by Peter J. Marshall Professor Emeritus of History, King’s College London

I feel honoured but also very conscious of my inadequacies in talking about Lord Shelburne to a seminar in the Clements Library. In the first place, this library is the great centre for Shelburne studies. It holds a very important part of his archive and for long Arlene Shy used to dispense her unrivalled knowledge of Shelburne and his papers to grateful readers. Members of the present staff still do that. What can I say that might be new or interesting about him in such a place? Beyond that, I feel honoured but also inadequate to be addressing a seminar of Atlantic historians, members of that triumphant army whose pronouncements have established the agenda for early modern British and American history. To propose to talk to them about a British politician and Anglo-American relations is to invite their disdain. Professor Bailyn has accepted that there is a place for 'a deeper understanding of the mechanisms of Atlantic politics' in Atlantic history; but, for him politics is 'a mass of intricate connections throughout the Atlantic world'. The politics of British policy-making is by contrast distinctly old hat.1 It is also an approach to the Revolution and its aftermath that I suspect does not find much favour with Atlantic historians. It takes Britain and America out of their wider Atlantic context and even out of the context of the long continuities that continued to bind Britain and America across the Atlantic, such as trade, migration and the diffusion of metropolitan
1 Atlantic History: Concepts and Contours (Cambridge, MA, 2005), p. 49.


cultural values. Viewed in this way, the transition from a nominal subjection to an ineffective imperial authority to what was at first a very uncertain independence may not seem to be any great matter. Indeed it may not be, but my current research is directed to testing it, to trying to assess the nature of the disruption on Britain in particular. The first step in this project, which is as far as I have got with anything in a state to be reported, must be to try to establish the terms on which this disruption came about. The person who set the terms on the British side was undoubtedly Lord Shelburne. Hence this very old fashioned paper, for which I can only crave the indulgence of Atlanticists. I would like to begin with a few generalisations about the British political elite who were confronted with what they regarded as the problem of America. Most of them were becoming increasingly aware of the scale of the colonies' contribution to Britain's wealth and power, especially as a consequence of the Seven Years War, and this awareness was leading to a concern about the weakness of imperial structures and a determination to try to strengthen authority over the colonies, above all by invoking the sovereignty of parliament. While they valued the colonies and wished them well, few of them had any sense of transatlantic social and political realities or any depth of understanding of the peoples over whom they wished to exert greater control. Their vision was hardly an Atlantic one. The colonies were valued as an important asset in maintaining Britain's status as a great power and that was measured by her standing in Europe. American colonies were a means to European greatness; they were not an end in themselves. Eighteenth-century British historiography has been marked by something of a counter-attack 2

These included that Americans must accept a share of imperial burdens and must recognise the sovereignty of parliament. Henry Ellis and the Spectrum of Possibilities. 1763-1775'. and feels it necessary politely to correct Dan Baugh. He begins his book with the proposition that 'the history of eighteenth-century Britain was in Europe'.against imperial or blue-water interpretations of the British view of the world. 2007). friends or enemies of America in British political circles. pp. not in America or Asia.3 I must disclaim this honour. for instance. 3 (London. a category in which he does me the honour of bracketing me with David Armitage and Kathleen Wilson. 1. CXXII (2007). Marie Peters. Many years ago in a most illuminating essay entitled 'Thomas Pownall.a view with which people who have spent much of their lives working on British India are inclined to concur – 'but above all the other and more striking face of Britain as a European power – the end to which “empire” was a means'. however. 3. though he overstates it. 1714-1783. Certain propositions about the colonies' relations with Britain were held to be axiomatic across the whole British political spectrum. 3 . 632-68. concludes a recent essay on 'Early Hanoverian Consciousness: Empire or Europe?' with a call 'to recognise not only the increasingly global reach of British commerce and “empire”' -. John Shy argued that there were no hawks or doves.2 Brendan Simms tries to make a similar case in his substantial Three Victories and a Defeat: The Rise and Fall of the First British Empire. Nicholas Rodger and what he calls a 'confection' of 'imperial or Atlantic' historians. There were no significant dissenters who might have 2 English Historical Review. partly because of my unworthiness to appear in such company and partly because I think he misunderstands me: I actually think he has a case.

5 Old attitudes persisted after American independence. Britain would lay down the terms of future relations unilaterally. seems to confirm the lack of any significant alternatives to the common assumption across the political elite. 1975). Restrictions were imposed on American trade with the surviving British colonies and the northern forts were retained until America fulfilled her obligations under the Treaty. Brown eds. Tea Party to Independence (1991). 155-86. The Townshend Duties Crisis (1987). 1675-1775 (New Brunswick.'6 Were there significant exceptions among Britain's political leadership: men who troubled themselves about America both before and after independence. XXIII (1930). There was as little depth of engagement in British political circles with the United States in the years after 1783 as there had been with the thirteen colonies. notably the authoritative three-volume study of British politics and America by Peter Thomas. Anglo-American Political Relations. 5 British Politics and the Stamp Act Crisis (Oxford. Collections of the Connecticut Historical Society. America now featured very little in public debate.. NJ. 4 . Further negotiation would be pointless. 1970). 'The Deane Papers'. Shelburne seems to have to have developed close relations with Americans in Britain during his period as 4 In A.4 Subsequent scholarship.plotted alternative courses that did not lead to civil war. Olson and R. The common assumptions were that the new Republican state constitutions were recipes for turbulence and instability and that the Confederation could not possible hold together. Lord Sheffield commented: 'That country is no longer an object of the least attention or even curiosity among Englishmen and not a man is to be met who troubles himself with the subject. G. M. 6 Letter of 26 Sept 1788. In asking Silas Deane for information about the new federal constitution in 1788. pp. cultivated leading Americans and could envisage policies that differed from the inflexible consensus? Was Lord Shelburne such a person? Some Americans certainly thought so.

