The Peace Commission sent to America in 1778 headed by Lord Carlisle was to include William Eden, George Johnstone, and Lord Richard Howe and Sir William Howe. The latter two, however, refused to serve. The Commission resulted from a reconciliation effort announced by Lord North in a speech on 17 February after he learned of the French recognition of American independence. Conciliatory bills adopted on 9 March created the Commission and repealed the Massachusetts Government Act. Although the Commissioners were to negotiate with the Americans over their grievances, they could not recognize American independence, a restriction that doomed the Commission to failure before it left England. In addition, the Commission's arrival on 5 June, just as the British were about to evacuate Philadelphia and after the Franco-American treaties had been ratified, made any negotiations with the congress impossible.
This engraving, printed both in color and in black and white, was published by Matthew Darly of London on 1 April 1778. Like most such satires of this period, it was favorable to the American cause. It is also clearly anticipatory, for the first two kneeling figures are labeled Lord Howe and Sir William Howe. An Indian maiden representing America looks away from the Commissioners to a kind of scepter, a liberty cap on a pole. Above her head floats a crown of laurel forming a halo. Around her, to signify the British loss of the American trade, are boxes, barrels, and bales marked for direct export to various countries in defiance of the old Navigation Acts. The Commissioners, their swords laid aside, kneel and speak. Lord Howe in naval uniform says, “We have block'd up your ports, obstructed your trade, with the hope of starving ye, & contrary to the Law of Nations compelld your sons to war against their Bretheren.” Gen. Sir William Howe in his army uniform and wearing the red ribbon of the Bath says, “We have ravaged your Lands, burnt your Towns, and caus'd your captive Heroes to perish, by Cold, pestilence & famine.” Lord Carlisle, foppishly dressed, wearing the green ribbon of the Thistle, and staring at his snuffbox, says, “We have profaned your places of Divine worship, derided your virtue and piety, and scoff'd at that spirit which has brought us thus on our knees before ye.” Fourth is William Eden, a pen behind his ear, who says, “We have Ravish'd, Scalp'd, and murder'd your People, even from Tender infancy to decrepid age, although Sup•
plicating for Mercy.” Finally, Como. George Johnstone in a naval uniform says, “For all which material services, we the Commissioners from the most pious & best of sovereigns, doubt not your cordial duty & affection towards us, or willingness to submit yourselves again to receive the same, whenever we have power to bestow it on ye” (Mary Dorothy George, ed., British Museum Catalogue of Political and Personal Satires
, [London], 1935, 5:No. 5473; from James Lovell, 29 April 1778
, and note 3