Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to Richard Oswald, 11 June 1782

To Richard Oswald

LS:4 William L. Clements Library; copy:5 Library of Congress, transcript: National Archives

Passy, June 11. 1782.


I did intend to have waited on you this Morning, to enquire after your Health, and deliver the enclos’d Paper relating to the Parole of Lord Cornwallis;6 but being oblig’d to go to Versailles I must postpone my Visit till tomorow. I do not conceive that I have any Authority in Virtue of my office here to absolve that Parole, in any Degree: I have therefore endeavoured to found it as well as I could on the express Power given me by Congress to exchange Gen. Burgoyne for Mr. Laurens. A Reservation is made, of Confirmation or Disapprobation by Congress, not from any Desire in me to restrain the entire Liberty of that General; but because I think it decent and my Duty, to make such Reservation, and that I might otherwise be blam’d as assuming a Power not given me, if I undertook to discharge absolutely a Parole given to Congress without any Authority from them for so doing. With great Esteem and Respect, I have the honour to be, Sir, Your most obedient and most humble Servant

B Franklin

I have receiv’d no answer from Mr. Laurens.7
R. Oswald Esqe.

Endorsed: Doctr Franklins Letter to Mr Oswald on the Subject of Ld Cornwallis’s Parole 11— June 1782

Notation: Passy. 11th. June 1782 Dr. Franklin to Mr. Oswald. on Lord Cornwallis’s Parole. In Mr Oswald’s of 11th. June.8

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

4In L’Air de Lamotte’s hand, except for the last seven words of the complimentary close, which are in BF’s hand.

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

6BF’s declaration conditionally releasing Cornwallis from his parole, above, June 9. Oswald made a copy to which he appended a memorandum, presumably for Shelburne as it is among the latter’s papers (William L. Clements Library). The memorandum asserted that in spite of the conditional nature of the parole, Congress would not dare rescind it; hence, Cornwallis need have no concern. Oswald believed it would have been improper to insist on alterations as the document was “abundantly Sufficient.” See also the June 12 entry in BF’s journal of the peace negotiations.

7An answer to BF’s May 25 letter to Laurens, above.

8As this letter is with Shelburne’s papers, presumably it was enclosed in a June 11 letter from Oswald to Shelburne. On the following day Oswald wrote Shelburne that he had thanked BF for the generous way he had treated Cornwallis: Guinta, Emerging Nation, I, 428–9.

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