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LETTERS RELATING TO NEGOCIATIONS FOR
To David HARTLEY, Esg. M.P. Dear Sir,
Passy, near Paris, Oct. 14, 1777.
I received duly your letter of May 2, 77, including a copy of one you had sent me the year before, which never came to hand, and which it seems has been the case with some I wrote to you from America. Filled though our letters have always been with sentiments of good-will to both countries, and earnest desires of preventing their ruin and promoting their mutual felicity, I have been apprehensive that if it were known a correspondence subsisted between us, it might be attended with inconvenience to you. I have therefore been backward in writing, not caring to trust the post, and not well knowing who else to trust with my letters. But being now assured of a safe conveyance, I venture to write to you, especially as I think the subject such a one as you may receive a letter upou without censure.
Happy should I have been, if the honest warnings I gave of the fatal separation of interests as well as of affections, that must attend the measures commenced while I was in England, had been attended to,' and the horrid mischief of this abominable war been thereby prevented. I should still be happy in any successful endeavors for restoring peace, consistent with the liberties, the safety, and the honor of America. As to our submitting to the government of Great Britain, it is vain to think of it. She has given us by her numberless barbarities (by her malice in bribing slaves to murder their masters, and savages to massacre the families of farmers, with her baseness in rewarding the unfaithfulness of servants, and debauching the virtue of honest seamen intrusted with our property) in the prosecution of the war, and in the treatment of the prisoners, so deep an impression of her depravity, that we never again can trust her in the management of our affairs and interests. It is now impossible to persuade our people, as I long endeavored, that the war was merely ministerial, and that the nation bore still a good-will to us. The infinite number of addresses printed in your gazettes all approving the conduct of your government towards us, and encouraging our destruction by every possible means, the great majority in parliament constantly manifesting the same sentiments, and the popular public rejoicings on occasion of any news of the slaughter of an invocent and virtuous people fighting only in defence of their just rights ; these, together with the recommendations of the same measures by even your celebrated moralists and divines in their writings and sermons, that are still approved and applauded in your great national assemblies, all join in convincing us that you are no longer the magnanimous enlightened nation we once esteemed you, and that you are unfit and unworthy to goveri us, as not being able to govern your own passions.
But, as I have said, I should be nevertheless happy in see. ing peace restored. For though if my friends and the friends of liberty and virtue, who still remain in England, could be drawn out of it, a continuance of this war to the ruin of the rest would give me less concern, I cannot, as that removal is impossible, but wish for peace for their sakes, as well as for the sake of hunianity and preventing further carnage.
This wish of mine, ineffective as it may be, induces me to mention to you that between nations long exasperated against each other in war, some act of generosity and kindness towards prisoners on one side, has softened resentment and abated animosity on the other, so as to bring on an accommodation. You in England, if you wish for peace, have at present the opportunity of trying this means, with regard to the prisoners now in your gaols. They complain of very, severe treatment; they are far from their friends and families, and winter is coming on, in which they must suffer extremely if continued in their present situation, fed scantily on bad provisions, without warm lodging, clothes, or fire; and not suffered to invite or receive visits from their friends, or even from the humane and charitable of their enemies. I can assure you from my own certain knowledge, that your people, prisoners in Ames rica, have been treated with great kindness: they have been served with the same rations of wholesome provisions with our own troops; comfortable lodgings have been provided for them, and they have been allowed large bounds of villages in the healthy air, to walk and amuse themselves with on their parole. Where you have thought fit to employ contractors to supply your people, these contractors have been protected and aided in their operations. Some considerable act of kindness towards our people would take off the reproach of inhumanity in that respect from the nation, and leave it where it ought with more certainty to lay, on the conductors of your
war in America. This 1 hint to you, out of some remaining good-will to a nation I once loved sincerely. But as things are, and in my present temper of mind, not being over-fond of receiving obligations, I shall content myself with proposing that your government would allow us to send or employ a commissary to take some care of those unfortunate people. Perhaps on your representations this might be speedily obtained in England, though it was refused most inhumanly at New York.
If you could have leisure to visit the gaols in which they are confined, and should be desirous of knowing the truth relative to the treatment they receive, I wish you would take the trouble of distributing among the most necessitous, according to their wants, five or six hundred pounds, for which your drafts on me here shall be punctually honored. You could then be able to speak with some certainty to the point in parliament, and this might be attended with good effects.
If you cannot obtain for us permission to send a commissary, possibly you may find a trusty, humane, discreet person at Plymouth, and another at Portsmouth, who would undertake to communicate what relief we may be able to afford those unfortunate men, martyrs to the cause of liberty. Your king will not reward you for taking this trouble, but God will. I shall not mention the gratitude of America: you will have what is better, the applause of your own good conscience. Our captains have set at liberty above two hundred of your people made prisoners by our armed vessels and brought into France, besides a great number dismissed at sea on your coasts, to whom vessels were given to carry them in. But you have not returned us a man in exchange! If we had sold your people to the Moors at Sallee, as you have many of ours to the African and East India companies, could you have complained?