The Diplomatic Correspondence of the American Revolution, Vol. VIII
Author: Various
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During the whole time that this matter was in agitation, that is from the 11th to the 16th of March, and for sometime afterwards, M. Cabarrus did not come near me.

On the 18th I wrote a letter to Dr Franklin informing him of the protest, and reciting the reasons assigned for it. I also hinted the propriety of taking up the bills at Paris, if possible.

The national pride of the Ambassador of France was hurt by this event; I am sure he regretted it as disreputable and impolitic. I remarked to him, that most of our cross accidents had proved useful to us, and that this might save us the Mississippi. For I thought it more prudent to appear a little incensed than dispirited on the occasion. I suspect that there has been an interesting conversation between the two Courts about us. He told me this winter, that he believed Spain wished to modify our independence, and to keep herself in a situation to mediate between us and England at the general peace. He did not explain himself further. As great successes on our part must operate against such designs, the Spanish Minister can neither rejoice in, nor be disposed to promote them; and this may help both to account for the little impression made by the capitulation of York, and for their conduct as to our bills and propositions, &c. I am sure that they fear us too, and the more, perhaps, as they have misbehaved towards us.

Not many days elapsed before a special courier from Paris brought advices to this Court, that the British Parliament had resolved to advise the King to cease all offensive operations against us, &c. This, and the subsequent debates and resolutions of Parliament relative to the American war, made a deeper impression here in our favor than any event which has happened since my arrival. New ideas seemed to pervade the whole Court and people, and much consultation as well as surprise was occasioned by it.

On the 26th of March I received the following letter from Dr Franklin, from the hands of M. Cabarrus, to whom I behaved, on that occasion, with reserved and cold politeness.

"Passy, March 16th, 1782.

"Dear Sir,

"I have received your several favors of January 30th, February 11th and March 1st, and propose to write fully to you by the next post. In the meantime this line may serve to acquaint you, that I paid duly all your former bills drawn in favor of M. Cabarrus, and that having obtained a promise of six millions for this year, to be paid me quarterly, I now see that I shall be able to pay your drafts for discharging the sums you may be obliged to borrow for paying those upon you, in which however I wish you to give me as much time as you can, dividing them so that they may not come upon me at once. Interest should be allowed your friends who advance for you. Please to send me a complete list of all the bills you have accepted, their numbers and dates, marking which are paid, and what are still to pay.

"I congratulate you upon the change of sentiments in the British nation. It has been intimated to me from thence, that they are willing to make a separate peace with us exclusive of France, Spain, and Holland, which so far as relates to France is impossible; and I believe they will be content that we leave them the other two; but Holland is stepping towards us, and I am not without hopes of a second loan there. And since Spain does not think our friendship worth cultivating, I wish you would inform me of the whole sum we owe her, that we may think of some means of paying it off speedily.

"With sincerest regard, I am, &c. &c.


"P. S. The Marquis de Lafayette has your letter."

I answered this letter as follows, by a French courier.

"Madrid, March 19th, 1782.

"Dear Sir,

"On the 18th instant I informed you of my having been reduced, by M. Cabarrus' want of good faith, to the mortifying necessity of protesting a number of bills, which were then payable.

"Your favor of the 16th instant reached me three days ago. It made me very happy, and enabled me to retrieve the credit we had lost here by those protests. I consider your letter as giving me sufficient authority to take the necessary arrangements with the Marquis d'Yranda for paying the residue of my debts here, as well as such of the protested bills as may be returned for that purpose.

"The account you request of all the bills I have accepted is making out, and when finished shall be transmitted by the first good opportunity that may offer. You may rely on my best endeavors to render my drafts as little inconvenient to you as possible.

"The British Parliament, it seems, begin to entertain less erroneous ideas of us, and their resolutions afford a useful hint to the other powers in Europe. If the Dutch are wise, they will profit by it. As to this Court, their system (if their conduct deserves that appellation) with respect to us has been so opposite to the obvious dictates of sound policy, that it is hard to divine whether anything but experience can undeceive them. For my part, I really think that a treaty with them daily becomes less important to us.

"That Britain should be desirous of a separate peace with us is very natural, but as such a proposal implies an impeachment of our integrity, I think it ought to be rejected in such a manner as to show that we are not ignorant of the respect due to our feelings on that head. As long as France continues faithful to us, I am clear that we ought to continue hand in hand to prosecute the war until all their, as well as all our, reasonable objects can be obtained by a peace, for I would rather see America ruined than dishonored. As to Spain and Holland, we have as yet no engagements with them, and therefore are not obliged to consult either their interest or their inclinations, further than may be convenient to ourselves, or than the respect due to our good allies may render proper.

"France, in granting you six millions, has acted with dignity as well as generosity. Such gifts, so given, command both gratitude and esteem, and I think our country possesses sufficient magnanimity to receive and remember such marks of friendship with a proper degree of sensibility. I am pleased with your idea of paying whatever we owe to Spain. Their pride, perhaps, might forbid them to receive the money. But our pride has been so hurt by the littleness of their conduct, that I would in that case be for leaving it at the gate of the palace, and quit the country. At present such a step would not be expedient, though the time will come when prudence, instead of restraining, will urge us to hold no other language or conduct to this Court than that of a just, a free, and a brave people, who have nothing to fear from, nor to request of them.

"I am, &c. &c.


On receiving Dr Franklin's letter I sent for my good friend the notary, and desired him to make it known among the bankers, that I had received supplies equal to all my occasions, and was ready to pay to every one his due. He received the commission with as much pleasure as I had the letter. He executed it immediately, and our credit here was re-established.

M. Cabarrus became displeased with himself, and took pains to bring about a reconciliation by the means of third persons, to whom I answered, that as a Christian I forgave him, but as a prudent man, could not again employ him. As this gentleman has suddenly risen into wealth and importance, and is still advancing to greater degrees of both, I shall insert a letter, which I wrote in reply to one from him on the subject.


"Madrid, April 2d, 1782.


"I have received the letter you did me the honor to write on the 29th of March last.

"As soon as the examination of your accounts shall be completed, I shall be ready to pay the balance that may be due to you, either here or by bills on Paris.

"I should also be no less ready to subscribe a general approbation of your conduct, if the latter part of it had been equally fair and friendly with the first.

"Although it always affords me pleasure to recollect and acknowledge acts of friendship, yet, Sir, I can consider only one of the five instances you enumerate as entitled to that appellation. I shall review them in their order. You remind me,

"1st. That you risked the making me considerable advances, at a time when I could only give you hopes, and not formal assurances of repayment.

"I acknowledge freely and with gratitude, that (exclusive of the commissions due to you for paying out the various sums I had placed in your hands) you did advance me between twenty and thirty thousand dollars; but as the United States of America were bound to repay it, and I had reason to expect supplies to a far greater amount, I conceived, and the event has shown, that you did not run any great risk, although the uncertainty of the time when these supplies would be afforded, prevented my giving you positive and formal assurances of the time and manner of repayment.

"2dly. That you augmented these advances to quiet the demands of the Marquis d'Yranda.

"Permit me to remind you, that this circumstance might have been more accurately stated. The fact was as follows. I had received about fifty thousand dollars, which, by a prior contract, I had agreed to pay the Marquis on account of a greater sum borrowed from him in paper. The sum in question was in specie. You and others offered to exchange it for paper at the then current difference. The preference was given to you. Under that confidence, and for that express purpose, the specie was sent to your house, and you did exchange it accordingly. With what propriety, Sir, can you consider this transaction in the light of making advances, or lending me money to quiet the Marquis d'Yranda? It is true that by sending the money to your house I put it in your power, by detaining part of it, to repay yourself what you had before advanced. But, Sir, such a proceeding would have been a flagrant breach of trust; and I cannot think any gentleman ought to give himself, or expect to receive, credit for merely forbearing to do a dishonorable action.

"3dly. That you gave me, on my signature, the money for which I applied to you for my personal use, without detaining any part of it on account of the balance then due to you.

