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it was impossible for him to permit himself to make me a visit as minister. I told M. le Roy it was not my custom to seek such honors, though I was very sensible of them when confered upon me; that I should not have voluntarily intruded a visit; and that in this case I had only done what I was informed the etiquette required of me; but if it would be attended with any inconvenience to prince Bariatinski, whom I much esteemed and respected, I thought the remedy was easy, he had only to erase. my name out of his book of visits received, and I would burn their card.
All the northern princes are not ashamed of a little civility committed towards an American. The king of Denmark, travelling in England under an assumed name, sent me a card, expressing in strong terms his esteem for me, and inviting me to dine with him at St. James's. And the embassador from the king of Sweden, lately asked me, whether I had power to make a treaty of commerce with their kingdom; for he said, his master was desirous of such a treaty with the United States; and had directed him to ask me the question ; and had charged him to tell me, that it would flatter him greatly to make it with a person whose character he so much esteemed, &c. Such comple, ments might make me a little proud, if we Americans were not naturally as much so already, as the porter, who being told, that he had with his burthen jostled the great Czar Peter (then in London, walking the street); poh! says he, we are all Czars here.
I did not write by Mr. Oswald to Mr. Laurens ; because, from some expressions in his letter to me, I expected him here, and I desired Mr. Oswald, if he found him still in London, or met him on the road, to give him that reason. I am disappointed in my expectation; for I have now received (May 25th) the following letter from him; .
Ostend, May 17, 1782. SIR, I HAD the honor of addressing you under the 30th ultimo by post, a duplicate of which, will accompany this, in order to guard against the effect of a miscarriage, in the first instance, and I beg leave to refer to the contents.
On the 10th current, and no sooner, your very obliging favor of 20th preceding, reached me in London, being then on the point of leaving that place ; I deferred a reply until my arrival on this side, this happened yesterday too late to catch the post of the day, except by a single letter put into my hands; I believe by Doctor Price, which I sent forward. I sincerely and heartily thank you sir, for the cordial contents of your last letter, but from the most mature reflection, and taking into consideration my present very infirm state of health, I have resolved to decline accepting the honor intended by congress, in the commission for treating with great Britain ; and I find the less difficulty in coming to this determination, from a persuasion in my own mind, that my assistance is not essential, and that it was not the view or expectation of our constituents, that every one named in the commission should act. I propose to repair to or near Mr. Adams, and enquire of him, whether I may yet be serviceable under the commission, to ayhich I had been first appointed, that for borrowing money for the use of the United States ; if he speaks in the affirmative, I shall, though much against my own grain, as is well known at our little court, proceed in the mission with diligence and fidelity, otherwise I shall take a convenient opportunity of returning to give an account there, of having in the course of two years and upwards, done nothing excepting only the making a great number of rebels in the enemy's country, and reconciling thousands to the doctrine of absolute and unlimited independence. A doctrine which Į asserted and maintained 'with as much freedom in the Tower of London, as ever I had in the State House at Phi. ladelphia; and having contentedly submitted to the loss of my estate, and being ready to lay down my life in support of it, I had the satisfaction of perceiving the coming in of converts every day. I must not however conclude this head without assuring you, that should you think proper to ask questions respecting American commerce, or the inte
rests of any particular state, I will answer with candor, and the best judgment I am possessed of; but of that judgment I sincerely protest I have the utmost diffidence. God prosper your proceedings in the great work: you shall be called blessed by all the grateful of the present generation, and your name will be celebrated by posterity. I feel myself happy in reflecting, that in the great outlines for a treaty our opinions exactly coincide, that we shall not want the countenance and assistance of our great and good ally, and that you have so honest a man as Mr. Oswald to deal with for preliminaries : I know him to be superior to all chicanery, and am sure he will not defile his mind by attempting any dirty thing.
I entreat you, sir, to present my humble respects to M. de Vergennes, and thank his excellency for his polite expressions respecting me; and be so good as to say all that shall appear necessary in excuse for my non-appearance at his court.
