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through the means of Lord Guildford, requesting an explanation on this point, viz. “ Who is authorised to treat on the part of America ? whether you or Mr. Adams, or both jointly? and whether the propositions above stated would be acknowledged as general grounds of negociation towards peace, by the
person or persons authorised to treat, because it was necessary before he could lay a matter of so great importance before the cabinet council, that he should be entitled to say, « These propositions and general outlines come to me from responsible and authorised persons!” The moment I received the request of Lord North I agreed entirely with the necessity of an explanation on that head. I had partly expected such an inquiry, and it gave me satisfaction when it came, as I thought it the first reply towards a parley. If the propositions had not gained some attention, it would have been of very little importance to have inquired whence they came. As to the caution itself, it appears to me not only prudent but indispensable. The forms of caution in such cases are the essentials of caution. I had determined on my own account before this message to have writ to you, that I might have received your sentiments directly from yourself without any other intervention, that we might proceed with caution and certainty in a matter of such infinite importance. This message has only quickened my dispatch. The two points of explanation requested, I take to be these; whether the ouelines above recited are properly stated, always considering that they imply no farther than general grounds of negociation towards peace, under liberal constructions; and secondly, by what authorised person or persons any answer on this subject would be accepted; in short, a requisition of credentials preparatory to a forinal answer, which is so much the more necessary on the supposition of a favorable reception of the first hint towards negociation.
When I last saw Mr. Alexander, about four or five days ago, he had met with some desponding impressions, as if the ministry were indisposed to peace, and that things would not do, &c. He did not tell me upon what ground be had formed such apprehensions: however, lest he should have imparted any such by letter to you, I will state that point to you, because it may have infinite ill consequences to be too touchy on such suspicions. A premature jealousy may create the very evil it suspects. The ministry in this country are not every thing. The sense of the people when really expressed and exerted, would be most prevalent. Suppose then it were a proved point that every man in the ministry were in his heart adverse to peace. What then? withhold all overtures? By no means. I should advise the very contrary in the strongest manner. I should say, let the overtures be made so much the more public and explicit, by those who do wish for peace. It is the unfortunate state of things which has hitherto bound the cause of France to any possible treaty with America, and which has thereby thrown a national damp upon any actual public exertions to procure a negociation for peace with America. I have the strongest opinion that if it were publicly known to the people of England that a negociation might be opened with America upon the terms above specified, that all the ministry together, if they were ill. disposed to a man, would not venture to thwart such a measure. But why should it be supposed that the ministry to a man are ill disposed to a peace? Suppose them to be half and half, and the public wish and voice of the people in favor of negociation, it is evident on which side the balance would incline. But why should we seek to throw a damp prematurely upon any chance? Why presume even against any iadividual? I grant that it would be a bitter trial of humility to be brought to a formal recognition of independence at the
haughty command of France, and I believe every part of the nation would proceed to every extremity before they would submit to that. But if that touchy point can be provided for sub silentio, and if the proposed treaty with America may be carried on free from control by France, let us give the cause of peace a fair trial; at the worst we should but be where we were if we should fail. But why should we expect to fail when the greatest rub is removed by the liberty of entering separately into a treaty? I think it a most favorable event leading towards peace. Give us a truce with its concoinitants, and a little time so given for cooling will have most excellent effects on both sides. Eternal peace and conciliation may then follow. I send this to you by the quickest dispatch, that we may bring this point to a fair issue before the meeting of parliament. God prosper the blessed work of peace ! I am ever yours most affectionately,
In the title and preamble of the bill the words provinces of North America are used as general words, neither implying dependence or independence..
Clause 1. The truce is taken from the conciliatory act of 1778, and is indefinite as to the proposed duration of the truce, Under this clause it might be proposed to negociate three points, viz. the removal of the British troops froin the thirteen provinces of North America, and connectedly with this article a stipulation for the security of the friends of the British government. The third article might be a stipulation that the respective parties during the continuance of the truce should not either directly or indirectly give assistance to the enemies of each other.
Clause 2. Articles of intercourse and pacification. Under this clause some arrangements might be seitled for establishing a free and mutual intercourse, civil and commercial, between Great Britain and the aforesaid provinces of North America. · Clause 3. Suspension of certain acts of parliament. By this clause a free communication may be kept open between the two countries, during the negociation for peace, without stumbling against any claim of rights which might draw into contest the question of dependence or independence.
Clause 4. The ratification by parliament. The object of this clause is to consolidate peace and conciliation step by step as the negociation may proceed, and to prevent, as far as possible, any return of war, after the first declaration of a truce. By the operation of this clause a temporary truce may be converted into a perpetual and permanent peace.
Clause 5. A temporary act. This clause creating a temporary act for a specific purpose of negociation in view, is taken from the act of 1778.
P. S. January 8, 1782.
Since writing this letter I have seen Mr. Alexander, and shall see him from time to time to communicate with him. I do not suppose I shall have an answer from Lord North till the preliminary points are so settled as to enable him to give an answer in form. Ministry might undoubtedly give a short negative if they thought proper; but I do not expect that. You may be assured that I have and shall continue to enforce every argument in the most conciliatory manner to induce a negociation. I am very sorry for Mr. A.'s confinement on his own account, and on that of his friends, and because probably in the future state of this business, his personal exertions may be very serviceable in the cause of peace. Every assistance and every exertiou of mine will aiways be most heartily devoted to that cause. I have nothing farther to add, either upon my own reflections or from my subsequent conversations with Mr. A. to what I have stated in the foregoing letter. If we once make a good beginning upon the plan there stated, I should hope that such a negociation, founded on such principles, would promise fair to produce every salutary and pacific consequence in the event.
[Answer to the foregoing:]
To D. HARTLEY, Esg. M. P. DEAR Sie,
Passy, January 15, 1782. I received a few days since your favor of the ed instant, in which you tell me, that Mr. Alexander had informed you “ America was disposed to enter into a separate treaty with Great Britain.” I am persuaded that your strong desire for peace bas misled you, and occasioned your greatly misunderstanding Mr. Alexander, as I think it scarce possible he should have asserted a thing so utterly void of foundation. I remember that you have, as you say, often urged this on former occasions, and that it always gave me more disgust than my friendship for you permitted me to express. But since you have now gone so far as to carry such a proposition to Lord North, as arising from us, it is necessary that I should be explicit with you, and tell you plainly, that I never had such an idea, and I believe there is not a man in America, a few English Tories excepted, that would not spurn at the thought of deserting a noble and generous friend for the sake of a truce with an unjust and cruel enemy. I have again read over your conciliatory bill, with the manuscript propositions