"The transaction you allude to was as follows. I had authority to draw from his Excellency, Dr Franklin, on account of my salary. It happened to be convenient to me to draw for a quarter. You agreed to purchase my bill on him, and to pay me in specie at the current exchange. As it was post day, I signed and sent you the bill before I had received the money. These are the facts, and it seems two favors are to be argued from them. First, that you did not scruple my signature, or in other words, that you took my bill. To this I answer, that you had no reason to doubt its being honored. All my former ones had been duly paid. Nor could you or others produce a single instance, in which my signature had not justified the confidence reposed in it. Secondly, that by sending you the bill before you had sent me the money for it, I gave you an opportunity of keeping the money, and giving my public account credit for it, and that in not taking this advantage you did me a favor.

"After having agreed to purchase this bill, and pay me the money for it, you could have no right to detain it. And surely, Sir, you need not be informed, that there is a wide distinction between acts of common justice and acts of friendship. I remember that there was then but little demand for bills on Paris, and so far as you may have been induced to take this one, from regard to my convenience, I am obliged to you.

"4thly. That by your agency you accelerated the payment of the twentysix thousand dollars.

"I really believe, Sir, that you did accelerate it, and you would have received my thanks for it, if the unusual and very particular manner, in which the order for that payment was expressed, had not been less consistent with delicacy, than with those improper fears and apprehensions, which the confidence due to my private as well as public character, ought to have excluded from your imagination. All the preceding orders, which had been given on similar occasions, directed the money to be paid to me. But in this instance, as I owed you a considerable balance, care was taken that the twentysix thousand dollars should not, as formerly, be paid to me, but to you on my account.

"5thly. That you offered to make me further advances, if either the Ambassador of France or the Minister of State would give you a positive order for the purpose, which you say they constantly refused.

"It is true, Sir, that you offered to supply me with money to pay my acceptances for the month of March, provided the Minister of State or the Ambassador of France would engage to see you repaid with interest, within a certain number of months, sometimes saying that you would be content to be repaid within seven months, and at others within ten or twelve months, and you repeated this offer to me in these precise terms on the 11th of March last.

"This offer was friendly. I accepted it with gratitude, and in full confidence that you would punctually perform what you had thus freely promised. I accordingly made this offer known to the Minister, and solicited his consent. On the 15th day of March he authorised the Ambassador of France to inform me, that you might advance me from forty to fifty thousand current dollars on those terms. The Ambassador signified this to me by letter, and that letter was immediately laid before you. Then, Sir, for the first time, did you insist on being repaid in four months, and that in four equal monthly payments, secured by orders on the rents of the post-office, or on the general treasury, &c. &c. These terms and conditions were all new, and never hinted to me in the most distant manner until after the Minister had agreed to your first offer, and until the very moment when the holders of the bills were demanding their money, and insisting that the bills should either be paid or protested.

"The Minister rejected these new conditions, and you refused to abide by the former ones. The bills were then due. I had no time even to look out for other resources, and thereby was reduced to the necessity of protesting them.

"Such conduct, Sir, can have no pretensions to gratitude, and affords a much more proper subject for apology than for approbation. I confess that I was no less surprised than disappointed, and still remain incapable of reconciling these deviations from the rules of fair dealing, with that open and manly temper which you appear to possess, and which I thought would insure good faith to all who relied on your word.

"How far your means might have failed, how far you might have been ill-advised, or ill-informed, or unduly influenced, are questions, which, though not uninteresting to you, are now of little importance to me.

"I acknowledge with pleasure, that until these late singular transactions I had reason to believe you were well attached to the interests of my country, and I present you my thanks for having on several former occasions endeavored to promote it.

"I am, &c. &c.


As M. Cabarrus was concerned in contracts with government for money, and was the projector of several of their ways and means for supplying the Royal Treasury, it appeared to me expedient that he should wish us well, and be our banker. Some advantages have arisen from it, and they would probably have been greater, if not opposed by the great and unfriendly influence of M. Del Campo. At the same time that I blame M. Cabarrus, I cannot but pity him, for there is much reason to consider him in the light of the scape goat.

I have now employed Messrs Drouilhet to do our business; that house is one of the most considerable here in the banking way.

I showed Dr Franklin's letter to the Ambassador of France, and made him my acknowledgments for the generous supply afforded by his Court to ours. He seemed very happy on the occasion, and regretted it had not been done a little sooner.

His secretary remarked to me, that Spain would suspect that this subsidy had been granted in consequence of the protest of our bills, and that this Court would make it the cause of complaint against France.

The Court left the Pardo, and passed the Easter holidays at Madrid. I denied myself the honor of waiting on the Minister on that occasion, nor have I seen him since the protest of our bills. My judgment, as well as my feelings, approved of this omission. The Court are now at Aranjues, where I have taken a house, and purpose to go soon after these despatches shall be completed.

On the 30th of March I was surprised by the following note, being the first of the kind which I have received from the Minister since my arrival.


"The Count de Florida Blanca has been to take the orders of V. S.[2] for Aranjues, where he hopes to have the honor of the company of V. S. at his table, every Saturday after the 11th of May next ensuing."

This invitation is imputable to the late news from England, and the grant of six millions by France was probably accelerated by it. Both Courts are watching and jealous of us. We are at peace with Spain, and she neither will nor indeed can grant us a present subsidy. Why then should we be anxious for a treaty with her, or make sacrifices to purchase it? We cannot now treat with her on terms of equality, why therefore not postpone it? It would not perhaps be wise to break with her; but delay is in our power, and resentment ought to have no influence.

Time would secure advantages to us, which we should now be obliged to yield. Time is more friendly to young than to old nations, and the day will come when our strength will insure our rights. Justice may hold the balance and decide, but if unarmed will for the most part be treated like a blind woman. There is no doubt that Spain requires more cessions than England, unless extremely humbled, can consent to. France knows and fears this. France is ready for a peace, but not Spain. The King's eyes are fixed on Gibraltar. The Spanish finances indeed are extremely mismanaged, and I may say pillaged. If England should offer us peace on the terms of our treaty with France, the French Court would be very much embarrassed by their alliance with Spain, and as yet we are under no obligations to persist in the war to gratify this Court. It is not certain what England will do, nor ought we to rely on the present promising appearances there; but can it be wise to instruct your Commissioners to speak only as the French Ministers shall give them utterance? Let whatever I write about the French and their Ambassador here be by all means kept secret. Marbois gleans and details every scrap of news. His letters are very minute, and detail names and characters.

Sweden is leaning towards us, and it will not be long before the Dutch become our allies. Under such circumstances, Spain ought not to expect such a price as the Mississippi for acknowledging our independence.

As it is uncertain when I shall again have so good an opportunity of conveying a letter to you as the present, I have been very particular in this. The facts might perhaps have been more methodically arranged, but I thought it best to state them as they arose; and though some of them separately considered do not appear very important, yet when viewed in connexion with others, they will not be found wholly uninteresting.

You will readily perceive on reading this letter, that parts of it relate to Mr Morris's department. I hope he will excuse my not repeating them in a particular letter to him, especially as he will readily believe, that the length of this, and the cyphers used in it, have fatigued me a good deal.

All the cyphers in this letter are those in which I correspond with Mr Morris, and the only ones I have received from him. They were brought by Major Franks and marked No. 1. Several of my former letters to Mr Thompson and you mentioned, that his cypher was not to be depended upon. The copy of it, brought by Mr Barclay, which is the only copy I have received of the original by Major Franks, having passed through the post office, came to my hands with marks of inspection on the cover.

I received, the 12th of April, a packet of newspapers, which I believe was from your office. It was brought to Bilboa by Mr Stockholm; but not a single line or letter from America accompanied it.

On the back of the packet there was this endorsement, "Bilboa, April 3d, 1782, brought and forwarded by your Excellency's very humble servant Andrew Stockholm." Notwithstanding this, it was marked Paris by the post office, and charged with postage accordingly, viz. one hundred and six reals of vellon. I sent the cover to the director of the post office, but he declined correcting the mistake. Thus are all things managed here.

The Courier de l'Europe informs us, that the English Ministry are totally changed, and gives us a list of those who form the new one. I think it difficult to predict how this change may eventually operate with respect to us. I hope we shall persevere vigorously in our military operations, and thereby not only quiet the fears and suspicions of those who apprehend some secret understanding between us and this Ministry, but also regain the possession of those places, which might otherwise counterbalance other demands at a peace.

