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“ To perpetuate the union by a reciprocal depu. tation of an agent or agents, who shall have the privilege of a seat and voice in the parliament of Great Britain, or, if sent from Britain, to have a seat and voice in the assemblies of the different colonies, to which they may be deputed respectively, in order to attend the several interests of those by whom they may be deputed.
" In short, to establish the power of the respective legislatures in each particular colony; to settle its revenue in civil and military establishment, and to exercise a perfect freedom in legislation and internal government, so that the British colonies throughout North America, acting with Great Britain, in peace and in war, under one common sovereign, may have the irrevocable enjoyment of every privilege, short of a total separation of interests, or consistent with that union of force, on which the safety of their common religion and liberty depends.”
On reading the letter containing these propositions, some observations were found to be mingled with them, reflecting on the conduct of France.* The reading was interrupted, and a motion made to proceed no further, in consequence of this offen
* The words were “insidious interposition of a power, which has from the first settlement of the colonies been actuated with enmity to us both; and notwithstanding the pretended date, or present form of the French offers.”
sive language against his Most Christian Majesty. This motion producing some debate, an adjourn. ment was called for and carried. When Congress re-assembled, the warmth of the preceding day had not entirely sulsided; but after several ineffectual motions the letter was read, and a committee appointed for that purpose reported an answer, which being unanimously agreed to, was signed by the president, and transmitted to the commissioners. This letter declared that“ nothing but an carnest desire to spare the further effusion of human blood could have induced them to read a paper containing expressions so disrespectful to his Most Christian Majesty, the good and great ally of these states, or to consider propositions so derogatory to the honour of an independent nation.
“ That the acts of the British parliament, the commission from their sovereign, and their letter, supposed the people of the United States to be subjects of the crown of Great Britain, and were founded on the idea of dependence, which is utterly inadmissible.
“That Congress was inclined to peace, notwithstanding the unjust claims from which this war originated, and the savage manner in which it had been conducted. They would therefore be ready to enter upon the consideration of a treaty of peace and commerce, not inconsistent with treatics already subsisting, when the King of Great
Britain should demonstrate a sincere disposition for that purpose. The only solid proof of this disposition would be an explicit acknowledgment of the independence of these states, or the with. drawing his fleets and armies.”
Some apprehensions seem to have been entertain. ed that these propositions might make an unfavourable impression on the public mind, and increase the divisions which already existed. They were therefore attacked with much wit and aspe. rity by individuals, who, at the same time, combated them with great force of argument.
In the packet addressed to Congress were several private letters, written by Governor Johnstone to particular members of that body, in which he blended with the most flattering expressions of their characters and their conduct, assurances of the honours and emoluments to which those would be entitled who should contribute to restore
peace and harmony to the two countries, and to termi. nate the present calamitous war. *
In addition to these letters, direct propositions, after the evacuation of Philadelphia, were made to Mr. Read, a member of Congress for the state of Pennsylvania, by a lady connected with the British army, who assured him as from Governor Johnstone, that ten thousand pounds sterling, and the best office within the gift of the crown in America, might be at his disposal, if he could bring about a re-union between the two countries. Mr. Read replied, that he was not worth purchasing, but such as he was, the King of Great Britain was not rich enough to do it.
The removal from Philadelphia followed the reception of the answer of Congress to the propositions of the British commissioners too immediately for any further measures to be taken by them, until they had reached New York. From that city a second letter was addressed (July 13) to the president and members of Congress, in which they express their regrets, that, on the part of Congress, any difficulties were raised, which must prolong the calamities of the present war. With respect to the two alternatives stated as preliminaries necessary even to the beginning of a negotiation for peace, they declared their opinion to be,“ that the independence of the people of America on Great Britain, except so far as is necessary to preserve that union of force in which the safety and advantage of both consisted, was fully acknowledged in their first letter ; and that they were willing to enter into a fair discussion of all the circumstances which might be necessary to ensure, or even to enlarge that independency."
They excuse their not beginning with the other part of the alternative, the withdrawal of the fleets and armies, “ on account of the precautions rendered necessary against their ancient enemies, and a regard 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 expence of blood and treasure. This measure, however," it was intimated, “ might
very soon follow the first advances to peace on the part of the United States, which should indicate a favourable prospect of a reconciliation with their fellow-citizens of this continent, and those in Great Britain."
The most explicit assurances were added, “ that no circumstances would give the commissioners more satisfaction than to find that the extent of the future connection between the two countries would be determined on principles of mere reason, and considerations of mutual interest, on which they were likewise willing to risk the permanence of any arrangements that might be formed.” To that
part of the letter from Congress which refers to treaties already subsisting, they say, “ that if such treaties are to affect their deliberations, they ought to be communicated both for their consideration and that of the constituents of Congress, who would judge whether any alliance they might have contracted would furnish sufficient reasons for continuing this unnatural war."
Some doubt was expressed concerning the power of Congress to contract foreign alliances, as the confederation was not yet in force, and the letter concluded by saying, “ We will not suppose that any objection can arise on your part to our communicating to the public our own proceedings ; the respect which we pay to the great body of the people you are supposed to represent, shall be evidenced by us in every possible mark of consi. deration and regard.”