nothing unsuitable to my character, or inconsistent with
miral, afterwards Lord Rodney. That in Mr. Fox s letter (which
this friend actually saw) there was a general intimation of a wish
for peace, but that Mr. W. did not consider himself as authorized
to take any step towards obtaining it ; and that he is confident
he did not expect to be employed for the purpose which occa
sioned Mr. Oswald s mission.
PART III. OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN. 209
my duty to my country ; I did not ask hiii* the particular
occasion of his saying this, but thought it looked a little
as if something inconsistent with my duty had been talked
of or proposed.
Mr. Oswald also gave me a copy of a paper of memo
randums written by Lord Shelburne, viz.
1 . That I am ready to correspond more particularly
with Dr. Franklin if wished.
2. That the enabling act is passing with the insertion
of commissioners recommended by Mr. Oswald, and on
our part commissioners will be named, or any character
given to Mr. Oswald, which Dr. Franklin and he may
judge conducive to a final settlement of things between
Great Britain and America. Which Dr. Franklin very
properly says requires to be treated in a very different
naanner from the peace between Great Britain and France,
who have been always at enmity with each other.
3. That an establishment for the loyalists must always
be upon Mr. Oswald s mind, as it is uppermost in Lord
Shelburne s, besides other steps in their favour, to in
fluence the several States to agree to a fair restoration or
compensation for whatever confiscations have taken place,,
4. To give Lord Shelburne s letter about Mr. Walpule
to Dr. Franklin.
On perusing this paper, I recollected that a bill had
been some time since proposed in parliament to enable his
Majesty to conclude a peace or truce with the revolted
Colonies in America, which 1 supposed to be the enabling
bill mentioned ; that had hitherto slept, and not having
been passed was perhaps the true reason why the colonies
were not mentioned in Mr. Grenville s commission. Mr.
Oswald thought it likely, and said that the words <f inser-
VOL. II. O
210 PRIVATE CORRESPONDENCE PART HI.
tion of commissioners recommended by Mr. Oswald "
related to his advising an express mention in the bill of
the commissioners appointed by congress to treat of peace,
instead of the vague denominations of any person or per
sons, &c. in the first draft of the bill. As to the loyalists,
I repeated what I said to him when first here, that their
estates had been confiscated by the laws made iii the par
ticular States where the delinquents had resided, and not
by any law of congress, who indeed had no -power either
to make such laws, or to repeal them, or to dispense with
them, and therefore could give no power to their commis
sioners to treat of a restoration for those people : that it
was an affair appertaining to each State. That if there
were justice in compensating them, it must be due from
England rather than from America ; but in my opinion,
England was not under any very great obligations to them,
since it was by their misrepresentations and bad counsels
that she had been drawn into this miserable war. And
that if an account was to be brought against us for their
losses, we should more than balance it, by an account of
the ravages tkey had committed all along the coasts of
America. Mr. Oswald agreed to the reasonableness of
all this, and said he had, before he came away, told the
ministers, that he thought no recom pence to those people
was to be expected from us ; that he had also, in conse
quence of our former conversation on that subject, given
it as his opinion that Canada should be given up to the
United States, as it would prevent the occasions of future
difference, and as the government of such a country was
worth nothing, and of no importance if they could have
there a free commerce ; that the Marquis of Rockingham
and Lord Shelburne, though they spoke reservedly, did
PART III. OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN. 21t
not seem very averse to it : but that Mr. Fox seemed
startled at the proposition. He was, however, not with
out hopes that it would be agreed to.
We now came to another article of the note, viz. tc On
our part commissioners will be named, or any character
given to Mr. Oswald which Dr. Franklin and he may
judge conducive to a final settlement of things between
Great Britain and America." This he said was left en
tirely to me, for he had no will in the affair ; he did not
desire to be farther concerned than to see it en train ; he
had no personal views either of honour or profit. He
had now seen and conversed with Mr. Grenville, thought
him a very sensible young gentleman, and very capable of
the business ; -he did not therefore see any farther occa
sion there was for himself; but if I thought otherwise,
and conceived he might be farther useful, he was content
to give his time and service in any character or manner I
should think proper. I said his knowledge of America,
where he had lived, and with every part of which and of
its commerce and circumstances he was well acquainted,
made me think that in persuading the ministry to things
reasonable relating to that country, he could speak or write
with more weight than Mr. Grenville, and therefore, I
wished him to continue in the service : and I asked him
whether he would like to be joined in a general commis
sion for treating with all the powers at war with England,
or to have a special commission to himself for treating
with America only : he said he did not chuse to be con
cerned in treating with the foreign powers, for he was not
sufficiently a master of their affairs, or of the French Ian*
guage, which probably would be used in treating ; if there
fore he accepted of any commission it should be that of
PRIVATE CORRESPONDENCE PART III.
