REPUBLICAN DIPLOMACY, 1779 TO 1784
BEFORE the fall of the North ministry, the British government had made several proposals looking towards peace with the colonies on some basis short of complete independence. There were also a few English liberals who hoped and worked for reconciliation throughout the war, among them David Hartley, a member of Parliament and an old friend of Franklin's. Hartley visited Paris in 1778 and tried to interest the American envoy in his peace plans; but Franklin pointed out that Congress, having committed itself to common action with the French, could not desert its new allies or make any terms short of independence. Notwithstanding this disappointment, Hartley continued his friendly efforts and, during the winter of 1781-1782, after a conference with Lord North, he suggested a kind of armistice for a term of years. This suspension of hostilities he proposed to use for friendly conferences about the future relations of the two countries. Of course, Franklin's original objection applied equally well to this new proposal.
Informal negotiations; Hartley and Franklin.
Even after the Rockingham ministry came in, there were difficulties to be overcome; but the conditions were much more favorable. In March, 1782, Burke wrote to Franklin expressing his hope of a "speedy peace between the two branches of the English nation." A little later Franklin, having been told that Shelburne would be glad to hear from him, sent a courteous note recalling their old acquaintance and expressing his satisfaction with Shelburne's recent appointment. Starting with this informal correspondence,
The Rockingham ministry. Shelburne's overtures.