of your letters for my text. Vide yours of April 13, 1782, in
which you say : you was of opinion that the late ministry
desired SINCERELY a reconciliation with America, and
with that view a separate peace with us was proposed.
I must qualify this sentence much, before I can adopt it
as my opinion. As to reconciliation, I never gave much
credit to them for that wish. It is a sweet expression.
It certainly means MORE than peace. The utmost I
ever gave the late ministry credit for, was a wish for peace.
And I still believe that the wisest among them grew from
day to day more disposed to peace or an abatement of the
war, in proportion as they became more alarmed for their
own situations and their responsibility. Had the war
been more successful, I should not have expected much
relenting towards peace or reconciliation. That this has
always been the measure of my opinion of them, I refer
you to some words in a letter from me to you, dated
January 5, 1780, for proof " but for the point of sin
cerity ; why as to that I have not much to say ; I have at
least expected some hold upon their prudenct. My argu
ment runs thus : It is a bargain for you (ministers) to be
PART III. OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN.
sincere now. Common prudence may hint to you to look
to yourselves. It has amazed me beyond measure, that
this principle of common selfish prudence has not had the
effect which I expected." I have not been disposed to
be deceived by any conciliatory professions which I con
sidered only as arising from prudence, and 1 hope that I
have not led you into any deception, having so fully ex
plained myself to you on that head. Had the American
war been more prosperous on the part of the late ministry,
1 do not believe the late resignation would have taken
place. But it is evident from the proposition to the
court of France which you have communicated to me,
(and which I have communicated to the present ministry
with your letter) that even to the last hour, some part of
the late ministry were still set upon the American war to
the last extremity ; and probably another more prudent
part of the ministry would proceed no farther ; which, if
it be so, may reasonably be imputed as the cause of the
dissolution of the late ministry. These have been the
arguments which I have always driven and insisted upon
with the greatest expectation of success, viz. prudential
arguments from the total impracticability of the war ;
responsibility, Sic. I have been astonished beyond mea
sure, that these arguments have not sooner had their effect.
If I could give you an idea of many conferences which I
have had upon the subject, I should tell you, that many
times Felix has trembled. When reduced by the terror
of responsibility either to renounce the American war, or
to relinquish their places, they have chosen the latter ;
which is a most wretched and contemptible retribution
either to their country or to mankind, for the desolation
in which they have involved every nation that they have
124 PRIVATE CORRESPONDENCE PART III.
ever been connected with. Peace they would not leave
behind them. Their legacy to their country, and to man
kind has been ; let darkness be the burier of the dead!
As to the proposal of a separate peace arising from a
desire of reconciliation, it certainly was so on the part of
the people of England, but on the part of the late ministry,
it probably arose from the hopes of suggesting to France
ideas of some infidelity on the part of America towards
them. If you should ask me, why I have seemed to con
spire with this, my answer is very plain. In the first
place, if I could have prevailed with the late ministry to
have actually made an irrevocable offer, on their own parts,
of a separate peace to America, that very offer would in
the same instant have become on their part also a consent
to a general peace ; because they never had any wish to a
separate contest with France, and America being out of
the question, they would have thought of nothing after
that but a general peace. I never could bring them even
to this. They wished that America should make the offer
of a separate treaty (for obvious views). My proposal
was, that they should offer irrevocable terms of peace to
America. If they had meant what they pretended, and
what the people of England did really desire, they would
have adopted that proposition. Then the question would
have come forward upon the fair and honourable construc
tion of a treaty between France and America, the essential
and direct end of which was fully accomplished. When I
speak of Great Britain offering irrevocable terms of peace
to America, I mean such terms as would have effectually
satisfied the provision of the treaty, viz. tacit independence.
I send you a paper intitled a Brtviatt,* which I laid be-
1 Vide the same following this letter.
PART III. OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN. 125
fore the late ministry, and their not having acted upon it,
was a proof to ine that the disposition of their heart to
America was not altered, but that all their relenting arose
from the impracticability of that war, and their want of
success .in it. But desponding as they were at last, it was
not inconsistent with my expectations of their conduct,
that they should make great offers to France to abandon
America. It was the only weapon left in their hands.
