From Benjamin Vaughan
Incomplete AL: American Philosophical Society
London, Augt. 9th:, 1783.
My dearest sir,
Having heard that you have been told at Paris, that Lord Shelburne had used foul play about the instructions for removing the troops from New York, I have only to state as a fact, that Genl. Gray in a letter I have in my possession addressed to Lord Keppel, requests to know on what means he may depend for removing the troops from New York, which he says make the grand object of his instructions.8 He says that this was the grand object of Sr. Guy Carleton before him, and besides his instructions he names three separate dates when the order was sent him, (that is, Sr. Guy Carleton.) The chief embarrassments that prevented the evacuation were, at one time the want of transports, and at another the severity of the season, and at another the want of convoy, especially when the French were on the coast. Nay they were even ordered to go to Halifax at one time, rather than stay at New York, which I suppose was during the unhealthy or the hurricane season in the West Indies.—9 I think this is strong evidence.— Savannah required 10,000 ton shipping for its evacuation; Charles Town &c 30,000, or three times that quantity; & New York three times that quantity again, (that is, some 300 ships probably as transports.)—1 The whole of Genl Gray’s letter, written after his appointment and before his intended departure,2 is in the strain of the evacuation being the great & primary object of his mission.— Ld. Keppels answer was a paltry one.
A second charge I hear of is, that Lord Shelburne put the Spaniards in possession of Florida,3 to put them in the way of quarrelling with you.— I shall here only relate facts. The preliminaries were signed on a Monday. On the preceding Friday or saturday, Mr. Fitzherbert went to barter East Florida for Logwood cutting &c in the Bay. It was a prevailing opinion here, that Florida was a sand-bank; that with Spaniards & Americans for neighbors, it was never worth holding by itself; that its negroes would always be running away; that the Indians woud probably be made troublesome; that the troops would die; and that after all, it would turn out at last Americas.— Lord Shelburne in a peace where so much was given away, must be strangely framed to be supposed to give away by choice, and upon such an uncertainty as a quarrel TO arise about boundaries.— Lord Shelburne was not a minister for Frenchmen, well understanding him, to relish; nor was he a minister for ambitious English placemen to relish, or their weaker minded adherents. And to say the truth, for I love frankness, his method of speaking begets often more suspicion of his soundness than is well founded. Of this gentleman I have known a great deal, angry & pleased, hoping & disappointed; & I think him still a real, fair-meaning, bold statesman.
I have been silent about his adversaries. I am not inclined to attempt persuading every American, that every other man in England, or at least every present
8. At the end of December, 1782, Sir Charles Grey (XXXVI, 666n) was appointed to succeed Sir Guy Carleton as commander-in-chief of British troops in North America. He promptly informed Augustus Keppel, First Lord of the Admiralty, that the number of transport ships available in North America was insufficient. Keppel replied on Jan. 21, 1783, that no more could be procured: Paul D. Nelson, Sir Charles Grey, First Earl Grey: Royal Soldier, Family Patriarch (Madison, N.J., Teaneck, N.J., and London, 1996), pp. 118–19.
9. See ****Shelburne to Carleton, April 4, 1782, and Townshend to Carleton, Aug. 14, 1782, in K. G. Davies, ed., Documents of the American Revolution, 1770–1783 (21 vols., Dublin, 1972–81), XXI, 52–4, 109.
1. More than 11,000 tons of shipping were used to evacuate Savannah on July 11, 1782, and 35,785 tons to evacuate Charleston on Dec. 18, 1782. In April, 1783, the gradual evacuation of New York began, using about 40,000 tons; it was completed at the end of November: David Syrett, Shipping and the American War, 1775–83 … (London, 1970), pp. 236–41.
2. Grey, who was supposed to sail in February, never left England, and Carleton was obliged to remain in command of British forces. Grey’s ill health may have been a factor in the initial delay, but the fall of the Shelburne ministry called his appointment into question. The king accepted his resignation in mid-April: Nelson, Sir Charles Grey, pp. 120–3.
3. This was included in the preliminary British-Spanish peace agreement of Jan. 20, 1783. By failing to specify the borders of West Florida, the British did embroil the Spaniards and Americans: XXXIX, 383–4n.