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can be founded. I am much indebted to your good brother, for a very kind and obliging letter, which was mislaid when it should have been answered. I beg you would present to him my thankful acknowledgments, and my very sincere respects. I join with you most heartily in the prayer that ends your letter, Da pacem, Domine, in diebus nostris! I am ever, my friend, yours most affectionately,
Our business standing still at present till the return of Mr. Oswald, gives me a void that I may fill up with two or three circumstances, not at present connected with this intended treaty, but which serve to show something of the disposition of courts, who have, or may have, a concern in it.
Mr. Jay had written to me from time to time of the unaccountable delays he had met with since his residence at the çourt of Spain, and that he was now no nearer in the business he had been charged with than when he first arrived. Upon the first coming of Mr. Oswald, and the apparent prospect of a treaty, I wrote to press his coming hither, and being a little out of humour with that court, I said, they have taken four years to consider whether they should treat with us, give them forty, and let us mind our own business; and I sent the letter under cover to a person at Madrid, who I hoped would open
and read it. It seems to me that we have in most instances hurt our credit and importance, by sending all over Europe begging alliances, and soliciting declarations of our independence. The nations, perhaps, thence seem to think, that our independence is something they have to sell, and that we do not offer enough for it. Mr. Adams has succeeded in Holland, owing to their war with England, and a good deal to the late votes in the Commons towards a reconciliation ; but the ministers of the other powers refused, as I hear, to return his visits, because our independence was
not yet acknowledged by their courts. I had heard here by good luck, that the same resolution was taken by several of them not to return the visits I should make them (as they supposed) when I was first received here as Minister Plenipotentiary, and I disappointed their project by visiting none of them. In my private opinion the first civility is due from the old resident to the stranger and new comer. My opinion indeed is good for nothing against custom, which I should have obeyed, but for the circumstances, that rendered it more prudent to avoid disputes and affronts, though at the hazard of being thought rude or singular. While I am writing, something ridiculous enough on this head has happened to me. The Comte du Nord, who is son to the Empress of Russia, arriving at Paris, ordered, it seems, , cards of visit to be sent to all the foreign ministers. One of them, on which was written Le Comte DU NORD ET LE Prince BARIATINSKI, was brought to me. It was on Monday evening last. Being at court the next day I enquired of an old minister, my friend, what was the etiquette, and whether the Comte received visits. The answer was, Non. On se fait écrire. Voilà tout. This is done here by passing the door, and ordering your name to be written in the porter's book. Accordingly, on Wednesday I passed the house of Prince Bariatinski, ambassador of Russia, where the Comte lodged, and left my name on the list of each. I thought no more of the matter. But this day, May 24, comes the servant who brought the card, and in a great affliction, saying he was like to be ruined by his mistake in bringing the card here, and wishing to obtain from me some paper of I know not what kind, for I did not see him. In the afternoon came my friend, Mr. Le Roy, who is also a friend of the Prince's, telling me how much he, the Prince, was concerned at the accident; that both himself and the Comte had great personal regard for me, and my character, but that our independence not yet being acknowledged by the court of Russia, it was impossible for him to permit himself to make me a visit as minister. I told Mr. Le Roy it was not my custom to seek such honors, though I was very sensible of them when conferred 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 raže 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 dinner with him at St. James's. And the ambassador from the King of Sweden lately asked me whether I had powers to make a treaty of commerce with their kingdom, for he said his master was desirous of such a treaty with the United States, 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 compliments might probably make me a little proud, if we Americans were not naturally as much so already as the porter, who being told he had with his burthen jostled the great Czar Peter, (then in London, walking the street,) poh! said he, we are all Czars here.
I did not write by Mr. Oswald to Mr. Laurens, because from some expressions in his last 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 25) the following letter from him.
Ostend, May 17,1782. I had the honor of addressing you under the 30th ultimo by post, a duplicate of which will acconipany 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 the 20th preceding reached me in London. Being then on the point of leaving that place, I deferred a reply until
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 in consideration my present very infirm state of health, I have resolved to decline accepting the honor intended me 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 purpose to repair to, or near to, Mr. Adams, and enquire of him whether I may yet be serviceable under the commission to which 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 I asserted and maintained
with as much freedom in the Tower of London, as ever I had done in the State House at Philadelphia, 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 interest 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 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 ain sure he will not defile his mind by attempting any dirty thing,
Į intreat 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 ine the day before I left London, and was, as 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, and which cannot, with honor to our country, remain unpaid. I think we shal}