Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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OSWALD, Richard, British diplomatist, born in Scotland in 1705; died 6 November, 1784. He married Mary Ramsay, who is celebrated in one of the songs of Robert Burns, passed many years in this country, and at the time of the Revolution was a merchant of the city of London. In 1781 he gave bail in the sum of £50,000 for Henry Laurens, securing his release from the Tower prison. Lord Shelburne, in April, 1782, selected Oswald as his diplomatic agent to treat for peace with the American commissioners in Paris, describing him in a letter to Benjamin Franklin as "a pacifical man, and conversant in those negotiations which are most interesting to mankind," for which reasons the British minister preferred him to "any of our speculative friends, or to any person of higher rank." On learning in his conferences with Franklin that the United States was unwilling to treat independently of France, he returned to London and received a fresh commission to negotiate a general peace, conceding American independence. Subsequently the American commissioners acceded to a separate treaty. The greater part of the negotiations were carried on by Oswald, whose instructions were several times changed and his commission renewed. Henry Strachey was sent as his colleague because the ministers complained of Oswald for yielding everything. With them was afterward joined Alleyne Fitzherbert, the British minister at Paris, and with these three plenipotentiaries Franklin, Jay, Adams, and Laurens finally arranged terms of peace, including fishery rights on the Newfoundland banks and reciprocity of trade. On 30 November, 1782, preliminary articles of peace were signed by Oswald with John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Henry Laurens, and John Jay. The definitive treaty, which was signed on 3 September, 1783, was identical with the provisional articles.--His kinsman, Eleazer, soldier, was born in England about 1755; died in New York city, 30 September, 1795. When disputes arose between Great Britain and the American colonies his sympathies became enlisted in the American cause, and he came to this country about 1770. He served under Benedict Arnold at Ticonderoga, and became his secretary. At Quebec he commanded a forlorn hope after Arnold was wounded. He was made lieutenant colonel of Colonel John Lamb's regiment of artillery on 1 January, 1777, had a high reputation for skill as an artillerist, distinguished himself under Arnold at Compo, and was praised for his gallantry in the official reports of the battle of Monmouth. Leaving the service in July, 1778, he joined William Goddard in the publication of the "Maryland Journal." The publication of strictures by General Charles Lee on the military capacity of General Washington led to a popular demonstration against Oswald in Baltimore, and to the issuance of a challenge by the latter to Colonel Samuel Smith, who declined to fight a duel. Oswald removed to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and in April, 1782, began the publication of the "Independent Gazetteer, or the Chronicle of Freedom," which he made the vehicle of violent partisan attacks. He reopened William Bradford's London coffee-house in 1783, and while conducting it published the monthly "Price Current," the earliest commercial paper in the United States. In August, 1786, he offered to lead a volunteer company of infantry, of which he was captain, to the northern frontier in order to capture from the British the posts that they occupied in violation of the articles of peace. From 1782 till 1787 he published in New York city the "Independent Gazette, or New York Journal Revived," which had formerly been conducted by John Holt, a kinsman of his wife. He was a strong opponent of the political principles of Alexander Hamilton, and challenged the latter to a duel, but their friends adjusted the matter. In 1792 he went to England, and shortly afterward to France, where he joined the Republican army, was commissioned as a colonel of artillery, and commanded a regiment under General Charles F. l)umouriez, at Jemmapes. The government sent him on a secret mission to Ireland to report on the political condition of that country and the feasibility of the projected French invasion. He reached Ireland by a journey through Norway and Scotland, reported to the minister of foreign affairs in France, and, not receiving further instructions, returned to the United States, where he died of yellow fever shortly after his arrival.
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