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Memorials and correspondence of Charles James Fox (Volume 1) online

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Majesty, that your Majesty's servants have proceeded upon this
occasion rather upon the supposition that the present negotiation
for peace will fail, and that the measures which they humbly
recommend to your Majesty upon this occasion are directed more
with a view to the use which may be made of them, for the pur-
poses of detaching from France her present allies, and of concili-
ating the powers of Europe to this country, than to the object of
success in the present treaty with the Court of Versailles. If
Monsieur de Vergennes should reject Mr. Grenville's proposals,
and should either decline making any on his part, or make such
as should be evidently inadmissible, your Majesty's servants can-
not help flattering themselves that such a conduct, on the part of
the Court of Versailles, may produce the most salutary effects
with regard both to Europe and to America, and possibly to the
exertions of Great Britain herself.

"Mr. Fox takes this opportunity of informing your Majesty,
that the Irish business passed yesterday in the House of Com-
mons unanimously."


Paris, 3Iay 27, 1782.
"Dear Charles: — ■

"Lauzun arrived here on the 25th, with your gazette and dis-
patches, and I have this moment received your post letter of
the 18th. General Murray goes to England to-morrow, and to
him I give this letter, as I shall not dispatch a messenger till I
receive a distinct answer from Monsieur de Vergennes. I went


to him yesterday, and, having given him the copy of the full power
to read, he told me there was a difficulty au premier pas, for that
the full power enabled me only to confer with the French Minis-
ters; whereas H. M. C. M. had already declared he could only
treat in conjunction with his allies, that he had yet had no answer
from Spain, and Holland, &c. I say &c., because he told me he
could not give me a formal answer till the 29th, so that I wait
for that before I send a messenger, and only take this opportunity
of telling you what the Secretary of State will hear in a more
regular form.

" Far from being disappointed at your not extending your pro-
positions, I should have been disappointed if you had ; nor do I
at all wish you to think, because I expect no success from those
propositions, that I shall desire to be the bearer of others more
promising because more dishonorable. I must repeat in every
letter, that I believe the demands of France and Spain will be
dishonorable and ruinous to us ; and, in truth, if the ruin is to be
equal, there is more manly ruin in resisting than in acquiescing :
it is to show you that this opinion has hitherto been uniform, and
from a sort of scruple I have of suppressing any letter I had
meant to send, that I inclose with this one written to you on the
21st, which I could not then send. I shall lose no opportunity
with Franklin that I can lay hold of; one must watch one's time
with him, for he is not a man that can be pressed. Adieu. I
will write again by the messenger in two days. I inclose to you
a letter from Monsieur de Castries, and a French account of the
battle in the West Indies, which was once half printed for a ga-
zette, but afterwards countermanded.

"You will see, in my letter of the 21st, an indisposition to the
character you have sent me — that character will not assist you,
and will embarrass me ; for I can do as much of the business you
want, without the dignity and salary ^f the silver box^ as with it
— therefore will only add that if I give way to you, in taking the
full powers, that is to say, the second edition, I shall expect you
to gratify my vanity in letting me hold only the useful part of it,
and not expecting me to take the emoluments, whatever they may


be ; tbis, too, you will find to be no sacrifice, for I am, and mean
to stay, in a hotel y ami , without one farthing's additional expense
for all my additional dignities. Adieu, my dear Charles, ever
very afiectionately yours, and very happy in learning that people
think more and more of you as they ought.

''T. G."


