Papers of John Adams, volume 12

From John Bondfield

From Hendrik Brouwer Chs. zoon

From Benjamin Franklin, 13 April 1782 Franklin, Benjamin JA


From Benjamin Franklin, 13 April 1782 Franklin, Benjamin Adams, John
From Benjamin Franklin
Passy april 13th. 1782 Sir

Inclosed with this I send to your Excellency the Pacquet of Correspondence between Mr Hartley and me which I promised in my last.1 You will see we have held nearly the same Language which gives me Pleasure.

While Mr Hartley was making Propositions to me, with the Approbation or Privity of Lord North, to treat separately from France, that Minister had an Emissary here, a Mr Forth, formerly a Secretary of Lord Stormonts, making Proposals to induce this Court to treat with us. I understand that several Sacrifices were offer’d to be made, and among the rest Canada to be given up to France. The Substance of the Answer appears in my last Letter to Mr Hartley. But there is a Sentence omitted in that Letter which I much liked, viz: “that whenever the two Crowns should come to treat, his most Christian Majesty would shew how much the Engagements he might enter into were to be rely’d on by his exact observance of those he already had with his present Allies.”2

If you have received anything in consequence of your Answer by Digges, you will oblige me by communicating it. The Ministers here were much pleased with the Account given them of your Interview, by the Ambassador.

With great Respect, I am, Sir, Your most obedient & most humble Servant. B Franklin

You will be so good as to return me the Papers when you have a good Opportunity.

RC (Adams Papers); endorsed: “Dr Franklin. Ap. 13. 1782.”

408 1.

Of 31 March, above. The packet likely included David Hartley’s letters to Franklin of 2 and 24 Jan., 1 and 28 Feb., 11, 12, and 21 March; and Franklin’s replies of 15 Jan., 16 Feb., 31 March, 5 and 13 April (Franklin, Papers , 36:359–365, 472–476, 525–526, 623–624, 684–685, 688–689, 435–438, 583–585; 37:18–19, 78–79, 94–96, 143–144). Hartley’s letters centered on proposals for a separate peace, while Franklin’s replies sought to dispel any notion on the part of Hartley and the North or Rockingham ministries that such an outcome was possible.


The British emissary, Nathaniel Parker Forth, reportedly offered negotiations on the basis of a worldwide uti possidetis and concessions that included the restoration of full French sovereignty over Dunkerque (Morris, Peacemakers , p. 254). Such proposals might well have been acceptable to France in mid-1781, but by spring 1782 the war’s progress and the unsettled British political situation made negotiations as proposed by Forth and Hartley and implied by Digges as unacceptable to France as they were to the United States. Franklin reported to Hartley that France’s reply to Forth declared

“that the King of France is as desirous of peace as the King of England, and that he would accede to it as soon as he could with dignity and safety: but it is a matter of the last importance for his most Christian majesty to know whether the court of London is disposed to treat on equal terms with the allies of France” (Wharton, ed., Dipl. Corr. Amer. Rev. , 5:304).