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[The following letter to Mr. Pulteney, was not sent, but contains what was said in a conversation Dr. Franklin had with him in Paris.]
TO WILLIAM PULTENEY, ESQ. M. P.
Passy, March SO, 1778. When I first had the honor of conversing with you on the subject of peace, I mentioned it as my opinion that every proposition which implied our voluntarily 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 commerce, with any state in Europe, by which I thought we might be authorised to treat with Britain, who, if sincerely disposed to peace, might save time and much bloodshed by treating with us directly.
I also gave it as my opinion, that in the treaty to be made, Britain should endeavor, by the fairness and generosity 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 you of my opinion,
But I see by the propositions you have communicated to me, that the ministers cannot yet divest themselves of the idea, that the power of parliament over us is constitutionally abso lute and unlimited; and that the limitations they may be will ing now to put to it by treaty, are so many favors, or so many benefits for which we are to make compensation.
As our opinions in America are totally different, a treaty on the terms proposed, appears to me utterly impracticable either here or there. Here we certainly cannot make it, hav
ing not the smallest authority to make even the declaration specified in the proposed letter, without which, if I under stood you right, treating with us cannot 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 kingdóm, which in the present cir cumstances and temper of the two nations an accident may bring on every day, though contrary to the interest and without the previous intention of either. Such a treaty we might probably now make with the approbation of our friends; but if you go to war with them on account of their friendship for us, we are 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 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 honor to be, sir, &c. B. FRANKLIN.
WM. ALEXANDER, ESQ. TO DR. FRANKLIN, !
MY DEAR SIR,
Upon a night's reflection, it is thought right that you be possessed of the enclosed,' to be afterwards returned
'Some proposals on the part of the British ministry, eventually disapproved of by Dr. Franklin, and returned.
without taking copy, in case no business be done. Will you let me know by the bearer, if we are to see you in town today, and when, that I may be at hand?
Saturday morning, April 4, 1778.
To DR. BANCROFT,' F. R. S. LONDON.
Passy, April 16, 1778.
I wish you would assure our friend that Dr. Franklin never gave any such expectations to Mr. Pulteney. On the contrary, he told him that the commissioners could not succeed in their mission, whether they went to recover the dependence or to divide. His opinion is confirmed by the enclosed resolves, which perhaps it may not be amiss to publish in England. Please to send me the newspaper. B. FRANKLIN.
TO HIS EXCELLENCY JOSEPH REED, ESQ.
Passy, March 19, 1780.* I have just received the pamphlet you did me the honor to send me by M. Gérard, and have read it with pleasure: not only as the clear state of facts, it does you honor, but as it proves the falsehood of a man,3 who also showed no regard to truth in what he said of me," that I approved of
'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 assistance in the cause of their independence.
2 This letter is inserted here (out of its place), as elucidating the foregoing one.
3 Sir James Johnstone, one of the British commissioners sent to America,
the propositions he carried over." The truth is this, his brother, Mr. Pulteney, 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 frankly, on his desiring to know my sentiments, that I DID NOT approve of them, and that I was sure they WOULD NOT 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 opinions. I will also show them to the ministry here, without 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, 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 enclose a certificate of a friend of Mr. Pulteney's, the only person present at our interview; and I do it the rather at this time, because I am informed that another calumniator (the same who formerly in his private letters to particular members, accused you, with Messrs. Jay, Duane, Langdon, and Harrison, of betraying the secrets of congress in a correspondence with the ministry) has made this transaction with Mr. Pulteney, an article of accusation against me, as having approved the same propositions. He proposes, I understand, to settle in your government. I caution you to beware of him; for in sowing suspicions and jealousies, în 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 approved 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 constitution seem to have subsided. It is much admired here and all over Europe, and will draw over many families 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 honor to be, &c. B. FRANKLIN.
(Enclosed 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 propositions for a reconciliation with America, offered by Mr. Pultney, Dr. Franklin said he did not approve of them, nor did he think they would be approved in America, but that he would communicate them to his colleagues 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 propositions, or even of his having been here on such business; but that the whole might be buried in oblivion, agreeable to what had been stipulated by Mr. Pultney, and agreed
I Supposed to allude to Dr. Arthur Lee, of Virginia.