Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

only question is, which will be able to do best for the inte rest of the United States. This question, however simple, is not easy to answer.

But I think it clear, after very painful and laborious inquiries for a year and an half, that no house whatever will be able to do much. Enthusiasm at some times, and in some countries, may do a great deal, but there has as yet been no enthusiasm in this country for America, strong enough to untie many purses. Another year, if the wat should continue, perhaps we máy do better.

I have the honor to be, &c.

JOHN ADAMS. During Mr. Oswald's absence, I received the following from Mr. Laurens.

London, April 20, 1782. Sir, ' I WRIT to you on the 7th inst. by Mr Oswald, since which, that is to say, on the 28th I was honored by the receipt of your letter of the 12th, enclosing a copy of the commission for treating for peace, by the hands of Mr. Young. "The recognizance exacted from me by the late ministry, has been vacated and done away by the present: these have been pleased to enlarge mie without formal con ditions ; but, as I would not consent the United States of America should be outdone in generosity, however late the marks appeared on this side, I took upon me to assure lord Shelburne, in a letter of acknowlegement for the part which his lordship had taken for obtaining my release, that congress would not fail to make a just and adequate return. The only return in my view is lieutenant general lord Cornwallis. Congress were pleased, some time ago, to offer a British lieutenant general for my ransom, and, as I am informed the special exchange of lord Cornwallis for the same subject, was lately in contemplation ; it would afford me very great satisfaction to know, that you will join mie in cancelling the debt of honor which we have impliedly incurred, by discharging his lordship from the obligation of þis parole.

Ff

For my own part, though not a bold adventurer, I think I shall not commit-myself to the risk of censure, by acting conjunctly with you in such a bargain. I entreat you, sir, at least to reflect on this matter; I shall take the liberty of requesting your determination, when I reach the continent, which will probably happen in a few days.

Lord Cornwallis, in a late conversation with me, put the following case : suppose, said his lordship, it shall have been agreed, in America, that lord Cornwallis should be offered in exchange for' Mr. Laurens, don't you think although you are now discharged, I ought to reap the intended benefit? A reply from the feelings of my heart, as I love fair play, was prompt; undoubtedly, my lord: you ought to be, and shall be, in such case discharged; and I will venture to take the burthen upon myself. Certaini legal forms, I apprehend, rendered the discharge of me, without condition unavoidable ; but I had previous, refused to accept of myself for nothing, and what I now aim at was understood as an adequate return; 'tis not to be doubted, his lordship's question was built on this ground. I had uniformly and explicitly declared to the people here, people in the first rank of importance, that nothing short of independence in terms of our treaty of alliance would induce America to treat for truce or peace; and that no treaty could be had without the consent of our ally first obtained; in a word, if you mean to have peace, you must seek for a general peace. The doctrine was ill relished, especially by those whose power only could set the machine in mo. tion ; but, having since my return from Haerlem, asserted in very positive terms, that I was confirmed in my former opinions, the late obduracy has been more than a little softened, as you will soon learn from the worthy friend by whom I addressed you on the 7th, who two days ago set out on his return to Passy and Versailles, with (as I believe) a more permanent commission than the former.

Accept my thanks, sir, for the kind office of a supply of money; I know too well how much you have been harrassed for that article, and too well how low our American finances in Europe are. Therefore if I can possibly avoid it, I will not further trouble you, nor impoverish them, or not till the last extremity. Hitherto I have supported myself without borrowing from any body, and I am determined to continue living upon my own stock while it lasts. The stock is indeed small, my expenses have been and shall be in a suitably modest style. I pray God to bless you.

I have the honor to be, &c.

HENRY LAURENS. P. S. “I judged it proper, not only to shew the peace commission to lord Shelburne, but to give his lordship a copy of it, from an opinion that it would work no evil, being shown elsewhere.”

On the 4th May, Mr. Oswald returned, and brought me the following letter from lord Shelburne :

(RECEIVED 4TH MAY.)

