From the Comte de Grasse2
LS: Library of Congress
hotel de Modêne,
ruë jacob à Paris le 18. aoust 1782.
J’ai l’honneur de prier Votre Excellence, de vouloir bien m’indiquer le jour et l’heure, ou je pourrais avoir celui de vous Faire ma cour, ayant differentes choses a vous communiquer.3 Je serais charmé de Faire connoissance avec vous, et de vous assurer de vive voix de la sincerité des sentiments d’Estime et de respect avec lesquels je suis De Votre Excellence Le três humble et três obéissant serviteur.
Le Comte DE Grasse
2. Admiral de Grasse, captured aboard his flagship at the Battle of the Saintes, returned to Paris from London on the night of Aug. 15/16: Courier de l’Europe XII (1782), 140. On Aug. 17 he wrote to Vergennes what Shelburne had charged him to communicate: that Shelburne considered American independence a given, that he wanted to be able to work with Vergennes to effect a peace, and that he was prepared to make major concessions to France concerning the West Indies and elsewhere. Jean-Jacques Antier, L’Amiral de Grasse: Héros de l’Indépendance américaine (Paris, 1965), pp. 358–9; the letter is summarized in Andrew Stockley, Britain and France at the Birth of America: the European Powers and the Peace Negotiations of 1782–1783 (Exeter, Eng., 2001), p. 78. Shelburne, unauthorized to make such concessions, gave George III a different account of their conversation. On Aug. 11 he wrote the King that he had conversed with de Grasse the day before, had assured him of the King’s disposition for peace and his ministers’ sincerity, but that he had not entered into particulars: Fortescue, Correspondence of George Third, VI, 99–100.
Shelburne’s message was successful at opening serious negotiations with France. Anxious to make peace so as to pursue his domestic agenda, he subsequently played American and French negotiators against each other to obtain it: Harlow, Second British Empire, I, 312; John Norris, Shelburne and Reform (London and New York, 1963), pp. 171–6, 256–60.
3. This may have included the substance of his conversation with Shelburne, and Vergennes’ reaction. On Aug. 18 Vergennes asked de Grasse to reply to Shelburne that Louis XVI was very pleased with the prospects of peace, but could do nothing without first consulting his allies and above all the King of Spain: Antier, L’Amiral de Grasse, pp. 359–60.