The Staten Island Peace Conference took place on September 11, 1776. It was a meeting between Lord Admiral Richard Howe, a high British naval commander, and three representatives of the American Continental Congress: Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and Edward Rutledge.
Lord Howe had asked the British government for certain diplomatic powers in addition to his military authority in hopes that he could find a way to end the colonies’ war for independence before it went any further. So, after having captured much of New York City, he sent a message to the Congress asking for a meeting with their representatives.
The Americans met with Lord Howe in the home of Christopher Billop on Staten Island. None of the four men had high hopes for a resolution of the problem because they felt the differences between the American and British positions were irreconcilable. They were also discouraged by Howe’s very limited powers to negotiate.
When the three representatives arrived at Billop Manor, they were ushered into the mansion through an army of 20,000 men. Of course, the intent was to frighten the Americans by a display of British military might. Evidently, it didn’t work as desired.
When they were introduced, Lord Howe informed Adams, Franklin and Rutledge that he could not recognize them as representatives of Congress (that body not being recognized as a legitimate authority by the Crown) but only as “private gentlemen of influence in the colonies.” Adams replied, “Your Lordship may view me in any light you please, except that of a British subject.”
Admiral Howe then said to Franklin and Rutledge, “Mr. Adams appears to be a decided character.” Indeed he was, and a fascinating one as well. You can learn more about him in For You They Signed.