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be well assured of their good dispositions; that being himself upon no ill terms with them, he thought it not impossible that he might, by conveying my sentiments to them and theirs to me, be a means of bringing on a good understanding, without committing either them or me, if his negociation should not succeed; and that I might rely on his keeping perfectly secret, every thing I should wish to remain so.
Mrs. Howe here offering to withdraw, whether of herself, or from any sign by him, I know not, I begged she might stay, as I should have no secret in a business' of this nature that I could not freely confide to her prudence; which was truth; for I had never conceived a higher opinion of the discretion and excellent understanding of any woman on so short an acquaintance. I added, that though I had never before the honor of being in his lordship's company, his manner was such as had already engaged my confidence, and would make me perfectly easy and free in communicating myself to him. I begged him in the first place, to give me credit for a sincere desire of healing the breach between the two countries; that I would cheerfully and heartily do every thing in my small power to accomplish it; but that I apprehended from the king's speech, and from the measures talked of, as well as those already determined on, no intention or disposition of the kind existed in the present ministry, and therefore no accommodation could be expected till we saw a change. That as to what his lordship mentioned of the personal injuries done me, those done my country were so much greater, that I did not think the other, at this time, worth mentioning; that besides it wa&a fixed rule with me, not to mix my private affairs with those of the public; that I could join with my personal enemy in serving the public, or, when it was for its interest, with the public in serving that enemy; these being my sentiments, his lordship might be assured that no private considerations of the kind should prevent my being as useful in the present case as my small ability would permit. He appeared satisfied and pleased with these declarations, and gave it me as his sincere opinion, that some of the ministry were extremely well disposed to any reasonable accommodation, preserving only the dignity of government; and he wished me to draw up in writing, some propositions containing the terms on which I conceived a good understanding might be obtained and, established, and the mode of proceeding to accomplish it; which propositions, as soon as prepared, we might meet to consider, either at his house, or at mine, or where I pleased; but as his being seen at my house, on irre at his, might he thought occasion some speculation, it was concluded to be best to meet at his sister's, who readily offered her house for the purpose, and where there was a good pretence with her family and friends for my being often seen, as it was known we played together at chess. I undertook, accordingly, to draw up something of the kind; and so for that time we parted, agreeing to meet at the same place again on the Wednesday following.
I dined about this time by invitation with Governor Pownall. There was no company but the family, and after dinner we had a tête-à-tête. He had been in the opposition; but was now about making his peace, in order to come into parliament upon ministerial interest, which I did not then know. He told me what I had before been told by several of Lord North's friends, that the American measures were not the measures of that minister, nor approved by him; that, on the contrary, he was well disposed to promote a reconciliation upon any terms honorable to , government; that I had been looked upon as the great fomenter of the opposition in America, and as a great adversary to any accommodation; that he, Governor Pownall, had given a different account of me, and had told his lordship that I was certainly much misunderstood: from the Governor's further discourse I collected, that he wished to be employed as an envoy or commissioner to America, to settle the differences, and to have me with him; but as I apprehended there was little likelihood that either of us would be so employed by government, I did not give much attention to that part of his discourse.
I should have mentioned in its place, (but one cannot recollect every thing in order) that declining at first to draw up the propositions desired by Lord Howe, I alleged its being unnecessary, since the congress in their petition to the king, just then received and presented through Lord Dartmouth, had stated their grievances, and pointed out very explicitly what would restore the ancient harmony; and I read a part of the petition to show their good dispositions, which, being very pathetically expressed, seemed to affect both the brother and sister. But still I was desired to give my ideas of the steps to be taken, in case some of the propositions in the petition should not be thought admissible. And this, as I said before, I undertook to do. . .
I had promised Lord Chatham to communicate to him the first important news I should receive from America. I therefore sent him the proceedings of the congress as soon as I received them; but a whole week passed after I received the petition, before I could, as I wished to do, wait upon him with it, in order to obtain his sentiments on the whole; for my time was taken up in meetings with the other agents to consult about presenting the petition, in waiting three different days with them on Lord Dartmouth, in consulting upon and writing letters to the speakers of assemblies, and other business, which did not allow me a day to go to Hayes. At last, on Monday the 26th, I got out, and was there about one o'clock; he received me with an affectionate kind of respect, that from so great a man was extremely engaging; but the opinion he expressed of the congress was still more so. They had acted, he said, with so much temper, moderation, and wisdom, that he thought it the most honorable assembly of statesmen since those of the ancient Greeks and Romans, in the most virtuous times. That there were not in their whole proceedings, above one or two things he could have wished otherwise; perhaps but one, and that was their assertion, that the keeping up a standing army in the colonies in time of peace, without consent of their legislatures, was against law; he doubted that was not well founded, and that the law alluded to did not extend to the colonies. The rest he admired and honored. He thought the petition decent, manly, and properly expressed. He enquired much and particularly concerning the state of America, the probability of their perseverance, the difficulties they must meet with in adhering for any long time to their resolutions, the resources they might have to supply the deficiency of commerce, to all which I gave him answers with which he seemed well satisfied. He expressed a great regard and warm affection for that country, with hearty wishes for their prosperity; and that government here might soon come to see its mistakes, and rectify them; and intimated that possibly he might, if his health permitted, prepare something for its consideration, when the parliament should meet after the holidays; on which he should wish to have previously my sentiments. I mentioned to him the very hazardous state I conceived we were in, by the continuance of the army in Boston; that whatever disposition there might be in the inhabitants to give no just cause of offence to the troops, or in the general to preserve order among them, an unpremeditated unforeseen quarrel might happen between perhaps a drunken porter and a soldier, that might bring on a riot, tumult, and bloodshed; and in its consequences produce a breach impossible to be healed; that the army could not possibly answer any good purpose there, and might be infinitely mischievous; that no accommodation could properly be proposed and entered into by the Americans, while the bayonet was at their breasts; that to have any agreement binding, all force should be withdrawn. His lordship seemed to think these sentiments had something in them that was reasonable.