Great preparations are making here for a serious attack on Gibraltar. The Duc de Crillon will doubtless command it. His good fortune has been very great.

It is natural as well as just, that Congress should be dissatisfied with the conduct of this Court; they certainly have much reason; and yet a distinction may be made between the Ministry and the nation, the latter being more to be pitied than blamed.

I must now resume a subject, which I did not expect to have had occasion to renew in this letter.

You may observe from the copy of the Count de Florida Blanca's note, containing an invitation to his table at Aranjues, and left at my house by his servant, that it was not expressly directed to me. This omission raised some doubt in my mind of its being intended for me, but on inquiry I found that the other Ministers had in the same manner received similar ones, and not directed to them by name. I mentioned my having received it to the Ambassador of France. He told me the Count had not mentioned a syllable of it to him. I desired him to take an opportunity of discovering from the Count, whether or no there was any mistake in the case, and to inform me of the result, which he promised to do.

On the 23d of April instant, the Ambassador being then in town, I paid him a visit. He told me, that on mentioning the matter to the Count, he said it must have happened by mistake, for that he intended only to ask my orders for Aranjues, but that he was nevertheless glad the mistake had happened, as it would give him an opportunity, by mentioning it to the King, to obtain his permission for the purpose, and to that end desired the Ambassador to write him a note stating the fact. The Ambassador did so, and the Count afterwards informed him, that he had communicated it to the King, who, with many expressions of regard for our country, had permitted him to invite me as a private gentleman of distinction belonging to it. He authorised the Ambassador to communicate this invitation to me, and also to inform me, that I might bring Mr Carmichael with me.

Much conversation ensued between the Ambassador and myself, consisting of my objections to accepting this invitation, and his answers to them. But as we continued to differ in sentiment, and he was going out, I agreed to think further of the matter before I gave my final answer.

For my part I doubt there having been any mistake. I think it more probable, that the Minister, afterwards reflecting on the use that might be made of this note, wished to render it harmless by imputing it to mistake, and substituting a more cautious invitation. For it can hardly be supposed, either that his servant would, for the first time in two years, leave such a note at my house unless ordered; or that he himself would for the first time in his life, and that in writing, inform me of his having called to take my orders for Aranjues, without taking care that his amanuensis wrote as he dictated. He was probably warmed by the news from England and Holland, and, in the perturbation of spirits occasioned by it, was more civil than on cool reflection he thought was expedient, especially on further considering, that the Ambassador might not be well pleased at not having been privy to it.

A few days afterwards I wrote the Ambassador the following letter on the subject.

"Madrid, April 27th, 1782.


"Be pleased to accept my thanks for the very friendly part you have acted relative to the Minister's written invitation left at my house, and the verbal one since conveyed from him to me by your Excellency. I have deliberately re-examined my former sentiments respecting the propriety of accepting it; and as they remain unaltered, my respect for your judgment leads me to refer them, fully explained, to your further consideration.

"As the Minister informed your Excellency, that the written invitation was left at my house by mistake, I think nothing remains to be said relative to it. On the discovery of that mistake, the Minister it seems was so obliging as to apply for, and obtain the consent of the King to renew the invitation, not in general terms, but in terms expressly declaring, that it was given to me as a private gentleman, and was so to be accepted; with the additional favor, nevertheless, of being permitted to bring Mr Carmichael with me.

"The only objection, which opposes my accepting it, arises from this question, viz. whether a Minister or representative of an independent sovereign can with propriety accept any invitation, which in the terms of it impeaches his title to that character? So far as this question respects the Ministers of independent states and kingdoms in general, your Excellency will agree with me in opinion that it must be answered in the negative. The next inquiry which presents itself is, whether the United States of America come so far under that description as to render this reasoning applicable to their Ministers? Every American thinks they do. Whatever doubts this, or other Courts may entertain relative to their independence, the United States entertain none, and therefore their servants ought not, by words or actions, to admit any. For instance, ought General Washington to accept an invitation, which expressly imposed upon him the condition of laying aside his uniform, and appearing at table in the dress of a private gentleman? I think not. If this reasoning be just, the impropriety of my accepting this invitation becomes manifest, and all arguments from the expediency of it must cease to operate. For my part I consider it as a general rule, that although particular circumstances may sometimes render it expedient for a nation to make great sacrifices to the attainment of national objects, yet it can in no case be expedient for them to impair their honor, their dignity, or their independence.

"As to the temporary advantages, which might result from accepting this invitation, I find them balanced by at least equal disadvantages. There can be no doubt on the one hand, but that my frequenting the Count de Florida Blanca's table on the days appointed for entertaining the foreign Ministers would impress a general opinion, that Spain was about to become our allies, and I readily admit, that such an opinion might operate to our advantage in other countries. But on the other hand, when the Count de Florida Blanca, in order (though perhaps in vain) to save appearances, shall inform those foreign Ministers, that I was expressly invited as a private gentleman, and had consented to come in that character, they would naturally entertain ideas, which would tend to diminish rather than increase their respect for America and American legations.

"It would give me pain if the Count de Florida Blanca should suppose me to be in the least influenced by the promising aspect of our affairs. I flatter myself he will not incline to that opinion, when he reflects on the particular circumstances under which the United States declared themselves independent, and under which they afterwards refused to treat with their then victorious enemies, on any terms inconsistent with it.

"Although offence and disrespect are very far from my thoughts, I fear the Count will be a little hurt at my declining the invitation in question. I am persuaded that he meant to do me a favor, and I feel myself indebted for his friendly intentions. But as the considerations mentioned in this letter forbid me to accept it, I wish to communicate that circumstance to him in the most soft and delicate manner, and, therefore, request the favor of your Excellency to undertake it.

"I have the honor to be, &c.


Reasons similar to those assigned for this refusal have induced me ever since my arrival to decline going to Court, where I might also have been presented as a stranger of distinction, but as Mr Carmichael had been presented in that character previous to my coming to Madrid, I never objected to his making subsequent visits.

I am, Dear Sir, with great regard and esteem, your most obedient and very humble servant,



[2] Vuestra Senoria. Your Lordship, or Your Excellency. We have no title, which exactly corresponds with the Spanish.

* * * * *


Philadelphia, May 9th, 1782.

Dear Sir,

Your letter of the 6th of February, with a duplicate of that of August last, directed to the President, has been received and read in Congress. I am extremely surprised to find from that and yours to me, that so few of my letters have reached you, since no vessel has sailed from this, or, indeed, from any of the neighboring ports, without carrying letters or duplicates of letters from me. The whole number directed to you, including the duplicates from October to this time, amounts to twentyfour; so that they must certainly be suppressed in many instances. But what astonishes me more, is to find that you cannot read my letter, No. 3, and the duplicate of No. 2; when, upon examining my letter book, I find it is written in the very cypher, which you acknowledge to have received, and in which your letter of the 20th of September is written; so that if it is not intelligible, it must have undergone some alteration since it left my hands, which I am the more inclined to think, because you speak of a cypher said to be enclosed, of which my letters make no mention, and only notes a slight alteration in Mr Thompson's cypher. My first letter was in our private cypher; this you had not received. My second, by the Marquis de Lafayette, in cypher, delivered to me by mistake by Mr Thompson, and lost with Mr Palfrey. My third, in the cypher sent by Major Franks, a duplicate of which was sent by Mr Barclay; and that enclosed a copy of my letter, No. 2. I had then discovered the mistake, so that I can in no way account for your being unable to decypher it.

Since my last, of the 28th of April, we have been informed of the change in the British administration. We have seen the act for enabling the King to make peace, and the new plan has begun to open itself here under the direction of Sir Guy Carleton. You, who know your countrymen, will feel little anxiety on this subject. It is proper, however, that you should be enabled to calm the apprehensions, which those who know us less and are interested in our measures may entertain. I have the pleasure of assuring you, that it has not produced the slightest alteration in our sentiments; that we view a change of men and measures with the utmost philosophic indifference. We believe that God has hardened the heart of Pharaoh, so that he cannot let the people go, till the first born of his land are destroyed; till the hosts are overthrown in the midst of the sea; and till poverty and distress, like the vermin of Egypt, shall have covered the land. The general sentiment here seems to be, that new endeavors will be so used to detach us from our ally, that the best answer to such attempts to disgrace us will be a speedy and spirited preparation for the ensuing campaign.

