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affairs, for your perusal and advice upon them. I have the honor to be, &c. B. FRANKLIN.
To Edward BANCROFT.”
I wish you would assure our friend, that Dr. Franklin never gave any such expectations to Mr. Pulteney. On the contrary, he told him, that the Commissioners could not succeed in their mission, whether they went to recover the dependence or to divide. His opinion is confirmed by the enclosed resolves, which perhaps it may not be amiss to publish in England. Please to send me the newspaper. Yours affectionately,
* Edward Bancroft was an American by birth, but settled as a physician in London, where he had formerly known Dr. Franklin. In the instructions given by the Committee of Secret Correspondence to Silas Deane, when he went to France as an agent from Congress, they say to him; “You will endeavour to procure a meeting with Dr. Bancroft by writing a letter to him, under cover to Mr. Griffiths, at Turnham Green, near London, and desiring him to come over to you, in France or Holland, on the score of old acquaintance. From him you may obtain a good deal of information of what is now going forward in England, and settle a mode of continuing a correspondence. It may be well to remit him a small bill to defray his expenses in coming to you, and avoid all political matters in your letter to him.” Accordingly Dr. Bancroft went to Paris, soon after Deane arrived there, and remained several months. He then returned to London, and, being attached to the interests of the United States, he rendered some valuable services to the American agents and ministers in Europe. He was already favorably known by his scientific attainments, being a Fellow of the Royal Society, and author of a work of considerable repute, entitled “An Essay on the Natural History of Guiana.”
FROM DAVID HARTLEY TO B. FRANKLIN. Paris, 23 April, 1778. DEAR SIR, I will take care of all your commissions. This moment a second packet of infinite value is received, which I shall cherish as a mark of affection from you. I opened the letter by mistake, which came with it, and soon saw it was not for me. I hope you will excuse it. I choose rather to throw myself upon your goodness for the excuse, than any thing else. I shall not set out till between one and two; therefore, if you will be so good as to send me another copy, I will take care of it, and deliver it safely. God bless you, my dear friend. No exertion or endeavour on my part shall be wanting, that we may some time or other meet again in peace. Your powers are infinitely more influential than mine. To those powers I trust my last hopes. I will conclude, “Blessed are the peace-makers.” Your affectionate friend, D. HARTLEy.”
P. S. If tempestuous times should come, take care of your own safety; events are uncertain, and men may be capricious.
DR. FRANKLIN's ANSWER.
I thank you for your kind caution, but having nearly finished a long life, I set but little value on what remains of it. Like a draper, when one chaffers with him for a remnant, I am ready to say, “As it is only the fag end, I will not differ with you about it; take it for what you please.” Perhaps the best use such
* Mr. Hartley was in Paris, on a secret mission from the British ministry, with propositions for a peace, which Dr. Franklin did not approve.
an old fellow can be put to, is to make a martyr of him. B. FRANKLIN.”
TO COUNT DE VERGENNES.
Giving an Account of his Conversations with JMr.
Hartley and JMr. Chapman respecting Propositions
Passy, 24 April, 1778. SIR,
Mr. Hartley, a member of Parliament, an old acquaintance of mine, arrived here from London on Sunday last. He is generally in the opposition, especially on American questions, but has some respect for Lord North. In conversation, he expressed the strongest anxiety for peace with America, and appeared extremely desirous to know my sentiments of the terms, which might probably be acceptable if offered; whether America would not, to obtain peace, grant some superior advantages in trade to Britain, and enter into an alliance, offensive and defensive; whether, if war should be declared against France, we had obliged ourselves by treaty to join with her against England. My answers have been, that the United States were not fond of war, and with the advice of their friends would probably be easily prevailed with to make peace on equitable terms; but we had no terms committed to us to propose, and I did not choose to mention any; that Britain, having injured us heavily by making this unjust war upon us, might think herself well off, if on reparation of those injuries we admitted her to equal advantages with other nations in commerce; but certainly she had no reason to expect superior; that her known fondness for war, and the many instances of her readiness to engage in wars on frivolous occasions, were probably sufficient to cause an immediate rejection of every proposition for an offensive alliance with her; and that, if she made war against France on our account, a peace with us, at the same time, was impossible; for that, having met with friendship from that generous nation, when we were cruelly oppressed by England, we were under ties stronger than treaties could form, to make common cause; which we should certainly do to the utmost of our power. Here has also been with me a Mr. Chapman, who says he is a member of the Parliament of Ireland, on his way home from Nice, where he had been for the recovery of his health. He pretended to call on me only from motives of respect for my character, &c. But, after a few compliments, he entered on a similar discourse, urging much to know what terms would satisfy America, and whether, on having peace and independence granted to us, we should not be willing to submit to the Navigation Act, or give equivalent privileges in trade to Britain. The purport of my answer to him was, in short, that peace was of equal value to England as to us, and independence we were already in possession of; that, therefore, England's offer to grant them to us could not be considered as proposing any favor, or as giving her a right to expect peculiar advantages in commerce. By his importunity, I found his visit was not so occasional as he represented it; and, from some expressions, I conjectured he might be sent by Lord Shelburne to sound me, and collect some information. On the whole, I gather from these conversations, that the opposition, as well as the ministry, are perplexed with the present situation of affairs, and know not which way to turn themselves, or whether it is best to go backward or forward, or what steps to take to extricate that nation from its present dangerous situation.
* After Mr. Hartley returned to London, a friend of Dr. Franklin received an anonymous letter in cipher, dated May 15th, containing a caution to him to be on his guard from another quarter. The writer said; “Mr. Hartley told Lord Camden this morning, that he was sure the Commissioners, and particularly Dr. Franklin, were much disconcerted at Paris; for they might as well live in the Bastile, as be exposed, as they were, to the perpetual observation of French ministerial spies. This must not, however, be repeated.”
In reply, Dr. Franklin said; “Be so good as to answer our friend, that it is impossible Mr. Hartley could have said what is here represented, no such thing having ever been intimated to him; nor has the least idea of the kind ever been in the minds of the Commissioners, particularly Dr. Franklin, who does not care how many spies are placed about him by the court of France, having nothing to conceal from them.”
I thought it right to give your Excellency an account of these interviews, and to acquaint you with my intention of avoiding such hereafter; as I see but little prospect of utility in them, and think they are very liable to hurtful misrepresentations.
By advices from London we learn, that a fleet for Quebec, with goods valued at five hundred thousand pounds sterling, is to sail about the end of this month, under convoy only of a single frigate of thirty guns, in which is to go Governor Haldimand.
Enclosed I send a paper I have just received from London. It is not subscribed by any name, but I know the hand. It is from an old friend, of general and great acquaintance, and marks strongly the present distress and despair of considerate people in England. I have the honor to be, with the greatest respect, your Excellency's, &c.