C.. I. Letters of Richard Henry Lee. 11 To R. but Franklin invoked his 'ancient respect for your talents and virtue' at the beginning of the peace negotiations in March 1782. William. Ford. H. The Papers of Benjamin Franklin (New Haven. J. ed. eds. The Emerging Nation: A Documentary History of the Foreign Relations of the United States under the Articles of Confederation 1780-1789.9Franklin's relations with Shelburne began in 1763 and developed much further during his period as Secretary of State. 3 vols. the group of intellectuals. Lee saw himself as a member of what he called 'the College'. 2 vols. who had been taken off a captured ship and confined in the Tower. Ballogh ed. C. which met at Bowood. 3 vols. 26. 8 Letter of 23 July 1783. I. 10 Sept..11 When Shelburne returned to office in 1782. Labaree et. 896. 19 May 1769. M. During the war Lee continued to assure Shelburne of his 'perfect esteem' for him. 1989). II. or in his London house at Berkeley Square to advise Shelburne. Ballogh. 94 5 . 9 Letter to [A. Shelburne's country estate. ed. Lee]. repeating a common term of abuse. he sought out an understandably very embittered Henry Laurens.. Arthur Lee's brother. 1784. The connection seems to have lapsed during the war. 1959-). he professed his happiness to resume correspondence with 'a nobleman I so much respect and esteem' and to whom he thought that both Britain and America were deeply indebted for the peace. He too became a regular visitor to Bowood. Letters of William Lee.Secretary of State for the Southern Department from 1766 to 1768. but believed that he was 'adored in this country'. One of the connections that he formed then was to prove remarkably enduring: that was with Arthur Lee. 1891). 128.. Giunta ed. C. He lectured him on the future of 7 Letter of 18 Dec. 1776. DC. (Washington..7 With the ending of the war. J. I.8 Richard Henry Lee had never met (New York. including Joseph Priestley and Richard Price. The Letters of Richard Henry Lee. (New York. 1914). in 1774 called Shelburne 'as wicked a man in politics as any in the nation' and. 35. 10 Letter of 22 March 1782. W. Lee.10 Not all Americans who encountered Shelburne were beguiled by him. A. 'a complete Jesuit'. XXXVII.

O. 1782. John Jay. Franklin Papers. his reputation with Americans sank to a low ebb. opinions changed. 526. 24 June 1782. to Price. 16 vols. (Columbia. Richard Oswald. and through an 12 Letters to Franklin.. Few welcomed his return as Secretary of State in March 1782 and even fewer his accession to be the King's chief minister in July. the limits of Canada and access to the fisheries. when. to Lafayette. ed. In the later stages of the negotiations. 1963-2003). Papers of Henry Laurens. 1782. 1783-94 ). 3 vols (Cardiff and Durham. 177. The Correspondence of Richard Price.Anglo-American relations. Hamer. through the official British negotiator. Laurens was moved to reply that they had 'conducted their affairs with tolerable success' for the last eight years. XXXVII. M. he said. 13 Laurens's Journal. It was commonly supposed that this represented a counter-attack by the King against the supposed willingness of the majority of the Rockingham ministry to accept immediate American independence. such as the western lands. both of his own abilities and of his influence in the United States. 548. he found Shelburne's ideas completely unrealistic. Hamer.. SC. P. In as far as he could understand them. 6 Aug. ed. Laurens found this hard to bear. XV. NC.. Papers of Laurens.13 In the later years of the war. Shelburne seemed to be offering America independence with very favourable terms on issues of great importance to them. II. D. ed. who fed him ideas about Anglo-American cooperation against Spain on the Mississippi. 3 Aug.12 He recounted an exchange in which 'His Lordship. 31 March 1782. Labaree ed. 399-400. which Laurens thought was non-existent. as his mentor Chatham had done. XV. In his view Shelburne was a man with an entirely justified reputation for 'duplicity and dissimulation' and an 'overweening opinion'. Thomas.. 6 . of the inhabitants he was sure they would not be so happy without us as with the connexion with Great Britain'. said that 'he regreted the independence of the United States for the sake. however. Shelburne had insisted that there could be no acceptance of American independence.

