Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Charles James Fox, 19 April 1783

From Charles James Fox

Reprinted from William Temple Franklin, ed., Memoirs of the Life and Writings of Benjamin Franklin … (3 vols., 4to, London, 1817–18), II, 431.

St. James’s, April 19, 1783.


Although it is unnecessary for me to introduce to your acquaintance a gentleman so well known to you as Mr. Hartley,3 who will have the honour of delivering to you this letter, yet it may be proper for me to inform you that he has the full and entire confidence of his Majesty’s ministers upon the subject of his mission.4

Permit me, Sir, to take this opportunity of assuring you how happy I should esteem myself if it were to prove my lot to be the instrument of compleating a real and substantial reconciliation between two countries formed by nature to be in a state of friendship one with the other, and thereby to put the finishing hand to a building, in laying the first stone of which I may fairly boast that I had some share.

I have the honour to be, with every sentiment of regard and esteem, Sir, your most obedient humble servant,

C. J. Fox.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

3For Hartley’s appointment as Oswald’s replacement see the annotation of his letter of March 31. Hartley had been one of Fox’s supporters in the House of Commons, had ties to North, and was hostile to Shelburne: XXXVI, 360–2; Butterfield, John Adams Diary, III, 135; George H. Guttridge, David Hartley, M.P.: an Advocate of Conciliation, 1774–1783 (Berkeley and London, 1926), pp. 298–300. His relative liberalism on trade issues soon proved to be incompatible with Fox’s orthodox mercantilism, however, and Fox, distrusting him, virtually ceased communicating: Andrew Stockley, Britain and France at the Birth of America: the European Powers and the Peace Negotiations of 1782–1783 (Exeter, 2001), pp. 178–81.

4Following the king’s injunction, Fox gave Hartley written instructions on April 10 for concluding as quickly as possible an agreement concerning trade, whether a “treaty or provisional convention.” They proposed that American produce be admitted to Britain under prewar duties and that British produce and manufactures be admitted to the United States on the same conditions. American manufactures, however, would not be admitted into Britain, nor would foreign manufactures carried on American ships. Similar restrictions were proposed for American trade with the British West Indies, American ships being permitted to carry only American produce. Fox hoped that the repeal of prohibitory acts on American trade (as he was proposing to the House of Commons) would lead to reciprocal action by the Americans and the conclusion of a treaty or convention of intercourse: Giunta, Emerging Nation, II, 86–7; Fortescue, Correspondence of George Third, VI, 349.

On April 18 the king issued his own written instructions, authorizing Hartley to treat with the American commissioners on reciprocal opening of ports and arrangements of trade, and also to conclude a definitive peace treaty: Giunta, Emerging Nation, II, 91–2. Congress had instructed the commissioners on commercial articles to be included in a peace treaty, but they had no authority to make a separate commercial treaty: XXXVIII, 537; JCC, XXIII 838.

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