Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Henry Laurens, 7 April 1782

From Henry Laurens

Copy:8 Library of Congress; transcripts: Massachusetts Historical Society, National Archives

London 7th April 1782.

Dear Sir,

Richard Oswald Esq. who will do me the honour of delivering this, is a Gentleman of the strictest candour and integrity, I dare give such assurance from an experience little short of thirty Years9 and to add, You will be perfectly safe in conversing freely with him on the business which he will introduce; a Business which Mr. Oswald has disinterestedly engaged in from motives of benevolence,1 and from the choice of the Man a persuasion follows that the Electors mean to be in earnest. Some people in this Country, who have too long indulg’d themselves in abusing every thing American, have been pleas’d to circulate an opinion that Doctor Franklin is a very Cunning Man, in answer to which I have remark’d to Mr: Oswald, “Doctor Franklin knows very well how to manage a Cunning Man, but when the Doctor converses or treats with a Man of Candour there’s no Man more Candid than himself, I dont know whether you will ultimately agree in political Sketches but I am sure as Gentlemen, you will part very well pleas’d with each other.”

Should you Sir, think it proper to communicate to me your sentiments and advice on our Affairs, the more amply, the more acceptable and probably the more serviceable, Mr. Oswald will take charge of your dispatches and afford a secure means of conveyance. To this Gentleman I refer you for general Information of a Journey which I am immediately to make partly in his Company, at Ostend to file off for the Hague;2 I feel a willingness, infirm as I am, to attempt doing as much good as can be expected from, such, a Prisoner upon Parole. As General Burgoyne is certainly Exchanged, a circumstance by the bye which possibly might have embarrassed us had your late proposition been accepted,3 may I presume at my return to offer another Lieutenant General now in England a Prisoner upon Parol,4 in Exchange, or what shall I offer in Exchange for myself, a thing in my own estimation of no great Value?

I have the honor to be with great Respect and permit me to add, great Reverence sir Your faithful fellow Labourer and Obedient servant

Henry Laurens

His Excellency Benjamin Franklin Esquire Passy

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

8The copy and transcripts are in BF’s journal of the peace negotiations.

9Laurens’ first correspondence with Oswald dates from 1756. Laurens eventually acted as his agent, receiving a commission on the slaves Oswald acquired: Esmond Wright, “The British Objectives, 1780–1783: ‘If Not Dominion Then Trade,’” and Charles R. Ritcheson, “Britain’s Peacemakers, 1782–1783: ‘To an Astonishing Degree Unfit for the Task’?” in Hoffman and Albert, eds., Peace and the Peacemakers, pp. 14, 75n; Laurens Papers, II, 169.

1Oswald, however, had served the North government as an adviser on American affairs, showing himself as a mercantilist and an opponent of American independence: Ritcheson, “Britain’s Peacemakers,” pp. 79–80.

2Laurens left that day to meet JA; he and Oswald traveled together between Margate and Ostend. Shelburne, who had met with Digges, asked Laurens to ascertain whether JA really had said “the American Ministers can treat for Peace with Great Britain Independent of France”: Laurens Papers, XV, 400–2, 478; Richard Oswald’s Journal, in Giunta, Emerging Nation, I, 344.

3The proposition to exchange Laurens for Burgoyne: XXXV, 221–2, 362–5, 566, 594; XXXVI, 13, 279n, 300–2, 326–7, 371, 621n. On Feb. 9, Burgoyne was exchanged for 1,047 American officers and soldiers: F. J. Hudleston, Gentleman Johnny Burgoyne: Misadventures of an English General in the Revolution (Indianapolis, 1927), p. 302. He was named commander-in-chief in Ireland on June 7: DNB.

4Cornwallis. Laurens was asking approval for something he had already done; he had met with Shelburne on April 6 and, refusing unconditional release, had suggested that Congress would release Cornwallis in exchange: Laurens Papers, XV, 476–8.

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