In his trenchant condemnation of war against America. published in 1776. Americans came to believe that that they had been exceptionally fortunate in having Lord Shelburne to make peace with them. WLCL. ed. pp. Bowood MSS. can hardly be faulted. 16 Letter to A. If the height of wisdom in Anglo-American relations is for the British to give the Americans what they want. 255-8. BL. Richard Price inserted a passage paying high tribute to Shelburne.16 In retrospect.15 With the hardening of British policy after the peace. then Shelburne in 1782 or Tony Blair in 2003. 17 Nov. II. Three years later Jay wrote effusively to the now Marquis of Lansdowne about his 'large and liberal views and principles' and about how he had tried to make a peace that would have reduced the Revolution to having been no more than 'an exchange of dependence for friendship'. 1782. (Boston. Life of Arthur Lee. Jay to R. 70. nearly all Americans came to think well of Shelburne. Benjamin Vaughan. Observations on the Nature of Civil Liberty. ff. 1829). Lee. 15 Letter of 20 April 1786.. Shelburne MSS. Townshend. As Secretary of State from 1766 to 1768. found him particularly responsive. 2 Oct. H. with no effective structure of civil government able to enforce imperial policies and no realistic prospect that military coercion would be successful. Given the weakness of Britain's position throughout the crisis of the Revolution.unofficial channel. Yet this was almost certainly not the outcome that Shelburne would have wished. Shelburne had possessed the 'confidence' of the colonies. ed. generous concession was not necessarily an abject policy. 12 April 1783. Jay was invited to Bowood on a visit to Britain. but 'without ever compromising the confidence of this country. Even the deeply sceptical John Adams concluded that 'Shelburne and his set would have gone through well'. Emerging Nation. 14 After the peace had been concluded. 2 vols. 248. a 14 Oswald to T. 669-70.. he wrote. Lee. 7 . Livingston. 37. R. 69-70. I. Giunta. 1782.

Vincent Harlow.18 Whatever its other merits. I. 306. He began to coin the phrase. for whom Shelburne was an exception among his contemporaries with a clear and original vision for the future of the British empire. (London. but Shelburne took unusually serious steps. Even so. 309. to cultivate that confidence. this scheme was likely to endear Shelburne to those Americans. according to his lights. 2 vols. 1778). All ministers of course wished for the 'duty and submission' of the colonies and also professed a desire to govern with their confidence. War was for Shelburne far too high a price to pay to enforce duty and submission.19 There was to be rigorously enforced 'duty and submission' as well as 'confidence'. 8 . throughout the war he resolutely opposed any formal recognition of American independence. What his American well-wishers may not have known is that he was well to the fore in proposing draconian measures to the Cabinet in 1767 to coerce colonial recalcitrance: if colonies would not pay for quarters he thought that troops might be billeted in private houses and he suggested that refusal to obey an act of parliament might be made 'high treason'. 1952-64). (London. Stamp Act and British Politics. In 1767 Shelburne had sponsored a plan for new colonies in the west.17 Price was very close to Shelburne and this is likely to have been a realistic assessment of Shelburne's aims in dealings with America. 19 Thomas. like Arthur Lee and Benjamin Franklin. saw this as a piece of 'imaginative realism' aimed at associating 'the interests of the mother country and the colonies in a common purpose'. so often to be quoted against him. 1 18 The Founding of the Second British Empire 1763-1793. pp. 193.confidence which discovered itself by peace among themselves and duty and submission to the mother-country'. p. who had a more than platonic interest in western land. 17 8th edn. that Britain's sun would set with the loss of America.

28 April 1778. he could invest them with high principles.. XIX. 'Indeed. 'the bulk of the people .. Shelburne was to try to put such a policy into effect. Shelburne's speech is taken from the version in Parliamentary History.20 When he resumed office in 1782. Franklin. ed. 368-9. The Mississippi should be opened 'for the purposes of trade not dominion'. We should treat them with generosity.In 1778 he propounded his alternative to offering America independence. Fighting must stop. when he had to defend the terms of the peace in the House of Lords on 17 February 1783 and when he came to reflect on them later. he had argued in the Lords that territorial empires with exclusive restrictions were now becoming irrelevant. See also version of the speech in B. 9 . The eventual outcome of huge gains conceded to America without any compensating concession of continuing links with Britain was not at all what he had intended. 20 Feb.23 In a letter of 1787 to Arthur Lee he told 20 Speech of 8 April 1778.21 'All Europe' seemed anxious to throw off 'the vile shackles of oppressive and ignorant monopoly'. We should not seek to confine America's trade. XXIII. he used a phrase much associated with him by later historians. Then he was sure that. Vaughan to B. Papers of Franklin. XXVI. 1033-56. 1783. Nevertheless. 21 Except where indicated. As the greatest manufacturing and commercial nation Britain must be in the van of free trade. 23 WLCL Shelburne MSS. 22 Morning Post. although the activists in Congress might hold out. Labaree. In his notes. Parliamentary History.'22 Their prosperity would be our gain. would be easily brought to a reconciliation' and would 'come back to an alliance with this country'. 404-19. to speak properly it is not generosity to them but oeconomy to ourselves. 87:222.. all American grievances must be met and their rights must be guaranteed for the future. Against accusations that he had surrendered to the Americans access to the Newfoundland fisheries and the western territory on which a very extensive British fur trade depended.