From Hayes I went to Halsted, Mr. Sargent's place, to dine, intending thence a visit to Lord Stanhope at Chevening; but hearing them that his lordship and the family were in town, I staid at Halsted all night, and the next morning went to Chislehurst to call upon Lord Camden, it being in my way to town. I met his lordship and family in two carriages just without his gate, going on a visit of congratulation
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to Lord Chatham and his lady, on the late marriage of their daughter to Lord Mahon, son of Lord Stanhope. They were to be back at dinner; so I agreed to go in, stay dinner, and spend the evening there, and not return to town till next morning. We had that afternoon and evening a great deal of conversation on American affairs, concerning which he was very inquisitive, and I gave him the best information in my power. I was charmed with his generous and noble sentiments; and had the great pleasure of hearing his full approbation of the proceedings of the congress, the petition, &c, &c. of which, at his request, I afterwards sent him a copy. He seemed anxious that the Americans should continue to act with the same temper, coolness, and wisdom, with which they had hitherto proceeded in most of their public assemblies, in which case he did not doubt they would succeed in establishing their rights, and obtain a solid and durable agreement with the mother country; of the necessity and great importance of which agreement, he seemed to have the strongest impressions.
I returned to town the next morning, in time to meet at the hour appointed by Lord Howe. I apologized for my not being ready with the paper I had promised, by my having been kept longer than I intended in the country. We had, however, a good deal of conversation on the subject, and his lordship told me he could now assure me of a certainty, that there was a sincere disposition in Lord North and Lord Dartmouth to accommodate the differences with America, and to listen favorably to any propositions that might have a probable tendency to answer that salutary purpose. He then asked me what I thought of sending some person or persons over, commissioned to enquire into the grievances of America upon the spot, converse with the leading people, and endeavor with them to agree upon some means of composing our differences. I said, that a person of rank and dignity, who had a character of candor, integrity, and wisdom, might possibly, if employed in that service, be of great use. He seemed to be of the same opinion, and that whoever was employed should go with a hearty desire of promoting a sincere reconciliation, on the foundation of mutual interests and mutual good-will; that he should endeavor, not only to remove their prejudices against government, but equally the prejudices of government against them, and bring on a perfect good understanding, &c. Mrs. Howe said, I wish brother you were to be sent thither on such a service; I should like that much better than General Howe's going to command the army there. I think, Madam, said I, they ought to provide for General Howe some more honorable employment. Lord Howe here took out of .his pocket a paper, and offering it to me said, smiling, if it is not an unfair question, may I ask whether you know any thing of this paper? Upon looking at it, I saw it was a copy in David Barclay's hand, of the Hints before recited; and said, that I had seen it; adding a little after, that since I perceived his lordship was acquainted with a transaction, my concern in which I had understood was to have been kept a secret, I should make no difficulty in owning to him that I had been consulted on the subject, and had drawn up that paper. He said, he was rather sorry to find that the sentiments expressed in it were mine, as it gave him less hopes of promoting, by my assistance, the wished-for reconciliation; since he had reason to think there was no likelihood of the admission of those propositions. He hoped, however, that I would re-consider the subject, and form some plan that would be acceptable here. He expatiated on the infinite service it would be to the nation, and the great merit in being instrumental in so good a work; that he should not think of influencing me by any selfish motive, but certainly I might with reason expect any reward in the power of government to bestow. This to me was what the French vulgarly call spitting in the soup. However, I promised to draw some sketch of a plan at his request, though I much doubted, I said, whether it would be thought preferable to that he had in his hand. But he was willing to hope that it would, and as he considered my situation, that I had friends here and constituents in America to keep well with, that I might possibly propose something improper to be seen in my handwriting; therefore, it would be better to send it to Mrs. Howe, who would copy it; send the copy to him to be communicated to the ministry, and return me the original. This I agreed to, though I did not apprehend the inconvenience he mentioned. In general, I liked much his manner, and found myself disposed to place great confidence in him on occasion, but in this particular the secrecy he proposed seemed not of much importance.
In a day or two I sent the following paper, enclosed in a cover directed to the honorable Mrs. Howe.
"It is supposed to be the wish on both sides, not merely to put a stop to the mischief at present threatening the general welfare, but to cement a cordial union, and remove, not only every real grievance, but every cause of jealousy and suspicion.
"With this view, the first thing necessary is, to know what is, by the different parties in the dispute, thought essentially necessary for the obtaining such an union.
"The American congress, in their petition to the king, have been explicit, declaring, that by a repeal of the oppressive acts therein complained of, 'the har