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To DAVID HARTLEY, Esq. M. P.
Passy, April 13, 1782.
Since mine of the 5th I have thought farther of the subject of our late letters. You were of opinion, that the late minister desired sincerely a reconciliation with America, and with that view a separate peace with us was proposed. It happened that at the same time Lord North had an emissary here to sound the French ministers with regard to peace, and to make them very advantageous pro positions in case they would abandon America. You may hence judge, my dear friend, what opinion I must have formed of the intentions of your ministers. To convince you of the truth of this, I may acquaint you that the emissary was a Mr. Forth; and that the answer given him to carry back to the English ministers was, que le roi de France désiroit la paix autant que le roi d'Angleterre; qu'il s'y préteroit dès qu'il le pourroit avec dignité et sureté; mais qu'il importoit avant tout à S. M. T. C. de savoir si la cour de Londres étoit disposée à traiter également avec les alliés de la France. Mr. Forth went off with this answer for London, but probably did not arrive till after the dismission of the ministers that sent him. You may make any use of this information as you judge proper. The new ministry may see by it the principles that govern this court; and it will con vince them, I hope, that the project of dividing us is as vain as it would be to us injurious. I cannot judge what they will think or do in consequence of the answer sent by Mr. Forth (if they have seen it.) If they love peace, as they have persuaded the English nation and all Europe to believe, they can be under no difficulty. France has opened a path which in my opinion they may use, without hurting the dignity of their master, or the honor of the nation. If they do not choose it, they doubtless flatter themselves that war
may still produce successes in favor of England that have hitherto been withheld. The crowning or frustrating such hopes belongs to Divine Providence: may God send us all more wisdom!
I am ever, my dear friend, yours most
TO HIS EXCELLENCY JOHN ADAMS, Esq.
Passy, April 13, 1782.
Enclosed with this I send to your Excellency the packet of correspondence between Mr. Hartley aud me, which I promised in my last. You will see that we held nearly the same language, which gives me pleasure.
While Mr. Hartley was making propositions to me, with the approbation or privity of Lord North to treat separately from France, that minister had an emissary here, a Mr. Forth, formerly a secretary of Lord S ormont's, making proposals to induce this court to treat without us. I understand that several sacrifices were offered to be made, and among the rest Canada to be given up to France. The substance of the answer appears in my last letter to Mr. Hartley. But there is a sentence omitted in that letter which I much liked, viz. "that whenever the two crowns should come to treat, his Most Christian Majesty would show how much the engagements he might enter into, were to be relied on, by his exact observance of those he already had with his present allies."
If you have received any thing in consequence of your answer by Digges, you will oblige me by communicating it. The ministers here were much pleased with the account given them of your interview by the ambassador.
With great respect, I am, Sir, your Excellency's, &c. B. FRANKLIN.
FROM DAVID HARTLEY, ESQ. M. P. TO DR.
MY DEAR FRIEND,
London, May 1, 1782. I have received a packet from you containing several letters of various dates. As I shall probably have a safe opportunity of conveyance to you when Mr. Laurens leaves this country, I am now sitting down to write to you an omnium kind of letter of various matters as they occur. The late ministry being departed, I may now speak of things more freely. I will take a sentence in one of your letters for my text. Vide yours of April 13, 1782, in which you say you was of opinion that the late ministry' desired SINCERELY a reconciliation with America, and with that view a separate peace with us was proposed. I must qualify this sentence much, before I can adopt it as my opinion. As to reconciliation, I never gave much credit to them for that wish. It is a sweet expression. It certainly means MORE than peace. The uturost I ever gave the late ministry credit for, was a wish for peace. And I still believe that the wisest among them grew from day to day more disposed to peace or an abatement of the war, in proportion as they became more alarmed for their own situations and their responsibility. Had the war been more successful, I should I not have expected much relenting towards peace or reconciliation. That this has always been the measure of my opinion of them, I refer you to some words in a letter from me to you, dated January 5, 1780, for proof-" but for the point of sincerity; why as to that I have not much to say; I have at least expected some hold upon their prudence. My argument runs thus: It is a bargain for you (ministers) to be sincere now. Common prudence may hint to you to look to yourselves. It has amazed ine beyond measure, that this principle of common selfish prudence has not had the
effect which I expected." I have not been disposed to be deceived by any conciliatory professions which I considered only as arising from prudence, and I hope that I have not led you into any deception, having so fully explained myself to you on that head. Had the American war been more prosperous on the part of the late ministry, I do not believe the late resignation would have taken place. But it is evident from the proposition to the court of France which you have communicated to me, (and which I have commupicated to the present ministry with your letter,) that even to the last hour, some part of the late ministry were still set upon the American war to the last extremity; and probably another more prudent part of the ministry would proceed no farther; which, if it be so, may reasonably be imputed as the cause of the dissolution of the late ministry. These have been the arguments which I have always driven and insisted upon with the greatest expectation of success, viz. prudential arguments from the total impracticability of the war; responsibility, &c. I have been astonished beyond measure, that these arguments have not sooner had their effect. If I could give you an idea of many conferences which I have had upon the subject, I should tell you, that many times Felix has trembled. When reduced by the terror of responsibility either to renounce the American war, or to relinquish their places, they have chosen the latter; which is a most wretched and contemptible retribution either to their country, or to mankind, for the desolation in which they have involved every nation that they have ever been connected with. Peace they would not leave behind them. Their legacy to their country, and to mankind has been; let darkness be the burier of the dead!
As to the proposal of a separate peace arising from a desire of reconciliation, it certainly was so on the part of the people of England, but on the part of the late ministry, it probably arose from the hopes of suggesting to France ideas
of some infidelity on the part of America towards them. If you should ask me, why I have seemed to conspire with this, my answer is very plain. In the first place, if I could have prevailed with the late ministry to have actually made an irrevocable offer, on their own parts, of a separate peace to America, that very offer would in the same instant have become on their part also a consent to a general peace; because they never had any wish to a separate contest with France, and America being out of the question, they would have thought of nothing after that but a general peace. I never could bring them even to this. They wished that America should make the offer of a separate treaty (for obvious views.) My proposal was, that they should offer irrevocable terms of peace to America. If they had meant what they pretended, and what the people of England did really desire, they would have adopted that proposition. Then the question would have come forward upon the fair and honorable construction of a treaty between France and America, the essential and direct end of which was fully accomplished. When I speak of Great Britain offering irrevocable terms of peace to America, I mean such terms as would have effectually satisfied the provision of the treaty, viz. tacit independence. I send you a paper intitled a 'Breviate, which I laid before the late ministry, and their not having acted upon it, was a proof to me that the disposition of their heart to America was not altered, but that all their relenting arose from the impracticability of that war, and their want of success in it. But desponding as they were at last, it was not inconsistent with my expectations of their conduct, that they should make great offers to France to abandon America. It was the only weapon left in their hands. In course of negociating with the late ministry I perceived their courage drooping from time to time, for the
1 Vide the same following this letter.