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The next morning I met Lord Howe, according to appointment. He seemed very cheerful, having, as I imagine, heard from Lord Hyde what that lord might have heard from Mr. Barclay the evening of the lfith, viz. that I had consented to petition and engage payment for the tea; whence it was hoped, the ministerial terms of accommodation might take place. He let me know that he was thought of to be sent commissioner for settling the differences in America; adding, with an excess of politeness, that sensible of his own unacquaintedness with the business, and of my knowledge and abilities, he could not think of undertaking it without me; but with me, he should do it most readily; for he should found his expectation of success on my assistance; he therefore had desired this meeting to know my mind upon a proposition of my going with him in some shape or other, as a friend, an assistant, or secretary: that he was very sensible, if he should be so happy as to effect any thing valuable, it must be wholly owing to the advice and assistance I should afford him; that he should therefore make no scruple of giving me upon all occasions the full honor of it; that he had declared to the ministers his opinion of my good dispositions towards peace, and what he now wished was to be authorized by me to say, that I consented to accompany him, and would co-operate with him in the great work of reconciliation. That the influence I had over the minds of people in America, was known to be very extensive; and that I could, if any man could, prevail with them to comply with reasonable propositions. I replied, that I was obliged to his lordship for the favorable opinion he had of me, and for the honor he did me in proposing to make use of my assistance; that I wished to know what propositions were intended for America; that if they were reasonable ones in themselves, possibly I might be able to make them appear such to my countrymen; but if they were otherwise, I doubted whether that could be done by any man, and certainly I should not undertake it. His lordship then said, that he should not expect my assistance without a proper consideration. That the business was of great importance, and if he undertook it, he should insist on being enabled to make generous and ample appointments for those he took with him, particularly for me j as well as a firm promise of subsequent rewards; and, said he, that the ministry may have an opportunity of showing their good disposition towards yourself, will you give me leave, Mr. Franklin, to procure for you previously some mark of it; suppose the payment here of the arrears of your salary as agent for New England, which I understand they have stopped for some time past? My lord, said I, I shall deem it a great honor to be in any shape joined with your lordship in so good a work; but if you hope service from any influence I may be supposed to have, drop all thoughts of procuring me any previous favors from ministers; my accepting them would destroy the very influence you propose to make use of; they would be considered as so many bribes to betray the interest of my country: but only let me see the propositions, and if I approve of them, I shall not hesitate a moment, but will hold myself ready to accompany your lordship at an hour's warning. He then said, he wished I would discourse with Lord Hyde upon the business, and asked if I had any objection to meet his lordship? I answered none, not the least. That I had a great respect for Lord Hyde, and would wait upon him whenever he should please to permit it. He said he would speak to Lord Hyde, and send me word.
On the Monday following I received a letter from Lord Howe. To understand it better, it is necessary to reflect, that in the meantime there was opportunity for Mr. Barclay to communicate to that nobleman the Remarks I had made on the plan, the sight of which had probably changed the purpose of making any use of me on the occasion. The letter follows:
Grafton Street, Feb. 20, 1775. Not having had a convenient opportunity to talk with Lord Hyde until this morning, on the subject I mentioned when I had, my worthy friend, the pleasure to see you last, I now give you the earliest information of his lordship's sentiments upon my proposition.
He declares he has no personal objection, and that he is always desirous of the conversation of men of knowledge, consequently, in that respect, would have a pleasure in yours. But he apprehends, that on the present American contest, your principles and his, or rather those of parliament, are as yet so wide from each other, that a meeting merely to discuss them, might give you unnecessary trouble. Should you think otherwise, or should any propitious circumstances approximate such distant sentiments, he would be happy to be used as a channel to convey what might tend to harmony from a person of credit to those in power. And I will venture to advance, from my knowledge of his lordship's opinion of men and things, that nothing of that nature would suffer in the passage.
I am, with a sincere regard, your most obedient servant,
To Dr. Franklin. Howe.
As I had no desire of obtruding myself upon Lord Hyde, though a little piqued at his declining to see me, I thought it best to shew a decent indifference, which I endeavored in the following answer:
Vol. I. 2 M
Craven Street, Feb. 20, 1775.
Having nothing to offer on the American business in addition to what Lord Hyde is already acquainted with from the papers that have passed, it seems most respectful not to give his lordship the trouble of a visit; since a mere discussion of the sentiments contained in those papers, is not, in his opinion, likely to produce any good effect. I am thankful, however, to his lordship for the permission of waiting on him, which I shall use if any thing occurs that may give a chance of utility in such an interview.
With sincere esteem and respect, I have the honor to be, my lord, your lordship s most obedient humble servant, B. Franklin.
