Posted by: Democratic Thinker | March 24, 2010

Congress: Some Men Are Not For Sale

American Papers

In 1778, Goveror George Johnstone, as a commissioner charged by the British with negotiating a settlement with the American colonies, approached several members of the Continental Congress and other influential Americans. He privately offered many of them positions of power in the British government and “other considerations.” To Joseph Reed he offered ten thousand pounds sterling. When his machinations were reported to Congress, Congress broke off any and all negotiations.

I am not worth purchasing, but such as I am, the king of Great Britain is not rich enough to do it. —Joseph Reed.

A DECLARATION.
TUESDAY, August 11, 1778.

—————

 


Joseph Reed.

WHEREAS George Johnstone, Esqr one of the British commissioners for restoring peace in America, on the eleventh of April last, did write and send a letter to Joseph Reed, Esq. a member of Congress, containing this paragraph, viz. “The man who can be instrumental in bringing us all to act once more in harmony, and to unite together the various powers which this contest has drawn forth, will deserve more from the king and the people, from patriotism, humanity, and all the tender ties that are affected by the quarrel and reconciliation, than ever was yet bestowed on human kind.”

And, whereas, the said George Johnstone, Esq. on the sixteenth day of June last, wrote and sent a letter to Robert Morris, Esq. another member of Congress, containing this paragraph, viz. “I believe the men who have conducted the affairs of America incapable of being influenced by improper motives; but in all such transactions there is risk, and I think that whoever ventures should be secured, at the same time, that honor and emolument should naturally follow the fortune of those who have steered the vessel in the storm and brought her safely to port. I think Washington and the president have a right to every favor that grateful nations can bestow, if they could once more unite our interest and spare the miseries and devastations of war.” Which letters were laid before Congress.

And, whereas, the said Joseph Reed, Esq. hath in his place in Congress declared, that “on Sunday the 21 of June last, a few days after the evacuation of the city of Philadelphia by the British troops, he received a written message from a married lady of character, having connexion with the British army, expressing a desire to see him on business, which could not be committed to writing: that, attending the lady agreeable to her appointment in the evening, after some previous conversation respecting her particular connexions, the business and characters of the British commissioners, and particularly of Governor Johnstone (meaning the said George Johnstone, Esq.) were the subjects of general conversation, which being more confined, the lady enlarged upon the great talents and amiable qualities of that gentleman, and added, that in several conversations with her, he (Governor Johnstone) had expressed the most favorable sentiments of him (Mr. Reed,) and that it was particularly wished to engage his (Mr. Reed’s) interest to promote the objects of their commission, viz. a re-union between the two countries, if consistent with his principles and judgment; and that, in such case, it could not be deemed unbecoming or improper in government, (meaning the British,) to take a favorable notice of such conduct; and that, in this instance, he (Mr. Reed) might have £10,000 sterling, and any office in the colonies (meaning these United States) in his majesty’s gift, (meaning in the gift of his Britannic majesty,) to which, finding an answer was expected, he (Mr. Reed) replied, “He was not worth purchasing, but such as he was, the king of Great Britain was not rich enough to do it.”

And, whereas, the said paragraphs, written and sent as aforesaid, by George Johnstone, Esq. and the said declaration made by Joseph Reed, Esq. call loudly upon Congress to express their sense upon them: Therefore,

Resolved, That the contents of the said paragraphs, and the particulars in the said declaration, in the opinion of Congress, can not but be considered as direct attempts to corrupt and bribe the Congress of the United States of America.

Resolved, That as Congress feel, so they ought to demonstrate, the highest and most pointed indignation against such daring and atrocious attempts to corrupt their integrity,

Resolved, That it is incompatible with the honor of Congress to hold any manner of correspondence or intercourse with the said George Johnstone, Esq. especially to negotiate with him upon affairs in which the cause of liberty is interested.

A motion was made to add, “and, whereas, the conduct of the said George Johnstone, Esq. in the aforesaid particulars, unavoidably effects his colleagues in commission, and unfavourably impresses the mind, so that full confidence cannot be placed in them: therefore,

Resolved, That Congress will not, in any degree, negotiate with the present British commissioners in America, for restoring peace:”

On which the yeas and nays being required by Mr. Chase,

New Hampshire,             Maryland,      
Mr. Bartlett, no } no   Mr. Chase, no } no
Massachusetts Bay,           Plater, no
Mr. Gerry, no } no     Forbes, no
  Dana, no   Virginia,      
  Lovell, no   Mr. R.H. Lee, ay } no
  Holten, no     T. Adams, no
Rhode Island,           Harvie, no
Mr. Marchant, ay } ay   North Carolina,      
Connecticut,         Mr. Harnett, ay } div.
Mr. Sherman, no } no     Williams, ay
  A. Adams, no   South Carolina,      
New York,         Mr. Laurens, ay } ay
Mr. G. Morris, no } no     Drayton, ay
New Jersey,           Mathews, ay
Mr. Witherspoon, no } no     Heyward, no
  Scudder, ay   Georgia,      
  Boudinot, no   Mr. Telfar, ay } ay
Pennsylvania,          
Mr. Roberdeau, no } no    
  James Smith, excused from voting, not
    being present at the debate,

 
So it passed in the negative.

It was then moved and agreed to add to the foregoing resolutions, as follows:

And for the propriety of such conduct we make and publish to the world this our declaration.

Done in Congress, at Philadelphia, this 11 day of August, in the year of our Lord 1778, and in the third year of the independence of America.

A motion was then made, to re-consider the resolutions passed: and the yeas and nays being required by Mr. G. Morris:

New Hampshire,             Maryland,      
Mr. Bartlett, no } no   Mr. Chase, ay } ay
Massachusetts Bay,           Plater, ay
Mr. Gerry, no } ay     Forbes, ay
  Dana, ay   Virginia,      
  Lovell, ay   Mr. R.H. Lee, no } no
  Holten, ay     T. Adams, ay
Rhode Island,           Harvie, no
Mr. Marchant, no } no   North Carolina,      
Connecticut,         Mr. Harnett, ay } div.
Mr. Sherman, no } no     Williams, no
  A. Adams, no   South Carolina,      
New York,         Mr. Laurens, no } no
Mr. G. Morris, ay } *     Drayton, no
New Jersey,           Mathews, no
Mr. Witherspoon, no } no     Heyward, no
  Scudder, no   Georgia,      
  Boudinot, no   Mr. Telfar, no } no
Pennsylvania,          
Mr. Roberdeau, ay } ay    
  J.Smith, ay    

 
So it passed in the negative.

Ordered, That the declaration, as agreed to, be signed by the President and published.

A motion was made, that a copy of the declaration be signed by the President and sent by a flag to the commissioners of the king of Great Britain, at New York.

On motion, Resolved, That the consideration of that motion be posponed.

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