July 9. 1778
You acquaint me that you had written to me before Eight or nine times, which has given me some Anxiety, as these Letters are the first I have received from you or from any Member of Congress, since my Arrival in France.
The Ratification of the Treaty gives universal joy to this Court and Nation, who seem to be sincerely and deeply rejoiced at this Connection between the two Countries.
There is no Declaration of War, as yet, at London or Versailles: but the Ships of the two Nations are often fighting at Sea, and there is not the smallest doubt but War will be declared, unless Britain should miraculously have Wisdom given her to make a Treaty with The Congress like that which France has made. Spain has not made a Treaty: but be not deceived, nor intimidated: All is safe in that quarter.
The Unforeseen dispute in Bavaria has made the Empress Queen and the King of Prussia, cautious of quarrelling with Great Britain, because her connection with a Number of the German Princes, whose Aid, each of those Potentates is soliciting, makes her Friendship, or at least her Neutrality in the German War which is threatened, of importance to each. But this will do no hurt to America.
The Brest Fleet alone is greatly superiour to Keppells, who seems to discover much dread of them. Indeed they are in excellent order, well manned and eager for Battle.
You have drawn so many Bills of Exchange upon Us, and send Us so many Frigates, every One of which costs Us a vast Sum of money; so many Merchandizes and Munitions of War have been sent, whether arrived or not; and We expect so many more Draughts upon Us, that I assure you, I am very uneasy concerning our Finances here. We are labouring to hire Money and have some prospect of Success, but I am afraid not for such large Sums as will be wanted.
I find it less difficult to learn French than I expected, but I have so many Persons to converse with, and so many papers to read and write in English that I can scarce obtain a few minutes every day to study my Lesson, which I should otherwise do like a good Lad.
Let me intreat you to omit no Opportunity of writing me. Send me All the Newspapers, journals, &c. and believe me your Friend and Servant
[to] Mr. Lovell.
Mr. Gerry a Member of Congress.
Passi July 9. 1778
My Dear Friend
I was disappointed in my Expectations of receiving Letters from You by the two Vessells, The Saratoga and the Spy, which have arrived. Although I know your time is every moment of it, wisely and usefully employed, yet I cannot but wish for a little of it, now and then. Europe is eager, at all times, for news from America, and this Kingdom in particular enjoys every Syllable of good News from that Country.
Great Britain is really a Melancholly Spectacle.... Destitute of Wisdom and Virtue to make Peace; burning with malice and revenge; yet affrighted and confounded at the Prospect of War.... She has reason; for if she should be as successfull in it, as she was in the last, it would weaken and exhaust her, and she would not, even in that Case recover America, and consequently her Superiority at Sea.... But humanly speaking it is impossible, she should be successful.
It is with real Astonishment that I observe her Conduct.... After all Experience, and altho' her true Interest, and her only safe plan of Policy is as obvious as the Sun, yet she cannot see it.... All Attention to the Welfare of the Nation seems to be lost, both by the Members of Administration and Opposition, and among the People at large.... Tearing one another to Pieces for the Loaves and Fishes, and a universal Rage for gambling in the Stocks, seem to take up all their Thoughts.
An Idea of a fair and honourable Treaty with Congress, never enters their Minds. In short Chicanery seems to have taken Possession of their hearts so entirely, that they are incapable of thinking of any Thing fair.
We had an Example, here last Week.... A long Letter, containing a Project for an Agreement with America, was thrown into one of our Grates.... There are Reasons to believe, that it came with the Privity of the King.... You may possibly see it, sometime.... Full of Flattery, and proposing that America should be governed by a Congress, of American Peers, to be created and appointed by the King.... And of Bribery, proposing that a Number not exceeding two hundred American Peers should be made, and that such as had stood foremost, and suffered most, and made most Enemies in this Contest, as Adams, Handcock,Washington and Franklin by Name, should be of the Number.... Ask our Friend, if he should like to be a Peer?
Dr. Franklin, to whom the Letter was sent, as the Writer is supposed to be a Friend of his, sent an Answer, in which they have received a Dose that will make them sick.