In course of negociating with the late ministry 1 perceived
their courage drooping from time to time, for the last
three or four years, and it was upon that ground I gave
them credit for an increasing disposition towards peace.
Some dropped off ; others sunk under the load of folly ;
and at last they all failed. My argument ad homines to
the late ministry, might be stated thus. If you don t kill
them, 1 they will kill you. But the war is impracticable on
your part ; ergo, the best thing you can do for your own
sake is to make peace. This was reasoning to men, and
through men to things. But there is no measure of rage
in pride and disappointment,
Spicula c&ca relinquunt
Infixa vents, animasque in vulnere ponunt.
So much for the argument of the Breviate as far as it re
spected the late ministry. It was a test which proved
that they were not sincere to their professions. If they
had been in earnest to have given the war a turn towards
the house of Bourbon, and to have dropped the American
war, a plain road lay before them. The sentiment of the
people of England was conformable to the argument of
that breviate ; or rather I should say what is the real truth,
that the argument of the breviate was dictated by the no-
126 PRIVATE CORRESPONDENCE PART III.
toriety of that sentiment in the people of England. My
object and wish always has been to strike at the root of
the evil, the American war. If the British nation have
jealousies and resentments against the house of Bourbon,
yet still the first step in every case would be to rescind
the American war, and not to keep it lurking in the rear,
to become hereafter, in case of certain events, a rever
sionary war with America for unconditional terms.
This reversionary war was never the object of the people
of England : therefore the argument of the breviate was
calculated bona fide to accomplish their views, and to dis
criminate the fallacious pretences of the late administra
tion from the real wishes of the country, as express
ed in the circular resolution of many counties in the
year 1780, first moved at York on March 28, 1780.
Every other principle and every mode of conduct only
imply, as you very justly express it, a secret hope that war
may still produce successes, and then . The designs
which have been lurking under this pretext could not mean
any thing else than this. Who knows but that we may
still talk to America at last. The only test of clear inten
tions would have been this, to have cut up the American
war and all possible return to it for any cause, or under
any pretext. I am confident that the sentiment of the
people of England is and always has been to procure peace
and reconciliation with America, and to vindicate the na
tional honour in the contest with the house of Bourbon.
If this intention had been pursued in a simple and direct
manner, I am confident that the honour and safety of the
British nation would long ago have been established in a
general peace with all the belligerent powers. These are
the sentiments to which I have always acted in those ne-
PART III. OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN. 127
gociations which I have had upon the subject of peace
with the late ministry. Reconciliation with America and
peace with all the world upon terms consistent with the
honour and safety of my own country.
Peace must be sought in such ways as promise the
greatest degree of practicability. The sentiments of indi
viduals as philanthropists may be overborne by the power
of ancient prejudices which too frequently prevail in the
aggregates of nations. In such case the philanthropist
who wishes the good of his own country, and of mankind,
must be the bull-rush bending to the storm, and not the
sturdy oak unavailingly resisting. National prejudices
are, I hope, generally upon the decline. Reason and hu
manity gain ground every day against their natural ene
mies, folly and injustice. The ideas of nations being
natural enemies to each other are generally reprobated.
But still jealousies and ancient rivalships remain, which
obstruct the road to peace among men. If one bellige
rent nation will entertain a standing force of three or four
hundred thousand fighting men, other nations must have
defended frontiers and barrier towns, and the barrier of a
neighbouring island whose constitution does not allow a
standing military force, must consist in a superiority at sea.
It is necessary for her own defence. If all nations by
mutual consent will reduce their offensive powers, which
they only claim under the pretext of necessary defence,
and bring forward the reign of the Millenium ; then away
with your frontiers and barriers, and your Gibraltars,
and the key of the Baltic, and all the hostile array of na
Aspera compositis mitescant sacula belli*.
