From William Strahan9
ALS: Archives du Ministère des affaires étrangères
London March 13. 1778
I am very glad to be able to renew our long interrupted Correspondence, by sending you the inclosed Acts, which are just past here, by and in consequence of which you will find all Grounds of Complaints from the Colonies against Britain effectually removed.1 The Commissioners to be sent from hence, if I am rightly informed, are Lord Carlisle; Mr. Eden, and your old Friend Mr. Jackson, whose Integrity, Knowledge of Business, and good Disposition towards the Interests of America you are well acquainted with, and who, you may be assured, at his time of Life, and with his ample Fortune, would have hardly embarked in this Service, did he not think there was a reasonable Prospect of accomplishing the great Object in View, a thorough, cordial, and permanent Reconciliation.2
It would be equally absurd and fruitless for me to enter into Particulars. The Subject in all its Branches and in all its Consequences, you are infinitely better acquainted with than I can be, who know nothing but what every body knows, and who, with many others, can only lament the Havock and Desolation this unfortunate Quarrel hath occasioned. All that I pretend to is Good Intention and Veracity. These, I trust, from our long and intimate Acquaintance, you will not deny me. Be assured then, that I embrace the very first Opportunity of sending you the inclosed Acts, with an eager Desire that if you think they are adequate, if you think they are ample and sufficient Ground for a Treaty, and if you think a Reconciliation is yet in any Manner practicable, you would step forth and take the Lead in a Transaction so truly glorious, and so pregnant with Happiness to Millions. Believe me too, that I write this without the Knowledge or Privity of any Mortal (a mutual Friend of ours only excepted3) as much with a view, and as sincerely wishing that you may be the chief and foremost Instrument in restoring Peace; as I wish Peace itself, which from the bottom of my Heart I am desirous of. Believe me farther that as far as I can gather and learn from every Quarter (and I proceed upon Grounds that fully convince myself) you have no Reason to entertain the least Jealousy of Lord North and the rest of the present Ministry, who mean Peace and Reconciliation as sincerely and upon as generous Terms as you yourself, (if new Situations have not totally altered your Ideas) could wish for, in spite of all Appearances, and of much wicked Pains that hath been taken to make the World believe otherwise.
After all, I cannot but still flatter myself that the Disposition to reunite, so natural to People, who come from one common Stock, speaking the same Language, governed by the same Laws, professing the same Religion, and whose Commercial Interests are really so much interwoven with one another, will now be found to be mutual and ardent, in opposition to all other Connexions, which however they may seem to serve a present Purpose, will soon be found to be unnnatural, and ill suited to the Ideas entertained by free British Subjects and peculiar indeed to those who have early imbibed the Principles, and are sensible of the Happiness of our excellent Constitution.
Let me only add, that as our Notions of our Brethren in America are lately much altered, I may rather say rectified, there is, in my Opinion, the fairest Prospect imaginable, when Amity is once restored, of seeing our Union more cordial, more complete, more beneficial, and more satisfactory to both Sides, than ever, which will be daily gaining additional Strength, if farther Strength it needs, from a due Sense of the Assistance and Protection we must necessarily communicate to each other.
I hope to have the Pleasure of hearing from you with your first Leisure;4 and am, with a lively Remembrance of old Friendship, Dear Sir Your affectionate and obedient Servant
Notation: 1778. Mars 13.
9. Enclosed with the letter and, like it, forwarded to Vergennes were a memorandum from a “Mr. B.” about opening peace negotiations, and a suggested base for them in trade concessions and British recognition of independence. Stevens, Facsimiles, XXII, nos. 1884, 1886. Strahan was concerning himself with proposals that would have horrified him a short time before.
1. Strahan’s correspondence had not been very long interrupted, for he had written the previous May: above, XXIV, 93–4. The acts he enclosed, 18 Geo. III, c. 12–13, were North’s conciliatory plan; it renounced the right to tax or levy duties on tea, and established a commission to treat with Americans.
2. Richard Jackson, the former agent for Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania, was indeed a friend of many years’ standing. He had at first been willing to serve, but as March wore on his reservations grew; on April 1 George Johnstone replaced him. Weldon A. Brown, Empire or Independence: a Study in the Failure of Reconciliation, 1774–1783 (University, La., 1941), p. 248; Namier and Brooke, House of Commons, II, 671–2, 684.
3. Presumably “Mr. B.,” the author of the enclosures mentioned in our first note. In that case it is tempting to guess that he was David Barclay, who had played a prominent part in BF’s secret negotiations with the government in 1774–75: above, XXI, 361 et seq. But we have no evidence that he and Strahan even knew each other.
4. If BF replied at all to this overture, he took his time. Strahan’s letter below of July 14, 1778, complained that he had had no answer.