treating with America. I told him I would write to Lord
Shelburne on the subject, but Mr. Grenville having some
time since dispatched a courier (partly on account of the
commission,) who was not yet returned, I thought it well
to wait a few days till we could see what answer he would
bring, or what measures were taken ; this he approved of.
The truth is, he appears so good and so reasonable a man,
that though I have no objection to Mr. Grenville, I
should be loth to lose Mr. Oswald. He seems to have
nothing at heart but the good of mankind, and putting a
stop to mischief; the other, a young statesman, may be
supposed to have naturally a little ambition of recom
mending himself as an able negociator.
In the afternoon Mr. Boeris of Holland, called on me
and acquainted me that the answer had not yet been given
to the last memorial from Russia, relating to the media
tion ; but it was thought it would be in respectful terms
to thank her imperial Majesty for her kind offers, and to
represent the propriety of their connection with France in
endeavours to obtain a general peace, and that they con
ceived it would be still more glorious for her Majesty to
employ her influence in procuring a general, th*an a partial
pacification. Mr. Boeris farther informed me, that they
were not well satisfied in Holland with the conduct of
the Russian court, and suspected views of continuing the
war for particular purposes.
Tuesday, June 4. I received another packet from Mr.
Hartley. It consisted of duplicates of the former letters
and papers already inserted, and contained nothing new
but the following letter from Colonel Hartley, his brother,
P/VRT III. OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN. 213
DEAR SIR, Soho Square, May 24, 1782.
It is with the greatest pleasure I take up
my pen to acknowledge your remembrance of me in yours
to my brother, and to thank you for those expressions of
regard which I can assure you are mutual. My brother
has desired me to copy some letters and papers by way of
sending you duplicates. I am particularly happy at the
employment, because the greatest object of my parlia
mentary life has been to co-operate with him in his
endeavours to put a period to this destructive war, and
forward the blessed work of peace. I hope to see him
again in that situation where he can so well serve his
country with credit to himself, and while I have the honour
of being in parliament, my attention will be continued to
promote the effects, which will naturally flow from those
principles of freedom and universal philanthropy you have
both so much supported. While I copy his words, my
own feelings and judgment are truly in unison, and I have
but to add the most ardent wish that peace and happiness
may crown the honest endeavours towards so desirable an
end. I am, dear Sir, with the greatest respect and esteem,
yours sincerely, W. H. HARTLEY.
Wednesday, June o. Mr. Oswald called again to
acquaint me that Lord Cornwallis being, very anxious to
be discharged from his parole as soon as possible, has sent
me a Major Ross hither to solicit it, supposing Mr.
Laurens might be here with me. Mr. Oswald told me,
what I had not before heard, that Mr. Laurens while
prisoner in the Tower, had proposed obtaining the dis
charge of Lord Cornwallis in exchange for himself, and
214 PRIVATE CORRESPONDENCE PART 111.
u )i ? > -;. Me ittQX3b.au
had promised to use his utmost endeavours to that purpose,
in case he was set at liherty, not doubting the success. I
communicated to Mr. Oswald what had already passed be
tween Mr. Laurens and me respecting Lord Cornwallis ;
which appears in the preceding letters, and told him, I
should have made less difficulty about the discharge of his
parole, if Mr. Laurens had informed me of his being set
at liberty in consequence of such an offer and promise ;
and I wished him to state this in a letter to me, that it
might appear for my justification in what I might with
Mr. Laurens do in the affair; and that he would procure
for me from Major Ross a copy of the parole, that I
might be better acquainted with the nature of it. He ac
cordingly in the afternoon sent me the following letter.