These must be the sentiments of every philanthropist in
128 PRIVATE CORRESPONDENCE PART III.
his interior thoughts. But if we are not to seek peace by
some practicable method accommodated to the remaining
prejudices of the multitude, we shall not in our time, I
fear, see that happy day. If Great Britain and France
are ancient rivals ; then, until the reign of the Millenium
shall approach, arrange that rivalship upon equitable terms;
as the two leading nations of Europe, set them in balance
to each other ; the one by land, the other by sea. Give to
Fi ance her elevated rank among the nations of Europe.
Give to Great Britain the honour of her flag,and the secu
rity of her island by her wooden walls, and there would be
no obstruction to general and perpetual peace. The pre
judices of disrespect between nations prevail only among
the inferior ranks. Believe me, for one at least, I have
the highest sentiments of respect for the nation of France.
I have no other sentiments of hostility but what are ho
nourable towards them, and which as a member of a rival
state at war with them, consists in the duty of vigilance
\vhich I owe towards the honour and interests of my own
country. I am not conscious of a word or a thought
which on the point of honour 1 would wish to have con
cealed from a French minister. In the mode which
I have proposed of unravelling the present subjects of jea
lousy and contest, I would make my proposals openly to
France herself. Let America be free, and enjoy happi
ness and peace for ever. If France and Great Britain
have jealousies or rivalships between themselves as Euro
pean nations, I then say to France ; let us settle these
points between ourselves ; if unfortunately we shall not be
able by honourable negociation to compromise the indis
pensable points of national honour and safety. This
would be my language to France, open and undisguised.
PART III. OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN. 129
In the mean while I desire you to observe that it would
not be with reluctance that I should offer eternal freedom,
happiness and peace to America. You know my thoughts
too well to suspect that. I speak only as in a state of
war desirous to arrange the complicated interests and to
secure the respective honour of nations. My wishes are
and always have been for the peace, liberty and safety of
mankind. In the pursuit of those blessed objects not
only this country and America, but France herself and the
house of Bourbon, may justly claim the conspiring exer
tions of every free and liberal mind, even among their
temporary enemies and rivals. I am, &c.
[Inclosed in the Letter of D. HARTLEY, Esg. of
May 1, 1782.]
Breviate, Feb. 7, 1782.
Jtis stated that America is disposed to en
ter into a negociation of peace with Great Britain with-
ut requiring any formal recognition of Independence ;
always understood that they are to act in conjunction with
their allies, conformable to treaties.
It is therefore recommended to give for reply that the
ministers of Great Britain are likewise disposed to enter
into a negociation for peace, and that they are ready to
open a general treaty for that purpose.
If the British ministers should see any objection to a ge
neral treaty, but should still be disposed to enter into a
separate treaty with America, it is then recommended to them,
to offer such terms to America as shall induce her to apply
to her allies for their consent that she should be permitted
to enter into a separate treaty with Great Britain. The
VOL. ii. 1
150 PRIVATE CORRESPONDENCE PART lit.
condition of which being the consent of allies, no propo
sition of any breach of faith can be understood to be re
quired by them by the requisition of a separate treaty.
The British ministers are free to make any propositions
to America which they may think proper, provided they be
not dishonourable in themselves, which in the present case
is barred by the supposition of consent being obtained.
In this case therefore if they should be inclined to offer a
separate treaty it is recommended to them to offer such
terms to America, as should induce her to be desirous of
closing with the proposal of a separate treaty on the
grounds of national security and interests, and likewise
such as may constitute to them a case of reason and justice
upon which they may make requisition to their allies for
their consent. It is suggested that the offer to America
of a truce of sufficient length, together with the removal of
the British troops, would be equivalent to that case which
is provided for in the treaty of February 6, 1778, between
America and France, viz. tacit independence ; and the de
clared ends of that alliance being accomplished it would
not be reasonable that America should be dragged on by
their allies in a war, the continuance of which between
France and Great Britain could only be caused by sepa
rate European jealousies and resentments (if unfortunately
for the public peace any such should arise) between them
selves, independent and unconnected with the American
cause. It is to be presumed that France would not in
point of honour to their allies refuse their consent so re
quested, as any rivalship or punctilios between her and
Great Britain, as European nations (principles which too
frequently disturb the peace of mankind), could not be
considered as casus feeder is of the American alliance j and
PART III. OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN. 131
their pride as a belligerent power would not permit them
to claim the assistance of America as necessary to their
support, thereby proclaiming their nation unequal to the
contest in case of the continuance of a war with Great
Britain after the settlement and pacification with America.