The Americans would immediately abandon their. 440. in truth not so much an alliance.. To the American leadership..25 This is surely an Atlanticist vision. II. eliminating French influence and bringing America back into some sort of amicable connection with Britain. Shelburne evidently saw the chance of bringing about the kind of reconciliation that he had outlined in his speech in 1778. to the British. In general terms Shelburne was determined to above all to break the Franco-American alliance. . ed. prove the foundation of a lasting and firm union with America which will do honour to mankind. He began with ambitious hopes about the form that this connection might take but was forced to accept less and less. unnatural and inexplicable alliance with France and return to the British fold. Setting aside the Atlanticist dimension for the moment. as a similarity of principle which may embrace all nations and contribute to the happiness of all'. whether the peace that finally emerged embodied any coherent vision must be open to question.him that he hoped that 'the principles of the peace' would in 'a very few years. 10 . 24 Harlow believed that his desire to bring about 'an intimate association' with 'a young nation in the making. however. whose power and weight in world affairs was certain to be of continental proportions' was the principle underlying the peace of 1783 for Shelburne. With the fall of the North administration in March 1782. I need not say that by this I do not mean a legislative union. II. Life of Arthur Lee. the new British ministers were not so much their friends 24 Lee.. 358. He shared the common delusion of all British politicians who had opposed the war that American hostility to Britain would collapse as soon as they realised that their friends were in power. 25 Second British Empire.

P. 11 . was that Americans could be made to see the error of their ways and be brought to recognise that their Republican experiments were doomed to failure and that acceptance of something like the British constitution was the only way forward for them. Shelburne MSS. 7 May 1782. 1782.29 So fixated was he on the hopes expressed in 1778 that the mass of Americans were only waiting for an opportunity to turn against their leaders and to reunite with Britain. cited in Harlow. Smith ed. 26 vols.26 This was absurdly naïve. 55. new edn. XIX. potential enemies of a different kind to be treated with extreme caution. 267.28 He was reported to have told the House of Lords that he would welcome an opportunity to appear before Congress in person in order to persuade them that 'if their independence was signed. 532. J. Letters of Delegates to Congress 1774-1789. Second British Empire. David Ramsay astutely observed that many people in Britain saw themselves as 'freinds to America' but that none of them were friends to an independent America still allied to France. Clinton. Bourdieu. but instead 'an idea of reconnecting us to the British nation and dissolving our connection with France is too prevalent'. that Shelburne shared to the full. I. their liberties were gone for ever'. He found no 'idea of American independence on its true principles'. Washington carefully read the reports of the parliamentary debates on the fall of North. 7-9. XXIV. Laurens to J. ed. 35. pp. (Washington DC. (London. He thought the ideas expressed in them were 'delusory'. 39 vols. 1931-44).. 28 H. Eliot. 1783.. H. Fitzpatrick. He thought that there were 'great numbers' in America who saw 'ruin and independence linked together'. WLCL. 1976-2000). 10 Aug. 29 Version of speech of 10 July 1782 in A Letter to the Earl of Shelburne. Shelburne told Henry Laurens that 'The constitution of Great Britain is sufficient to pervade the whole world'. C. He incidentally considered Shelburne 'so double a character'. (Washington. The Writings of George Washington. 1791). 27 Another delusion of self-styled British friends of America. that the British commanders in New York were instructed to try to 26 Letter to G. 27 Letter to J. DC. 2 Jan. f.

J. Ritcheson. Peace and the Peacemakers: The Treaty of 1783 (Charlottesville. 4 April 1782. Albert. 12 .. Citizens of the World: London Merchants and the Integration of the British Atlantic Community 1735-1785 (Cambridge. Carleton. He was to be pilloried in the press as a traitor to Britain. pp. but long engaged on a very large scale in American trade and with many American friends. 31 B.. an elderly merchant entirely without diplomatic experience. Documents of the American Revolution 1770-1783. 'had in the world'. Eventually even Shelburne turned against him. 1972-81). Monroe. XXI.. 'Britain's Peacemakers 1782-1783: “To an Astonishing Degree Unfit for the Task?” in R. Americans should contrast their present 'dependence' on France with 'British union and all the advantages resulting from returning affection and confidence'. B. R. See Aalso David Hancock. it could only be by formal opening negotiations with the agent empowered by Congress. (Shannon. 18 Sept.30 These manoeuvres seem to have had no effect. beyond arousing yet further suspicion of Shelburne's intentions in American political circles. 32 For a fair and authoritative assessment. who Shelburne had found so recalcitrant. p.32 Shelburne's choice of 30 Instructions to G.31 Oswald's conduct of his mission came to be much criticised by contemporaries for being far too conciliatory to the Americans. K.make direct contact with American opinion to spread the news of the good intentions of the new ministry. Vaughan to J. Shelburne chose as his emissary to deal with Franklin Richard Oswald. ed. pp. see C. He was said to be the 'most intimate and respected friend' that Henry Laurens. that is with Franklin in Paris. 1986). 1795. R. Davies. Hoffman and P. nor were they at the moment at all inclined to make any peace separate from their French allies. Most historians have also been critical of him. 54. 346. who had become Secretary of State for home and colonial affairs. John Jay: The Winning of the Peace (New York. ed. Franklin initiated contact on 22 March with his old acquaintance Shelburne. G. 390-5. 1980). 70-100. eds. It was becoming clear that Americans were not likely to accept anything short of unqualified independence. If progress was to be made. 21 vols. 1995). Morris.