When Sir Guy Carleton arrived at New York, he found them in violent convulsions about the demand that General Washington had made of the persons who perpetrated the murder upon an officer of the Jersey levies, one Captain Huddy, whom they made prisoner, carried to New York, and afterwards taking him out of jail hung him in the county of Monmouth. I enclose the General's letter, and the other letters that have passed on that occasion. The affair has not yet ended; the British officers insist upon his [i. e. Lippincott, who hung Huddy] being given up. The refugees support him. A court martial is now sitting for his trial. In the extracts sent out by General Robertson are contained the cases of all the persons, that have been tried and convicted of robbery, horse stealing, &c. in the Jerseys since the war, as they have protected every species of villany. They wish us to consider every felon we hang, as a part of their regular corps.

Your last despatches by Colonel Livingston did not come to hand. The vessel in which he sailed was taken and carried into New York. He destroyed his letters. He was immediately committed to the Provost, where he met with your brother, who had been sometime confined there. On the arrival of General Carleton, which was a few days after, both were liberated on their paroles, so that Mr Livingston can give us no intelligence of any kind. Carleton spoke to him in the most frank and unreserved manner, wished to see the war carried on, if it must be carried on, upon more generous principles than it has hitherto been; I told him he meant to send his secretary to Congress with despatches, and asked whether the Colonel would take a seat in his carriage. Mr Livingston told him, that his secretary would certainly be stopped at the first post; upon which he expressed surprise, and inquired whether Mr Livingston would himself be the bearer of them, which he declined, unless they contained an explicit acknowledgment of our independence, and a resolution to withdraw the British troops. He replied, he was not empowered to make any such proposition, and that his letter was merely complimentary. The next day he wrote to the General the letter, a copy of which, No. 1, is enclosed. The General sent the answer, No. 2; these letters being laid before Congress, they came to the resolution No. 3. You will judge from these circumstances, whether it is probable, that Britain will easily seduce us into a violation of the faith we have pledged to our allies.

I am particular in giving you every information on this head, because I am persuaded, that means will be used by our enemies to induce a belief that this country pines after peace and its ancient connexion with England. It is strictly true, that they are very desirous of peace. But it is also true, that the calamities of war press lighter upon them every day, from the use they are in to bear them, and from the declining strength of the enemy. They consider themselves as bound, both in honor and interest, to support the alliance, which they formed in the hour of distress; and I am satisfied, that no man would be found in any public assembly in America sufficiently hardy, to hint at a peace upon any terms, which should destroy our connexion with France.

I yesterday took the sense of Congress upon the propriety of giving you leave of absence. They have declined giving any answer to that part of your letter, from which you are to conclude that they do not conceive it advisable at present. I enclose the resolution I proposed, which they thought it proper to postpone.

In all our transactions in Spain we are to consider the delicate situation in which they stand with France, the propensity of the former to peace, and the need that the latter has of their assistance. I should conceive it necessary, therefore, rather to submit with patience to their repeated delays than give a handle to the British party at Court. For this reason I conceive that no advantage could result from demanding a categorical answer, and that it might involve us in disagreeable circumstances. The resolution enclosed in my last will either serve as a stimulus to the politics of Spain, or leave us a latitude on the negotiation for a peace, which will be of equal advantage to us with any of those slight aids, which Spain seems willing or able to give us. Congress have found so little advantage from sending embassies to Courts, who have shown no disposition to aid them, that they have passed the enclosed resolution, No. 4. Every saving is an object of importance with them, and they feel very heavily the expense of their foreign embassies, which are in some particulars unnecessarily expensive.

The complaints, which have justly been made of the mode in which our Ministers are paid, have induced Congress to direct the financier to fall upon some other mode. The one adopted will be very advantageous to our Ministers. He proposes to make his payments here quarterly. I shall, as your agent, receive the amount, make out the account, and vest it in bills at the current rate, and remit them to Dr Franklin, and send you advice when I do it; or, when opportunity offers, send them directly to you. I shall follow your directions if you have any other to give, with respect to the money due to you, and consider myself liable in my private capacity for all the money I receive on your account, till you appoint another agent. This will simplify Mr Morris's account, he only opening one with the department of Foreign Affairs.

Your present account will commence the 1st of January. I wish you to transmit a state of your account prior to that date, and I will procure and remit you the balance.

We have nothing new but what you may collect from the papers enclosed. The Count de Montmorin will see with pleasure, that the birth of a Dauphin has been received here at this critical time in such a manner as to evidence our attachment to the King his father, and the French nation.

I am embarrassed beyond expression at the misfortune that happened to Mr Thompson's cypher. I shall enclose another with this, and send them both to Mr Harrison, with special directions to send them safely to you.

It must have been long since you heard from me. Our ports have been totally shut up for some time, and no less than three vessels with despatches from me to you have been taken and carried into New York within two months.

As you seem to suppose my appointment has not been sufficiently notified to you, to authorise your directing your letters to me, I enclose the resolution for my appointment, together with that for the organization of the office.

I have the honor to be, &c.


* * * * *


Madrid, May 14th, 1782.

Dear Sir,

A letter from Dr Franklin calls me to Paris. I set off in about five days. He has doubtless written to you on this subject. Major Franks is on the way to you with despatches from me. Be pleased to send your future letters for me under cover to Dr Franklin. No inconveniences will be caused by my absence. The instructions intended for M. Del Campo are to be sent to the Count d'Aranda. I congratulate you on the recognition of our independence by the Dutch. The French have lost a ship of the line, and they say thirteen transports bound to the Indies.

I hope my future letters will be less unfortunate than many of my former ones. Rely upon it, that I shall continue to write particularly and frequently to you.

With great regard and esteem, &c.


* * * * *


Philadelphia, June 23d, 1782.

Dear Sir,

The only letter I have received from you, since that of the 6th of February last, was a few lines, which covered an account of the surrender of Fort St Philip. This success is important, as it not only weakens an enemy, and operates against their future resources, but as it gives reputation to the arms of a nation, that have our sincerest wishes for their prosperity, notwithstanding the little attention we have received from them. This letter goes by too hazardous a conveyance to admit of my entering into many of those causes of complaint, which daily administer food to distrusts and jealousies between Spain and the people of this country. The Havana trade, notwithstanding the important advantages it affords to Spain, meets with the most unjustifiable interruptions. Vessels have been detained for months together, in order to carry on the expeditions which Spain has formed, no adequate satisfaction being allowed for them; and then sent away without convoy; by which means many of them have fallen into the hands of the enemy, and where they did not, the expense and disappointment occasioned by their detention have thrown the greatest discouragements on the trade. The Bahama Islands having surrendered to the arms of Spain, if the copy of the capitulation, published by Rivington, may be depended upon, it is a counterpart to that of Pensacola, and the troops will probably be sent to strengthen the garrisons of New York and Charleston. These transactions, together with the delays and slights you meet with, cannot but have a mischievous effect upon that harmony and confidence, which it is the mutual interests of Spain and America to cultivate with each other. It seems a little singular to this country, that the United Provinces, which never gave us the least reason to suppose that they were well inclined towards us, should precede Spain in acknowledging our rights. But we are a plain people; Courts value themselves upon refinements, which are unknown to us. When a sovereign calls us friends, we are simple enough to expect unequivocal proofs of his friendship.

Military operations have not yet commenced, so that the field affords us no intelligence, and the Cabinet seems to be closed, by the determination of Congress not to permit Mr Morgan to wait upon them with General Carleton's compliments.

General Leslie, in consequence of the late alteration in the British system (together with the scarcity of provisions in Charleston) proposed to General Greene a cessation of hostilities. I need hardly tell you, that the proposal met with the contempt it deserved. Those, who are unacquainted with our dispositions, would be surprised to hear that our attachment to an alliance with France has gathered strength from their misfortune in the West Indies, and from the attempts of the enemy to detach us from it. Every legislative body, which has met since, has unanimously declared its resolution to listen to no terms of accommodation, which controvenes its principles.

Congress have it in contemplation to make some alteration in their foreign arrangements, in order to lessen their expenses, but as nothing is yet determined on, I do not think it worth while to trouble you with a plan, which may not be carried into effect.