SIR, Paris, June 5, 1
Sinn s idbiiu fti\v i. JosiloDS i \ tJYOMuu Sfli-QOi
While Mr. Laurens was under confine
ment in England, he promised, that on condition of his be
ing liberated upon his parole, he would apply to you for
an exchange in favour of my Lord Cornwallis, by a dis
charge of his Lordship s granted upon the surrender of his
garrison at the village of York in Virginia : and, in case of
your being under any difficulty in making such exchange,
he undertook to write to the Congress, and to request it of
that Assembly ; making no doubt of obtaining a favour
able answer without loss of time.
This proposal, signed by Mr. Laurens s hand, I carried
and delivered, I think, in the month of December last, to
his Majesty s then Secretaries of State, which was duly at
tended .IP ; and in consequence thereof, Mr. Laurens was
soon after set at full liberty. And though not a prisoner
PART III. OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN. 215
under parole, yet it is to be hoped a variation in the mode
of discharge will not be supposed of any essential diffe
And with respect to Mr. Laurens, I am satisfied he will
consider himself as much interested in the success of this
application as if his own discharge had been obtained un
der the form as proposed by the representation which I
delivered to the Secretaries of State ; and I make no doubt
will sincerely join my Lord Cornwallis in an acknowledg
ment of your favour and good offices in granting his Lord
ship a full discharge of his parole abovementioned. I
have the honour to be, with much respect, Sir, your most
obedient humble servant, RICHAKD OSWALD.
P. S. Major Ross has got no copy of Lord Corn-
wallis s parole. He says it was in the common form, as in
Since writing the above, 1 recollect I was under a mis
take, as if the proposal of exchange came first from Mr.
Laurens ; whereas it was made by his Majesty s Secreta
ries of State to me, that Mr. Laurens should endeavour to
procure the exchange of Lord Cornwallis, so as to be dis
charged himself. Which proposal I carried to Mr. Lau
rens, and had from him the obligation abovementioned,
upon which the mode of his discharge was settled.
To the foregoing I wrote this answer.
SIR, Passy, June 6, 1782.
I received the letter you did me the honour
of writing to me, respecting the parole of Lord Cornwallis.
216 PRIVATE CORRESPON DENCE PART HI.
You are acquainted with what I wrote some time since to
Mr. Laurens. To-morrow is post day from Holland,
when possibly I may receive an answer, with a paper
drawn up by him for the purpose of discharging that pa
role, to be signed by us jointly. I suppose the staying at
Paris another day will not be very inconvenient to Major
Ross ; and if I do not hear to-morrow from M r. Laurens,
I will immediately, in compliance with your request, do
what I can towards the liberation of Lord Cornwallis. I
have the honour to be, with great respect, Sir, your most
obedient humble servant,
R. Oswald, Esq. B. FRANKLIN.
Friday, June 7. Major Ross called upon me, to thank
me for the favourable intentions I had expressed in my
letter to Mr. Oswald respecting Lord Cornwallis, and to
assure me his Lordship would for ever remember it with
gratitude, &c. I told him it was our duty to alleviate as
much as we could the calamities of war ; that I expected
letters from Mr. Laurens relating to the affair, after the
receipt of which I would immediately complete it. Or if
I did not hear from Mr. L. I would speak to the Marquis
de la Fayette, get his approbation, and finish it without
Saturday, June 8. 1 received some newspapers from
England, in one of which is the following paragraph.
Extract from the London Evening Post of May 30, 1782.
" If reports on the spot speak truth, Mr. Grenville,
in his first visit to Dr. Franklin, gained a considerable
point of information as to the powers America had retained
PART III. OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN. 21?
for treating separately with Great Britain, in case her
claims or demands were granted.
The treaty of February 6, 1778, was made the basis of
this conversation ; and by the spirit and meaning of this
treaty, there is no obligation on America not to treat sepa
rately for peace, after she is assured England will grant her
independence, and a free commerce with all the world.
The first article of that treaty engages America and
France to be bound to each other as long as circumstances
may require ; therefore the granting America all that she
asks of England, is breaking the bond by which the cir
cumstances may bind America to France.
