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I am to be longer deprived of an opportunity to assure you personally of the regard with which, I am, your sincere and faithful humble servant, Howe.
P. S. I was disappointed of the opportunity I expected for sending this letter at the time it was dated, and have ever since been prevented by calms and contrary winds from getting here, to inform General Howe of the commission with which I have the satisfaction to be charged, and of his being joined in it. Off Sandy Hook, \1th of July.
» To Lord Howe.
My Lord, Philadelphia, July 20, 1776.
I received safe the letters your lordship so kindly forwarded to me, and beg you to accept my thanks.
The official dispatches to which you refer me, contain nothing more than what we had seen in the act of parliament, viz. offers of pardon upon submission, which I am sorry to find, as it must give your lordship pain to be sent so far on so hopeless a business.
Directing pardons to be offered the colonies, who are the very partiesjnjured, expresses indeed that opinion of our ignorance, baseness and insensibility, which your uninformed and proud nation has long been pleased to entertain of us; but it can have no other effect than that of increasing our resentment. It is impossible we should think of submission to a government that has with the most wanton barbarity and cruelty burnt our defenceless towns in the midst of winter, excited the savages to massacre our farmers, and our slaves to murder their masters, and is even now bringing foreign mercenaries to deluge our settlements with blood. These atrocious injuries have extinguished every remaining spark of affection for that parent country we once held so dear: but were it possible for us to forget and forgive them, it is not possible for you, (I mean the British nation) to forgive the people you have so heavily injured; you can never confide again in those as fellow subjects, and permit them to enjoy equal freedom, to whom you know you have given such just cause of lasting enmity. And this must impel you, were we again under your government, to endeavor the breaking our spirit by the severest tyranny, and obstructing, by every means in your power, our growing strength and prosperity.
Vn r T o ^
But your lordship mentions "the King's paternal solicitude for promoting the establishment of lasting peace and union with the colonies." If by peace is here meant a peace to be entered into between Britain and America, as distinct states now at war, and his Majesty has given your lordship powers to treat with us of such a peace, I may venture to say, though without authority, that I think a treaty for that purpose not yet quite impracticable, before we enter into foreign alliances. But I am persuaded you have no such powers. Your nation though by punishing those American governors who have created and fomented the discord, rebuilding our burnt towns, and repairing as far as possible the mischiefs done us, might yet recover a great share of our regard, and the greatest part of our growing commerce, with all the advantage of that additional strength to be derived from a friendship with us; but I know too well her abounding pride and deficient wisdom, to believe she will ever take such salutary measures. Her fondness for conquest as a warlike nation, her lust of dominion as an ambitious one, and her thirst for a gainful mono* poly as a commercial one, (none of them legitimate causes of war) will all join to hide from her eyes every view of her true interests; and continually goad her on in those ruinous distant expeditions, so destructive both of lives and treasure, that must prove as pernicious to her in the end as the croisades formerly were to most of the nations of Europe.
I have not the vanity, my lord, to think of intimidating by thus predicting the effects of this war; for I know it will in England have the fate of all my former predictions, not to be believed till the event shall verify it
Long did I endeavor, with unfeigned and unwearied zeal, to preserve from breaking, that fine and noble China vase, the British empire: for I knew that being once broken, the separate parts could not retain even their share of the strength or value that existed in the whole, and that a perfect re-union of those parts could scarce ever be hoped for. Your lordship may possibly remember the tears of joy, that wet my cheek, when, at your good sister's in London, you once gave me expectations that a reconciliation might soon take place. I had the misfortune to find those expectations disappointed, and to be treated as the cause of the mischief I was laboring to prevent. My consolation under that groundless and malevolent treatment was, that I retained the friendship of many wise and good men in that country, and among the rest some share in the regard of Lord Howe.
The well-founded esteem, and permit me to say affection, which I shall always have for your lordship makes it painful to me to see you engaged in conducting a war, the great ground of which, as expressed in your letter, is "the necessity of preventing the American trade from passing into foreign channels." To me it seems that neither the obtaining or retaining of any trade, how valuable soever is an object for which men may justly spill each other's blood; that the true and sure means of extending and securing commerce, is the goodness and cheapness of commodities; and that the profit of no trade can ever be equal to the expense of com-' pelling it, and of holding it by fleets and armies.
I consider this war against us therefore, as both unjust and unwise; and I am persuaded that cool dispassionate posterity will condemn to infamy those who advised it; and that even success will not save from some degree of dishonor those who voluntarily engaged to conduct it. I know your great motive in coming hither was the hope of being instrumental in a reconciliation; and I believe when you find that impossible on any terms given you to propose, you will relinquish so odious a command, and return to a more honorable private station.
With the greatest and most sincere respect, I have the honor to be, my Lord your lordship's most obedient humble servant, B. Franklin.