I have the honor to be, &c.


* * * * *


Paris, June 25th, 1782.

Dear Sir,

My letters from Madrid, and afterwards a few lines from Bordeaux, informed you of my being called to this place by a pressing letter from Dr Franklin.

The slow manner of travelling in a carriage through Spain, Mrs Jay's being taken with a fever and ague the day we left Bordeaux, and the post horses at the different stages having been engaged for the Count du Nord, who had left Paris with a great retinue, prevented my arriving here until the day before yesterday.

After placing my family in a hotel, I immediately went out to Passy, and spent the remainder of the afternoon in conversing with Dr Franklin on the subjects, which had induced him to write for me. I found that he had then more reason to think my presence necessary than it seems to be at present.

Yesterday we paid a visit to Count de Vergennes. He gave me a very friendly reception, and entered pretty fully with us into the state of the negotiation. His answer to the British Minister appeared to me ably drawn. It breathes great moderation, and yet is so general as to leave room for such demands as circumstances, at the time of the treaty, may render convenient.

There is reason to believe, that Mr Fox and Lord Shelburne are not perfectly united, and that Rodney's success will repress the ardor of our enemies for an immediate peace. On leaving the Count, he informed us, that he was preparing despatches for America, and that our letters, if sent to him tomorrow morning, might go by the same opportunity. This short notice, together with the interruptions I meet with every moment, obliges me to be less particular than I could wish; but as Dr Franklin also writes by this conveyance, you will doubtless receive from him full intelligence on these subjects.

My last letters also informed you, that the Court of Spain had commissioned the Count d'Aranda, their Ambassador here, to continue with me the negotiation for a treaty with our country. I have not yet seen him, and Dr Franklin concurs with me in opinion, that it is more expedient to open this business by a letter than by a visit.

Mr Adams cannot leave Amsterdam at present, and I hear that Mr Laurens thinks of returning soon to America, so that I apprehend Dr Franklin and myself will be left to manage at least the skirmishing business, if I may so call it, of our commission, without the benefit of their counsel and assistance. You know what I think and feel on this subject, and I wish things were so circumstanced as to admit of my being indulged.

You may rely on my writing often, very often. My letters will now have fairer play, and you will find that I have not ceased to consider amusement and rest as secondary objects to those of business.

I shall endeavor to get lodgings as near to Dr Franklin as I can. He is in perfect good health, and his mind appears more vigorous than that of any man of his age I have known. He certainly is a valuable Minister, and an agreeable companion.

The Count d'Artois and Duc de Bourbon are soon to set out for Gibraltar. The siege of that place will be honored with the presence of several princes, and therefore the issue of it (according to the prevailing modes of thinking) becomes in a more particular manner interesting. The Duc de Crillon is sanguine; he told me, that in his opinion, Gibraltar was far more pregnable than Mahon. It is possible that fortune may again smile upon him.

I am, Dear Sir, &c.


* * * * *


Paris, June 28th, 1782.

Dear Sir,

I had the pleasure of writing to you on the 25th instant. As the express, which is to carry that letter, will not depart till tomorrow morning, I have a good opportunity of making this addition to my despatches.

Agreeably to the desire of Congress, as well as my own wishes, I have had the satisfaction of conferring with the Marquis de Lafayette, on several interesting subjects. He is as active in serving us in the cabinet as he has been in the field, and (there being great reason to believe that his talents could be more advantageously employed here, than an inactive campaign in America would admit of there,) Dr Franklin and myself think it advisable, that he should postpone his return for the present. The Marquis inclines to the same opinion, and, though anxious to join the army, will remain here a little longer.

The intentions of the British Ministry with respect to us are by no means clear. They are divided upon the subject. It is said that Mr Fox and his friends incline to meet us on the terms of independence, but that Lord Shelburne and his adherents entertain an idea of making a compact with us, similar to that between Britain and Ireland, and there is room to apprehend that efforts will be made to open a negotiation on these subjects at Philadelphia. When it is considered that the articles of a general peace cannot be discussed in America, and that propositions for a separate one ought not to be listened to, it is evident to me, that their sending out commissions can be calculated for no other purpose than that of intrigue.

I should enlarge on this topic, were I not persuaded, that you will see this matter in the same point of view, and that any proposition, which they may offer, will be referred to the American Commissioners in Europe. How far it may be prudent to permit any British agents to come into our country, on such an ostensible errand, is an easy question, for where an unnecessary measure may be dangerous it should be avoided. They may write from New York whatever they may have to propose, and may receive answers in the same manner.

If one may judge from appearances, the Ministry are very desirous of getting some of their emissaries into our country, either in an avowed or in a private character, and all things considered, I should think it most safe not to admit any Englishman in either character within our lines at this very critical juncture. A mild and yet firm resolution, on the impropriety and inexpediency of any negotiation for peace in America, would give great satisfaction to our friends and confirm their confidence in us. We indeed, who know our country, would apprehend no danger from anything that British agents might say or do to deceive or divide us; but the opinions of strangers, who must judge by appearances, merit attention; and it is doubtless best not only to be steadfast to our engagements, but also to avoid giving occasion to the slightest suspicions of a contrary disposition. An opinion does prevail here, that in the mass of our people there is a considerable number who, though resolved on independence, would nevertheless prefer an alliance with England to one with France, and this opinion will continue to have a certain degree of influence during the war. This circumstance renders much circumspection necessary.

I am, with great regard and esteem, Dear Sir, &c.


* * * * *


Philadelphia, July 6th, 1782.

Dear Sir,

Since my letter of the 23d ultimo, Congress have passed the enclosed resolution. My letter had already anticipated it, so that it will only serve to show, that I was warranted in the observations I had made, and am sorry to add, that my prediction, that the troops taken by Spain would be sent to serve against us, seems to be confirmed by an account received from Charleston of a number of soldiers, taken in Pensacola, having been sent there. Could I suppose the Court of Spain entirely regardless of our interests, I should presume, that an attention to their own would keep them from affording such reinforcements to the British here, as will enable them to detach to Jamaica, of any other of their islands, which Spain may have it in contemplation to reduce.

I am, therefore, fully persuaded, that every measure of this kind must originate merely in the inattention of the officer, and, that if mentioned to his Majesty's Ministers, it will be prevented in future. You will therefore take the earliest opportunity to state it to them, and to show them the pernicious influence it will have, not only upon our measures, but upon those sentiments of friendship and affection, which Congress wish the people of these States to entertain for a nation, that is engaged in the same cause with them, and with whom a variety of considerations will lead them to maintain in future the most intimate connexion.

I have remitted to Dr Franklin the amount of one quarter's salary due to you, which I have vested in bills at six and three pence this money for five livres, which yields a profit to you of about five and a half per cent, and will be more than sufficient to pay the expense of commissions, that this new mode of paying your salaries will subject you to. I have directed an account to be opened with you, and will receive your directions, unless you shall think it proper to appoint some other agent. My Secretary, Mr Morris, will enclose a particular state of your account, exclusive of contingencies, an account of which I wish you to remit me, that I may get it discharged for you. The second quarter being now due, I shall get the accounts passed and the bills remitted by the next opportunity. You will be pleased to pay particular attention to the enclosed paper in cyphers, as it relates to a private transaction of some importance to both of us.

Let me hear from you on this subject as soon as possible.

I have the honor to be, &c.


* * * * *


Philadelphia, September 12th, 1782.

Dear Sir,

We yesterday received letters from Mr Adams by Captain Smedley, who brought out the goods left by Commodore Gillon. These were the first advices, that had reached us from Europe since your short note of the 14th of May. You will easily believe, that this neglect is borne here with some degree of impatience, particularly at this interesting period, when we learn that a negotiation for a peace has commenced, and that Mr Grenville is in France upon that business. Mr Adams's letters take no more notice of this important transaction, than if we were not interested in it; presuming, probably, that we are fully informed from France. I may think improperly upon this subject, but I cannot be satisfied that a quarterly letter from our Ministers is sufficient to give Congress the information, that is necessary for the direction of their affairs; and yet this is much more than we receive. Some pay half yearly, and others offer only an annual tribute. Your last letter, properly so called, is dated in April; Dr Franklin's in March. This is the more mortifying, as want of time can hardly be offered as an excuse by our Ministers, who must certainly have more leisure upon their hands than they know how to dispose of.

