Recipient: Adams, Samuel
[To Samuel Adams]
“In a few Lines of the 8th. instant, I promised you, a more particular Account of the Conference.
“On Monday last, the Committee satt off, from Philadelphia, and reached Brunswick on Tuesday night.... Wednesday Morning they proceeded to Amboy, and from thence to Staten Island, where they met the Lord Howe, by whom they were politely received and entertained.
“His Lordship opened the Conference, by giving Us an Account of the motive which first induced him to attend to the dispute with America, which he said was the honor which had been done to his Family by the Massachusetts Bay, which he prized very highly.... From whence, I concluded in my own mind, that his Lordship had not attended to the Controversy, earlier than the Port Bill and Charter Bill, and consequently must have a very inadequate Idea of the Nature, as well as of the rise and progress of the Contest.
“His Lordship then observed that he had requested this Interview that he might satisfy himself, whether there was any probability, that America would return to her Allegiance: but he must observe to Us, that he could not acknowledge Us, as Members of Congress or a Committee of that Body, but that he only desired this Conversation with Us, as private Gentlemen, in hopes, that it might prepare the Way, for the Peoples returning to their Allegiance, and to an Accommodation of the Disputes between the two Countries. That he had no Power to treat with Us, as independent States or in any other C[haracter than as British Subjects and]
private Gentlemen. But that upon our Acknowledging ourselves to be British Subjects, he had Power to consult with Us. That the Act of Parliament had given Power to the King, upon certain Conditions, of declaring the Colonies to be at peace: and his Commission gave him Power to confer, advise and
consult, with any number or description of Persons concerning the Complaints of the People in America. That the King and Ministry, had very good Dispositions to redress the Grievances of the People and reform the Errors of the Administration in America. That his Commission gave him Power to converse with any Persons whatever in America concerning the former Instructions to Governors, and the Acts of Parliament complain'd of. That the King and Ministry were very willing to have all these revised and reconsidered, and if any Errors had crept in, if they could be pointed out, they were very willing they should be rectified.
“One of the Committee, Mr. Rutledge, mentioned to his Lordship, what General Sullivan had said, that his Lordship told him, he would sett the Act of Parliament wholly aside, and that Parliament had no right to tax America, or meddle with her internal Polity. His Lordship answered Mr. Rutledge, that General Sullivan had misunderstood him, and extended his Words much beyond their import.
“His Lordship gave Us, a long Account of his Negotiations, in order to obtain Powers sufficiently ample for his Purpose. He said, he had told them (the Ministry, I suppose he meant) that those Persons whom you call Rebells, are the most proper to confer with, of any, because they are the Persons who complain of Grievances. The others, those who are not in Arms, and are not, according to your Ideas in Rebellion, have no Complaints or Grievances. They are satisfied, and therefore it would be to no purpose to converse with them. So that, his Lordship said he would not accept the Commission, or Command, untill he had full Power to confer, with any Persons whom he should think proper, who had the most Abilities and Influence. But having obtained those Powers, he intended to have gone directly to Philadelphia, not to have treated with Congress as such, or to have acknowledged that Body, but to have consulted with Gentlemen of that Body, in their private Capacities, upon the Subjects in his Commission.
“His Lordship did not incline to give Us any farther Account of his Powers or to make any other Propositions to Us,9
than those which are contained in Substance in the foregoing lines.
“I have the pleasure to assure you, that there was no disagrement in Opinion, among the members of the Committee, upon any one point. They were perfectly united in Sentiment, and in language, as they are in the Result of the whole, which is, that his Lordships Powers are fully expressed in the late Act of Parliament: and that his Commission contains no other Authority, than 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 at Peace upon Submission: and of enquiring into the State of America, of any Persons, with whom, they might think proper to confer, advize, converse and consult, even although they should be Officers of the Army, or Members of Congress; and then representing the Result of their Inquiries to the Ministry, who, after all, might or might not, at their pleasure, make any Alterations in the former Instructions to Governors, or propose in Parliament any Alterations in the Acts complained of.
“The whole Affair of the Commission appears to me, as it ever did, to be a bubble, an Ambuscade, a mere insidious Maneuvre, calculated only to decoy and deceive:—And it is so gross, that they must have a wretched Opinion of our Generalship, to suppose that We can fall into it.
“The Committee assured his Lordship, that they had no Authority, to wait upon him, or to treat or converse with him, in any other Character, but that of a Committee of Congress, and as Members of independent States. That the Vote, which was their Commission, clearly ascertained their Character. That the Declaration which had been made, of Independence, was the Result of long and cool deliberation. That it had been made by Congress, after long and great Reluctance, in Obedience to the possitive Instructions of their Constituents; every Assembly upon the Continent, having instructed their Delegates to this [Purpose, and since the Dec]
has been made And published, it has been solemnly ratified and confirmed by the Assemblies: so that neither this Committee, nor that Congress, which sent it here, have Authority to treat in any other Character, than as independent States.... One of the Committee Dr. Franklin, assured his Lordship, that in his private Opinion, America would not again come under the domination of Great Britain: and therefore it was the Duty of every good Man, on both sides the Water, to promote Peace, and an Acknowledgment of American Independency, and a Treaty of Friendship and Alliance, between the two Countries. Another of the Committee, Mr. John Adams, assured his Lordship that in his private Opinion, America would never treat, in any other Character, than as independent States.... The other Member Mr. Rutledge concurred in the same Opinion.... His Lordship said he had no Powers nor Instructions, upon that Subject: it was entirely new.—Mr. Rut-ledge observed to his Lordship that most of the Colonies, had submitted, for two Years, to all the Inconveniences of Anarchy, and to
live without Governments in hopes of Reconciliation: But now had instituted Governments. Mr. John Adams observed, that all the Colonies had gone compleatly through a Revolution. That they had taken all Authority from the Officers of the Crown, and had appointed Officers of their own, which his Lordship would easily conceive had cost great Struggles: and that they could not easily go back. And that Americans had too much understanding, not to know that after such a declaration as they had made, the Government of Great Britain never would have any Confidence in them or could govern them but by Force of Arms.”