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LETTER

TO THE MARQUIS OF ROCKINGHAM.

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Y DEAR

rather to beg your pardon for troubling you at all in this season of repose, than to apologize for having been so long silent on the approaching business. It comes upon us, not indeed in the most agreeable manner, but it does come upon us; and I believe your friends in general are in expectation of finding your Lordship resolved in what way you are to meet it. The deliberation is full of difficul. ties; but the determination is necessary.

The affairs of America seem to be drawing towards a crisis. The Howes are at this time in possession of, or are able to awe, the whole middle coast of America, from Delaware to the western boundary of Massachusetts Bay; the naval barrier on the side of Canada is broken ; a great tract of country is open for the supply of the troops; the river Hudson opens a way into the heart of the provinces; and nothing can, in all probability, prevent an early and offensive campaign. What the Americans have done is, in their circumstances, truly astonishing; it is, indeed, infinitely more than I expected from them. But having done so much, for some short time I began to entertain an opinion that they might do more. It is now, however, evident that they cannot look standing armies in the face. They are inferior in everything, even in numbers, - I mean, in the number of those whom they keep in constant duty and in regular pay. There seem, by the best accounts, not to be above ten or twelve thousand men, at most, in their grand army. The rest are militia, and not wonderfully well composed or disciplined. They decline a general engagement, — prudently enough, if their object had been to make the war attend upon a treaty of good terms of subjection; but when they look further, this will not do. An army that is obliged at all times and in all situations to decline an engagement may delay their ruin, but can never defend their country. Foreign assistance they have little or none, nor are likely soon to have more. France, in effect, has no king, nor any minister accredited enough either with the court or nation to undertake a design of great magnitude.

In this state of things, I persuade myself Franklin is come to Paris to draw from that court a definitive and satisfactory answer concerning the support of the colonies. If he cannot get such an answer, (and I am of opinion that at present he cannot,) then it is to be presumed he is authorized to negotiate with Lord Stormont on the basis of dependence on the

This I take to be his errand : for I never can believe that he is come thither as a fugitive from his cause in the hour of its distress, or that he is going to conclude a long life, which has brightened every hour it has continued, with so foul and dishonorable a Aight. On this supposition, I thought it not wholly impossible that the Whig party might be made a sort of mediators of the peace. It is unnatural to suppose, that, in making an accommodation, the Americans should not choose rather to give credit to those who all along have opposed the measure of ministers, than to throw themselves wholly on the mercy of their bitter, uniform, and systematic enemies. It is, indeed, the victorious enemy that has the terms to offer; the vanquished party and their friends are, both of them, reduced in their power; and it is certain that those who are utterly broken and subdued have no option. But, as this is hardly yet the case of the Americans, in this middle state of their affairs, (much impaired, but not perfectly ruined) one would think it must be their interest to provide, if possible, some further security for the terms which they may obtain from their enemies. If the Congress could be brought to declare in favor of those terms for which one hundred members of the House of Commons voted last year, with some civili ty to the party which held out those terms, it would undoubtedly have an effect to revive the cause of our liberties in England, and to give the colonies some sort of mooring and anchorage in this coun try. It seemed to me that Franklin might be made to feel the propriety of such a step; and as I have an acquaintance with him, I had a strong desire of taking a turn to Paris. Everything else failing, one might obtain a better knowledge of the general aspect of affairs abroad than, I believe, any of us possess at present. The Duke of Portland approved the idea. But when I had conversed with the very few of your Lordship's friends who were in town, and considered a little more maturely the constant temper and standing maxims of the party, I laid aside the design, - not being desirous of risking the displeasure of those for whose sake alone I wished

crown.

to take that fatiguing journey at this severe season

of the year.

The Duke of Portland has taken with him some heads of deliberation, which were the result of a discourse with his Grace and Mr. Montagu at Burling ton House. It seems essential to the cause that your Lordship should meet your friends with some settled plan either of action or inaction. Your friends will certainly require such a plan; and I am sure the state of affairs requires it, whether they call for it or not. As to the measure of a secession with reasons, after rolling the matter in my head a good deal, and turning it an hundred ways, I confess I still think it the most advisable, notwithstanding the serious objections that lie against it, and indeed the extreme uncertainty of all political measures, especially at this time. It provides for your honor. I know of nothing else that can so well do this. It is something, perhaps all, that can be done in our present situation. Some precaution, in this respect, is not without its motives. That very estimation for which you have sacrificed everything else is in some danger of suffering in the general wreck; and perhaps it is likely to suffer the more, because you have hitherto confided more than was quite prudent in the clearness of your intentions, and in the solidity of the popular judgment upon them. The former, indeed, is out of the power of events; the latter is full of levity, and the very creature of fortune. However, such as it is, (and for one I do not think I am inclined to overvalue it,) both our interest and our duty make it necessary for us to attend to it very carefully, so long as we act a part in public. The measure you take for this purpose may produce no immediate ef

fect; but with regard to the party, and the principles for whose sake the party exists, all hope of their preservation or recovery depends upon your preserving your reputation.

By the conversation of some friends, it seemed as if they were willing to fall in with this design, because it promised to emancipate them from the servitude of irksome business, and to afford them an opportunity of retiring to ease and tranquillity. If that be their object in the secession and addresses proposed, there surely never were means worse chosen to gain their end; and if this be any part of the project, it were a thousand times better it were never undertaken. The measure is not only unusual, and as such critical, but it is in its own nature strong and vehement in a high degree. The propriety, therefore, of adopting it depends entirely upon the spirit with which it is supported and followed. To pursue violent measures with languor and irresolution is not very consistent in speculation, and not more reputable or safe in practice. If your Lordship's friends do not go to this business with their whole hearts, if they do not feel themselves uneasy without it, if they do not undertake it with a certain degree of zeal, and even with warmth and indignation, it had better be removed wholly out of our thoughts. A measure of less strength, and more in the beaten circle of affairs, if supported with spirit and industry, would be on all accounts infinitely more eligible. We have to consider what it is that in this undertaking we have against us. We have the weight of King, Lords, and Commons in the other scale; we have against us, within a trifle, the whole body of the law; we oppose the more considerable part of the landed

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