worst and wickedest nation upon earth. A peace you
may undoubtedly obtain, by dropping all your pretensions
to govern us : and by your superior skill in huckstering
negociation, you may possibly make such an apparently
advantageous bargain as shall be applauded in your par
liament ; but you cannot with the peace recover the affec
tions of that people, it will not be a lasting nor a profit
able one, nor will it afford you any part of that strength
which you once had by your union with them, and might
1 See an account of this gentleman, Part I.
PART III. OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN. 7
(if you had been wise enough to take advice) have still re
To recover their respect and affection you must tread
back the steps you have taken.
Instead of honoring and rewarding the American advi
sers and promoters of this war, you should disgrace them ;
with all those who have inflamed the nation against Ame
rica by their malicious writings ; and all the ministers and
generals who have prosecuted the war with such inhuma
nity. This would show a national change of disposition,
and a disapprobation of what had passed.
In proposing terms, you should not only grant such as
the necessity of your affairs may evidently oblige you to
grant, but such additional ones as may show your genero
sity, and thereby demonstrate your good will. For in
stance, perhaps you might by your treaty retain all Cana
da, Nova Scotia, and the Floridas. But if you would
have a real friendly as well as able ally in America, and
avoid all occasion of future discord which will otherwise
be continually arising on your American frontiers, you
should throw in those countries. And you may call it if
you please an indemnification for the burning of their
towns, which indemnification will otherwise be some time
or other demanded.
I know your people will not see the utility of such mea
sures, and will never follow them, and even call it inso
lence and impudence in me to mention them. I have
however complied with your desire, and am as ever your
affectionate friend, B, FRANKLIN.
8 PRIVATE CORRESPONDENCE PART 111.
To MR. HUTTON.
DEAR OLD FRIEND, Passy, Feb. 12, 1778.
I wrote the above some time before I
received yours, acquainting rne with your speedy and safe
return, which gave me pleasure. I doubted after I had
written it, whether it would be well to send it ; for as
your proud nation despises us exceedingly, and demands
and expects absolute and humble submission, all talk of
treaty must appear imprudence, and tend to provoke
rather than conciliate. As you still press me by your last
to say something ; 1 conclude to send what I had written,
for I think the advice is good though it must be useless ;
and I cannot, as some amongst you desire, make propo
sitions, having none committed to me to make ; but we
can treat if any are made to us ; which however we do
not expect. 1 abominate with you all murder, and I
may add that the slaughter of men in an unjust cause is
nothing less than murder ; I therefore never think of your
present ministers and their abettors, but with the image
strongly painted ia my view, of their hands, red, wet, and
dropping with the blood of my countrymen, friends, and
relations. No peace can be signed by those hands. Peace
and friendship will nevertheless subsist for ever between
Mr. Hutton and his affectionate friend, B. FRANKU^,
To D. HARTLEY, ESQ. M. P.
DEAR SIR^ \ Passy, Feb. 12, 1778.
A thousand thanks for your so readily
engaging in the means of relieving our poor captives, and
the pains you have taken, and the advances you have made
for that purpose. I received your kind letter of the 3d
PART III. OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN. 9
instant, and send you enclosed a bill of 100/. I much
approve of Mr. Wren s prudent, as well as benevolent
conduct, in the disposition of the money, and wish him to
continue doing what shall appear to him and you to be
right, which I am persuaded will appear the same to me
and my colleagues here. I beg you will present him
when you write my respectful acknowledgments.
Your c< earnest caution and request that nothing may
ever persuade America to throw themselves into the arms
of France ; for that times may mend, and that an Ame
rican must always be a stranger in France, but that Great
Britain may for ages to come be their home," marks the
goodness of your heart, your regard for us, and love of
your country. But when your nation is hiring all the cut
throats it can collect of all countries and colours to de
stroy us, it is hard to persuade us not to ask or accept aid
from any power that may be prevailed with to grant it ;