The second article says, the meaning and direct end of
the alliance is, to ensure the freedom and independence of
America. Surely, then, when freedom and independence
are allowed by Britain, America may or may not, as she
chuses, put an end to the present war between England
and America, and leave France to war on through all her
mad projects of reducing the power and greatness of
England, while America feels herself possessed of what
By the eighth article of the treaty neither France or
America can conclude peace without the assent of the
other ; and they engage not to lay down their arms, until
the independence of America is acknowledged ; but this
article does not exclude America from entering into a se
parate treaty for peace with England, and evinces more
strongly than the former article, that America may enter
into a separate treaty with England, when she is convinced
that England has insured to her, all that she can reason
r- !ou-" "
218 PRIVATE CORRESPONDENCE PART 111.
i conjecture that this must be an extract from a letter
of Mr. Grenville s. But it carries an appearance as if he
and I had agreed in these imaginary discourses of Ameri
ca s being at liberty to make peace without France, &c.
Whereas my whole discourse in the strongest terms de
clared our determinations to the contrary, and the impos
sibility of our acting not only contrary to the treaty, but
the duties of gratitude and honour, of which nothing is
mentioned. This young negociator seems to value him
self on having obtained from me a copy of the treaty. I
gave it him freely, at his request ; it being not so much a
secret as he imagined, having been printed, first in all the
American papers, soon after it was made ; then at London
in Almon s Remembrancer, which I wonder he did not
know : and afterwards in a collection of the American
Constitutions published by order of Congress. As such
imperfect accounts of our conversations find their way into
the English papers, I must speak to this gentleman of its
Sunday, June 9- Dr. Bancroft being intimately ac
quainted with Mr. Walpole, I this day gave him Lord
Shelburne ? * letter to Mr. Oswald, requesting he would
communicate it to that gentleman. Dr. Bancroft said it
was believed, both Russia and the Emperor wish the con
tinuance of the war, and aimed at procuring for England
a peace with Holland, that England might be better able
to continue it against France and Spain.
The Marquis de la Fayette having proposed to call on
me to-day, I kept back the discharge of Lord Cornwaliis,
which was written and ready, desiring to have his appro
bation to it, as he had in a former conversation advised it.
PART 111. OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN. 2.19
He did not come, but late in the evening sent me a note
acquainting me, that he had been prevented, by accom
panying the Grand Duke * to the review, but would break
fast with me to-morrow morning.
This day I received a letter from Mr. Dana, dated at
St. Petersburgh, April 29, in which is the following pas
sage. " We yesterday received the news that the States
General had on the IQth of this month (N.S.) acknowledg
ed the independence of the United States. This event gave
a shock here, and is not well received, as they at least pro
fess to have flattered themselves that the mediation would
have prevented it, and otherwise brought on a partial
peace between Britain and Holland. This resent
ment will not be productive of any ill consequences to the
Dutch republic." It is true that while the war continues
Russia feels a greater demand for the naval stores, and
perhaps at a higher price : but is it possible that for such
petty interests mankind can wish to see their neighbours
destroy each other ? Or, has the project lately talked of,
some foundation, that Russia and the Emperor intend
driving the Turks out of Europe ; and do they therefore
wish to see France and England so weakened as to be
unable to assist those people ?
Monday, June 10. Th Marquis de la Fayette did not
come till between 11 and 12. He brought with him Ma
jor Ross. After breakfast he told me (Major Ross being
gone into another room) that he had seen Mr. Grenville
lately, who asked him when he should go to America.
That he had answered, " I have stayed here longer than 1
1 The Grand Duke of Russia, then at Paris, under the title of
the Count da Nord. Afterwards the Emperor Paul.
220 PRIVATE CORRESPONDENCE PART III.
should otherwise have done, that I might see whether we
were to have peace or war, but as 1 see that the expecta
tion of peace is a joke, and that you only amuse us with
out any real intention of treating ; I think to stay no
longer, but set out in a few days." On which Mr. Grenville
assured him, it was no joke, that they were very sincere in
their proposal of treating, and that four or five days would
convince the Marquis of it. The Marquis then spoke to
me about a request of Major Ross s in behalf of himself,
Lord Chewton, a lieutenant-colonel, and Lieutenant Hal-
dane, who were aids-de-camp to Lord Cornwallis, that
they too might be set at liberty with him. I told the
Marquis that he was better acquainted with the custom
in such cases than I, and being himself one of the Gene
rals to whom their paroles had been given, he had more
right to discharge them than I had, and that if he judged it
a thing proper to be done, I wished him to do it. He
went to the bureau, saying, he would write something,
which he accordingly did. But it was not as I expected,
a discharge that he was to sign, it was for me to sign.