I congratulate you upon your arrival in France, where if your negotiations are not more successful than they have been in Spain, you will at least have some enjoyments, that will console you under your disappointments. Carleton has informed us, that Great Britain had agreed to yield us unconditional independence. I find that he has been too hasty in his opinion, and that the death of the Marquis of Rockingham has made a very material alteration in the system. That this inconsistency may be fully displayed, I would advise you to have the enclosed letter from Carleton and Digby published in Europe. Before the arrival of the packet, every disposition was made for the evacuation of Charleston, which was publicly announced. The tories have, in consequence of it, come out in crowds with the consent of General Leslie to solicit pardon. The works at Quarter House were burned. Whether the late intelligence will alter their determination I cannot say. High expectations have also been entertained of the evacuation of New York, where the royalists were in despair. Their hopes are again revived.

If the negotiations go on, let me beg you to use every means for procuring a direct trade with the West Indies. It is an object of the utmost importance to us. The exports of Philadelphia alone to the islands amounted before the war to three hundred thousand pounds; they could not have been much less from New York; they were considerable also from the Eastern States. We shall be very long in recovering the distress of the war, if we are deprived of this important commerce. It is certain, too, that the European powers who hold islands would find themselves interested in this intercourse, provided they exclude the introduction of manufactures, which might interfere with their own.

In proportion to the expense at which articles of the first necessity are furnished, must be the improvement, population, produce, and wealth of the islands, while the inhabitants of these States are compelled by law as well as allured by fashion and habit to receive their manufactures and luxuries from the mother country. She must reap the full benefit of such improvement, population, produce, and wealth. It may be said, that this check upon the exportation of provisions from the parent State would, by reducing the price of grain, discourage agriculture; to this I would observe, that it is extremely doubtful whether it would occasion such reduction; secondly, that if it did, it would be beneficial to the community. My doubt upon the first head arises from this consideration; if, as I maintain, the increased wealth and population of the islands occasioned an increased consumption of the manufactures of the mother country, the provisions that formerly fed the planters abroad are now consumed at home by the manufacturer, and the price of provisions stands where it did, with this clear advantage to the mother country, that by the cheapness of living on the islands, she has increased the number of subjects, who till the earth for her abroad, and by the same means has added to the people, who make her strength and riches at home.

My second position is grounded upon the competition, that prevails at this moment among the maritime manufacturing nations of Europe, France and England particularly. The nation that undersells its rival in foreign markets will sap the foundation of her wealth and power. The nation that can maintain its manufactures, and navigate its vessels at the cheapest rate, will undoubtedly enjoy this advantage, all things else being equal. It is obvious, that the price of labor is regulated by that of provisions, that manufacturers never earn more than a bare subsistence. If so, where provisions are cheap, manufactures can be carried on to most advantage. Of this, the East Indies are a striking proof. In proportion, too, to the price of provisions and the price of labor, which depends upon it, must be the expense of building and navigating ships. Both these advantages, where there is a concurrence, are therefore clearly in favor of the nation, that can reduce the price of provisions within her own kingdom.

But it may be said, that this reduction of the price of provisions, which seems so desirable in one view, may be found injurious in another; and that it is at least as expedient to encourage agriculture as manufactures. I agree in the principle, though not in the application. Going back to my first position, that the man who labors gets a bare subsistence, for the moment he does more, the number of laborers in that kind (provided his employment does not require uncommon skill) increases, and his labor is not more profitable, than that of the other laborers of the country. It will follow then, that so far as he consumes what he raises, the price will be entirely out of the question. If a bushel of grain a day is necessary for the support of his family, he will equally raise and equally consume that grain, whether it sells for a penny or a pound. But as there are other articles necessary for the use of his family, that he must purchase, this purchase can only be made by the excess of what he raises beyond his own consumption. If he purchases the manufactures of the country, and they rise in proportion to the value of provisions, it must be a matter of indifference to the husbandman, whether the price of the latter is high or low, since the same quantity will be necessary to purchase what his necessities demand in either case; unless indeed his provisions are carried to foreign markets, and the manufactures he wants imported, in which case the price of his grain will become an object of moment, and operate as an encouragement to agriculture. But it would also in the same proportion operate as a check on the manufactures, population, and navigation of the country. On the first, for reasons which have been already explained; on the second, because manufactures require more hands than agriculture; and on the third, because the expense of labor, which increases with the diminution of population, and the price of victualling the vessels employed in the transportation of their produce, will enable nations, who can maintain their subjects cheaper, to navigate their vessels at a lower rate, and of course to engross this branch of business, unless the laws of the State, such as acts of navigation, shall forbid, in which case those acts will operate so far as a discouragement upon agriculture; the advanced freightage being so much deducted from the husbandman's profit.

There are many collateral arguments to show the policy of this measure, even with reference to agriculture, arising out of the general positions I have stated, such as the advantage husbandmen find in a manufacturing country, in placing their weak or supernumerary children to trades, and procuring a number of hands on a short notice, at any of those critical periods, which so frequently occur in the culture of land, without being compelled to maintain them all the year, which increase their profit though they reduce the price of grain. But these are too extensive to take notice of here. I will conclude with some observations, which arise from the circumstances of the country with relation to Europe, which I trust will be found so important as to merit attention.

The commercial nations of Europe begin already to see, that the attention, which is almost universally afforded to the improvement of manufactures, must set bounds to their commerce, unless they can open new markets. Where are these new markets to be found but in America? Here the wishes and habits of the people will concur with the policy of the government, in encouraging the cultivation of their lands at the expense of manufactures. Both will continue to operate while we have a great wilderness to settle, and while a market shall be afforded for our produce. But if that market is shut against us; if we cannot vend what we raise, we shall want the means of purchasing foreign manufactures, and of course must from necessity manufacture for ourselves. The progress of manufactures is always rapid, when once introduced in a country where provisions are cheap, and the means of transportation so extremely easy as it is in America. I am fully persuaded, therefore, that it is the interest of a nation with whom present appearances promise us such extensive commerce as France, to give every encouragement to our agriculture, as the only means of keeping open this market for the consumption of their manufactures.

I meant to write a few lines on this subject, and I have written a treatise; it will however cost you no great trouble to read it, and may possibly afford you some useful hints.

Pigot is at New York, with twentysix sail of the line. The Marquis de Vaudreuil is at Boston with twelve, having lost the Magnifique in the harbor; Congress have presented his Most Christian Majesty with the America, a seventyfour built at Portsmouth. She was to have been commanded by Paul Jones. I wish heartily it were possible to give some employment to that brave officer.

The allied army is at present at Verplanck's Point, in good health and spirits. Where is the Marquis de Lafayette? We have impatiently expected him these four months. Present my compliments to him, General Du Portail, and Viscount de Noailles. Tell the last I congratulate him on his preferment, though it is with difficulty I rejoice at it, since it is to deprive us of the pleasure of seeing him again.

I have written you four private letters since the last I had from you.

I have the honor to be, Dear Sir,


* * * * *


Paris, September 18th, 1782.

Dear Sir,

I send you herewith enclosed a copy of a translation of an important letter. The original in French I have not seen, and at present is not accessible to me, though I shall endeavor to get a copy of it, in order the better to decide on the correctness of the translation. I am not at liberty to mention the manner in which this paper came to my hands. To me it appears of importance, that it should for the present be kept a profound secret, though I do not see how that is to be done, if communicated to the Congress at large, among whom there always have been and always will be, some unguarded members. I think, however, as I thought before, that your Commissioners here should be left at liberty to pursue the sentiments of their country, and such of their own as may correspond with those of their country.

