July 20, 1776

Unknown-2

At noon a barge arrived with Colonel Paterson to finally address George Washington with the peace overtures that he was permitted to offer.  Washington, who had previously refused two written offerings because they had not properly given Washington his credentials, had his personal guard lining up in formation to the entrance, and he himself appeared in his full battlefield outfit.  According to Henry Knox, who observed the meeting, Paterson “appeared awestruck, as if he was before something supernatural.”  Paterson lay on the table the original letter from Richard Howe addressed to “George Washington Esq. etc. etc.”  Again, Washington refused to pick this up.  Paterson explained that the et ceteras implied everything that might follow.  Washington replied, “It does so – and anything!”  Paterson continued to say that his King had permitted the Howe brothers to grant pardons, but Washington replied that  “those who had committed no fault wanted no pardon.”  The meeting was as pointless as Washington had known it would be, and he described it as “the vile machinations of still viler ministerial agents.”

In one of two letters that he sent on this day, John Adams laments to his wife Abigail that friends have not written to inform him how she was doing in regards to the smallpox.  (He had already heard that she intended to take the inoculation along with her children.)  Writes Adams:  “This has been a dull day to me: I waited the Arrival of the Post with much Solicitude and Impatience, but his Arrival made me more solicitous still.—“To be left at the Post Office” in your Hand Writing, on the back of a few Lines from the Dr. were all that I could learn of you, and my little Folks. If you was too busy to write, I hoped that some kind Hand would have been found to let me know something about you.  Do my Friends think that I have been a Politician so long as to have lost all feeling? Do they suppose I have forgotten my Wife and Children? Or are they so panic struck with the Loss of Canada, as to be afraid to correspond with me? Or have they forgotten that you have an Husband and your Children a Father? What have I done, or omitted to do, that I should be thus forgotten and neglected in the most tender and affecting scaene of my Life! Don’t mistake me, I don’t blame you. Your Time and Thoughts must have been wholly taken up, with your own and your Families situation and Necessities.—But twenty other Persons might have informed me.  I suspect, that you intended to have run slyly, through the small Pox with the family, without letting me know it, and then have sent me an Account that you were all well. This might be a kind Intention, and if the design had succeeded, would have made me very joyous. But the secret is out, and I am left to conjecture. But as the Faculty have this distemper so much under Command I will flatter myself with the Hope and Expectation of soon hearing of your Recovery.”

Benjamin Franklin writes to Lord Howe making clear that the Americans seek no pardon from Great Britain, having done nothing wrong:  “My Lord, I received safe the Letters your Lordship so kindly forwarded to me, and beg you to accept my Thanks.  The Official Dispatches to which you refer me, contain nothing more than what we had seen in the Act of Parliament, viz. Offers of Pardon upon Submission; which I was sorry to find, as it must give your Lordship Pain to be sent so far on so hopeless a Business.  Directing Pardons to be offered the Colonies, who are the very Parties injured, expresses indeed that Opinion of our Ignorance, Baseness, and Insensibility which your uninform’d and proud Nation has long been pleased to entertain of us; but it can have no other Effect than that of increasing our Resentment. It is impossible we should think of Submission to a Government, that has with the most wanton Barbarity and Cruelty, burnt our defenceless Towns in the midst of Winter, excited the Savages to massacre our Farmers, and our Slaves to murder their Masters, and is even now bringing foreign Mercenaries to deluge our Settlements with Blood.1 These atrocious Injuries have extinguished every remaining Spark of Affection for that Parent Country we once held so dear: But were it possible for us to forget and forgive them, it is not possible for you (I mean the British Nation) to forgive the People you have so heavily injured; you can never confide again in those as Fellow Subjects, and permit them to enjoy equal Freedom, to whom you know you have given such just Cause of lasting Enmity. And this must impel you, were we again under your Government, to endeavour the breaking our Sprit by the severest Tyranny, and obstructing by every means in your Power our growing Strength and Prosperity.  But your Lordship mentions ‘the Kings paternal Solicitude for promoting the Establishment of lasting Peace and Union with the Colonies.’ If by Peace is here meant, a Peace to be entered into between Britain and America as distinct States now at War, and his Majesty has given your Lordship Powers to treat with us of such a Peace, I may venture to say, tho’ without Authority, that I think a Treaty for that purpose not yet quite impracticable, before we enter into Foreign Alliances. But I am persuaded you have no such Powers. Your Nation, tho’ by punishing those American Governors who have created and fomented the Discord, rebuilding our burnt Towns, and repairing as far as possible the Mischiefs done us, She might yet recover a great Share of our Regard and the greatest part of our growing Commerce, with all the Advantage of that additional Strength to be derived from a Friendship with us; I know too well her abounding Pride and deficient Wisdom, to believe she will ever take such Salutary Measures. Her Fondness for Conquest as a Warlike Nation, her Lust of Dominion as an Ambitious one, and her Thirst for a gainful Monopoly as a Commercial one, (none of them legitimate Causes of War) will all join to hide from her Eyes every View of her true Interests; and continually goad her on in these ruinous distant Expeditions, so destructive both of Lives and Treasure, that must prove as perrnicious to her in the End as the Croisades formerly were to most of the Nations of Europe.  I have not the Vanity, my Lord, to think of intimidating by thus predicting the Effects of this War; for I know it will in England have the Fate of all my former Predictions, not to be believed till the Event shall verify it.  Long did I endeavour with unfeigned and unwearied Zeal, to preserve from breaking, that fine and noble China Vase the British Empire: for I knew that being once broken, the separate Parts could not retain even their Share of the Strength or Value that existed in the Whole, and that a perfect Re-Union of those Parts could scarce even be hoped for. Your Lordship may possibly remember the Tears of Joy that wet my Cheek, when, at your good Sister’s in London, you once gave me Expectations that a Reconciliation might soon take place. I had the Misfortune to find those Expectations disappointed, and to be treated as the Cause of the Mischief I was labouring to prevent. My Consolation under that groundless and malevolent Treatment was, that I retained the Friendship of many Wise and Good Men in that Country, and among the rest some Share in the Regard of Lord Howe.  The well founded Esteem, and permit me to say Affection, which I shall always have for your Lordship, makes it painful to me to see you engag’d in conducting a War, the great Ground of which, as expressed in your Letter, is, “the Necessity of preventing the American Trade from passing into foreign Channels.” To me it seems that neither the obtaining or retaining of any Trade, how valuable soever, is an Object for which Men may justly Spill each others Blood; that the true and sure means of extending and securing Commerce is the goodness and cheapness of Commodities; and that the profits of no Trade can ever be equal to the Expence of compelling it, and of holding it, by Fleets and Armies. I consider this War against us therefore, as both unjust, and unwise; and I am persuaded cool dispassionate Posterity will condemn to Infamy those who advised it; and that even Success will not save from some degree of Dishonour, those who voluntarily engag’d to conduct it. I know your great Motive in coming hither was the Hope of being instrumental in a Reconciliation; and I believe when you find that impossible on any Terms given you to propose, you will relinquish so odious a Command, and return to a more honourable private Station.”

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