Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Edmund Burke, 28 February 1782

From Edmund Burke

Reprinted from William Temple Franklin, ed., Memoirs of the Life and Writings of Benjamin Franklin … (3 vols., 4to, London, 1817–18), II, 285.

London, Charles Street, Feb. 28, 1782.

Dear Sir,

Your most obliging letter demanded an early answer. It has not received the acknowledgment which was so justly due to it8. But providence has well supplied my deficiences; and the delay of the answer has made it much more satisfactory than at the time of my receipt of your letter I dared to promise myself it could be. I congratulate you, as the friend of America, I trust, as not the enemy of England, I am sure, as the friend of mankind, on the resolution of the house of commons, carried by a majority of nineteen at two o’clock this morning, in a very full house. It was the declaration of two hundred and thirty four; I think it was the opinion of the whole.9 I trust it will lead to a speedy peace between the two branches of the English nation, perhaps to a general peace; and that our happiness may be an introduction to that of the world at large. I most sincerely congratulate you on the event. I wish I could say, that I had accomplished my commission. Difficulties remain. But as Mr. Laurens is released from his confinement, and has recovered his health tolerably, he may wait, I hope, without a great deal of inconvenience, for the final adjustment of his troublesome business. He is an exceedingly agreeable and honourable man. I am much obliged to you for the honour of his acquaintance. He speaks of you as I do; and is perfectly sensible of your warm and friendly interposition in his favour.1 I have the honour to be with the highest possible esteem and regard, dear Sir, your most faithful and obedient humble servant,

Edmund Burke.

General Burgoyne presents his best compliments to you with his thanks for your obliging attentions towards him.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

8Apparently this refers to BF’s letter of Oct. 15, 1781, proposing Laurens’ exchange: XXXV, 594. Soon after the adjournment of Parliament on Dec. 20, 1781, Burke drafted a letter apologizing for not acknowledging BF’s letter and discussing the reasons Laurens had not been exchanged. We are convinced that Burke never sent that letter and suspect it was because the release of Laurens on Dec. 31 negated some of its criticism of the North government. A preliminary draft is printed in Charles William, Earl Fitzwilliam, and Sir Richard Bourke, eds., Correspondence of the Right Honourable Edmund Burke … (4 vols., London, 1844), II, 450–3, and a later draft in Thomas W. Copeland et al., eds., The Correspondence of Edmund Burke (9 vols., Cambridge and Chicago, 1958–70), IV, 395–7.

9This motion, which passed by a vote of 234–215, said that the opinion of the House of Commons was that “the further prosecution of offensive warfare on the continent of North America, for the purpose of reducing the revolted colonies to obedience by force, will be the means of weakening the efforts of this country against her European enemies, tends under the present circumstances dangerously to increase the mutual enmity, so fatal to the interests both of Great Britain and America, and by preventing a happy reconciliation with that country, to frustrate the earnest desire graciously expressed by His Majesty to restore the blessings of public tranquility.” A second motion, passed without a division, approved an address to the King to lay before him the sentiments of the Commons: Cobbett, Parliamentary History, XXII, 1064–85; Ian R. Christie, The End of North’s Ministry 1780–1782 (London and New York, 1958), pp. 319–40, 384–6, 389–405.

1Laurens visited Burke on Jan. 5: Copeland et al., eds., The Correspondence of Edmund Burke, IV, 419n.

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