Page images

diately to make partly in his company; at Ostend to file off for the Hague. I feel a willingness, infirm as I am, to attempt doing as much good as can be expected from such a prisoner on parole. As General Burgoyne is certainly exchanged, (a circumstance by the bye which possibly might have embarrassed us had your fate proposition been accepted,) may I presume at my return to offer another Lieutenant General now in England a prisoner upon parole, in exchange; or, what shall I offer in England for myself, a thing in my own estimation of no great value? I have the honor to be, with great respect, and permit me to add, great reverence, Sir, your faithful fellow labourer and obedient servant,


I entered into conversation with Mr. Oswald. He was represented in the letter as fully apprized of Lord Shelburne's mind, and I was desirous of knowing it. All I could learn was, that the new ministry sincerely wished for peace; that they considered the object of the war to France and America as obtained. That if the Independence of the United States was agreed to, there was no other point in dispute, and therefore nothing left to hinder a pacification. That they were ready to treat of peace, but intimated that if France should insist upon terms too humiliating to England, they could still continue the war, having yet great strength and many resources left. I let him know that America would not treat but in concert with France, and that my colleagues not being here, I could do nothing of importance in the affair; but that if he pleased I would present him to M. de Ver gennes, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. He consenting, I wrote and sent the following letter.



Minister for Foreign Affairs, &c. Versailles.


Passy, April 15, 1782.

An English nobleman, Lord Cholmondeley, lately returning from Italy called upon me here, at the time when we received the news of the first resolutions of the House of Commons relating to America. In conversation he said, that he knew his friend Lord Shelburne had a great regard for me, that it would be pleasing to him to hear of my welfare, and to receive a line from me, of which he, Lord Cholmondeley, should like to be the bearer; adding, that if there should be a change of ministry he believed Lord Shelburne would be employed.. I thereupon wrote a few lines of which I enclose a copy. This day I received an answer which I also enclose, together with another letter from Mr. Laurens. They both, as your Excellency will see, recommend the bearer Mr. Oswald, as a very honest sensible man. I have had a little conversation with him. He tells me, that there has been a desire of making a separate peace with America, and of continuing the war with France and Spain, but that now all wise people give up that idea as impracticable, and it is his private opinion that the ministry do sincerely desire a general peace, and that they will readily come into it, provided France does not insist upon conditions too humiliating for England; in which case she will make great and violent efforts rather than submit to them, and that much is still in her power, &c. I told the gentleman that I could not enter into particulars with him, but in concert with the ministers of this Court, and I proposed introducing him to your Excellency after communicating to you the letters he

1 See Page 126.

2 Page 127.

3 Page 128.

had brought me in case you should think fit to see him; with which he appeared to be pleased. I intend waiting on you to-morrow, when you will please to acquaint me with your intentions and favor me with your counsels. He had heard nothing of Forth's mission and imagined the old ministry had not acquainted the new with that transaction. Mr. Laurens came over with him in the same vessel, and went from Ostend to Holland. I have the honor to be, &c.



The next day being at Court with the foreign ministers as usual on Tuesdays, I saw M. de Vergennes, who acquainted me that he had caused the letters to be translated, had considered the contents, and should like to see Mr. Oswald. We agreed that the interview should be on Wednesday at 10 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. I am with much respect, Sir, your most obedient humble RICHARD OSWALD.


Paris, 16th April.

He came accordingly, and we arrived at Versailles punctually. M. de Vergennes received us with much civility. Mr. Oswald not being ready in speaking French, M. de Rayneval' interpreted. The conversation continued near

1 Under Secretary for foreign affairs.

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 letter following.


Passy, April 18, 1782.

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 of 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 commissioned 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 Comte 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 dispositions towards peace, was well received, and assurances returned of the same dispositions in his most Christian Majesty. With regard to circumstances relative to a treaty, M. de Vergenues 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; that if the parties were disposed to finish the war speedily by themselves, it would perhaps be best to treat at Paris, as an ambassador from Spain was aiready there, and the Commis

sioners 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 so 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 to return immediately, and do it vitâ 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 such 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 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 mixed in the transaction,

« PreviousContinue »