and this only from the hope that though you now thirst
for our blood and pursue us with fire and sword, you may
in some future time treat us kindly. This is too much
patience to be expected of us ; indeed I think it is not in
human nature. The Americans are received and treated
here in France with a cordiality, a respect and affection
they never experienced in England when they most de
served it ; and which is now (after all the pains taken to
exasperate the English against them, and render them
odious as well as contemptible) less to be expected there
than ever. And I cannot see why we may not, upon an
alliance, hope for a continuance of it, at least of as much
as the Swiss enjoy, with whom France has maintained a
faithful friendship for two hundred years past, and whose
people appear to live here in as much esteem as the na-
10 PRIVATE CORRESPONDENCE PART III.
tives. America has been forced and driven into the arms
of France. 1 She was a dutiful and virtuous daughter. A
cruel molher-in-law turned her out of doors, defamed her,
and sought her life. All the world knows her innocence
and takes her part ; and her friends hope soon to see her
honourably married. They can never persuade her return
and submission to so barbarous an enemy. In her future
prosperity, if she forgets and forgives, tis all that can be
reasonably expected of her. 1 believe she will make as
good and useful a wife as she did a daughter, that her
husband will love and honour her, and that the family
from which she was so wickedly expelled, will long regret
the loss of her.
I know not whether a peace with us is desired in Eng
land. I i ather think it is not at present, unless on the
old impossible terms of submission and receiving pardon.
Whenever you shall be disposed to make peace upon equal
and reasonable terms, you will find little difficulty if you
get first an honest ministry. The present have all along
acted so deceitfully and treacherously as well as inhumanly
towards the Americans, that I imagine, the absolute want
of all confidence in them, will make a treaty at present
between them and the Congress impracticable.
The subscription for the prisoners will have excellent
effects in favour of England and Englishmen. The
Scotch subscriptions for raising troops to destroy us,
though amounting to much greater sums, will not do their
nation half so much good. If you have an opportunity I
1 The Treaty of Commerce and that of eventual alliance with
France had both been signed six days prior to the date of this
letter, though the fact was then kept secret.
PART III. OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN. 11
wish you would express our respectful acknowledgments
and thanks to your Committee and contributors, whose
benefactions will make our poor people as comfortable as
their situation can permit. Adieu, my dear friend. Ac
cept my thanks for the excellent papers you inclosed to
me. Your endeavours for peace, though unsuccessful,
will always be a comfort to you, and in time when this
mad v\ar shall be universally execrated, will be a solid
addition to your reputation. I am ever with the highest
/ 1 hi"i .i fi v jon-"ri hnu c *ti Mw iifrmif.nfi
P. S. An old friend of mine, Mr. Hutton, a chief of
the Moravians, who is often at the Queen s palace, and is
sometimes spoken to by the King, was over here lately.
He pretended to no commission, but urged nw much to
propose some terms of peace, which I avoided. He has
wrote to me since his return, pressing the same thing, and
expressing with some confidence his opinion that we
might have every thing short of absolute independence,
&c. Inclosed I send my answers ; open, that you may
read them, and if you please copy before you deliver or
forward them. 1 They will serve to show you more fully
my sentiments, though they serve no other purpose.
To D. HARTLEY, Eso. M. P.
DEAR SIR, Passy, Feb. 26, 1778.
I received yours of the 18th and 20th of
this month, with Lord North s proposed bills. The
more I see of the ideas and projects of your ministry, and
1 See the two preceding letters.
12 PRIVATE CORRESPONDENCE PART III.
their little arts and schemes of amusing and dividing us,
the more I admire the prudent, manly, and magnanimous
propositions contained in your intended motion for an
address to the King. What reliance can we have on an
act expressing itself to be only a declaration of the inten
tion of parliament concerning the exercise of the RIGHT
of imposing taxes in America, when in the bill itself, as
well as in the title, a right is supposed and claimed which
never existed ; and a present intention only is declared
not to use it, \vhich may be changed by another act next
session, with a preamble that this intention being found
inexpedient, it is thought proper to repeal this act and re
sume the exercise of the right in its full extent. If any
solid permanent benefit was intended by this, why is it
confined tb the colonies of North America, and not ex
tended to the loyal ones in the sugar islands ? But it is
now needless to criticise, as all acts that suppose your
future government of the colonies can be no longer signi-*
In the act for appointing commissioners instead of full
powers to agree upon terms of peace and friendship, with
a promise of ratifying such treaty as they shall make in
pursuance of those powers ; it is declared that their agree-*
inents shall have no force nor effect, nor be carried into
execution till approved of by parliament ; so that every
thing of importance will be uncertain. But they are al
lowed to proclaim a cessation of arms, and revoke their
proclamation as soon as in consequence of it our militia
have been allowed to go home : they may suspend the
operation of acts prohibiting trade, and take off that sus
pension when our merchants in consequence of it have
been induced to send their ships to sea ; in short, they
PART III. OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN. 13
may do every thing that can have a tendency to divide and
distract us, but nothing that can afford us security* In
deed, Sir, your ministers do not know us. We may not
be quite so cunning as they, but we have really more
sense, as well as more courage than they have ever been
willing to give us credit for ; and I am persuaded these
acts will rather obstruct peace than promote it, and that
they will not answer in America the mischievous and ma
levolent ends for which they were intended. In England
they may indeed amuse the public creditors, give hopes
and expectations that shall be of some present use, and
continue the mis-managers a little longer in their places.
Voila tout !
In return for your repeated advice to us not to conclude
any treaty with the House of Bourbon, permit me to give
(through you) a little advice to the Whigs in England.
Let nothing induce them to join with the Tories in sup
porting and continuing this wicked war against the Whigs
of America, whose assistance they may hereafter want to
secure their own liberties ; or whose country they maj be
glad to retire to for the enjoyment of them.
If peace by a treaty with America upon equal terms,
were really desired, your Commissioners need not go there
for it, supposing, as by the bill they are empowered " to
treat with such person or persons as in their wisdom and
discretion they shall think meet/ they should happen to
conceive that the Commissioners of the Congress at Paris
might be included in that description. I am ever, dear
Sir, &c. B. FRANKLIN.
P. S. Seriously, on farther thoughts, I am of opinion,
that if wise and honest men, such as Sir George Saville,
14 PRIVATE CORRESPONDENCE PART ITT.
the Bishop of St. Asaph, 1 and yourself, were to come over
here immediately with powers to treat, you might not only
obtain peace with America, but prevent a war with
To MR. HUTTON.
Passy, March f 24, 1778.
My dear old friend was in the right not
" to call in question the sincerity of my words, where I
say, February 12, we can treat if any propositions arc
made to us." They were true then, and are so still, if
Britain has not declared war with France ; for in that
case we shall undoubtedly think ourselves obliged to con
tinue the war as long as she does. But inethinks you
should have taken us at our word, and have sent imme
diately your propositions in order to prevent such a war,
if you did not chuse it. Still I conceive it would be well
to do it, if you have not already rashly begun the war.
Assure yourself nobody more sincerely wishes perpetual
peace among men than I do ; but there is a prior wish
that they would be equitable and just, otherwise such
peace is not possible, and indeed wicked men have no
right to expect it. Adieu ! I am ever yours most affec
tionately, B. FRANKLIN.
Note from WILLIAM PULTNEY, ESQ. M. P. (under
the assumed name of Williams.)
Mr. Williams returned this morning to
Paris, and will be glad to see Dr. Franklin, whenever it is
convenient for the Doctor, at the Hotel Frasiliere, Rue
Toui*nou. It is near the hotel where he lodged when the
Doctor saw him a fortnight ago. He does not propose
PART 111. OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN. 15
to go abroad, and therefore the Doctor will find him at
any hour. He understands that Mr. Alexander is not yet
returned from .Dijon, which lie regrets.
Sunday Morning, March 29, 1778.
[The following Letter to Mr. Pultvey, was not se?it, but
contains what was mid in a Conversation Dr. Frank
lin had with him in Paris.]
To WILLIAM PULTNEY, ESQ.
SIR, Pussy, March 30, 1778.
When I first had the honour of conversing
with you on the subject of peace, I mentioned it as my
opinion that every proposition which implied our volun
tarily agreeing to return to a dependence on Britain was
now become impossible ; that a peace on equal terms
undoubtedly might be made ; and that though we had no
particular powers to treat of peace with England, we had
general powers to make treaties of peace, amity, and com
merce, with any state in Europe, by which I thought we
might be authorized to treat with Britain ; who, if sin
cerely disposed to peace, might save time and much blood
shed by treating with us directly.
I also gave it as my opinion, that in the treaty to be
made, Britain should endeavour by the fairness and gene
rosity of the terms she offered, to recover the esteem,
confidence, and affection of America, without which the
peace could not be so beneficial, as it was not likely to
be lasting. In this I had the pleasure to find jou of my
But I see by the propositions you have communicated
to me, that the ministers cannot yet divest themselves of
16 PRIVATE CORRESPONDENCE PART III,
the idea, that the power of parliament over us is constitu
tionally absolute and unlimited ; and that the limitations
they may be willing now to put to it by treaty, are so
many favours, or so many benefits for which we are to
As our opinions in America are totally different, a
treaty on the terms proposed, appears to me utterly im
practicable either here or there. Here we certainly can
not make it, having not the smallest authority to make
even the declaration specified in the proposed letter, with
out which, if I understood you right, treating with us can
not be commenced.
I sincerely wish as much for peace as you do, and I
have enough remaining of good will for England to wish
it for her sake as well as for our own, and for the sake of
humanity. In the present state of things, the proper
means of obtaining it, in my opinion, are to acknowledge
the independence of the United States, and then enter at
once into a treaty with us for a suspension of arms, with
the usual provisions relating to distances ; and another for
establishing peace, friendship, and commerce, such as
France has made. This might prevent a war between you
and that kingdom, which in the present circumstances and
temper of the two nations an accident may bring on every
day, though contrary to the interest and without the pre
vious intention of either. Such a treaty we might pro
bably now make with the approbation of our friends ; but
if you go to war with them on account of their friendship
for us, we arc bound by ties, stronger than can be formed
by any treaty, to fight against you with them, as long as
the war against them shall continue.
May God at last grant that wisdom to your national
PART III. OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN. 17
councils, which he seems long to have denied them, and
which only sincere, just, and humane intentions can merit
or expect. With great personal esteem, I have the ho
nour to be, Sir, &c. B. FRANKLIN.
FROM WM. ALEXANDER, ESQ. TO DR. FRANKLIN.
MY DEAR SIR,
Upon a night s reflection it is thought right
that you be possessed of the inclosed, 1 to be afterwards
returned without taking copy, in case no business be done.
Will you Jet me know by the bearer, if we are to see you
in town to-day, and when, that I may be at hand ?
Saturday morning, April 4, 1778.
To DR. BANCROFT,* F. R. S. LONDON.
DEAR SIR, Passy, April 16, 1778.
1 wish you would assure our friend, that Dr.
Franklin never gave any such expectations to Mr. Pult-
ney. On the contrary, he told him that the Commis
sioners could not succeed in their mission, whether they
went to recover the dependence or. to divide. His opinion
is confirmed by the inclosed resolves, which perhaps it
may not be amiss to publish in England. Please to send
me the newspaper. Yours affectionately,
1 Some proposals on the part of the British ministry, even
tually disapproved of by Dr. Franklin, and returned.
z An American gentleman of great worth and abilities ; an
intimate and much respected friend of Dr. Franklin s, to whom
the United States are greatly indebted for his exertion and assist
ance in the cause of tneir independence.
VOL. II. B
16 PRIVATE CORRESPONDENCE PART III.
To His EXCELLENCY JOSEPH REED, ESQ.
President of the State of Pennsylvania.
SIR, Passy, March 19, 1780.
I have just received the pamphlet you did
me the honour to send me by M. Gerard, and have read
it with pleasure ; not only as the clear state of facts, it
does you honour, but as it proves the falsehood of a man,
who also showed no regard to truth in what he said of me,
<f that 1 approved of the propositions he carried over"
The truth is this, his brother, Mr. Pultney, came here
with those propositions ; and after stipulating that if I did
not approve of them, I should not speak of them to any
person, he communicated them to me. I told him frank
ly, on his desiring to know my sentiments, that I DID
NOT approve of them, and that I was sure they WOULD
N6T be accepted in America. But I said there are two
other Commissioners here, I will, if you please, show
your propositions to them, and you will hear their opi
nions. I will also show them to the ministry here, with
out whose knowledge and concurrence we can take no
step in such affairs. No, said he ; as you do not approve
of them, it can answer no purpose to show them to any
body else : the reasons that weigh with you will also
weigh with them : therefore, I now pray that no mention
may be made of my having been here, or my business.
To this I agreed, and therefore nothing could be more
astonishing to me, than to see in an American newspaper,
1 This letter is inserted here out of its place, as elucidating the
III. QF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN. 19
that direct lie, in a letter from Mr. Johnstone, joined
with two other falsehoods, relating to the time of the
treaty, and to the opinion of Spain !
In proof of the above, I inclose a certificate of a friend
of Mr. Pultney s, the only person present at our inter
view ; and I do it the rather at this time, because I am
informed that another calumniator (the same who for
merly in his private letters to particular members, accused
you, with Messrs. Jay, Duanes, Langdon, and Harrison,
of betraying the secrets of Congress in a correspondence
with the ministry) has made this transaction with Mr.
Pultney, an article of accusation against me, as having
approved the same propositions. He proposes, I under
stand, to settle in your government. I caution you to
beware of him ; for in sowing suspicions and jealousies,
in creating misunderstandings and quarrels among friends,
in malice, subtilty, and indefatigable industry, he has, I
think, no equal.
I am glad to see that you continue to preside in our
new State, as it shows that your public conduct is . ap
proved by the people. You have had a difficult time,
which required abundance of prudence ; and you have
been equal to the occasion. The disputes about the con
stitution seem to have subsided. It is much admired
here and all over Europe, and will draw over many fami
lies of fortune to settle under it, as soon as there is a
peace. The defects that may on seven years trial be
found in it, can be amended, when the time comes for
considering them. With great and sincere esteem and
respect, I have the honour to be, &c. B. FRANKLIN.
20 PRIVATE CORRESPONDENCE PART III.
(Inclosed in the foregoing.)
I do hereby certify whom it may concern, that I was
with Mr. Pultney and Dr. Franklin at Paris, when in a
conversation between them on the subject of certain pro
positions for a reconciliation with America, offered by
Mr. Pultuey, Dr. Franklin said he did not approve of
them, nor did he think they would be approved in Ame
rica, but that he would communicate them to his col
leagues and the French ministry. This Mr. Pultney
opposed, saying, that it would answer no good end, as he
was persuaded that what weighed with Dr. Franklin would
weigh also with them ; and therefore desired that no
mention might be made of his having offered such pro
positions, or even of his having been here, on such busi
ness ; but that the whole might be buried in oblivion,
agreeable to what had been stipulated by Mr. Pultney,
and agreed to by Dr. Franklin, before the propositions
were produced, which Dr. Franklin accordingly promised.
Paris, March 19, 1780
(Signed) WILLIAM ALEXANDER.
Ol ri-UW fc^liftwrq yfrei!** &$ i,j,
To DR. FRANKLIN, PASSY.
I send you adjoined, the certificate you de
sire ; and am perfectly convinced from conversations 1
have since had with Mr. Pultney, that nobody was autho
rized to hold the language which has been imputed to
him on that subject ; and as I have a high opinion of, his
candour and w r orth, I know it must be painful to him to
be brought into question in matters of fact with persons
PART III. OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN. 21
he esteems. I could wish that this matter may receive
no farther publicity than what is necessary for your justifi
cation. I am, 8cc. W.ALEXANDER.
To COUNT DK VERGENNES,
Minister for Foreign Affairs, Versailles.
SIR, Patsy, AprilW, 1778.
Mr. Hartley, member of parliament, an old
acquaintance of mine, arrived here from London on Sun
day last. He is generally in the opposition, especially on
American questions, but has some respect for Lord
j\orth. In conversation he expressed the strongest anx
iety for peace with America, and appeared extremely
desirous to know my sentiments of the terms which might
probably be acceptable if offered ; whether America
would not, to obtain peace, grant some superior advantages
in trade to Britain, and enter into an alliance offensive and
defensive ; whether, if war should be declared against
France, we had obliged ourselves by treaty to join with
her against England. My answers have been, That the
United States were not fond of war, and with the advice
of their friends would probably be easily prevailed with to
make peace 011 equitable terms, but we had ho terms
committed to us to propose, and I did not chuse to >en-
tion any. That Britain having injured us heavily by mak
ing this unjust war upon us, might think herself well off,
if on reparation of those injuries, we admitted her to
equal advantages with other nations in commerce ; but