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Negotiations for Peace.—Debates on the Subject in the British Parliament. —Change of Ministry. — Mr. Oswald sent to Paris to consult Dr. Franklin on the Mode of Negotiating. — Grenville's Commission; disapproved by Franklin. — Mr. Fox's Views of Independence.— Lord Shelburne's Administration. — Mr. Fitzherbert. — Mr. Oswald commissioned to negotiate the American Treaty. — Essential Articles of the Treaty proposed by Franklin. — Advisable Articles. – Mr. Jay disapproves Mr. Oswald's Commission. — An Alteration required and obtained. – Progress of the Treaty. — Independence, Boundaries, Fisheries. – Attempts of the British Ministry to secure the Indemnification of the Loyalists.-Mr. Adams joins his Colleagues and resists the British Claims. – Franklin proposes an Article for Indemnifying the Americans for their Losses during the War. — British Claims relinquished. — Treaty signed. — Ratified by Congress.
EARLY in the year 1782, the subject of peace began to occupy the attention of the British Parliament. The capture of Lord Cornwallis's army at Yorktown, the inability of the ministers to supply the place of these troops for another campaign, the fact that Holland had recently joined the belligerents against England, the enormous expenses of the war; all these things had contributed to open the eyes of the people, and to raise a general clamor for peace. The tone of the King's speech to Parliament, which convened soon after the intelligence of Cornwallis's defeat reached England, was somewhat more subdued than it had been before; yet such was the force of habit in wording the royal speeches, that even now, when the Americans had nobly sustained themselves as an independent nation for more than five years, captured two British armies, and taken away the last hope from their enemies of conquering them, the King could not refrain from talking of his rebellious and deluded subjects; although , he did not, as on former occasions, boast of his prowess, and of the ample means of subjugation, which he had at command. It was soon discovered in Parliament, that the public sentiment had communicated itself to that body, and that the overwhelming majority, which had sustained the ministers through the war, was greatly reduced, if not annihilated. The matter was brought to a trial by a motion of General Conway, that an address should be presented to his Majesty, praying that the war in America might cease, and that measures should be taken for restoring tranquillity and a reconciliation. The motion gave rise to a debate, which was animated on both sides, and it was finally lost by a majority of one only in favor of the ministers, and for continuing the war. This vote was the signal for a dissolution of the ministry. Lord North resigned, and there was a total change of ministry and measures. The new administration was formed in March. The Marquis of Rockingham was prime minister; the Earl of Shelburne and Mr. Fox, the two principal secretaries of state. This ministry came into power, as Mr. Fox more than once declared in Parliament, with the express understanding, that the fundamental principle of their measures was to be “the granting of unequivocal and unconditional independence to America.” For some time they seemed to act on this principle. The two secretaries corresponded directly with Dr. Franklin on the subject of peace, and they sent Mr. Richard Oswald over to Paris early in April, with authority to consult him on the mode of beginning and pursuing a negotiation. Mr. Thomas Grenville was likewise sent to confer with Count de Vergennes in reference to the preliminaries for a general peace between all the powers at war. Nothing more could be done till Parliament should pass an act enabling the King to enter into a formal negotiation. As to the mode of conducting the negotiations, Dr. Franklin said he thought it would be best for the British negotiators to appear under separate commissions, one for the American treaty, and another for those of the European powers, since the topics to be discussed were entirely distinct; and, as this mode would have greater simplicity, the object might be the sooner and more easily attained. The British ministry approved and adopted this suggestion, and their envoys were accordingly furnished with separate commissions. Both Mr. Grenville and Mr. Oswald, at their several interviews, assured Count de Vergennes and Dr. Franklin, that the point of independence had been conceded, and that it was to be granted in the first instance, before the treaty was begun. It was agreed between the British and French cabinets, that the negotiations should take place at Paris. Mr. Grenville remained there. Mr. Oswald went back to London, but returned in a few days. In the mean time Mr. Grenville received a commission, which he understood to authorize him to treat with France and America; but there was not a word in it about any other power than France. When this defect was pointed out to Mr. Grenville, he said, that, though his commission was silent in regard to America, yet his instructions gave him ample powers. Dr. Franklin was not satisfied with this explanation, and he said that the commission must be put in a proper form for treating with the United States, or no treaty could be held. Finding him firm in this decision, Mr. Grenville despatched an express to London with the commission, which came back so altered as to authorize him to treat “with France, or any other Prince or State.” This form was no more satisfactory than the other. On perusing it, Dr. Franklin told Mr. Grenville, that “he did not think it could be fairly supposed, that his court meant, by the general words any other State, to include a people whom they did not allow to be a State; ” and he refused to consider Mr. Grenville as empowered to act in the American treaty under this commission. After what had been said and repeated, by Mr. Oswald and Mr. Grenville, of the readiness of the British government to enter into a treaty on reasonable terms, this kind of shuffling displeased both Dr. Franklin and Count de Vergennes. They began to suspect it to be an artifice to gain time, and that some recent successes in the West Indies had encouraged the court of St. James to prosecute the war, or, at least, to put off the treaty, with the hope of securing more favorable terms in consequence of these successes. There were, perhaps, some grounds for these suspicions, though the main difficulty arose, as soon appeared, from another cause. News arrived of the death of the Marquis of Rockingham, the dissolution of the British cabinet, and the formation of a new one. This happened in July, the Rockingham administration having existed only two months and a half. The Earl of Shelburne was raised to the station of prime minister; Mr. Fox retired, and the principal secretaries of State were Earl Grantham and Mr. Townshend. Mr. Fox declared in Parliament, that he had left the cabinet wholly on the ground of American independence; that he had supposed this was to be granted in the first instance, and unconditionally; that he felt himself pledged to support this measure; that he found other counsels prevailing in the cabinet; and that, consequently, his only course was to retire. It was known, also, that Lord Shelburne, though friendly to the colonies and opposed to the war, had often declared himself against independence; but, the new administration having come into power on the basis of peace, it was supposed that he had changed his mind in this particular. His friends in Parliament insisted that he had done so, notwithstanding Mr. Fox's explanation implying the contrary. It is moreover to be observed, that there were political and personal differences, of long standing, between Lord Shelburne and Mr. Fox, which prevented their acting together in harmony, and that they had not agreed with respect to the negotiations, which had been begun. The new ministry being formed, however, under Lord Shelburne, he managed the peace in his own way; and it turned out, that Mr. Fox was right in saying, that the recognition of independence in the first instance was not a measure, which this minister had sought to promote, although the commissioners in Paris had been officially authorized to make this declaration to Dr. Franklin. After the Marquis of Rockingham's death, there was evidently an intention in the cabinet to establish the peace on a different basis, and to grant independence for an equivalent, to be rendered by the United States, either in commercial privileges or a cession of territory. In this state of affairs, Mr. Grenville, who had been appointed by the influence of Mr. Fox, was recalled from Paris, and his place was supplied by Mr. Fitzherbert, properly commissioned to negotiate with France, Spain, and Holland. The American treaty was left in the hands of Mr. Oswald. As yet, neither Mr. Adams nor Mr. Jay, who were associated with Dr.