"Paris, i/a?/ 30, 1782.
^^ Dear Charles : —

" Having sent you two letters by General Murray, who left
Paris the day before yesterday, I have very little to add in this,
besides the impatience I feel to send away the courier, who has
been delayed these four days for Monsieur de Yergennes's answer.
You will see, by the dispatch I send you, that we are not more
advanced than we were ) the news of our victory has made them
something more peevish without more inclining them to peace,
which everybody here thinks more distant than ever. I do not
cease to try what can be done with Franklin, and though he
never gives any hope of a separate treaty which shall detach them
from France, he certainly expresses every intention and wish of
making a solid union. He promised me to write down some
heads upon this subject, which he will talk over with me in two
or three days, and seemed quite satisfied with me when I assured
him, upon seeing why he hesitated, that if he wished it I would
consider what was to pass as mere conversation, and not as a direct
negotiation ; so that when I give you an account of it you will, I
am sure, not forget to carry that idea along with you. He pro-
fesses always a great opinion of you, and a great confidence that
something essential may now be done between the two countries ;
but you i^ust not be sanguine in expecting that America will be
detached from France in this negotiation, as Franklin seems too
jealous of the faith of his first treaty to hear of anything that
looks like abandoning it ; but I will not now say more, as my
next letter will probably be confined to that subject.


'^ Your instructions desire me to be attentive to the Dutch min-
ister, but Mr. Berkenrode is no Solomon, and if he was I should
not profit bj it, for, finding, when I came here, that it was wished
at Versailles that I should not make a very public appearance,
I have hardly gone into any company, nor seen people but those
who I thought could be useful, and have as yet owned my
employment to nobody. I say nothing about myself, in addition
to what you have heard from me in my letters by Murray, but
as I do not see any great probability of this becoming a very
long negotiation here, I do not mean to trouble you for the assist-
ance of a secretary ; the only use I see likely to result from my
journey, is what may be got from learning Franklin's ideas, and
to that I now chiefly direct my attention ; because, even if they
are not practicable at this moment, they may come to be so.

" Adieu. Ever affectionately yours,

"T. G.

'^P. S. — I believe Mons. de Castries has as yet no other account
of the engagement but that which I sent you by Murray; the
frigate in which some of the officers sailed from Brest met with a
storm, and put back to Nantes. Jay will be here in a day or two
from Madrid.

" Pray thank Sheridan for his letter ; I will write to him by
the first opportunity. You will recollect that, till I hear from you
about the full power, I can have no conversation with Mons. de
Yergennes. As I am sealing my letter, I learn that an officer is
just come with the detail of the action to Mons. de Castries.^'

[In the mean while, the following important resolution had
been adopted by the Cabinet, and communicated to Mr. Gren-

"Clakges Street, 3fai/ 23, 1782.

" Present — Lord Chancellor, Lord Privy Seal, Lord Eocking-
ham. Lord Shelburne, Lord John Cavendish, Lord Kcppel, Lord
Ashburton, General Conway, Mr. Fox.



^'It is humbly recommended to your Majesty to direct Mr. Fox
to instruct Mr. G-renville to propose the independency of America
in the first instance, instead of making it a condition of a general
treaty. '^

[On the 30th, Mr. Oswald returned to Paris, with a memoran-
dum from Lord Shelburne, to be shown to Dr. Franklin, en-
gaging, among other things, that '^any character should be given
to Mr. Oswald which Dr. Franklin thought conducive to a final
settlement of things between Great Britain and America." To
this suggestion Dr. Franklin readily acceded. Mr. Oswald, he
says, " appears so good and so reasonable a man, that, though I
have no objection to Mr. G-renville, I should be loath 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 recommending himself as an able negotiator."^ In the follow-
ing letters of Mr. Grenville and Mr. Fox, will be seen the con-
sequences of this message, and of the discovery of the previous
communications between Franklin and Lord Shelburne.]

"Paris, June 4, 1782.
" Sir :—

'^ Mr. Oswald arrived here on the 30th, the day after Ogg was
gone, and I received by him the honor of your letter of the

" You will have seen, by my last of the 30th, that Mens.
de Vergennes' objections to the full power are such as, while
they subsist, preclude any further discussion of business. I
have, therefore, with regard to him, nothing new to inform you
of. It cannot, however, Sir, have escaped your notice, that
the offer of independence in the first instance, instead of making
it a conditional article of general treaty, necessarily changes a
part of the propositions I had in charge to make to Mons. de Ver-
gennes. I take it for granted, therefore, that in any future con-