8 July WLCL Shelburne MSS. 25 B. VIII. that Britain should not concede independence without securing substantial undertakings from America in return. BL. Oswald was a logical choice. p. On 10 July he told the House of Lords that he ready to yield to the 'fatal necessity'.33 The Americans were to be coaxed back into some kind of association with Britain.38 but in his instructions to Oswald he set 33 34 35 36 37 38 Second British Empire. however. The term he used was a 'federal union'. I.. I. Giunta ed. 328-9. Oswald was later to tell Franklin that he wished to deal with him not only as a personal friend but 'as a friend to England'.Oswald seems. He assured him that Shelburne 'had the greatest confidence in his good intentions towards our country'. Americans supposed that he was looking for something like the legislative independence extracted by Ireland. Shelburne hoped that the Americans would reciprocate to such gestures.36 He insisted. 71. 'a pacifical man' was a gesture of goodwill to achieve a quick reconciliation. f. p. Letter of 6 April 1782. 34 From that point of view. 13 . Shelburne told Franklin. 2 Aug. Bowood MSS. As Harlow put it.35 In office again from March 1782 Shelburne began to moderate his total hostility to American independence. Oswald to Shelburne.37 He evidently hoped that the Americans would offer 'spontaneous measures to be gone upon in return for the spontaneous measures of England'. to be a clear indication that he still seriously underestimated the difficulties in reaching a settlement with the Americans. Parliamentary Register. 1782. who was. was almost certainly unattainable in a political if not a commercial sense. 19. Shelburne MSS. 366. which. 33. however. Vaughan to Shelburne. 67. WLCL. 246. The Emerging Nation. as David has pointed out. The appointment of Oswald. he was 'slow to accept that he was engaged in a diplomatic contest and not in a cooperative effort to heal a family breach'. 70. he recognised.

language and nature'. 27 July 1782. WLCL. 65-6. 2 vols (London. Oswald. 71.40 Shelburne's insistence that Americans could not expect to win independence without giving something in return of course followed logically from his desire to preserve some sort of connection with the former colonies. The Americans should agree to 'free trade. however. Shelburne MSS. domestic political calculations behind it. pp. . habits. Finally. Oswald was repeatedly told to ensure that British creditors with debts outstanding from before the war and American loyalists to the British cause who had suffered confiscations of their property were properly compensated. those who were willing to support further campaigns insisted that they must be at sea and in the West Indies against France and Spain. ff. to every part of America'. British public opinion in 1782 was strongly anti-American. one of Shelburne's closest 39 Letter to R. 127-8. II. 1912). Close commercial relations to replace the old colonial system was a prime objective. There was no appetite for continued war on the American mainland. 40 Oswald's instructions of April 1782 are Lord Fitzmaurice. unencumbered with duties. 2nd edn. Life of William Earl of Shelburne.39 The 'indisputable condition of our acknowledging their independence' that the Americans must meet was that they were truly independent in the sense of being free from any binding commitment to France. Thomas Orde. The French alliance must be wound up. those of July are in TNA. gratuitous and unrequited concessions to America were quite another matter. 14 .out his own terms for a settlement that would 'avoid all future risque of enmity. and lay the foundation of a new connection better adapted to the present temper and interest of the countries'. There were also. Yet while most people accepted that American independence was now inevitable. 49-52. including an 'unreserved system of naturalization'. FO 97/157. Shelburne also hoped to retain other 'tyes which are consonant to our mutual relations.

heard from 'several persons of weight in the City and having connections of interest in the country that a great alarm is taken at the supposed concessions made by this country'. ed. separation of America from France. The Correspondence of King George III. . 15 . 43 Letter of 1 July 1782. Rodney's recent victory over the French fleet had pushed that price up.. the Americans indicated that were independence to be conceded. however.43 In the event the Americans got their independence without formal conditions. J.. As Franco-American relations deteriorated. Orde believed that Shelburne's policy of no independence without concessions by the Americans was 'wholly consonant to the ideas and wishes of those who form a great and most essential majority in this country'. 1927-8).42 He warned Shelburne that independence must have a 'price set on it which alone would make the kingdom consent to it'.41 'Common sense' told the King that if Britain conceded unconditional independence at the outset. Shelburne came to see 41 Letter of 26 Sept. ibid. or at least reserved some claim of dignity to our government which might be made use of to our national pride'. The British Cabinet therefore authorised their envoy to agree to their unconditional independence. Such people could accept that peace could not be obtained without recognising American independence. BL Bowood MSS. she would have nothing left with which to bargain 'for what we want from thence'. (London.aides. but they 'cannot endure the idea of a voluntary. with John Jay taking the lead. 6 vols. be sure that the most important of Shelburne's terms. they were eager to make peace without their ally. Fortescue. VI. 81. 1782. VI. 42 Letter of 11 July 1782. The British could. would be met. unconditional and possibly inconsequential dereliction of that bond. by which we maintain some controlling influence over the full exertion of American power. 70.

