cutting the throat of the public credit, and a means of adding fresh exasperation against them with the neighboring nations. Such menaces were besides an encouragement with me, remembering the adage, that they who threaten are afraid.
The next morning, when I had written the above letter to lord Shelburne, I went with it to Mr. Oswald's lodgings, and gave it to him to read before I sealed it, that in case any thing might be in it with which he was not satisfied, it might be corrected; but he expressed himself much pleased. In going to him I had also in view the entering into a conversation, which might draw out something of the mind of his court, on the subject of Canada and Nova Scotia. I had thrown some loose thoughts on paper, which I intended to serve as memorandums for my discourse ; but without a fixed intention of shewing them to him. On his saying, that he was obliged to me for the good opinion I had expressed of him to lord Shelburne, in my letter, and assuring that he had entertained the same of me; I observed, that I had perceived lord S. placed great confidence in him, and as we had happily the same in each other, we might possibly, by a free communication of sentiments, and a previous settling of our own minds, on some of the important points, be the means of great good, by impressing our sen
timents on the minds of those with whom they might have influence ; and where their being received might be of importance. I then remarked, that his nation seemed to desire a reconciliation with America: that I heartily wished the same thing: that a mere peace would not produce half its advantages, if not attended with a sincere reconciliation : that, to obtain this, the party which had been the aggressor, and had cruelly treated the other, should shew some marks of concern for what was past, and some disposition to make reparation : 'that perhaps there were things which America might demand, by way of reparation, and which England might yield; but that the effect would be vastly greater, if they appeared to be voluntary, and to spring from returning good will : that I therefore wished England would think of offering something to relieve those who had suffered by its scalping and burning parties. Lives indeed could not be restored nor compensated; but the villages and houses, wantonly destroyed, might be rebuilt, &c. I then touched upon the affair of Canada ; and, as in a former conversation he had mentioned his opinion, that the giving up that country to the English, at the last peace, had been a politic act in France ; for that it had weakened the ties between England and her colonies, and that he himself had predicted from it the late revolution. I spoke of the occasions of future quarrels that might be produced, by her continuing to hold it; hinting at the same time, but not expressing too plainly, that such a situation to us so dangerous, would necessarily oblige us to cultivate and strengthen our union with France. He appeared much struck with my discourse; and as I frequently looked at my paper, he desired to see it. After some little delay, I allowed him to read it. The following is an exact copy.
NOTES OF CONVERSATION, TO make a peace durable, what may give occasion for future wars should, if practicable, be removed,
The territory of the United States, and that of Canada, by long extended frontiers, touch each other.