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are circumstances of precaution against our ancient enemies, which joined to the regard that must be paid to the safety of many, who from affection to Great Britain, have exposed themselves to suffer in this contest, and to whom Great Britain owes support at every expense of blood and treasure, that will not allow us to begin with this measure. How soon it may follow the first advances to peace on your part, will depend on the favorable prospect you give of a reconciliation with your fellow citizens of this continent and with those in Britain." In the mean time, we assure you that no circumstance will give us more satisfaction, than to find that the extent of our future connection is to be determined on principles of mere reason and the considerations of mutual interest, on which we are willing likewise to rest the permanency of any arrangements we may form.
“In making these declarations, we do not wait for the decisions of any military events. Having determined our judgment by what we believe to be the interests of our country, we shall abide by the declarations we now make in every possible situation of our affairs.
“ You refer to treaties already subsisting, but are pleased to withhold from us any particular information in respect to their nature or tendency.
“ If they in any degree are to affect our deliberations, we think you cannot refuse a full communication of the particulars, in which they consist, both for our consideration and that of your own constituents, who are to judge between us, whether any alliance you may have contracted be a sufficient reason for continuing this unnatural war. We likewise think ourselves entitled to a full communication of the powers by which you conceive yourselves authorized to make treaties with foreign nations.
“And we are led to ask satisfaction on this point, because we have observed in your proposed articles of confederation, No. 6 and 9, it is stated that you have the power of entering into treaties and alliances under certain restrictions therein specified, yet we do not find promulgated any act or resolution of the assemblies of particular states conferring this power on you.
“ As we have communicated our powers to you, we mcan to proceed without reserve in this business; we will not suppose that any objection can arise on your part to our communicating to the public so much of your correspondence as may be necessary to explain our own proceedings. At the same time we assure you, that in all such publications, the respect which we pay to the great body of people you are disposed to represent, shall be evidenced by us in every possible mark of consideration and regard.”
On the receipt of this letter, congress declared, that as neither the independence of the United States was acknowledged, nor the British fleet and armies were withdrawn, no answer should be returned.
The letter itself was no doubt designed rather for the people of America, than the members of the national legislature. The British commissioners could not believe, that the Americans, when fully acquainted with the terms of reconciliation, would consent to an alliance with their 'ancient enemy. They, therefore, sug. gested, that as the articles of confederation were not fully ratified, the treaties with France could not be binding without the assent of the states themselves ; and this suggestion was made with an expectation, that the people would prefer British offers of peace to French alliance.
But the commissioners were unacquainted with the character either of the people of America, or their representatives in the national legislature. Governor Johnston addressed private letters to several members of congress, with some of whom he had formerly been acquainted, on the subject of his mission ; particularly to Mr. Reed, Robert Morris, Mr. Laurens, and Mr. Dana. These letters, in July, 1778, were directed to be laid before congress; and disclosed the objects of the writer. To Mr. Reed, in a letter written before he left England, he said, “ the man, who can be instrumental in bringing us all to act once more in harmony, and to unite together the various powers, which this contest has drawn forth, will deserve more from the king and the people, from patriotism, humanity, and all the tender ties, that
are affected by the quarrel and reconciliation, than ever was bestowed on human kind." To Mr. Morris, he wrote, “I believe the men, who have conducted the affairs of America, incapable of being influenced by improper motives ; but in all such transactions there is risk, and I think, that whoever ventures should be secured ; at the same time, that honor and emolument should naturally follow the fortunes of those, who have steered the vessel in the storm and brought her safe to port. I think Washington and the president have a right to any favor, that grateful nations can bestow, if they could once more unite our interest and spare the miseries and devastations of war." To Mr. Dana, he declared, among other things, that Dr. Franklin, in March, was satisfied, that the articles which the commissioners wished to make the basis of a treaty, were beneficial to America, and such as he should accept.
