Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from James Lovell, 16 September 1779

From James Lovell

ALS: University of Pennsylvania Library

Philada. Septr. 16th. 1779

Honble: Sir

On the 30th. of Augst. I received yr. favr. of June 2d. with the ministerial Paper containing Mauduit’s Speculations3 and, since that, several Pamplets wch. came under the care of Chevalr. de la Luzerne and, I think, under a Superscription in yr. Grandson’s handwriting, have reached me. I am sure Hartley is stumbling only over a Mistake about the eventual alliance.4 It is now in Vigor. It is defunct of course upon a Peace,5 except so far as a Guarantee of the articles of that Peace and there can be no Sincerity in any pacific compact of Britain if she is not willing to have it guaranteed to us. He is more mistaken in his Idea of a distinction being yet in Vigor here, between the Ministry & People of Britain.6 A short Space of Time will probably produce for his Perusal a solemn Vow & Compact not only of the Delegates in Congress but of the whole Legislatures of the Union, never, never to form even a commercial Treaty with Great Britain. It was indeed once held out here, for political Purposes in the days of our Irresolution, that this was not a popular War in England. But it is not now at all necessary to disguise the Certainty that from the Tyrant George down to the Shoe and Soot Boy there is a proud desire to be yet able to say “our Colonies.”

I have sent you so many Setts of the Journals of this year that I now only convey additional Numbers to compleat those Setts. I send you also 1777. I shall particularly press what you say to me of Pacquet Boats.7 The Navy Board at Boston write to me in the same manner. I am, Sir, your most humb. Servt.

James Lovell

Honble. Doctr. Franklin

Endorsed: Mr. Lovell’s Letters between April 29 & Sept. 6 1779. Recd. June 12. 1780

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

3XXIX, 607–9.

4Hartley argued that since the Treaty of Alliance was eventual (i.e., did not come into effect automatically upon ratification) it was contingent on the British ministry’s continued “hostile measures and designs” against America: Letters on the American War … (2nd ed., London, 1778), p. 85. This must be one of the pamphlets BF sent Lovell. BF had already attempted to disabuse Hartley of his hope that the United States would abandon the French alliance: XXVIII, 417–18, 461–4.

5In a private letter BF professed to hope the alliance would be eternal and even after the signing of a provisional peace agreement with Britain in 1782 he argued that America’s “true political interest” lay in continued exact fulfillment of the alliance: XXVIII, 369; Wharton, Diplomatic Correspondence, VI, 169. The French also argued that the alliance was perpetual; it was they who drafted Article XI of the Treaty of Alliance, which provided that the alliance’s guarantees were to last “forever” and they continued to insist on this position after the war’s conclusion: XXV, 521, 590–1; Lawrence S. Kaplan, “Toward Isolationism: the Rise and Fall of the Franco-American Alliance, 1775–1801,” in Lawrence S. Kaplan, Entangling Alliances with None: American Foreign Policy in the Age of Jefferson (Kent, Ohio, and London, 1987), p. 83; “Correspondence of the Comte de Moustier with the Comte de Montmorin, 1787–1789,” American Hist. Rev. VIII (1902–3), 728.

6Hartley, Letters on the American War, p. 71. BF had expressed his disagreement on the point: XXVIII, 420.

7BF had suggested that Congress establish a monthly packet boat service to France: XXIX, 609.

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