To Dr. Franklin. . \::;i
Eagle, offStaten Island, Aug. the 16th, 1776. I am sorry, my worthy friend, that it is only on the assurances you give me of my having still preserved a place in your esteem, that I can now found a pretension to trouble you with a reply to your favor of the 21 st past.
I can have no difficulty to acknowledge that the powers I am invested with were never calculated to negociate a reunion with America, under any other description than as subject to the crown of Great Britain. But I do esteem those powers competent, not only to confer and negociate with any gentlemen of influence in the colonies upon the terms, but also to effect a lasting peace and reunion between the two countries; were the temper of the colonies such as professed in the last petition of the congress to the King. America would have judged in the discussion how far the means were adequate to the end; both for engaging her confidence and proving our integrity. Nor did I think it necessary to say more in my public declaration; not conceiving it could be understood to refer to peace, on any other conditions but those of mutual interest to both countries, which could alone render it permanent.
But as I perceive from the tenor of your letter, how little I am to reckon upon the advantage of your assistance for restoring that permanent union which has long been the object of my endeavors, and which I flattered myself when I left England, would be in the compass of my power; I will only add, that as the dishonor to which you deem me exposed by my military situation in this country, has effected no change in your sentiments of personal regard towards me, so shall no difference in political points alter my desire of proving how much I am your sincere and obedient humble servant, Howe.
In Congress, Sept. 2nd, 1776.
Congress being informed that General Sullivan, who was taken prisoner on Long Island, was come to Philadelphia with a message from Lord Howe,
Ordered, that he be admitted, and heard before congress.
General Sullivan being admitted, delivered the verbal message be had in charge from Lord Howe, which he was desired to reduce to writing, and withdrew.
General Sullivan, having reduced to writing the verbal message from Lord Howe, the same was laid before congress and read as follows.
The following is the purport of the message sent from Lord Howe to congress by General Sullivan.
That though he could not at present treat with congress as such, yet he was very desirous of having a conference with some of the members, whom he would consider for the present only as- private gentlemen, and meet them himself as such, at such place as they should appoint.
That he in conjunction with General Howe had full powers to compromise the dispute between Great Britain and America on terms advantageous to both, the obtaining of which delayed him near two months in England, and prevented his arrival at this place before the declaration of independence took place.
That he wished a compact might be settled at this time, when no decisive blow was struck, and neither party could say they were compelled to enter into such agreement
That in case congress were disposed to treat, many things which they had not as yet asked, might and ought to be granted to them, and that if, upon the conference, they found any probable ground of an accommodation, the authority of congress must be afterwards acknowledged, otherwise the compact could not be complete.
Resolved, that General Sullivan be requested to inform Lord Howe, that this congress being the representatives of the free and independent states of America, cannot, with propriety, send any of its members to confer with his lordship in their private characters, but that ever desirous of establishing peace on reasonable terms, they will send a committee of their body to know whether he has any authority to treat with persons authorised by Congress for that purpose en behalf of America, and what that authority is, and to hear such propositions as he shall think fit to make respecting the same.
Ordered, that a copy of the foregoing resolution, be delivered to General Sullivan, and that he be directed immediately to repair to Lord Howe.
Resolved, that the committee "to be sent to know whether Lord Howe has any authority to treat with persons authorised by congress for that purpose, in behalf of America; and what that authority is, and to hear such propositions as he shall think fit to make respecting the same," consist of three.
The members chosen, Dr. Franklin, Mr. Adams, and Mr. Rutledge.
Eagle, offBedim's Island, Sept. 10, 1776. Lord Howe presents his compliments to Dr. Franklin, and according to the tenor of his favor of the 8th, will attend to have the pleasure of meeting him and Messrs. Adams and Rutledge to-morrow morning, at the house on Staten Island, opposite to Amboy, as early as the few conveniencies for travelling by land on Staten Island will admit, Lord Howe, upon his arrival at the place appointed, will send a boat (if he can procure it in time) with a flag of truce over to Amboy; and requests the Doctor and the other gentlemen will postpone their intended favor of passing over to meet him, until they are informed as above of his arrival to attend them there.
In case the weather should prove unfavorable for Lord Howe to pass in his boat to Staten Island to-morrow, as from the present appearance there is some reason to suspect, he will take the next earliest opportunity that offers for that purpose. In this intention he may be further retarded, having been an invalid lately; but will certainly give the most timely notice of that inability. He however flatters himself he shall not have occasion to make further excuses on that account.
The committee appointed to confer with Lord Howe, having returned, made a verbal report. Ordered that they make a report in writing, as soon at they conveniently can.
t ••■ September 17th.
The committee appointed to confer with Lord Howe, agreeable to order, brought in a report in writing which was read as follows,