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CHAP. XIL

1778.

British nation, beheld with indignation and bitterness, the arm of France their hated rival, ftretched out to rescue their colonies, now the United States, from the defpotic views of the king and parliament of England.

When congrefs had given the proposals for peace, offered under the fanction of royal authority, a fair and candid discussion, a reply was concisely drawn up and figned by the honorable Henry Laurens, prefident of the continental congrefs. It was obferved in this anfwer to the propofals, that "both the late acts "of parliament, and a commiflion empowering "a number of gentlemen to negociate, and the "letter received by congrefs from thofe gen"tlemen, all went upon the fame mistaken "ground, on the fuppofition that the people of "America were the fubjects of the crown of "Britain."

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"That fuch ideas were by no means admif"fible. Yet notwithstanding the injustice of "the claim on which the war originated, and "the favage manner of conducting it, congrefs "was inclined to peace, whenever the king of England fhould manifeft a fincere difpofition "therefor, by an explicit acknowledgment of "the independence of America, and by with"drawing his fleets and armies that they will "then enter into a treaty of commerce, not in"confiftent with treaties already exifting.”.

1778.

They also referred the commiffioners to their CHAP. XII. refolves and determinations of the twenty-third of April, a fhort time before the arrival of the treaty of alliance with France.

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This drew out a fecond letter from the commiffioners, draughted with much art, ability, and address. In this they obferved, that "they were not difpofed to difpute about words: "that a degree of independence was admitted "in their letter of the tenth of June: that the people of America had the privilege of difpofing of their own property, and to govern "themselves without any reference to Britain, "beyond what is neceffary to preserve a union "of force, in which mutual fafety confifts." They added, "that danger from their heredi

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tary enemy, and gratitude to those who had "hazarded much for their affection to Britain, "muft for a time prevent his majefty from withdrawing his fleets and armies; but that

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they were willing to enter on a difcuffion of "circumstances, that might be necessary to se"cure and enlarge their independence: and "that they wished for a full communication of "the powers, by which congrefs was authori"fed to treat with foreign nations."

They intimated that there had been no refolutions of the particular affemblies, conferring this power. Thus an effort was made in the beginning of negociation, to diffuse jealoufies,

CHAP. XII.

1778.

and divide the people. In fhort, the fophiftry that marked their public declarations, and the infidious propofals made to corrupt private perfons, were very unbecoming the negociators for peace, and inconfiftent both with the probity of individual character, and the dignity of

their mafter.

It does not appear, that the conduct of any of thefe gentlemen fingly, was equally reprehenfible with that of governor Johnftone. By private letters to fome of the members of congrefs, he endeavoured to warp their integrity with the flattering promifes of diftinguifhed offices and emoluments, in proportion to their rifk in' promoting the prefent views of adminiftration. He was bold enough to fay, "Wafh"ington and the prefident would have a right "to every thing a grateful nation could beftow, "if they would be inftrumental, once more in "uniting the interefts of Great Britain and "America."

His advances to Mr. Reed, an influential member of congrefs, were ftill more openly affrontive, by offering him a direct bribe, and na

*The principal of these were Jofeph Reed, and Robert Morris, Efq. of Pennsylvania, and Francis Dana, of Maffachusetts.

See governor Johnftone's letter to Robert Morris, Efq., laid before congrefs, June, 1778.

1778.

ming the conditions for the fale of his honor. CHAP. XIL Governor Johnstone doubtlefs thought he knew his men, when he felected Mr. Reed, Robert Morris, efquire, and Mr. Francis Dana, to open his correfpondence with, and try the golden effects of secret influence, that had been so often fuccefsful in his native land. He might perhaps think it fome extenuation of the affront offered to Mr. Reed, that he had formerly fallen under fome fufpicions from his countrymen.

He had been early and zealous in oppofition to Britain; had repaired to Cambridge as aidde-camp to general Washington; was afterwards appointed adjutant general; and continued in habits of intimacy and confidence with the commander in chief, until the retreat through the Jerfies, and the gloomy and defperate fituation of American affairs, towards the clofe of the winter of one thoufand feven hundred and feventy-fix. His fortitude then forfook him,* and defpairing of brighter prof

* See Cadwallader's letters to and of Mr. Reed. They exhibit ftrong fufpicions, that agitated by fear in the most gloomy period of American affairs, he really contemplated fecurity for himself and friends, under the protection of the British standard. This appeared at the time to be the apprehenfion of many of his connexions. However, if he was really as culpable as reprefented by fome of those letters, he foon recovered his firmness, his character, and the confidence of his country, and the commander in chief.

CHAP. XII.

1778.

pects to his country, more from timidity than difaffection, he was on the point of relinquifhing the public caufe. It was afferted he abfolutely applied to count Donop at Burlington, for a protection for himself and family, on condition of his forfaking his country, in the low eft ftage of her diftrefs, and his general and friend, at a period when he moft needed his affiftance.

But the brilliant action at Trenton, and the fubfequent fucceffes at Princeton, and other places in the beginning of the year one thoufand feven hundred and feventy-feven, reftored the tone of his nerves fo far, as to enable him to act with distinguished firmness, fidelity, and bravery, on many trying occafions; and difpofed almost every one to throw a veil over the momentary weakness of a mind, generally well difpofed to his country.*

*Mr. Reed had publickly announced his regret that a letter written by him to general Lee, in the year one thoufand feven hundred and feventy-fix, had been published to the world. He obferved, that "that letter was writ"ten in hafte, and written in a moment of great anxiety; "not from any diminution of affection for general Wath"ington," whom he justly ftyles, "a great and good

"man."

This letter was undoubtedly the refult of Mr. Reed's apprehenfions, at a period when there was the utmost

* See vol. I. page 393.

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