6 Feb. and an American in England the same as an Englishman' was shelved for the commercial settlement. f. f. Bowood MSS.45 but which was to take an inordinate time to be implemented and to lead to much ill feeling. PRO 30/8/343. especially between the inhabitants of Canada and Nova Scotia and us'. TNA. The settling of the terms for future commercial relations between Britain and America was shelved for later negotiations. 1783. 35. 106.the parting of France and America as his supreme achievement. 45 According to Oswald. 10 vols.47 John Adams was. which fell victim to Shelburne's loss of power.46Common naturalization was never enacted. He had Charles Howard.44 Such claims riled some Americans. 46 Surrey to Shelburne. Shelburne had less success with his other conditions. C. 47. In his defence of the treaty. Lee. VIII. A clause that 'an Englishman in America should be considered in all matters of commerce as an American. Answers to Objections to the Peace.. Lee. 'they were pretty well. II. Shelburne insisted that generosity towards the 44 Letter to A. ed. BL.. ed. 16 Dec.48 Provisions inserted in the treaty for the loyalists were. but it can certainly be argued that the generosity of what he was offering gave the Americans in Paris every incentive to break away from a connection with a power whose motives they had increasingly come to mistrust. 17 July 1783. Earl of Surrey in mind. 48 Letter to R. 358-9. A clause in favour of British creditors was inserted in the treaty which achieved its purpose of buying off the creditors' opposition to the peace. assured that the British wished to make 'no distinction between their people and ours. 80. Adams. 33. 1787. 30/8/343. 47 Oswald's Answers. TNA. if not perfectly satisfied'. Livingston. (Boston. f. however. 1850-6). The Works of John Adams. Had he stayed in office. with good reason as events were to show. F. 4 Feb. 1783. it was apparently Shelburne's intention to appoint an ambassador of high rank to the United States in order to conclude the commercial treaty. dismissed as virtually meaningless by Shelburne's critics. 1782. 6 Feb. Life of Arthur Lee. 16 .

49 Oswald could not foresee any obstacles to conceding the essential articles and he advocated closing on them quickly. especially on the Canadian 49 R. 'Independence full and complete in every sense' inevitably came top of the list. There must be a settlement of boundaries with the remaining British colonies. In particular. once the great question of the terms of independence had been settled. Shelburne and his ministerial colleagues also seem at first to have had no real difficulties with them either. Presumably without much expectation of success. the huge additions of western lands claimed by some American colonies that had been bestowed on Canada by the 1774 Quebec Act must be relinquished. As late as 1 September 1782 Oswald was authorised to 'go to the full extent' of the rest of the articles. The British ought to pay reparations for the damage their forces had done. WLC. These were presented to Oswald on 10 July.Americans would remove all causes of future disputes. but he did lay down certain specific American requirements that must be met. Americans were to have 'a freedom of fishing on the banks of Newfoundland. ministers came to appreciate that too much was being given to the Americans and that concessions. Franklin added some 'adviseable' articles. 17 .. 1 Sept. Townshend to R. 1782. Oswald to Shelburne. however. 462 50 T. I. Giunta. A commercial settlement was left to the advisable articles. It failed in this purpose. Franklin did not respond to Shelburne's hints that he might propose terms for some sort of future Anglo-American connection. parliament should in some way acknowledge its errors in 'distressing those countries as much as we had done' and the whole of Canada was to be given up.50 Within a few weeks. Oswald. ed. 10 July 1782. Shelburne MSS. 87:89. Emerging Nation. Disputes about some of its provisions were to damage Anglo-American relations for many years to come. and elsewhere'.

What Shelburne seems not have anticipated was that a truncated Canadian boundary would enrage another vocal lobby. In their vociferous 51 Letter of 21 Nov. 1782. 'the nation would rise to do itself justice and to recover its wounded honour'. 52 Letter to R. XXXVIII. Labaree. since it would go against public expectations and incur the wrath of several powerful lobbies. its property to dispose of as it wished.. As Franklin put it. Shelburne warned Oswald that if ministers failed to obtain provision for them. all shades of political opinion now accepted the obligation. Even though opponents of the war had usually denounced the loyalists as traitors to the American cause and malign incendiaries to Anglo-American understanding. 'They wished to bring their boundary down to the Ohio and to settle their loyalists in the Illinois country. 413.boundaries and access to the fisheries together with the failure so far to extract anything for the debtors and the loyalists would produce a peace that would be politically disastrous for the government. Livingston. We did not chuse such neighbours'. 18 . depicting the persecution that they had already suffered and were likely to suffer when New York was evacuated in dramatic terms and appealing to the honour of the British nation to secure them redress. R.52 An alternative was that a fund should be created out of the sale of western lands reserved to the Crown in the Proclamation of 1763 and still.51 The fixing of boundaries and the loyalist question were linked. the loyalists had played their cards in Britain with considerable skill and had become a formidable lobby. ed. If the Americans would not restore loyalist property. 1782. Shelburne urged that the territory of Canada and Nova Scotia should be extended to provide lands for them. Franklin Papers. Defeated in America. Shelburne argued. 5 [-14] Dec. the British merchants trading in Canadian furs. They had mounted a very vigorous press campaign.