1 Franldiu's Works, by Sparks, vol. ix. pp. 314-317.


versation with the French Minister^ it was your iutention that I
should omit the mention of independence, and confine myself
simply to the peace of 1763 as the basis of a treaty. But, as I
should be very sorry to misinterpret this or any part of your in-
structions, I flatter myself that you will have the goodness to
direct me upon this subject — the doubt which has arisen from
Mons. de Vergennes and Mr. Franklin, about the full power,
gives sufficient time for this explanation without any additional

^' It is, I see, in the sense I mention, that Mr. Franklin wishes
it, for when I spoke to him of the offer your last letter would au-
thorize, he expressed very great satisfaction at its being kept out
of the treaty with France, adding that the more good England
did to America, the more America would assist this business ; to
repeat, therefore, the same offer as a proposition to France, would
defeat its purpose with America.

" I hope soon to receive your orders upon this, as upon the
subject of my last letter, in which I ought to have added that
Mr. Franklin seemed not a little jealous of there being no powers
yet sent to treat with America.

^^ I am, &c.



"Paris, June 4, 1782.
'' Dear Charles : —

^' The public letter which I send to you by Lauzun is, as you
will see, of no other use than that of accounting for his journey,
and enabling him to carry to you this private one, of which I had
once almost determined to be myself the bearer. An apprehen-
sion, however, that so sudden an arrival might be embarrassing to
you has decided me not to take that step till I had explained to
you my reasons for wishing to do so, though I should not care to
write them except in the full confidence that they will be seen by
no persons whatever but yourself. Recollect always that tbis
letter is written in that confidence, and I am sure I never can re-


pent of having sent it. You will easily see, from the tenor of the
correspondence we have hitherto had, that what little use I could
be of to you here, appeared to me to be in the communication
that I had with Franklin. I considered the rest of the negotiation
as dependent upon that, and the only possible immediate advan-
tages which were to be expected seemed to me to rest in the jeal-
ousy which the French Court would entertain of not being tho-
roughly supported in everything by America. The degree of
confidence which Franklin seemed inclined to place in me, and
which he expressed to me, more than once, in the strongest terms,
very much favored this idea, and encouraged me in wishing to
learn from him what might be, in future, ground for a partial
connection between England and America ; I say in future, be-
cause I have never hitherto much believed in any treaty of the
year 1782, and my expectation, even from the strongest of
Franklin's expressions, was not of an immediate turn in our favor,
or any positive advantage from the Commissioners in Europe, till
the people of America should cry out to them, from seeing that
England was meeting their wishes. It was in this light, too, that I
saw room to hope for some good effects from a voluntary offer of
unconditional independence to America ; a chance which looked
the more tempting, as I own I considered the sacrifice as but a
small one, and such as, had I been an American, I had thought
myself little obliged to Great Britain in this moment for grant-
ing, except from an idea that, if it was an article of treaty, it
would have been as much given by France as by England.

'^ I repeat this only to remind you that, from these considera-
tions, the whole of my attention has been given to Franklin, and
that I should have considered myself as losing my time here, if
it had not been directed to that subject. I believe I told you in
my last that I had very sanguine expectations of Franklin's being
inclined to speak out, when I should see him next; indeed, he ex-
pressly told me that he would think over all the points likely to
establish a solid reconciliation between England and America,
and that he would write his mind upon them, in order that we
might examine them together more in order, confiding, as he said,