[to] Mr. Gerry
This Letter requires a Commentary.... The Reasons for believing that it came with the Privity of the King, were derived wholly from Dr. Franklin, who affirmed to me that there were in the Letter infallible Marks, by which he knew that it came from the King, and that it could not have come from any other without the Kings Knowledge. What these Marks were he never explained to me. I was not impertinently inquisitive, and he affected to have reasons for avoiding any more particular devellopement of the Mystery. Many other hints have been dropped by Franklin to me, of some Mysterious Intercourse or correspondence between the King and him, personally.... He often and indeed always
appeared to me to have a personal Animosity and very severe Resentment against the King. In all his conversations and in all his Writings, when he could naturally and sometimes when he could not, he mentioned the King with great Asperity. He wrote certain Annotations on judge Fosters discourse on the Legality of the Impressment of Seamen, in the Margin of the Book, and there introduced his habitual Accrimony
against his Majesty. A thousand other Occasions discovered the same disposition. Among the ancient disputes between Franklin and the Proprietary Governors of Pensilvania, I have read, that Franklin, upon hearing of a report in Circulation against his Election as Agent for the Province at the Court of St. James's that he had no Influence with the Ministry, and no Acquaintance with Lord Bute, broke out into a Passion and swore, contrary to his usual reserve, "that he had an Influence with the Ministry and was intimate with Lord Bute." It is not generally known that the Earl of Bute was a Philosopher, a Chymist
and a natural Historian. That he printed seven or Eight Volumes of natural History of his own Composition, only however for the Use of his particular confidential Friends. This kind of Ambition in the Earl might induce him to cultivate the Acquaintance with Franklin, as it did afterwards Rochefoucault, Turgot and Condorcet in France. And at the Earl of Butes some mysterious Conferences between the King and Franklin might have been concerted: and in these Interviews Franklin might have conceived himself deceived or insulted. I mention this merely as conjecture, Suggestion or Surmise. Franklins Memorials, if they ever appear may confirm or confute the Surmise, which however after all, will be of very little Consequence. Without the Supposition of some kind of Backstairs Intrigues it is difficult to account for that mortification of the pride, affront to the dignity and Insult to the Morals of America, the Elevation to the Government of New Jersey of a base born Brat.
Franklin consulted with me, and We agreed first to do nothing without previously informing the French Court. Secondly as the Letter was supposed to come from a Friend of Franklin, and at the desire or by the orders of the King, it was agreed that Franklin should write the Answer. He produced his draught to me and it was very explicit, decided and severe, and in direct terms asserted that [illegible] by certain Circumstances in the Letter Franklin knew that it came from the King. We sent a Copy of the Answer to the Count de Vergennes as well as the original Letter and Project and asked his Excellencys Advice, whether We should send it or not.
In the Letter the Writer proposed that We should meet him at twelve O Clock precisely in a certain Part of the Church of Notre Dame, on a certain day in order to have a personal Conference upon the Subject. I know not that the Papers were ever returned from Versails. We received no Advice to send the Answer. The Day after the One appointed to meet the Messenger at Notre Dame the Count De Vergennes sent Us the Report of the Police
of Paris, stating that at the Day, Hour and place appointed a Gentleman appeared and finding nobody wandered about the Church gazing at the Statues and Pictures and other Curiosities of that magnificent Cathedral, never loosing Sight however of the Spot appointed and often returning to it, looking earnestly about at times as if he expected Somebody: His Person, Stature, figure, Air, Complexion, Dress and every Thing about him was accurately and minutely described. He remained two Hours in the Church and then went out, was followed through every Street and all his motions watched to the Hotel where he lodged. We were told the Day he arrived there, the Name he assumed, which was Colonel Fitz
something an Irish name that I have forgotten, the Place he came from and the time he sett
off to return.
In my Letter to Mr. Gerry it is inaccurately said that Dr. Franklin sent an Answer. It was written and I supposed would be sent but it was not.
Whether the Design was to seduce Us Commissioners, or whether it was thought that We should send the Project to Congress and that they might be tempted by it, or that disputes might be excited among the People, I know not. In either case it was very weak and absurd and betrayed a gross Ignorance of the Genius of American People.
An Aristocracy of American Peers! hereditary Peers I suppose were meant, but whether hereditary or for Life, nothing could be more abhorrent to the general Sense of America at that time, which was for making every Magistrate and every Legislator eligible and that annually at least.
An Aristocracy of American Peers! But this could not be simple: the King must have been intended to have a Negative upon the Laws no doubt: but was this Authority to have been executed by a Vice Roy to reside in Philadelphia? And was were this Vice Roy and these two hundred Peers to have made all the Laws, without a Representation of the People by annual or other Elections? Even if there were to have been three Branches to the general Government, what was to become of State Governments? All abolished? Or all continued under some kind of Subordination to the General Government? Any of these Projects would have appeared to the People of America, at that time as extravagant and as tyrannical as any Thing the English had done. The English were strangely infatuated with an Idea, that Adams and Hancock, Washington and Franklin with a few others in the several States, as they had Influence enough to throw off the Authority of Great Britain, would have Influence enough to put it on again, as a Man who has Strength enough to throw off his Cloak may be supposed able to throw it again over his Shoulders. Nothing could be more erroneous: For none of these Leaders had any