Their consent therefore is to be presumed. But if they
should demur on this point, if Great Britain should be dis
posed to concede tacit independence to America by a long
truce and the removal of the troops, and if the obstruction
should evidently occur on the part of France, under any
equivocal or captious construction of a defensive treaty of
alliance between America and Fiance, Great Britain would
from thenceforward stand upon advantage ground, either
in any negociation with America, or in the continuance of
a war including America, but not arising from any farther
resentments of Great Britain towards America, but im
posed reluctantly upon both parties by the conduct of the
Court of France.
These thoughts are not suggested with any view of giv
ing any preference in favour of a separate treaty above a
general treaty, or above any plans of separate but con
comitant treaties, like the treaties of Munster and Osna-
burgh, but only to draw out the line of negociating a sepa
rate treaty in case the British ministry should think it ne
cessary to adhere to that mode. But in all cases it should
seem indispensable to express some disposition on the part
of Great Britain to adopt either one mode or the other.
An absolute refusal to treat at all must necessarily drive
America into the closest connexion with France and all
other foreign hostile powers, who would take that advan
tage for making every possible stipulation to the future
disadvantage of British interests, and above all things .would
152 PRIVATE CORRESPONDENCE 1 AIIT 111.
probably stipulate that America should never make peace
with Great Britain without the most formal and explicit
recognition of their Independence, absolute and unlimited.
PRIVATE JOURNAL OF PROCEEDINGS, as kept by
DR. FRANKLIN, relative to the Negociations for
Peace between Great Britain and the United States
of America, in the period between the 21st March
and 1st July 1782.
niVfVnlh^rff : ,9oi^ <* *** : V v ~
As since the change of ministry in England,
some serious professions have been made of their disposi
tion to peace, and of their readiness to enter into a general
treaty for that purpose ; and as the concerns and claims of
five nations are to be discussed in that treaty, which must
therefore be interesting to the present age and to posterity,
I am inclined to keep a journal of the proceedings as far
-as they come to my knowledge, and to make it more com
plete will first endeavour to recollect what has already
Great affairs sometimes take their rise from small cir
cumstances. My good friend and neighbour Madame
Brillon being at Nice all last winter for her health, with
her very amiable family, wrote to me that she had met
with some English gentry there whose acquaintance proved
agreeable ; among them she named Lord Cholmondeley,
who she said had promised to call in his return to Eng
land,, and drink tea with us at Passy. He left Nice sooner
than she supposed, and came to Paris long before her.
On the 21st of March I received the following note.
* Lord Cbolmondeley s compliments to Dr. Franklin,
pARTIII. OF BENJAMIN FRANKMN. 133
he sets out for London to-morrow evening, and should be
glad to see him for five minutes before he weut. Lord
C. will call upon him at any time in the morning he shall
please to appoint.
Thursday Evening, Hotel de Chartres."
I wrote for answer that I should be ^at home all the next
morning, and glad to see his Lordship, if he did me the
honor of calling upon me. He came accordingly. I had
before no personal knowledge of this nobleman. We
talked of our friends whom he left at Nice, then of affairs
in England, and the late resolutions of the Commons
on Mr. Conway s motion. He told me that he knew
Lord Shelburne had a great regard for me, and he was
sure his Lordship would be pleased to hear from me, and
that if 1 would write a line he should have a pleasure in
carrying it. On which I wrote the following.
To LORD SHELBURNE.
Passy, March ZZ, 1782.