And the Major not liking that which I had drawn for Lord
Cornwallis, because there was a clause in it, reserving to
Congress the approbation or disallowance of my act, went
away without taking it. Upon which 1 the next morning
wrote the following to Mr. Oswald.
SIR, Pussy, June 11, 1782.
I did intend to have waited on you this
morning to inquire after your health, and deliver the en
closed paper relating to the parole of Lord Cornwallis,
but being obliged to go to Versailles, I must postpone my
PART III. OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN.
visit till to-morrow. I do not conceive that I have any
authority in virtue of my office here to absolve that parole
in any degree : I have therefore endeavoured to found it
as well as I could on the express power given me by Con
gress to exchange General Burgoyne for Mr. Laurens. A
reservation is made, of confirmation or disapprobation by
Congress, not from any desire in me to restrain the entire
liberty of that General ; but because I think it decent and
my duty to make such reservation, and that I might other
wise be blamed as assuming a power not given me, if I
undertook to discharge absolutely a parole given to Con
gress, without any authority from them for so doing.
With great esteem and respect,, I have the honour to be,
Sir, your most obedient servant, B. FRANKLIN.
I have received no answer from Mr. Laurens.
The following is the paper mentioned in the above letter.
" The Congress having, by a resolution of the 1 4th
of June last, empowered me to offer an exchange of Ge
neral Burgoyne for the honourable Mr. Laurens, then a
prisoner in the Tower of London, and whose liberty they
much desired to obtain; which exchange, though pro
posed by me according to the said resolution, had not been
accepted or executed, when advice was received that Ge
neral Burgoyne was exchanged in virtue of another agree
ment ; and Mr. Laurens having thereupon proposed ano
ther Lieutenant-General, viz. Lord Cornwallis, as an ex
change for himself, promising that if set at liberty he would
do his utmost to obtain a confirmation of that proposal :
and Mr. Laurens being soon after discharged, and having
since urged me earnestly in several letters, to join with him
PRIVATE CORRESPONDENCE PART HI.
in absolving the parole of that General, which appears to
be a thing just and equitable in itself, and for the honour
therefore of our country ; I do hereby as far as in my
power lies, in virtue of the above-mentioned resolution cr
otherwise, absolve and discharge the parole of Lord Con -
wallis given by him in Virginia ; setting him at entire
liberty to act in his civil and military capacity until the
pleasure of Congress shall be known, to whom is reserved
the confirmation or disapprobation of this discharge, in
case they have made, or shall intend to make a different
disposition. Given at Passy, this 9th day of June, 1782.
(Signed) B. FRANKLIN.
Minister Plenipotentiary from the United Stateb
of America, at the Court of France."
fejfii^cpg i!)i*/ iW 9>liit oJ &D to sr. .
I did not well comprehend the Major s conduct in re
fusing this paper. He was come express from London to
solicit a discharge of Lord C/s parole. He had said that
his Lordship was very anxious to obtain that discharge, be
ing unhappy in his present situation. One of his objec
tions to it was, that his Lordship with such a limited dis
charge of his parole could not enter into foreign service.
He declared it was not his Lordship s intention to return
to America. He would not accept the paper, unless the
reservation was omitted. I did not chuse to make the al
teration ; and so he left it, not well pleased with me.
This day, Tuesday, June 11, I was at Versailles and
had a good deal of conversation with M. de Rayneval, Se
cretary to the Council. I showed him the letters I had
received by Mr. Oswald from Lord Shelburne, and re
lated all the consequent conversation I had with Mr. Os
wald. I related to him also the conversation I had had
PART III. OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN. 223
with Mr. Grenville. We concluded that the reason of his
courier not being returned might be the formalities occa
sioning delay in passing the enabling bill. I went down
with him to the cabinet of M. de Vergennes, where all was
repeated and explained. That minister seemed now to be
almost persuaded that the English Court was sincere in its