Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to John Adams, 8 May 1782

To John Adams

LS:4 Massachusetts Historical Society; copy:5 Library of Congress; transcripts: National Archives, Massachusetts Historical Society

Passy, May 8. 1782


Mr Oswald, whom I mention’d in a former letter which I find you have received,6 is returned and brought me another Letter from Lord Shelburne of which the above is a Copy.7 It says Mr Oswald is instructed to communicate to me his Lordships Thoughts. He is however very sparing of such Communication. All I have got from him, is that the Ministry have in Contemplation, the allowing Independence to America on Condition of Britains being “put again into the State she was left in by the Peace of 1763”8 which I suppose means being put again in Possession of the Islands France has taken from her. This seems to me a Proposition of selling to us a Thing that is already our own, and making France pay the Price they are pleased to ask for it. Mr. Grenville who is sent by Mr. Fox is expected here Daily; Mr Oswald tells me that Mr Lawrens will soon be here also. Yours of the 2d Inst is just come to hand. I shall write you on this Affair hereafter by the Court Couriers, for I am certain your Letters to me are open’d at the Post-Office either here or in Holland, and I suppose mine to you are treated in the same manner. I inclose the Cover of your last that you may see the Seal.— With great Respect, I am, Sir, Your Excellency’s most obedient & most humble Servant.

B Franklin

[In Franklin’s hand:] When you write per Post please to put your Letter under Cover to Mr Grand
His Exy. J. Adams Esqr.

Endorsed: Dr Franklin. May 8. 1782.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

4In WTF’s hand.

5The copy and transcripts are in BF’s journal of the peace negotiations.

6On May 2, JA acknowledged receiving BF’s letter of April 20. Both letters are above.

7The present letter is written below a copy of Shelburne to BF, April 28.

8This is a paraphrase of a passage in the minutes of the cabinet meeting of April 25, for which see our annotation of Shelburne’s letter of April 28. Shelburne told Oswald on April 28 to show but not give BF a copy of the minutes. He ordered Oswald to insist that as a condition of independence the United States have “No secret, tacit or ostensible connection with France.” Shelburne also responded to the notes that BF gave Oswald (above, [before April 19]) by rejecting the request for Canada as indemnification. He further ordered Oswald to “Make early and strict conditions not only to secure all debts whatever due to British subjects, but likewise to restore the loyalists to a full enjoyment of their rights and privileges. And their indemnification to be considered. … No independence to be acknowledged without their being taken care of. A compensation expected for New York, Charleston, and Savannah. Penobscott to be always kept.” Oswald was to sound BF in greatest confidence about the idea of a federal union between Great Britain and the United States, warning him that “the country at large is no way reconciled to Independence” and that should negotiations fail Britain was prepared to resume the war “with the utmost vigor.” Shelburne did indicate a willingness to correspond more particularly with BF and to grant Oswald whatever title BF desired: Edward E. Hale and Edward E. Hale, Jr., Franklin in France … (2 vols., Boston, 1887–88), II, 51–4; Harlow, Second British Empire, I, 251; Fitzmaurice, Life of Shelburne, II, 136–7. For Oswald’s conversations with BF see also BF’s journal of the peace negotiations.

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