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Arrival of the British commissioners.... Terms of concili
ation proposed....Answer of congress to these propositions.... Attempts of mr. Johnson to bribe influential members of congress....Congress order the publication of the private letters from Johnson to the members of that body.... Manifesto of the commissioners, and counter manifesto by congress....Arrival of Gerard, minister plenipotentiary from the king of France....His reception by congress....Hostilities of the Indians....Colonel John Butler, with a party of Indians, breaks into the Wyoming settlement....His treachery to colonel Zebulon Butler.... Kingston besieged by the Indians; surrenders, and the garrison and inhabitants butchered.... Wilkesbarre also surrenders, and meets the same fate....Distresses of the settlers in Wyoming....Colonel Alden surprised, and with some of his party killed....Colonel Clarke surprises St. Vincents, and takes possession of it....Congress determine to attack Canada and the other British possessions in North America....General Washington urges reasons against the plan.... Has a personal interview with a committee of congress, and induces that body to abandon the enterprise.
1778. ABOUT the time that commodore Parker
sailed for the southern states, the commissioners appointed to give effect to the late conciliatory acts of parliament, which had been proposed by lord North, embarked for Europe. They had exerted unsuccessfully their utmost powers to effect the objects of their mission. The terms now offered were such as, at one time, America would most joyfully have accepted; but they required a union of the force CHAP. X. of the two nations under one common sovereign. 1778. These were terms to which America was no longer disposed, or even at liberty, to accede. All those affections which parts of the same empire should feel for each other had been eradicated by a distressing war; the great body of the nation was determined, at every sacrifice, to maintain its independence; and the treaty with France had pledged them, by every principle of honour and national faith, never to consent to a re-union with the British empire.
The British commissioners arrived in Philadelphia, while that place was yet in possession of their army, and are understood to have brought positive and secret orders for its immediate evacuation.
The reception which had been already given Arrival of to the conciliatory bills, on which their mis-commission was founded;* a reception manifesting the fixed determination of congress, previous to any knowledge of the treaty with France, must have left them but little hope, that the propositions they brought with them, could be accepted. They were, however, especially governor Johnson, persons who had always openly condemned the violent measures of administration, and had wished a settlement of differences on the ground first taken by Ame
* See Note, No. XI. at the end of the volume.
CHAP. X. rica; and, of consequence, they were now 1778, sincerely desirous of bringing about a reconci.
liation between the two countries.
Their arrival, therefore, was immediately announced to general Washington, by sir Henry Clinton, who was joined with them in the commission, and a passport was requested for their secretary, doctor Ferguson, as the bearer of their first dispatches to congress.
This passport, the commander in chief declined granting until he should receive the instructions of his government: on which a letter, addressed
to the president and other the members of congress” was forwarded in the usual manner. With this letter, were transmitted copies of their commission, and of the acts of parliament on which it was founded. It contained also, propositions for the following, among other purposes.
" To consent to a cessation of hostilities both by sea and land.
“ To restore free intercourse, to revive mutual affection, and renew the common benefits of naturalization, through the several parts of the empire.
“ To extend every freedom to trade that the respective interest of Britain and America could require.
“ To agree that no military forces should be kept up in North America, without the consent of the general congress or particular assemblies.
Terms of conciliation proposed.
" To concur in measures calculated to dis- CHAP. X. charge the debts of America, and to raise the 1778. credit and value of the paper circulation.
“ To perpetuate the union by a reciprocal deputation 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 Iningled with them, reflecting on the conduct of France.* The reading was interrupted, and
* 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.”
CHAP. X. a motion was made to proceed no further, in 1778. consequence of this offensive language against
his most christian majesty. This motion producing some debate, an adjournment was called for and carried. When congress reassembled, the warmth of the preceding day had not entirely subsided, but after several ineffectual
motions, the letter was read, and a committee, Answer of appointed for that purpose, reported an answer, these propo- which, being unanimously agreed to, was
signed by the president, and transmitted to the commissioners. This letter declared that
' nothing but an earnest desire to spare the further effusion of human blood could have in. duced 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 sávage 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 treaties already subsisting, when the king