Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Benjamin Vaughan, 18 January 1783

From Benjamin Vaughan

Reprinted from William Temple Franklin, ed., Memoirs of the Life and Writings of Benjamin Franklin … (3 vols., 4to, London, 1817–18), II, 423–4.

Paris, Jan. 18, 1783.

My dearest sir,

I cannot but in the most earnest manner and from recent circumstances, press your going early to Versailles to-morrow; and I have considerable reason to think, that your appearance there will not displease the person whom you address. I am of opinion that it is very likely that you will have the glory of having concluded the peace, by this visit; at least I am sure if the deliberations of to-morrow evening end unfavourably, that there is the strongest appearance of war; and if they end favourably, perhaps little difficulty may attend the rest.2

After all, the peace will have as much that is conceded in it, as England can in any shape be made just now to relish; owing to the stubborn demands principally of Spain, who would not I believe upon any motive recede from her conquests. What I wrote about Gibraltar, arrived after the subject as I understand was canvassed, and when it of course must have appeared impolitic eagerly and immediately to revive it.3

You reproved me, or rather reproved a political scheme yesterday, of which I have heard more said favourably by your friends at Paris, than by any persons whatever in London. But do you, my dear sir, make this peace, and trust our common sense respecting another war. England, said a man of sense to me the other day, will come out of the war like a convalescent out of a disease, and must be re-established by some physic and much regimen. I cannot easily tell in what shape a bankruptcy would come upon England, and still less easily in what mode and degree it would affect us; but if your confederacy mean to bankrupt us now, I am sure we shall lose the great fear that would deter us from another war. Your allies therefore for policy, and for humanity’s sake, will I hope stop short of this extremity; especially as we should do some mischief first to others, as well as to ourselves. I am, my dearest Sir, your ever devoted, ever affectionate, and ever obliged,

B. Vaughan.


[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

2Vaughan, believing that there was a crisis in the French and Spanish negotiations with Great Britain, had urged BF to visit Vergennes and intervene if necessary. After receiving Vergennes’ summons of Jan. 18, however, BF did not make this separate journey to Versailles; see his Jan. 19 letter to Vaughan. Vaughan recounted in a letter to Shelburne a conversation he and BF had around this time: BF expressed the view that war “was made according to the mistaken imaginations of the people, and peace, according to their real necessities as seen by the peace makers; and hence the frequent idea that they were bribed. He added that England was ruined by her great places, and though it was not a thing likely perhaps to be reformed, yet no reform was more necessary than what respected places. He said that the king’s being obliged to provide for a party prevented great persons from agreeing, and that it seemed to him as if the love of quarrelling was so great on account of those places, that there were those who wished the minister just now to make a bad peace, in order to abuse him for it when it was concluded.” Charles C. Smith, ed., “Letters of Benjamin Vaughan,” Mass. Hist. Soc. Proc., 2nd ser., XVII (1903), 435–8. Vaughan had no idea that the peace discussions were successfully completed by the evening of Jan. 18.

3In a Dec. 4 letter to Shelburne, Vaughan had encouraged the exchange of Gibraltar. Vaughan said that BF had suggested that, as an equivalent to it, Spain surrender Florida, Puerto Rico, and all claims to Jamaica: Smith, “Letters of Vaughan,” pp. 421–2.

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