6 Shelburne House, April 20, 1782. Dear Sir, I HAVE received much satisfaction in being assured by you, the qualifications of wisdom and integrity which induced me to make choice of Mr. Oswald, as the fittest instrument for the renewal of our friendly intercourse, have also recommended him so effectually to your approbation and esteem. I most heartily wish the influence of his first communication of our mutual sentiments, may be extended to a happy conclusion of all our public differences.

The candor, with which M. le compte de Vergennes ex. presses his most christian majesty's sentiments and wishes, on the subject of a speedy pacification, is a pleasing omen of its accomplishment. His majesty is not less decided in the same sentiments and wishes, and it confirms his majes, ty's ministers in their intention to act in like manner, as most consonant to the true dignity of a great nation.

In consequence of these reciprocal advances, Mr. Oswald is sent back to Paris, for the purpose of arranging and settling with you the preliminaries of time and place. And I have the pleasure to tell you, that Mr. Laurens is already

discharged from those engagements which he entered into when he was admitted to bail. It is also determined that Mr. Fox, from whose department that communication is necessarily to proceed, and shall send a proper person who may confer and settle immediately with M. de Vergennes, the further measures and proceedings which may be judged proper to adopt, towards advancing the prosecution of this important business. In the mean time, Mr. Oswald is instructed to communicate to you, my thoughts upon the principal objects to be settled.

Transports are actually preparing for the purpose of conveying your prisoners to America, to be there exchanged; and we trust, that you will learn, that due attention has not been wanting to their accommodation and good treatment,

I have the honor to be, with very sincere respect,
Dear sir,
Your faithful and obedient humble servant,

SHELBURNE.”

Having read the letter, I mentioned to Mr. Oswald, the part which refers me to him for his lordship’s sentiments, He acquainted me that they were very sincerely disposed to peace, that the whole ministry concurred in the same dispositions ; that a good deal of confidence was placed in my character for open, hanest dealing; that it was also generally believed, I had still remaining some part of my ancient affection and regard for Old England, and it was hoped it might appear on this occasion. He then shewed me an extract from the minutes of council, but did not leave the paper with me.

As well as I can remember, it was to this purpose:
" At a cabinet council, held April 27th, 1782.
Present....Lord ROCKINGHAM,

Lord CHANCELLOR,
Lord PRESIDENT, ·

Lord CAMDEN, &c. (to the number of fifteen or twenty, being all ministers and great officers of state.)

“ It was proposed to present to his majesty, that it would be well for Mr. Oswald to return to Doctor Franklin, and acquaint him that it is agreed to treat for a general peace, and at Paris ; and that the principal points in contemplation are the allowing of American independence, on condition that England be put in the same situation that she was left in by the peace of 1763.”

Mr. Oswald also informed me, that he had conversed with lord Shelburne on the subject of my paper of notes, relating to reconciliation. That he had shewn him the paper, and had been prevailed on to leave it with him a night, but it was on his lordship’s solemn promise of returning it, which had been complied with, and he now returned it to me; that it seemed to have made an impression ; and he had reason to believe, that matter might be settled to our satisfaction towards the end of the treaty; but in his own mind he wished it might not be mentioned at the beginning. That his lordship indeed said he had not imagined reparation would be expected, and he wondered I should not know whether it was intended to demand it. Finally, Mr. Oswald acquainted me, that as the business now likely to be brought forward, more particularly apper. tained to the department of the other secretary, Mr. Fox, he was directed to announce another agent coming from that department, who might be expected every day; (to wit) the honorable Mr. Grenville, brother of lord Temple, and son of the famous Mr. George Grenville, formerly chancellor of the exchequer. '.

I immediately wrote the following note to M. le compte de Vergennes.

"Passy, May 4, 1782. Sir, I HAVE the honor to acquaint your excellency, that Mr. Oswald has just returned from London, and is now with me: he has delivered me a letter from lord Shelburne, which I inclose for your perusal, together with a copy of my letter to which it is an answer. He tells me that it has been agreed in council to meet at Paris, and to treat of

« ZurückWeiter »