Mr. Reed, also, at the same time stated, in his place in congress, that on the 21st of June, he received a written message from a lady of character, having connection with the British army, wishing to see him on business, which could not be committed to writing. That in a conference with this lady, he was given to understand, that it was particularly wished by governor Johnston, that his influence should be obtained, in bringing about a re-union between the two countries, if consistent with his principles and judgment; and in such case, he might have £10,000 sterling, and any office in the colonies, in the gift of the crown.
That an answer being expected, he replied, that “ he was not worth purchasing, but such as he was, the king of Great Britain was not rich enough to do it.”
These letters, connected with the offers made to Mr. Reed, were considered by congress, as an attempt to bribe the members of that body; and on the 11th of August, they declared it to be “incompatible with the honor of congress, to hold any manner of correspondence with Mr. Johnston, especially to negotiate with him, upon affairs in which the cause of liberty is interested."
This declaration was sent to the British commissioners at New York. It drew from Mr. Johnston, a very angry counter-declaration. The charges made against him were not absolutely denied or acknowledged ; but congress were accused of malice and treachery, of making the declaration with an intent to influence the minds of their constituents, and to prevent the effects of the British mission. He, therefore, for the future, declined acting as one of the commissioners, in any business, in which congress should be concerned.
It may be proper in this place, to state, that governor Johnston, soon after this, returned to Great Britain, and in a speech delivered in parliament, November, 1778, denied the transaction with Mrs. Ferguson, as stated by Mr. Reed, and asserted that the offers, were made without any authority from him. This public declaration, drew from Mr. Reed in 1779, a vindication of himself, in a publication, containing a confirmation of his statement from Mrs. Ferguson herself.
This lady, in a written communication, declared that “Mr. Johnston conversed with her, on the subject of a settlement with the colonies, and spoke of Mr. Reed-But I should be particularly glad of Mr. Reed's influence in this affair ; Mrs. Ferguson, says he, and I think he looked a little confused, if this affair should be settled in the way we wish, we shall have many pretty things in our power ; and if Mr. Reed, after well considering the nature of the dispute, can, conformable to his conscience and view of things, exert his influence to settle the contest, he may command ten thousand guineas, and the best post in the government; and if you should see him, I could wish you to convey that idea to him.”
The colleagues of governor Johnston in a communication made to congress, denied any knowledge of his private letters to the members of that body, or of the transaction stated by Mr. Reed. They, at the same time, endeavored to prove, that in confirming the treaties with France, as well as in rejecting their pacific overtures, without consulting the assemblies of the states, congress had exceeded the powers committed to them. In the same communication, they attempted to persuade the American people, that their best interests forbid an adherence to the
treaties, entered into, as they alleged, on the part of France, after a full knowledge of the concessions intended to be made by Great Britain, and with a view to prevent a reconciliation. To this communication congress made no reply ; but individuals of of that body, particularly Governeur Morriss and Mr. Drayton, in numerous publications controverted the facts stated by the commissioners, and endeavored to convince the Americans, that the concessions made on the part of Great Britain, were the effect and not the cause of the offers made on the part of France.
The British commissioners were still unwilling to believe, that congress, in rejecting their overtures, had acted in accordance with the wishes of their constituents. They could not imagine that the American people would cordially unite with their ancient enemies, and finally reject those terms, which they had heretofore been willing to accept.
On the third of October, therefore, they published a manifesto or declaration, addressed not only to congress, but to the members of the colonial assemblies or conventions, and all others, free inhabitants of the colonies, of every rank and denomination.
To congress they repeated the offers already made, and reminded them," that they were responsible to their countrymen, to the world, and to God, for the continuance of this war, and for all the miseries with which it must be attended."
To the colonial assemblies, they separately made the offers presented to congress, and called upon them, by every motive, political as well as moral, to meet and embrace the occasion of cementing a free and firm coalition with Great Britain.
They next appealed to the various classes of the “free inhabitants of this once happy empire."
They called upon those in arms to recollect, that the grievances, whether real or pretended, which led them into rebellion, had been forever removed, and that the just occasion had arrived for their returning to the class of peaceful citizens.
To those, whose profession it was to exercise the functions of religion, they said, “ it cannot be unknown, that the foreign power, with which congress were endeavoring to connect them, has