On the morning of the same day, February 20, it was currently and industriously reported all over the town, that Lord North would that day make a pacific motion in the house of commons for healing all differences between Britain and America. The house was accordingly very full, and the members full of expectation. The Bedford party, inimical to America, and who had urged severe measures, were alarmed, and began to exclaim against the minister for his timidity, and the fluctuation of his politics; they even began to count voices, to see if they could not, by negativing his motion, at once unhorse him, and throw him out of administration. His friends were therefore alarmed for him, and there was much caballing and whispering. At length a motion, as one had been promised, was made, but whether that originally intended is with me very doubtful. I suspect, from its imperfect composition, from its inadequateness to answer the purpose previously professed, and from some other circumstances, that when first drawn it contained more of Mr. Barclay's plan, but was curtailed by advice, just before it was delivered. My old proposition of giving up the regulating duties to the colonies, was in part to be found in it, and many who knew nothing of that transaction, said it was the best part of the motion. It was as follows:
Lord North's Motion, Feb. 20, 1775.
"That it is the opinion of this committee, that when the governor, council, and assembly, or general court of his Majesty's provinces or colonies, shall propose to make provision according to their respective conditions, circumstances, and situations, for contributing their proportion to the common defence; such proportion to be raised under the authority of the general court, or general assembly of such province or colony, and disposable by parliament; and shall engage to make provision also for the support of the civil government, and the administration of justice in such province or colony, it will be proper, if such proposal shall be approved by his Majesty in parliament, and for so long as such provision shall be made accordingly, to forbear in respect of such province or colony, to levy any duties, tax, or assessment, or to impose any further duty, tax, or assessment, except only such duties as it may be expedient to impose for the regulation of commerce; the nett produce of the duties last mentioned, to be carried to the account of such province, colony, or plantation exclusively."
After a good deal of wild debate, in which this motion was supported upon various and inconsistent principles by the ministerial people, and even met with an opposition from some of them, which showed a want of concert, probably from the suddenness of the alterations above supposed, they all agreed at length, as usual, in voting it by a large majority. Hearing nothing during all the following week from Messrs. Barclay and Fothergill, (except that Lord Hyde when acquainted with my willingness to engage for payment of the tea, had said it gave him new life,) nor any thing from Lord Howe, I mentioned his silence occasionally to his sister, adding, that I supposed it owing to his finding what he had proposed to me was not likely to take place; and I wished her to desire him, if that was the case, to let me know it by a line, that I might be at liberty to take other measures. She did so as soon as he returned from the country, where he had been for a day or two; and I received from her the following note, viz.
Mrs. Howe's compliments to Dr. Franklin: Lord Howe not quite understanding the message received from her, will be very glad to have the pleasure of seeing him either between twelve and one this morning, (the only hour he is at liberty this day,) at her house, or at any hour to-morrow most convenient to him. Grafton Street, Tuesday.
I met his lordship at the hour appointed. He said that he had not seen me lately, as he expected daily to have something more material to say to me than had yet occurred; and hoped that I would have called on Lord Hyde, as I had intimated I should do when I apprehended it might be useful, which he was sorry to find I had not done. That there was something in my verbal message by Mrs. Howe, which perhaps she had apprehended imperfectly; it was the hint of my purpose to take other measures. I answered, that having since I had last seen his lordship heard of the death of my wife at Philadelphia, in whose hands I had left the care of my affairs there, it was become necessary for me to return thither as soon as conveniently might be; that what his lordship had proposed of my accompanying him to America, might, if likely to take place, postpone my voyage to suit his conveniency; otherwise, I should proceed by the first ship.—That I did suppose by not hearing from him, and by Lord North's motion, all thoughts of that kind were laid aside, which was what I only desired to know from him. He said my last paper of Remarks by Mr. Barclay, wherein I had made the indemnification of Boston for the injury of stopping its port, a condition of my engaging to pay for the tea, (a condition impossible to be complied with,) had discouraged further proceeding on that idea. Having a copy of that paper in my pocket, I showed his lordship that I had proposed no such condition of my engagement, nor any other than the repeal of all the Massachusetts acts. That what followed relating to the indemnification was only expressing my private opinion that it would be just, but by no means insisting upon it. He said the arrangements were not yet determined on; that as I now explained myself, it appeared I had been much misapprehended; and he wished of all things I would see Lord Hyde, and asked if I would chuse to meet him there, at Mrs. Howe's, or that he should call upon me : I said that I would by no means give Lord Hyde that trouble. That since he (Lord Howe) seemed to think it might be of use, and wished it done soon, I would wait upon Lord Hyde: I knew him to be an early riser, and would be with him at 8 o'clock the next morning; which Lord Howe undertook to acquaint him with. But I added, that from what circumstances I could collect of the disposition of ministry, I apprehended my visit would answer no material purpose. He was of a different opinion, to which I submitted.
The next morning, March 1st, I accordingly was early with Lord Hyde, who received me with his usual politeness. We talked over a great part of the dispute between the countries. I found him ready with all the news-paper and pamphlet topics, of the expense of settling our colonies, the protection afforded them, the heavy debt under which Britain labored, the equity of our contributing to its alleviation; that many people in England were no more represented than we were, yet all were taxed and governed by parliament, &c, &c. I answered all, but with little effect; for though his lordship seemed civilly to hear what I said, I had reason to believe he attended very little to the purport of it, his mind being employed the while in thinking on what he himself purposed to say next. He had hoped, he said,