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6 His lordship opened the conversation by acquainting us, that he could not treat with us as a committee of Congress; yet as his powers enabled him to confer and consult with any private gentlemen of influence in the colonies, on the means of restoring peace between the two countries, he was glad of this opportunity of conferring with us on that subject, if we thought ourselves at liberty to enter into a conference with him in that character.
666 We observed to his lordship, that as our business was to hear, he might consider us in what light he pleased, and communicate to us any proposition he might be authorised to make for the purpose 'mentioned; but that we could consider ourselves in no other character than that in which we were placed by order of Congress.
6. His lordship then entered into a discourse of a considerable length, which contained no explicit proposition of peace, except one, viz. that the colonies should return to their allegiance and obedience to Great Britain. The rest consisted principally of assurances that there was an exceeding good disposition in the king and his ministers to make that government easy to us, with intimations, that in case of our submission, they would cause the offensive acts of parliament to be revised, and the instructions to governors to be reconsidered; so that if any just cause of complaint were found in the acts, or any errors in government were perceived to have crept into the instructions, they might be amended or withdrawn.
66. We gave it as our opinion to his lordship, that a return to the domination of Great Britain was not now to be expected. We mentioned the repeated humble petitions of the colonies to the king and parliament, which had been treated with contempt, and answered only by additional injuries; the unexampled patience we had shown under their tyrannical government, and that it was not till the last act of parliament, which denounced war against us, and put us out of the king's protection, that we declared our independence. That this declaration had been called for by the people of the colonies in general; that every colony had approved of it when made ; and all now considered themselves as independent states, and were settling, or had settled, their governments accordingly; so that it was not in the power of Congress to agree for them, that they should return to their former dependent state. That there was no doubt of their inclination to peace, and their willingness to enter into a treaty with Great Britain that might be advantageous to both countries. That though his lordship had at present no power to treat with them as independent states, he might, if there was the same good disposition in Britain, much sooner obtain fresh powers from thence, than powers could be obtained by Congress from the several colonies to consent to a submission.
66. His lordship then, saying that he was sorry to find that no accommodation was likely to take place, put an end to the conference.
“Upon the whole, it did not appear to your committee, that his lordship’s commission contained any other authority of importance, than what is expressed in the act of parliament, viz. that of granting pardons, with such exceptions as the commissioners shall think proper to make, and of declaring America, or any part of it, to be in the king's peace, upon submission: for as to the power of inquiring into the state of America, which his lordship mentioned to us, and of conferring and consulting with any persons the commissioners might think proper, and representing the result of such conversation to the ministry, who, provided that the colonies would subject themselves, might after all, or might not, at their pleasure, make any alterations in their former instructions to governors, or propose in parliament any amendment of the acts complained of, we apprehended any expectation from the effect of such a power would have been too uncertain and pre
carious to be relied on by America, had she still continued in her state of dependence.' 66 Ordered-That the above be published.
"John HANCOCK, President. “ Attest, CHARLES THOMPSON, Secretary."
Lord Howe still considered it his duty to attempt every conciliatory measure for bringing back the colonies to their obedience. He therefore addressed circular letters to the governors of the different provinces, acquainting them with the ample powers with which he and his brother were invested, inserting copies of them in all the public prints.' He at the same time attempted to open a correspondence with general Washington ; but after many difficulties in point of form were adjusted, the negotiation failed, as might have been expected, upon the same point as his overtures to the Congress. Washington told him it was clear that his powers only extended to the granting of pardons to those who had committed no injury, and who felt themselves entitled to seek for redress and not forgiveness. · And thus closed every effort of various good and great men to heal the direst breach that was ever made in the noble structure of the British commonwealth. It became now an appeal to arms; and while on the one hand vacillation, and weakness, and attempted tyranny, mark throughout the councils of the mother-country in this unhappy juncture, it must be remembered, that successful war is ever the argument of might, not of right; and that the result of the ensuing contest was as much effected by French jealousy of Great Britain, as by American resistance to her measures.
Convention at Philadelphia for the settlement of the Pennsylvanian con-
stitution.-Dr Franklin's opinion on the subject.- Progress of the war.Battle of Brookline. Low state of the American army and resources.Perseverance of Congress.-Dr Franklin requested to go to Europe as American envoy.- Proposals of peace to be taken with him agitated. Sails.—The gulf stream.- Arrives in France, where he is kindly received by various individuals, and by the government privately.-Takes up his residence at Passy.-French assistance rendered to the Americans covertly. News of the capture of general Burgoyne's army arrives in Europe.-Rejoicings at Paris.New measures in London.-Letters of marque granted against America.-Lord Chatbam moves for a redress of the American grievances, and asserts the conquest of America to be impossible.-In France the news decides the ministry.-Treaties of amity and commerce, and of alliance offensive and defensive, signed between the United States and France. The American envoy received at Court as minister-plenipotentiary.-Anec. dotes of Franklin at Paris.- Notices in the British Parliament of these trea.. ties. by Mr Fox and by lord Chatham.-Lord Chatham's last speech. French fleet sails for America.-Dr Franklin bighly distinguished at Paris. -Writes a comparison between the credit of Great Britain and that of America. Successes of the French and Spanish fleets against English commerce.--Arnold's treachery.
In July, 1776, a convention was called at Philadelphia, for the purpose of settling a proper form of government for the province of Pennsylvania, agreeably to the manifesto of Congress requesting those colonies whose governments were not sufficient to preserve peace and order, to frame new governments for themselves. Of the Philadelphian Assembly Dr Franklin was president, and the constitution was founded on the hasis of his political opinions. He was averse from monarchy, which, however modified, he regarded as having a natural tendency to degenerate into despotism. In his opinion, the most perfect form of human government was that of a single legislative and plural executive. He contended, that a single assembly of true statesmen would afford a sufficient arena for the full discussion and impartial examination of every public question, while its unity
would give both energy and simplicity to the state machine. The numerous and distinct details of executive government equally demanded, in his view, distinct official departments, each furnished with competent powers of action. At the commencement of the French Revolution, Rochefoucault and other -French philosophers were so much charmed with this “maximum of simplicity," as they termed it, in the unity of the legislative bodies, that they proposed avowedly to copy it in the celebrated National Assembly of France.
In this convention also Dr Franklin suggested the unfairness of the large and small states of the American union being placed on an equality with regard to their votes in the general Congress. He reminded his constituents, and proposed, in conjunction with them, to draw up a paper which should impress upon the Congress, that the practice of allowing one vote to each colony was only adopted in the first instance as a measure of necessity, and because that body had not been able in its early assemblies to obtain correct data with respect to the relative importance of each state. In the nature of things, he contended that the respective states of the confederaey should have votes in the Congress, and be represented there, in proportion to their political importance. The equity of this in point of principle was undeniable, but the question was complicated with many practical difficulties. The numerical amount of population was one important point: the property, intelligence, and actual amount of public contributions, were others. In short, Franklin himself found the question altogether too abstract for discussion at the present crisis, and wisely therefore withdrew a proposed protest addressed to Congress upon this business.
Although from this period the subject of our memoir was not actively engaged in the sanguinary contest of his country for her very existence as a nation, the opening of the American campaign 1776 decided the principal occupation of his future years.