Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Richard Oswald, [5 June 1782]

From Richard Oswald7

Copies: University of South Carolina Library (two),8 Library of Congress (three),9 Massachusetts Historical Society

[June 5, 1782]


Mr Lawrens while under Confinement in England, proposed that, upon his being liberated upon his Parole, he would apply to you for an Exchange in favour of My Lord Cornwallis, by a Discharge of his Lps. [Lordship’s] Parole granted upon the Surrendry of his Garrison at the Village of York in Virginia; and in Case of your being under any Difficulty in making such Exchange, he undertook to write to the Congress, and to request it of that Assembly, and made no Doubt of obtaining a favourable Answer, without Loss of Time.

This Proposal signed by Mr Lawrens’s Hand, I carried and deliver’d, I think in the Month of December last, to the then Secretarys of State. Which was duly attended to; and in Consequence thereof, Mr. Lawrens was soon after set at full Liberty. And though not as a Prisoner upon Parole, yet it is to be hoped, a variation in the Mode of Discharge will not be supposed of any essential Difference. And with respect to Mr. Lawrens I am satisfied he will consider himself as much interested in the Success of this Application, as if his own Discharge had been obtained under the form proposed by the Representation which I deliver’d to his Majesty’s Secretaries of State. And I make no doubt will join Lord Cornwallis in an Acknowledgement of your favour & good Offices, in granting his Lordp. a full Discharge of his Parole, as abovementioned.— I have the honour to be, Sir, Your most obedient, humble Servant,

(signed) Richard Oswald

P.S. Since writing the above I recollect I was under a Mistake as if the Proposal of Exchange came from Mr. Lawrens—Whereas it was made by his Majesty’s Secretaries of State to me—1 That Mr. Laurens should endeavour to procure the Exchange of Lord Cornwallis—so as to be discharged himself. Which Proposal I carried to Mr. Laurens, & had from him the Obligation abovementioned—Upon which the Mode of his Discharge was settled.—2

(signed) R. O.

Copy of a Letter from R. Oswald Esqr to B. Franklin Esqr dated 5th. June 1782, at Paris.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

7Written at BF’s request, after Oswald had communicated its contents verbally. See the June 5 entry in BF’s journal of the peace negotiations.

8We print from the one in WTF’s hand; the other is incomplete.

9One of which, written in an unknown hand, was interleaved in BF’s journal of the peace negotiations. It contains the alternate postscript, “Major Ross has got no copy of Ld. C’s parole. He says it was in the common form, as in like Cases”. The other two and the copy at the Mass. Hist. Soc. were made (possibly around September, 1783) by L’Air de Lamotte in three similar letterbooks consisting of documents relating to the peace negotiations.

1The British government in turn may have acted in response to Laurens’ Dec. 1 petition to the House of Commons. Laurens concluded by promising that if released he would obtain in exchange the release of an equivalent British officer or other British subject or subjects imprisoned in America. This promise was dropped by the time the petition was presented, but it had been in the draft which Laurens gave Edmund Burke: Laurens Papers, XV, 456–8.

2See Laurens to Oswald, Dec. 22, Laurens Papers, XV, 459–60.

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