- Richard Oswald 1705-1784
Richard Oswald was born in
Scotlandin 1705 to the Reverend George Oswaldof Dunnet. He is best known as the British peace commissioner in Parisin 1782. He had an extensive career as a merchant, slave trader, and advisor to the British Ministryon trade regulations and the conduct of the American Revolutionary War.
As a young man Oswald lived for six years in
Virginiaas a merchant. He then returned to Englandand established himself as a merchant in Londonfor the next thirty years. While in London, he devoted a considerable amount of time to the African Slave Trade. In 1748, the firm of Alexander Grant, Richard Oswald, and Company purchased Bance Island, on the Sierra Leone River, where the Royal African Companyhad erected a fort. Oswald and his associates gained control of other small islands through treaties with native chiefs and established on Bance Island a trading station for factors in the trafficking of slaves. [Stitt Robinson Jr., "The Folly of Invading Virginia, 1781" (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1953), 36.]
Oswald also was instrumental in directing English businessmen to promising locales in America for growing rice and indigo. Oswald directed English planter Francis
Levett, who formerly worked for the Levant Company, to promising English East Floridalocations for his rice and indigo plantations, and urged East Florida Governor James Grant to make generous land grants to Levett, whom Oswald called his "worthy friend" to whom he owed "particular obligations." [ [http://www.unf.edu/floridahistoryonline/Plantations/plantations/Julianton_Plantation.htm Julianton Plantation, English Plantations in East Florida, Florida History Online] ] Oswald's extensive network of business connections served him well in building his empire of slave-trading. [ [http://books.google.com/books?id=Fuh5g0LGsH4C&pg=PA151&lpg=PA151&dq=%22richard+oswald%22+levett&source=web&ots=ddqjCfg8fs&sig=xVG6EI_bnoY-BaC4HmutUedERbA&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=1&ct=result Citizens of the World: London Merchants and the Integration of the British Atlantic Community 1735-1785, David Hancock, Cambridge University Press, 1995] ]
In 1782, Oswald was selected by
Lord Shelburneto open negotiations with the Americans. Because of his prior living experience in America and his knowledge of its geography and trade he had been frequently consulted by the British Ministry about the war. The informal negotiations were to be held in Paris. Lord Shelburne chose Oswald because he thought it would appeal to Benjamin Franklin. Oswald shared Franklin's free trade commercial views; he possessed a "philosophic disposition"; and he had previously had a limited correspondence with Franklin. [Robinson, "Folly of Invading Virginia", 39.] Franklin was impressed with Oswald's negotiating skills and described him as a man with an "Air of great Simplicity and Honesty." [Robinson, "Folly of Invading Virginia", 40.]
Treaty of Paris
On July 25, 1782, official negotiations began. The preliminary articles were signed by Oswald for
Great Britain, and John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, John Jay, and Henry Laurensfor the United Stateson November 30, 1782. With almost no alterations, these articles were made into a treaty on September 3, 1783. Oswald was criticized in England for giving the Americans too much. The Duke of Richmondurged the recall of Oswald, charging that he "plead only the Cause of America, not of Britain." [Robinson, "Folly of Invading Virginia", 42.] Oswald resigned his cabinet and returned to his estate of Auchincruive in Ayrshirewhere he died on November 6, 1784.
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