Lord Cornwallis called on me the day I left London, and was, you may suppose, very anxious to know when he might probably hear from me on the subject of his release; let me therefore request your opinion, in answer to what I had the honor of writing in my last concerning that affair. I wish it may prove satisfactory to his lordship, by enabling me, with your consent and concurrence, to cancel a debt which does not sit easy upon me, and which cannot, with honor to our country remain unpaid. I think we shall not, 'tis impossible we should incur displeasure by doing an act of common justice, and our authority may be fully implied.
His lordship declares, that he has no intention of returning to America, but desires to be reinstated in his legislative and military character in his own country, and I am of opinion, that in the former station, he will rather be friendly to us than otherwise ; for my own part, if the war continues, I should not be uneasy if his lordship were to go to the Chesapeake again.
I have a thousand compliments and good wishes to present you, from your friends in England, where males and females, I am sure you have at least so many, your own remembrance may lead you to individuals of your old acquaintance. To-morrow I intend to proceed for Brussels, and thence probably to Hague and Amsterdam. My movements must unavoidably be as slow as water carriage. My weak tender limbs cannot bear continual thumping on the pavement in the rough machines of this country; and the feebleness of my pocket will not admit the indulgence of a more convenient vehicle.
I beg sir, you will write to me at the house of Mr. Ed. ward Jennings, or under the protection of any other friend in that city, that will be at the trouble of finding out a voyageur who is ...... at all times in all places........ With the highest esteem and respect, sir, &c.
• HENRY LAURENS. To the above, I wrote the following answer:
Passy, May 25, 1782.
I AM now honored with yours of the 17th; I had before read one of the 17th, which remained unanswered, because from the words in it,“ when I reach the continent, which will probably happen in a few days,” I flattered mye self with the pleasure of seeing you here. That hope is disappointed by your last, in which you tell me, you are determined not to act in the commission for treating of peace with Britain. I regret your taking this resolution, principally, because I am persuaded your assistance must have been of great service to our country. But I have besides some private or particular reasons that relate to myself, to encourage me in the arduous task, you kindly tell me I shall be called blessed, &c. I have never yet known of a peace made, that did not occasion a great deal of popular discontent, clamor, and outcry on both sides. This is perhaps owing to the usual management of the ministers, and leaders of the contending nations, who, to keep up the spirits of their people for continuing the war, generally represent the state of their own affairs in a better light, and that of the enemy in a worse than is consistent with the truth ; hence the populace on each side, expect better terms than really can be obtained, and are apt to ascribe their disappointment to treachery. Thus the peace of Utrecht, and that of Aix la Chapelle, were said in England to have been influenced by French gold, and in France by English guineas. Even the last peace, the most advantageous and glorious for England that ever she made, was, you may remember, violently decried, and the makers as violently abused. So that the blessings promised to peace-makers, I fancy, relates to the next world, for in this, they seem to have a greater chance of being cursed; and as another that in the multitude of counsellors there is safety, which, I think, may mean safety to the counsellors, as well as to the counselled ; because if they commit a fault in counselling, the blame does not fall on one or a few, but is divided among many, and the share of each is so much the lighter, or perhaps because when a number of honest men are con. cerned, the suspicion of their being biassed is weaker, as being more inviolable; or because defendit numerus; for all these reasons, but especially for the support your established character of integrity would afford me, against the attacks of my enemies, if this treaty takes place; and I am to act in it, I wish for your presence, and for the presence of as many of the commissioners as possible ; and I hope you will reconsider and change your resolution. In the mean time, as you have had opportunities of conversing with the new ministers, and other leading people in England, and of learning their sentiments relating to the terms of peace, &c. I request you would inform me by letters, of what you think important. Letters from you will come safer by the court courier than by the post; and I desire you would, if you should continue determined not to acting communicate to me your ideas of the terms to be insisted on, and the points to be attended to respecting commerce, fisheries, boundaries, and every other material circumstance,