Lord Cholmondeley having kindly offered to
take a letter from me to your Lordship, I embrace the
opportunity of assuring the continuance of my ancient
respect for your talents and virtues, and of congratulating
you on the returning good disposition of your country in
favour of America, which appears in the late resolutions
of the Commons. I am persuaded it will have good
effects. I hope it will tend to produce a general peace,
which I am sure your Lordship with all good men desires,
which I wish to see before I die, and to which I shall with
jnnnite pleasure contribute every thing in my power.
134 PRIVATE CORRESPONDENCE PART III.
Your friends the Abb Morellet, and Madame Helvetius
are well. With great and sincere esteem, I have the
honour to be, my Lord, your Lordship s most obedient
and most humble servant, B. FRANKLIN.
Soon after this we heard from England that a total
change had taken place in the ministry, and that Lord
Shelburne was come in as Secretary of State. But I
thought no more of my letter till an old friend and near
neighbour of mine, many years in London, 1 appeared at
Passy, and introduced a Mr. Oswald, who he said had a
great desire to see me ; and Mr. Oswald after some little
conversation gave me the following letters from Lord
Shelburne, and Mr. Laurens.
; r t r
DEAR SIR, London, April 6, 1782.
I have been favoured with your letter, and
am much obliged by your remembrance. I find myself
returned nearly to the same situation, which you remember
me to have occupied nineteen years ago, and should be
very glad to talk to you as I did then, and afterwards in
1767, upon the means of promoting the happiness of
mankind ; a subject much more agreeable to my nature,
than the best concerted plans for spreading misery and de
vastation. I have had a high opinion of the compass of your
mind, and of your foresight. 1 have often been beholden to
both, and shall be glad to be so again, so far as is compa
tible with your situation. Your letter discovering the same
disposition has made me send to you Mr. Oswald. I have
had a longer acquaintance with him, than even I have had the
pleasure to have with you. I believe him an honest man,
Caleb Whiteford, Esq.
JPART III. OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN.
and after consulting some of our common friends, I have
thought him the fittest for the purpose. He is a practical
man, and conversant in those negociations, which are most
interesting to mankind. This has made me prefer him to
any of our speculative friends, or to any person of higher
rank. He is fully apprized of my mind, and you may
give full credit to every thing he assures you of. At the
same time if any other channel occurs to you, I am ready
to embrace it. I wish to retain the same simplicity and
good faith, which subsisted between us in transactions of
less importance. I have the honour to be, with great and
sincere esteem, dear Sir, your faithful and most obedient
FROM HENRY LAURENS, ESQ. TO DR. FRANKLIN.
DEAR SIR, London, April 7, 1782.
Richard Oswald, Esq. who will do me
. the honour of delivering this, is a gentleman of the strict
est candor and integrity. I dare give such assurance from
an experience Jittle short of thirty years ; and to add, you
will be perfectly safe in conversing freely with him on the
business which he will introduce ; a business in which Mr.
Oswald has disinterestedly engaged from motives of bene
volence ; and from the choice of the man a persuasion
follows that the electors mean to be in earnest. Some
people in this country, who have too long indulged them
selves in abusing every thing American, have been pleased
to circulate an opinion that Dr. Franklin is a very cunning
man ; in answer to which I have remarked to Mr. Oswald,
" Dr. Franklin knows very well how to manage a cunning
man, but when the doctor converses or treats with a man
136 PRIVATE CORRESPONDENCE PAIlT UK
of candor, there is no man more candid than himself/ 1
do not know whether you will ultimately agree in political
sketches, but I am sure, as gentlemen, you will part very
well pleased with each other.
Should you, Sir, think it proper to communicate to me
your sentiments and advice on our affairs, the more ample
the more acceptable, and probably the more serviceable.
Mr. Oswald will take charge of your dispatches, and
afford a secure means of conveyance ; to this gentleman I
refer you for general information of a journey which I am
immediately to make partly in his company ; at Ostend to
file off for the Hague. I feel a willingness, infirm as I
am, to attempt doing as much good as can be expected
from such a prisoner on parole. As General Burgoyne
is certainly exchanged, (a circumstance by the bye which