and he was deeply apprehensive as to how a peace that seemed to be making too many concessions would fare in parliament. which he seems to have consulted as little as he could. 1783. and have already set their emissaries to work to represent you in 53 Morning Chronicle. g. g. 'Y. It was commonly asserted that free access to the fisheries would lay the basis for an American navy to challenge Britain. American creditors with committees in London and Glasgow were another formidable lobby. the advantage given them by their proximity of being first off Newfoundland and therefore first to the southern European markets. Shelburne faced opposition from within his Cabinet. W. or be received by a public which was not generally well disposed to the Americans. the famed nursery of seamen for the navy. 1783. He was also losing the battle for the press or seemed hardly to be fighting it at all.' in Public Advertiser. 1783 54 19 . where particular lobbies would be well represented. 54 E. when they called on them to protest.. Z.55 In making campaigns they alleged that the fur trade 'must be totally destroyed' and that Canada would be rendered valueless and might just as well have been renounced totally. could have very damaging political resonances. They saw no reason to perpetuate to the New England fishermen. to be unaware of the significance of what they had done.53 They made the most of what they represented as the geographical ignorance of the ministers who seemed. 55 e. A volunteer to his cause warned him that his enemies boasted that 'they will write your Lordship down before the meeting of parliament. 3 Feb. 12 Feb. once they had chosen to leave the empire. 'Piscator' in Public Advertiser. So too were the West Country fishing concerns. Any implied weakening of the British long-distance fishing industry. He was by no means sure of a majority at the best of time in the House of Commons. 13 Feb.

pp. 20 July 1782. Bowood MSS. Shelburne decided that a tougher line must now be taken with the Americans. 58 Letter of 23 Oct. pp. 59-60. Shelburne MSS. unfavourable light. ibid. 49. see J. He and Oswald had to get good terms for the creditors. ff. 40. Oswald was reprimanded for being conciliatory to the point of anticipating the Americans' wishes.. Emerging Nation. Giunta ed. he urged counter measures. extended boundaries for Canada and Nova Scotia. however. Shelburne and Reform. 1782. WLCL. 1782. but if negotiations were still going on while parliament was in session the situation would be impossible.57 Public 'clamour' would 'scarcely be to be withstood' and 'the expectations of the cabinet. Under Secretary in the Home Office and a skilled and unyielding negotiator.60 Shelburne was therefore determined 56 R.. 59 Instructions to Strachey and Notes. 1782. as the Americans soon came to realise. WLCL. 153-4. f. becoming crucial. 20 . 1782. 253. Shelburne MSS. Tomlinson to Shelburne. 71. p. p. 300. Shelburne recognised that it was going to be difficult enough to get a concluded peace through parliament. 57 Letter of 21 Oct.58 The colleague was Henry Strachey. 87: 205. Jackman of the Morning Post to Shelburne 28 Sept. Norris. Fitzherbert. 60 Shelburne to A. Since 'ninetenths of the people of all ranks form their ideas of ministers and measures from the public prints'. 1782. nearly every one of the news-papers'. BL. 323-4. proper compensation for the creditors and the loyalists and some limitations on American access to the fisheries. 21 Oct.59 Time was. The strength of 'interests and passions supported by party and different mercantile interests' would mean that 'no negotiation can advance with credit to those employ'd or any reasonable prospect for the publick'. 619. I. WLCL. and the still greater expectations without doors' be assuaged unless Oswald and the colleague that he was now to be given clawed back significant parts of what was being conceded. Shelburne MSS. For evidence of activity on Shelburne's behalf. B. in.56 To stop his support eroding further. 37. B. On the weakness of the government's press management see J. 71. Bowood MSS.. 20 Oct.

there can be little doubt that the American terms were widely unpopular. Most of the parliamentary discussion was on the peace with America and much of it was critical. It followed that while Strachey and Oswald must push as hard as they could to improve the terms in the last resort they would have to yield rather than risk a total breakdown of the negotiations. Congress was to recommend to the states that compensation be given to the loyalists and some adjustments were made to the Canadian and Nova Scotia boundary. The creditors were given the prospect of repayment. what a peace you have 61 Oswald to Strachey. 9 Jan.61 The peace was defeated in the House of Commons and Shelburne resigned. that he was frequently accosted in the street by people exclaiming 'Good God. Most press coverage was unremittingly hostile to the American terms. Strachey felt that they had done as well or even better than could have been expected. Mr Byng. The fisheries terms remained substantially the same. 21 . Nevertheless. Some indication of how a wider public may have responded was conveyed by the story of George Byng. TNA. f. John Adams telling Oswald that America would fight on if need be without France rather than accepting any exclusion from the fisheries. Whether the terms of the American peace were decisive in his defeat remains unproven. 254. In a weak position. 1783. MP for the popular constituency of have an agreed peace with the Americans and with Britain's main European opponents by the time parliament reconvened. The vote was on the treaties with France and Spain as well as with America and in any case the realignment of parliamentary forces that produced the Fox-North Coalition and thus sealed Shelburne's fate had already taken place. FO 97/157.