I am persuaded (and you shall know my reasons for it) that this Court chooses to postpone an acknowledgment of our independence by Britain, to the conclusion of a general peace, in order to keep us under their direction, until not only their and our objects are attained, but also until Spain shall be gratified in her demands, to exclude everybody from the Gulf, &c. We ought not let France know, that we have such ideas. While they think us free from suspicion they will be more open, and we should make no other use of this discovery than to put us on our guard. Count de Vergennes would have us treat with Mr Oswald, though his commission calls us colonies, and authorises him to treat with any description of men, &c. In my opinion we can only treat as an independent nation, and on an equal footing. I am at present engaged in preparing a statement of objections in a letter to him, so that I have not time to write very particularly to you. The Spanish Ambassador presses me to proceed, but keeps back his powers. I tell him that an exchange of copies of our commissions is a necessary and usual previous step. This Court, as well as Spain, will dispute our extension to the Mississippi. You see how necessary prudence and entire circumspection will be on your side, and if possible secrecy. I ought to add, that Dr Franklin does not see the conduct of this Court in the light I do, and that he believes they mean nothing in their proceedings, but what is friendly, fair, and honorable. Facts and future events must determine which of us is mistaken. As soon as I can possibly have time and health to give you details, you shall have them. Let us be honest and grateful to France, but let us think for ourselves.

With great regard and esteem, I am, &c.


* * * * *


Philadelphia, September 18th, 1782.

Dear Sir,

Since closing the despatches you will receive with this, I was honored with yours of June. Nothing material having since occurred, I only write to enclose the annexed resolutions of Congress, on the subject of your powers for negotiating. I see by yours, that you entertain no hope of a speedy termination of that business, even though you were then unacquainted with the change, that has since taken place in the administration, and which renders peace a more remote object. It has certainly wrought a great change here. The state of negotiations we are yet to learn, as neither you nor the Doctor have entered into that subject.

I hope my despatches by Mr Laurens, with the cyphers under his care, have reached you in safety, as very few either of your or Dr Franklin's letters, passed through the channel through which I usually receive them, come to me uninspected. Be pleased to acknowledge the receipt of my letters, that I may know which have reached you.

I am, Dear Sir,


* * * * *


Paris, September 28th, 1782.

Dear Sir,

I have only time to inform you, that our objections to Mr Oswald's first commission have produced a second, which arrived yesterday. It empowers him to treat with the commissioners of the Thirteen United States of America. I am preparing a longer letter on this subject, but as this intelligence is interesting, I take the earliest opportunity of communicating it.

With great regard and esteem, I am, &c.


* * * * *


Paris, October 13th, 1782.

Dear Sir,

I hope my letter to you of the 18th of September, of which I also sent a duplicate, has come safe to hand, for it contained important matter, viz. a copy of a letter from M. Marbois to the Count de Vergennes, against our sharing in the fishery.

This Court advised and persuaded us to treat with Mr Oswald under his first commission. I positively refused.

Count d'Aranda will not or cannot exchange powers with me, and yet wants me to treat with him; this Court would have me do it, but I decline it.

I would give you details, but must not until I have an American to carry my letters from hence.

Mr Oswald is well disposed. You shall never see my name to a bad peace, nor to one that does not secure the fishery.

I have received many long letters from you, which I am as busy in decyphering as my health will permit.

M. de Lafayette is very desirous to give us his aid; but as we have a competent number of Commissioners, it would not be necessary to give him that trouble.

I am, Dear Sir, with great esteem and regard, your most obedient servant,


P. S. General du Portail is to be the bearer of this. I believe he goes by order of the Court.

* * * * *


Paris, November 17th, 1782.

Dear Sir,

Although it is uncertain when I shall have an opportunity either of finishing or transmitting the long particular letter, which I am now undertaking to write, I think the matter it will contain is too interesting to rest only in my memory, or in short notes, which nobody but myself can well unfold the meaning of. I shall, therefore, write on as my health will permit, and when finished, shall convey this letter by the first prudent American that may go from hence to Nantes or L'Orient.

My reception here was as friendly as an American Minister might expect from this polite and politic Court; for I think they deceive themselves, who suppose that these kinds of attentions are equally paid to their private, as to their public characters.

Soon after the enabling act was passed, I was shown a copy of it, and I confess it abated the expectations I had formed of the intention of the British Ministry to treat in a manly manner with the United States, on the footing of an unconditional acknowledgment of their independence. The act appeared to me to be cautiously framed to elude such an acknowledgment, and, therefore, it would depend on future contingencies, and on the terms and nature of the bargain they might be able to make with us.

Mr Grenville, indeed, told the Count de Vergennes, that his Majesty would acknowledge our independence unconditionally, but, on being desired to commit that information to writing, he wrote that his Majesty was disposed to acknowledge it. This had the appearance of finesse.

About this time, that is, in June last, there came to Paris a Mr Jones[3] and a Mr Paradise, both of them Englishmen, the former a learned and active constitutionalist. They were introduced to me by Dr Franklin, from whom they solicited recommendations for America. The story they told him was, that Mr Paradise had an estate in the right of his wife in Virginia, and that his presence there had been rendered necessary to save it from the penalty of a law of that State, respecting the property of absentees. Mr Jones said he despaired of seeing constitutional liberty re-established in England, that he had determined to visit America, and in that happy and glorious country to seek and enjoy that freedom, which was not to be found in Britain. He spoke in raptures of our patriotism, wisdom, &c. &c. On speaking to me some days afterwards of his intended voyage, he assigned an additional reason for undertaking it, viz. that his long and great friendship for Mr Paradise had induced him to accompany that gentleman on an occasion, which, both as a witness and a friend, he could render him most essential services in Virginia.

I exchanged three or four visits with these gentlemen, and, in the meantime, was informed that Mr Jones was a rising character in England, that he had refused a very lucrative appointment in the Indies, and had by his talents excited the notice of men in power.

In conversing one morning with this gentleman on English affairs, he took occasion to mention the part he had taken in them, and, at parting, gave me two pamphlets he had published.

The first was a second edition of "An Inquiry into the Legal Mode of Suppressing Riots, &c." first published in 1780, to which was added, "A Speech on the Nomination of Candidates to Represent the County of Middlesex, on the 9th of September, 1780." And this second edition contained also a letter, dated the 25th of April, 1782, from Mr Jones to Mr Yeates, the Secretary to the Society for Constitutional Information, of which Mr Jones is a member. The other was a Speech to the assembled Inhabitants of Middlesex and Surry, &c. on the 28th of May, 1782.

As it appeared to me a little extraordinary that a gentleman of Mr Jones's rising reputation and expectations should be so smitten with the charms of American liberty, as "to leave all, and follow her," I began, on returning to my lodgings, to read these pamphlets with a more than common degree of curiosity, and I was not a little surprised to find the following paragraphs in them.

In his letter to Mr Yeates of last April, he says, "my future life shall certainly be devoted to the support of that excellent constitution, which it is the object of your society to unfold and elucidate, and from this resolution long and deliberately made, no prospects, no connexions, no station here or abroad, no fear of danger, or hope of advantage to myself, shall ever deter or allure me."

He begins his essay on suppressing riots, by saying, "It has long been my opinion, that in times of national adversity, those citizens are entitled to the highest praise, who, by personal exertions and active valor, promote, at their private hazard, the general welfare."

In his speech of last April, are these paragraphs; in the first, speaking of his being sick, he says, "It would prevent my attendance, for in health or in sickness I am devoted to your service. I shall never forget the words of an old Roman, Ligarius, who, when the liberties of his country were in imminent danger, and when a real friend to those liberties was condoling with him on his illness at so critical a time, raised himself from his couch, seized the hand of his friend, and said, if you have any business worthy of yourselves, I am well."

"Since I have risen to explain a sudden thought, I will avail myself of your favorable attention, and hazard a few words on the general question itself. Numbers have patience to hear, who have not time to read. And as to myself, a very particular and urgent occasion, which calls me some months from England, will deprive me of another opportunity to communicate my sentiments, until the momentous object before us shall be made certainly attainable through the concord, or forever lost and irrecoverable, through the disagreement of the nation."

To make comments on these extracts would be to waste time and paper. On reading them, I became persuaded that Mr Paradise and American liberty were mere pretences to cover a more important errand to America, and I was surprised that Mr Jones's vanity should so far get the better of his prudence, as to put such pamphlets into my hands at such a time.

I pointed out these extracts to Dr Franklin; but they did not strike him so forcibly as they had done me. I mentioned my apprehensions also to the Marquis de Lafayette, and I declined giving any letters either to Mr Paradise or to Mr Jones.

I am the more particular on this subject, in order that you may the better understand the meaning of a paragraph in my letter to you, of the 28th of June last, where I inform you, "that, if one may judge from appearances, the Ministry are very desirous of getting some of their emissaries into our country, either in an avowed or in a private character; and, all things considered, I should think it more safe not to admit any Englishman in either character within our lines at this very critical juncture."

Mr Jones and Mr Paradise went from hence to Nantes in order to embark there for America. Some weeks afterwards I met Mr Paradise at Passy. He told me Mr Jones and himself had parted at Nantes, and that the latter had returned directly to England. How this happened I never could learn. It was a subject on which Mr Paradise was very reserved. Perhaps the sentiments of America, on General Carleton's overtures, had rendered Mr Jones's voyage unnecessary; but in this I may be mistaken, for it is mere conjecture.

On the 25th of July, 1782, the King of Great Britain issued a warrant,[4] or order, directed to his Attorney or Solicitor-General.

A copy of this warrant was sent by express to Mr Oswald, with an assurance that the commission should be completed and sent him in a few days. He communicated this paper to Dr Franklin, who, after showing it to me, sent it to the Count de Vergennes. The Count wrote to the Doctor the following letter on the subject.


"I have received, Sir, the letter of today, with which you have honored me, and the copy of the powers, which Mr Oswald communicated to you. The form in which it is conceived, not being that which is usual, I cannot form my opinion on the first view of it. I am going to examine it with the greatest attention, and, if you will be pleased to come here on Saturday morning, I shall be able to confer about it with you and Mr Jay, if it should be convenient for him to accompany you.

"I have the honor to be, &c.


"Versailles, August 8th, 1782."

On the 10th of August, we waited upon the Count de Vergennes, and a conference between him and us, on the subject of Mr Oswald's commission, ensued.

The Count declared his opinion, that we might proceed to treat with Mr Oswald under it, as soon as the original should arrive. He said it was such a one as we might have expected it would be, but that we must take care to insert proper articles in the treaty, to secure our independence and our limits against all future claims.

I observed to the Count, that it would be descending from the ground of independence to treat under the description of Colonies. He replied, that names signified little; that the King of Great Britain's styling himself the King of France was no obstacle to the King of France's treating with him; that an acknowledgment of our independence, instead of preceding, must in the natural course of things be the effect of the treaty, and that it would not be reasonable to expect the effect before the cause. He added, that we must be mindful to exchange powers with Mr Oswald, for that his acceptance of our powers, in which we were styled Commissioners from the United States of America, would be a tacit admittance of our independence. I made but little reply to all this singular reasoning. The Count turned to Dr Franklin and asked him what he thought of the matter. The Doctor said, he believed the commission would do. He next asked my opinion. I told him that I did not like it, and that it was best to proceed cautiously.

On returning, I could not forbear observing to Dr Franklin, that it was evident the Count did not wish to see our independence acknowledged by Britain, until they had made all their uses of us. It was easy for them to foresee difficulties in bringing Spain into a peace on moderate terms, and that if we once found ourselves standing on our own legs, our independence acknowledged, and all our other terms ready to be granted, we might not think it our duty to continue in the war for the attainment of Spanish objects. But, on the contrary, as we were bound by treaty to continue the war till our independence should be attained, it was the interest of France to postpone that event, until their own views and those of Spain could be gratified by a peace, and that I could not otherwise account for the Minister's advising us to act in a manner inconsistent with our dignity, and for reasons, which he himself had too much understanding not to see the fallacy of.

The Doctor imputed this conduct to the moderation of the Minister, and to his desire of removing every obstacle to speedy negotiations for peace. He observed, that this Court had hitherto treated us very fairly, and that suspicions to their disadvantage should not be readily entertained. He also mentioned our instructions, as further reasons for our acquiescence in the advice and opinion of the Minister. A day or two afterwards I paid a visit to Mr Oswald, and had a long conversation with him respecting his commission. On the resignation of Mr Fox, many reports to the prejudice of Lord Shelburne's sincerity, on the subject of American independence, had spread through France as well as through Great Britain. His Lordship, fearful of their effect on the confidence with which he wished to inspire the American commissioners, conveyed by Mr Benjamin Vaughan to Dr Franklin an extract of certain instructions to Sir Guy Carleton, of which the following is a copy, viz.

"June 25th, 1782. It has been said, that 'great effects might be obtained by something being done spontaneously from England.' Upon this and other considerations, his Majesty has been induced to give a striking proof of his royal magnanimity and disinterested wish for the restoration of peace, by commanding his Majesty's Ministers to direct Mr Grenville, that the independence of America should be proposed by him in the first instance, instead of making it the condition of a general peace.

"I have given a confidential information to you of these particulars, that you may take such measures as shall appear to you most advisable for making a direct communication of the substance of the same, either immediately to Congress, or through the medium of General Washington, or in any other manner, which you may think most likely to impress the well disposed parts of America with the fairness and liberality of his Majesty's proceedings in such great and spontaneous concessions.

"The advantages, which we may expect from such concessions are, that America, once apprised of the King's disposition to acknowledge the independence of the thirteen States, and of the disinclination in the French Court to terminate the war, must see that it is from this moment to be carried on with a view of negotiating points, in which she can have no concern, whether they regard France, or Spain and Holland at the desire of France; but some of which, on the contrary, may be in future manifestly injurious to the interests of America herself.

"That if the negotiation is broken off, it will undoubtedly be for the sake of those powers, and not America, whose object is accomplished the instant she accepts of an independence, which is not merely held out to her in the way of negotiation by the executive power, but a distinct unconditional offer, arising out of the resolutions of Parliament, and therefore warranted by the sense of the nation at large.

"These facts being made notorious, it is scarce conceivable that America, composed as she is, will continue efforts under French direction, and protract the distresses and calamities, which it is well known that war has subjected her to. It is to be presumed, that from that moment she will look with jealousy on the French troops in that country, who may from allies become dangerous enemies.

"If, however, any particular States, men, or description of men, should continue against the general inclination of the Continent devoted to France, this communication will surely detect their views, expose their motives, and deprive them of their influence in all matters of general concern and exertion. You will, however, take particular care in your manner of conducting yourselves, not only that there should not be the smallest room for suspicions of our good faith and sincerity, but that we have no view in it of causing dissensions among the colonies, or even of separating America from France upon terms inconsistent with her own honor. You must therefore convince them, that the great object of this country is, not merely peace, but reconciliation with America on the noblest terms and by the noblest means."

In the course of the beforementioned conversation with Mr Oswald, I reminded him, that the judgment and opinion of America respecting the disposition and views of Britain towards her, must be determined by facts and not by professions. That the Enabling Act, and the Commission granted to him in pursuance of it, by no means harmonised with the language of these instructions to Sir Guy Carleton. That unless the offers and promises contained in the latter were realised, by an immediate declaration of our independence, America would naturally consider them as specious appearances of magnanimity, calculated to deceive and disunite them, and, instead of conciliating, would tend to irritate the States. I also urged, in the strongest terms, the great impropriety, and consequently the utter impossibility of our ever treating with Great Britain on any other than an equal footing, and told him plainly, that I would have no concern in any negotiation, in which we were not considered as an independent people.

Mr Oswald upon this, as upon every other occasion, behaved in a candid and proper manner. He saw and confessed the propriety of these remarks; he wished his commission had been otherwise, but was at a loss how to reconcile it to the King's dignity, to make such a declaration, immediately after having issued such a commission. I pointed out the manner in which I conceived it might be done; he liked the thought, and desired me to reduce it to writing. I did so, and communicated it to Dr Franklin, and, as we corrected it, is as follows, viz.

"George III, &c. to Richard Oswald, greeting. Whereas by a certain act, &c. (here follows the Enabling Act.)

"And whereas, in pursuance of the true intent and meaning of the said act, and to remove all doubts and jealousies, which might otherwise retard the execution of the same, we did, on the —— day of —— instruct Sir Guy Carleton, &c. our General, &c. to make known to the people of the said Colonies, in Congress assembled, our royal disposition and intention to recognise the said Colonies as independent States, and as such, to enter with them into such a treaty of peace as might be honorable and convenient to both countries.

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