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the 11th of December, which you are sure was delivered to me.
“In exculpation of myself, I assure you that I never received any letter from you of this date. And, indeed, being then but four days landed at Nantes, I think you could scarce have heard so soon of my being in Europe.
"But I received one from you of the 8th of January, which I own I did not answer. It may displease you if I give you the reason; but as it may be of use to you in your future correspondences, I will hazard that for a gentleman to whom I feel myself obliged, as an American, on account of his good-will to our cause.
“Whoever writes to a stranger should observe three points : 1. That what he proposes be practicable. 2. His propositions should be made in explicit terms, so as to be easily understood. 3. What he desires, should be in itself reason Hereby he will give a favourable impression of his understanding, and create a desire of farther acquaintance. Now it happened that you were negligent in all these points: for, first, you desired to have means procured for you of taking a voyage to America avec sureté,'* which is not possible, as the dangers of the sea subsist always, and at present there is the additional danger of being taken by the English. Then you desire that this may be ' sans trop grandes dépenses,'t which is not intelligible enough to be answered, because, not knowing your ability of bearing expenses, one cannot judge what may be trop grandes. Lastly, you desire letters of address to the Congress and to General Washington, which it is not reasonable to ask of one who knows no more of you than that your name is LITH, and that you live at BAYREUTH.
“In your last, you also express yourself in vague terms when you desire to be informed whether you
* With safety.
may expect 'd'étre reçu d'une maniére cenvenable* in our troops. As it is impossible to know what your ideas are of the maniere convenable, how can one answer this? And then you demand whether I will support you by my authority in giving you letters of recommendation. I doubt not your being a man of merit, and, knowing it yourself, you may forget that it is not known to everybody; but reflect a moment, sir, and you will be convinced, that if I were to practise giving letters of recommendation to persons whose character I knew no more than I do of yours, my recommendations would soon be of no authority at all.
I thank you, however, for your kind desire of being serviceable to my countrymen, and I wish, in return, that I could be of service to you in the scheme you have formed of going to America. But numbers of experienced officers here have offered to go over and join our army, and I could give them no encouragement, because I have no orders for that purpose, and I know it is extremely difficult to place them when they come there. I cannot but think, therefore, that it is best for you not to make so long, so expensive, and so hazardous a voyage, but to take the advice of your friends and stay in Franconia. I have the honour to be, sir, &c.,
“ B. FRANKLIN.”
Answer to a letter from Brussels.
“Passy, July 1, 1778.
“I received your letter dated at Brussels the 16th past.
“My vanity might possibly be flattered by your expressions of compliment to my understanding, if
# To be received in a suitable manner.
your proposals did not more clearly manifest a mean opinion of it.
“ You conjure me, in the name of the omniscient and just God, before whom I must appear, and by my hopes of future fame, to consider if some expedient cannot be found to put a stop to the desolation of America, and prevent the miseries of a general
As I am conscious of having taken every step in my power to prevent the breach, and no one to widen it, I can appear cheerfully before that God, fearing nothing from his justice in this particular, though I have much occasion for his mercy in many others. As to my future fame, I am content to rest it on my past and present conduct, without seeking an addition to it in the crooked, dark paths you propose to me, where I should most certainly lose it. This your solemn address would, therefore, have been more properly made to your sovereign and his venal parliament. He and they, who wickedly began and madly continue a war for the desolation of America, are accountable for the consequences.
“You endeavour to impress me with a bad opinion of French faith; but the instances of their friendly endeavours to serve a race of weak princes, who by their own imprudence defeated every attempt to promote their interest, weigh but little with me when I consider the steady friendship of France to the thirteen United States of Switzerland, which has now continued inviolate two hundred years. You tell me that she will certainly cheat us, and that she despises us already. I do not believe that she will cheat us, and I am not certain that she despises us : but I see clearly that you are endeavouring to cheat us by your conciliatory bills; that you actually despised our understandings when you flatcered yourselves those artifices would succeed; and that not only France, but all Europe, yourselves included, most certainly and for ever, would despise
us if we were weak enough to accept your insidious propositions.
Our expectations of the future grandeur of America are not so magnificent, and, therefore, not so vain and visionary, as you represent them to be. The body of our people are not merchants, but humble husbandmen, who delight in the cultivation of their lands, which, from their fertility and the variety of our climates, are capable of furnishing all the necessaries of life without external commerce; and we have too much land to have the slightest temptation to extend our territory by conquest from peaceable neighbours, as well as too much justice to think of it. Our militia, you find by experience, are sufficient to defend our lands from invasion; and the commerce with us will be defended by all the nations who find an advantage in it. We therefore have not the occasion you imagine, of fleets or standing armies, but may leave those expensive machines to be maintained for the pomp of princes and the wealth of ancient states. We propose, if possible, to live in peace with all mankind; and, after you have been convinced, to your cost, that there is nothing to be got by attacking us, we have reason to hope that no other power will judge it prudent to quarrel with us, lest they divert us from our own quiet industry, and turn us into corsairs preying upon theirs. The weight, therefore, of an independent empire, which you seem certain of our inability to bear, will not be so great as you imagine. The expense of our civil government we have always borne, and can easily bear, because it is small. A virtuons and laborious people may be cheaply governed. Determining as we do to have no offices of profit, nor any sinecures or useless appointments, so common in ancient and corrupted states, we can govern ourselves a year for the sum you pay in a single department, or for what one jobbing contrac
tor, by the favour of a minister, can cheat you out of in a single article.
“You think we flatter ourselves, and are deceived into an opinion that England must acknowledge our independence. We, on the other hand, think you flatter yourselves in imagining such an acknowledgment a vast boon which we strongly desire, and which you may gain some great advantage by granting or withholding. We have never asked it of you. We only tell you that you can have no treaty with us but as an independent state; and you may please yourselves and your children with the rattle of your right to govern us, as long as you have with that of your king being king of France, without giving us the least concern if you do not attempt to exercise it. That this pretended right is indisputable, as you say, we utterly deny. Your parliament never had a right to govern us, and your king has forfeited it by his bloody tyranny. But I thank you for letting me know a little of your mind, that even if the Parliament should acknowledge our independence, the act would not be binding to posterity, and that your nation would resume and prosecute the claim as soon as they found it convenient from the influence of your passions and your present malice against us. We suspected before that you would not be bound by your conciliatory acts longer than till they had served their purpose of inducing us to disband our forces; but we were not certain that you were knaves bv principle, and that we ought not to have the least confidence in your offers, promises, or treaties, though confirmed by Parliament. I now indeed recollect my being informed, long since, when in England, that a certain very great personage, then young, studied much a certain book, entitled Arcana imperii (Secrets of governing! I had the curiosity to procure the book and read it There are sensible and good things in it, but some bad ones; for, if I remember right, a particular king is