63 The peace had indeed been generous to the Americans. 22 . His generosity had certainly precipitated the break-up of a Franco-American alliance that had outrun its usefulness to the Americans. Works of Adams. II. Adams. He had seriously underestimated both the absolute American determination for a Republican independence without any association with Britain. Otherwise.. D. Conway. 63 B. he tried with too little time to revoke some of what was being given away. Shelburne had initially hoped that generosity would be reciprocated. if Shelburne's misapprehensions about both America and Britain meant that the final terms of the peace embodied contradictory aims rather than a coherent vision of Anglo-American relations. assumptions that Americans were still British at heart were mistaken. ed. 11 March 1783. Adams. 1906). ed. 47. he certainly had an overall objective: this was to conciliate America within a close connection with 62 Report of the Middlesex Meeting. VIII.64 Shelburne had also underestimated until it was too late the strong tide of resentment against America in Britain itself. 5 March 1783. The Writings of Thomas Paine.. A new generation had grown up in America 'who know nothing of Britain but as a barbarous enemy'.made'. 4 vols. Vaughan to J. Ultimately. Nevertheless. Shelburne had neither been able to bring about the the reunion with the United States that he had so ardently desired nor to impose terms on them that the British political public could regard as an adequate defence of British interests and of British honour. he had little concrete to show a British audience in return for his concessions. 64 'Letter to the Abbé Raynal' in M. When he began to realise how much damage unrequited generosity was doing him politically. Byng agreed that too much had been given away62 Shelburne seems to have believed that he had been beaten on the American terms. (London. 119. although it was said that he 'retains all his old American sentiments and repents of nothing'. 6 March 1783. Parker's General Advertiser.. As Tom Paine pointed out.

Some historians interpret Shelburne's peace settlement as marking this turn back to Europe. He hoped for a deep and lasting Anglo-French 65 Letter to J. 1788. Even proven friends of America. In Scott's view. Hamish Scott in his excellent British Foreign Policy in the Age of the American Revolution argued that for contemporaries the European peace was far more important than the American one. To an unusual degree. All this was unusual in a British politician. 65 Did this recognition of American potential constitute an Atlanticist vision of the world? It is often argued that main legacy for Britain of the War of American Independence was in fact to turn Britain politically back to Europe in belated recognition that she could not bid the world defiance without a European ally.Britain. and his eldest son went on a tour of North America. or Charles Fox. ed. He continued to cultivate individual Americans. He had no forebodings about America's territorial expansion and the spectacular growth of her population. he recognised the future potential of America. Britain and France must stop fighting one another at sea and combine against the threat from the East. Adams. if substance could not be put to any such connection.. Jay. as he had done before the Revolution. such as Edmund Burke. 23 . Works of John Adams. VIII. Shelburne was very concerned at the great shift in the European balance of power that had been demonstrated by the cooperation of Austria. he would still conciliate. 475. In the last resort. whose great speeches were a marvellous imaginative engagement with late colonial America. seem to have lost interest in the United States. John Adams found that they behaved towards him as ambassador with the 'same dry decency and cold civility' as other members of the British political elite. 14 Feb. Prussia and Russia in the partition of Poland and the cutting back of the Ottoman Empire.

68 Three Victories and a Defeat. 66 (Oxford. p. could doubt that Britain's role as a great power depended on her standing in Europe. 9. 329-31. I doubt whether Shelburne differed in this respect. 'for both Britain and France of European as opposed to American or imperial considerations'. 24 . pp. 67 (Exeter. the intolerable assumptions of superiority that so riled Laurens and the ignorance about America (William Knox and the Canada merchants thought that Shelburne's geographical knowledge of North America was very flawed). I leave it to Atlantic historians to determine. Up to a point. but as a potential ally. yes. 1990). The wealth generated by American trade was a major prop of the naval and military resources that enabled Britain to protect her interests in Europe.66 Andrew Stockley's more recent Britain and France at the Birth of America: The European Powers and the Peace Negotiations of 17823 elaborates the same theme: the 'overwhelming importance'. not worked out at all. No British politician who seriously aspired to hold office. albeit a subordinate one whose future development Britain should try nurture . Nor. p. but he did envisage America not just as an asset from which wealth could be extracted. it still seems to me to be as close to an Atlanticist view as any major British political figure was to attain. 661. it seems. but dominion in America could not be an end in itself. that Britain had surrendered 'a whole continent' in order 'to maintain the European balance'. Whether this is an Atlanticist view.rapprochement. 2001).67 Brendan Simms concludes his book with the assertion. The American sideshow must therefore be brought to an end as quickly as possible.68 Does this mean that Shelburne was no different from the other British statesmen of the later eighteenth century for whom America was merely a means to European ends. did Shelburne doubt this. as he puts it. With all its misconceptions.

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful