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Dennis De Berdt to Mr. Reed


London, May 3, 1776.

DEAR REED: I am now set down to write you a letter on the most important subject and of the most difficult nature I ever yet attempted, and I scarcely know how to advance, nor will my mind suffer me to retreat, as my judgment is fully convinced the design is good, and my heart is warm in the cause.

You must know, since my Lord Howe' s important appointment as Commander-in-Chief of his Majesty' s forces in America, I have made it my business to learn his character as a nobleman, a statesman, and an officer. As a man, he has urbanity and great goodness of heart to recommend him; as a politician, solid sense and sound principles, with moderation; and as a commander, ability and valor. Such qualifications command esteem and respect, and it is a satisfaction to a feeling mind that so momentous an embassy as his Lordship' s is so happily placed. But as I had reason to believe he had expressed the most anxious solicitude to bring about an accommodation without bloodshed, and to draw the sword with the greatest reluctance, and that these expressions were not only the language of his lips, but the dictate of his heart, I had a great desire to be introduced to him, and this day I had the honour of a conference; when his Lordship' s conversation not only confirmed the report, but his friendly disposition towards America, and assurances of


his inclination to effect a reconciliation without force, far exceeded my expectation; and though the assurances of great men are frequently without meaning or intention, I have the strongest belief in what he said, and the greatest faith in his peaceful intentions.

Do, my dear friend, let me persuade you that Lord Howe goes to America as a mediator, and not as a destroyer. I firmly believe it, upon my honour. Were it prudent in me to reveal all he said, I would most cheerfully and readily do it. I quote not his Lordship' s authority for what I say, but give you my opinion, on a well-grounded belief of what I advance. This he has declared: he had rather meet you, and that immediately on his arrival, in the wide field of argument, than in the chosen ground for battle; and I am confident a parley on the footing of gentlemen and friends is his wish and desire; and it is generally believed, with his disposition to treat, he has power to compromise and adjust. Nor do I think, if a conference should be brought about, anything unbecoming a gentleman will be desired, or unreasonable concessions expected. These things believed, I would not be happy in my own mind without communicating them to you, and Lord Howe has promised to take charge of the letter. I beg, therefore, to recommend them to your most serious consideration.

The very thought, my dear friend, of being instrumental in bringing about a peaceful accommodation is better felt than expressed, when I consider the honour lately conferred on me by the Province of New-Jersey. It is my duty, my regard for the country and people makes it my inclination, and my affection for you and your family draws me into it with the cords of love.

My Lord Howe is not unacquainted with your name. I have so high an opinion of your abilities and honour, and have had such repeated instances of your friendship and affection, that everything has been said by me that you can desire or expect; and I have not a doubt, if a treaty or parley is brought about in which you may be engaged, every degree of respect you can desire, or attention you can wish, will be shown you. If this letter, from the exigency of the times, should be inspected, I hope it will not be suppressed, but receive an immediate despatch to you. Rest assured, my dear friend, my motives are good, whatever may be suspected to the contrary.

My dutiful regards attend my dear mother, and my affection and love are ever with you and my sister.

I am yours, sincerely and affectionately,