in me, that I would not state them as propositions from him, but
as being my own ideas of what would be useful to both countries.
(I interrupt myself here, to remind you of the obligation I
must put you under not to mention this). For this very inte-
resting communication, which I had long labored to get, he fixed
the fourth day, which was last Saturday ; but on Friday morning
Mr. Oswald came, and having given me your letters, he went im-
mediately to Franklin, to carry some to him. I kept my appoint-
ment at Passy the next morning, and in order to give Franklin
the greatest confidence, at the same time, too, not knowing how
much Mr. Oswald might have told him, I began with saying, that
though under the difficulty which M. de Yergennes and he him-
self had made to my full power, it was not the moment, as a poli-
tician perhaps, to make further explanations till that difiiculty
should be relieved, yet to show him the confidence I put in him,
I would begin by telling him that I was authorized to offer the
independence in the first instance, instead of making it an article
of general treaty. He expressed great satisfaction at this, espe-
cially he said, because, by having done otherwise, we should have
seemed to have considered America as in the same des;ree of
connection with France which she had been under with us,
whereas America wished to be considered as a power free and clear
to all the world ; but when I came to lead the discourse to the sub-
ject which he had promised four days before, I was a good deal mor-
tified to find him put it ofi" altogether till he should be more ready,
and notwithstanding my reminding him of his promise, he only
answered that it should be in some days. What passed between
Mr. Oswald and me will explain to you the reason of this disap-
pointment. Mr. Oswald told me that Lord Shelburne had pro-
posed to him, when last in England, to take a commission to
treat with the American Ministers ; that upon his mentioning it
to Franklin now, it seemed perfectly agreeable to him, and even
to be what he had very much wished, Mr. Oswald adding that he
wished only to assist the business, and had no other view; he
mixed with this a few regrets that there should be any difference
between the two offices, and when I asked upon what subject, he


said owing to the Rockingham party being too ready to give up
everything. You will observe though — for it is on that account
that I give you this narrative — that this intended appointment
has effectually stopped Franklin's mouth to me, and that when
he is told that Mr. Oswald is to be the Commissioner to treat
with him, it is but natural that he should reserve his confidence
for the quarter so pointed out to him ; nor does this secret seem
only known to Franklin, as Lafayette said laughingly yesterday,
that he had just left Lord Shelhurne's ambassador at Pass}/.
Indeed, this is not the first moment of a separate negotiation, for
Mr. Oswald, suspecting by something that I dropped that Frank-
lin had talked to me about Canada (though, by the by, he never
had), told me this circumstance, as follows : When he went to
England the last time but one, he carried with him a paper in-
trusted to him by Franklin under condition that it should be
shown only to Lord Shelburne and returned into his own hands
at Passy. This paper, under the title of ^ Notes of a Conversa-
tion,' contained an idea of Canada being spontaneously ceded by
England to the thirteen provinces, in order that Congress might
sell the unappropriated lands and make a fund thereby, in order
to compensate the damages done by the English army, and even
those too sustained by the Koyalists; this paper, given with many
precautions for fear of its being known to the French Court, to
whom it was supposed not to be agreeable, Mr. Oswald showed
to Lord Shelburne, who, after keeping it a day as Mr. Oswald
supposes, to show to the King, returned it to him, and it was by
him brought back to Franklin. I say nothing to the proposition
itself, to the impolicy of bringing a strange neighborhood to the
Newfoundland fishery, or to the little reason that England would
naturally see, in having lost thirteen provinces, to give away a
fourteenth; but I mention it to show you an early trace of sepa-
rate negotiation which perhaps you did not before know.

^^ Under these circumstances, I felt very much tempted to go

y^ over, and explain them to you viva voce rather than by letter, and

I must say, with the farther intention of suggesting to you the

only idea that seems likely to answer your purpose, and it is this :


the Spanish Ambassador will, in a day or two, have the powers
from his Court; the Americans are here, so are the French; why
should you not, then, consider this as a Congress in full form, and
send here a person of rank, such as Lord Fitzwilliam (if he would
come), so as to have the whole negotiation in the hands of one
person ? You would by that means recover within your compass
the essential part, which is now out of it ; nor do I see how Lord
Shelburne could object to such an appointment, which would, in
every respect, much facilitate the business. Let me press this a
little strongly to you, for another reason. You may depend upon
it, people here have already got an idea of a difference between
the two offices ; and consider how much that idea will be assisted
by the embarrassments arising from two people negotiating to the
same purpose, but under different and differing authorities, conceal-
ing and disguising from each other what, with the best intentions,
they could hardly make known, and common enough to each. I
am almost afraid of pressing this as strongly as I should, for
fear you should think me writing peevishly, but if I did not state
the thing to you in the situation in which I see it, I should think
I was betraying your interests, instead of giving attention to them.
I must entreat you very earnestly to consider this, to see the im-
possibility of my assisting you under this contrariety ; to see how
much the business itself will suffer, if carried on with the jealousy
of these clashing interests ; and to see whether it may not all be
prevented by some single appointment in high rank, as that I men-
tioned. Au resie, I cannot but say that I feel much easier, with
the hope of making over what remains of this business ; I begin
to feel it weighty, and you know how much I dislike the puhlicity
you packed off to me in that confounded silver box. I could not
bring myself to say anything civil about it in my last letter, and
you ought to give me credit for great self-denial in not taking
this opportunity of telling you my own story at the Secretary's
office, as nothing but the embarrassment it might give you upon
the sudden, prevented me. Once more I tell you, I cannot fight
a daily battle with JMr. Oswald and his secretary; it would be nei-


