Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to the Earl of Shelburne, 22 March 1782

To the Earl of Shelburne4

ALS: Public Record Office; AL (draft) and two copies:5 Library of Congress; transcripts: Massachusetts Historical Society, National Archives

Passy, March 22. 1782.

Lord Cholmondeley having kindly offer’d to take a Letter from me to your Lordship,6 I embrace the Opportunity of assuring the Continuance of my ancient Respect for your Talents and Virtues, and of congratulating you on the returning good Disposition of your Country in favour of America, which appears in the late Resolutions of the Commons. I am persuaded it will have good Effects. I hope it will tend to produce a general Peace, which I am persuaded your Lordship, with all good Men, desires, which I wish to see before I die, & to which I shall with infinite Pleasure contribute every thing in my Power.— Your Friends the Abbé Morellet & Madam Helvetius are well.7 You have made the latter very happy by your kind Present of Gooseberry Bushes, which arriv’d in five Days, and in excellent Order.—8 With great and sincere Esteem, I have the honour to be, My Lord, Your Lordship’s most obedient and most humble Servant

B Franklin

Lord Shelburne

Endorsed: 22d. March 1782 Dr. Franklin

Notation: Rd. by Earl Cholmondeley. Entd.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

4William Fitzmaurice Petty, 2nd Earl of Shelburne, was a prominent member of the opposition in Parliament and supporter of America. Apparently BF first became acquainted with him in 1763: X, 348–9. On March 26, 1782, George III accepted a new government with Charles Watson-Wentworth, 2nd Marquess of Rockingham (XII, 362n), as prime minister, Shelburne as home secretary (handling negotiations with the Americans), and Charles James Fox as foreign secretary. (The three former secretaryships, those for the northern department, southern department, and American colonies, were abolished.) The King also agreed not to exercise a royal veto over American independence. On the following day the Rockingham government took office: John Norris, Shelburne and Reform (London and New York, 1963), pp. 149–50; Fitzmaurice, Life of Shelburne, II, 87–91; Sir F. Maurice Powicke and E. B. Fryde, comps., Handbook of British Chronology (London, 1961), pp. 108, 115–16. For Shelburne’s role in the peace negotiations see Harlow, Second British Empire, I, 223–407; C. R. Ritcheson, “The Earl of Shelburne and Peace with America, 1782–1783,” International History Review, V (1983), 322–45; Jonathan R. Dull, “Vergennes, Rayneval, and the Diplomacy of Trust,” in Hoffman and Albert, eds., Peace and the Peacemakers, pp. 101–31.

5One of the copies and both transcripts are in BF’s journal of the peace negotiations (below, under the date of May 9).

6See BF’s journal of the peace negotiations.

7Morellet met Shelburne in Paris in 1771 and not only became his lifelong friend but also played a major part in Shelburne’s conversion from mercantilism to free trade. The following year, when Morellet visited him in England, Shelburne introduced Morellet to BF: XIX, 177n; Ritcheson, “Earl of Shelburne,” pp. 328–30. Shelburne had known Mme Helvétius since his 1771 visit to France, when he attended her salon: Fitzmaurice, Life of Shelburne, I, 425–6.

8William Alexander had brought the gooseberry bushes on his return from a recent visit to England (XXXVI, 639–40). Shelburne, who knew of Mme Helvétius’ passion for gardening, had sent sets of rose bushes before the war and had offered to send some trees for her “jardin anglais” in 1780. Mme Helvétius had refused; the small space was already filled, and, besides, they should wait until the war was over and communication between their two countries was easier: Medlin, Morellet, I, 242, 244n, 422, 425, 458.

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