ther for the advantage of the business, for your interest or your
credit, or mine, and even if it was, I could not do it.

^'- Concluding, then, the American business as out of the ques-
tion, which personally I cannot be sorry for, you surely have but
one of two things to do; either to adopt the proposition of a new
dignified Peer's appointment, which, being single, may bring back
the business to you by comprehending it all in one ; or Lord Shel-
burne must have his minister here, and Mr. Fox his, by doing
which Mr. Fox will be pretty near as much out of the secret — at
least of what is most essential — as if he had nobody here, and the
only real gainers by it will be the other Ministers, who cannot fail
to profit of such a jumble; besides which, upon this latter part of
the subject, I must very seriously entreat you with regard to my-
self, not to ask me to keep a situation here, in no circumstances
pleasant, and in none less so than those I have described. The
grievance is a very essential one ; the remedy is Lord Fitzwilliam.
Adieu. I recommend to Lauzun to make all the haste he can, as
I shall not stir a step till you answer this letter, and my step then
will, I hope, be towards you.

" Sheridan's letter of suspicion was written, as you see, in the
spirit of prophecy. I owe him an answer, which by word of mouth,
or word of letter, he shall have very soon.

^'The news of the day is that the Cadiz fleet, twenty-six sail
of the line and five French, are sailed for Brest; but I rather
imagine they have no authentic account of it yet.

" Adieu. Let Lord Fitzwilliam answer my letter.'^


"St. James's, June 10, 1782.
^^ Dear Grenville : —

" I received late the night before last your interesting letter of

the 4th, and you may easily conceive am not a little embarrassed

by its contents. In the first place, it was not possible to comply

with your injunction of perfect secrecy in a case where steps of

such importance are necessary to be taken, and therefore I have

taken upon me (for which I must trust to your friendship to ex-


cuse me) to show your letter to Lord Rockingham, the Duke of
Richmond, and Lord John, who are all as full of indignation at
its contents as one might reasonably expect honest men to be.
We are now perfectly resolved to come to an explanation upon the
business, if it is possible so to do without betraying any confidence
reposed in me by you, or in you by others. > The two principal
points which occur are the paper relative to Canada, of which I
had never heard till I received your letter, and the intended in-
vestment of Mr. Oswald with full powers, which was certainly
meant for the purpose of diverting Franklin's confidence from
you into another channel. With these two points we wish to
charge Shelburne directly ; but pressing as the thing is, and in-
teresting as it is both to our situations and to the aifairs of the
public, which I fear are irretrievably injured by this intrigue, and
which must be ruined if it is suffered to go on, we are resolved
not to stir a step till we hear again from you, and know precisely
how far we are at liberty to make use of what you have discovered.
If this matter should produce a rupture, and consequently become
more or less the subject of public discussion, I am sensible the
Canada paper cannot be mentioned by name; but might it not
be said that we had discovered that Shelburne had withheld from
our knowledge matters of importance to the negotiation ? And,
with respect to the other point, might it not be said, without be-
traying anybody, that while the King had one avowed and author-

Online LibraryCharles James FoxMemorials and correspondence of Charles James Fox (Volume 1) → online text (page 23 of 31)