Adams Papers

The Commissioners to C. W. F. Dumas, 10 October 1778

The Commissioners to C. W. F. Dumas

Passy, Oct. 10, 1778


We have received yours of the 2d Instant, with the Declaration sign’d by Mr. Van Berikel, and his explanatory Letter to you,1 which give us much Pleasure, as they show the good Disposition of that respectable Body, the Burgomasters of Amsterdam towards the United States of America, and their Willingness, as far as may depend on them, to promote, between the Republick of the United <States> Low Countries in Europe and the said States, “a Treaty of perpetual Amity containing reciprocal Advantages with respect to Commerce between the Subjects of [the] two Nations.” As that Body must be better acquainted than we with the Methods of doing public Business in their Country, and appear to be of Opinion that some previous Steps can be taken by them which may faciliate and expedite so good a Work, when Circumstances shall permit its coming under the Consideration of their HH. MM. we rely on their Judgement, and hereby request they should take those Steps, as explain’d in M. Van Berikel’s Letter. And they may2be assured that such a Treaty <will be very agreable to> as is above described would at this time meet with no obstacle on the Part of the United States of America, who have great Esteem and Respect for your Nation; and that nothing will be wanting on our Part to accomplish the End proposed. We would only remark, that the Mentioning it in the Declaration as a Thing necessary to precede the Conclusion of such a Treaty that American Independence should be acknowledged by the English, is not understood by us, who conceive there is no more Occassion for such an Acknowledgement before a Treaty with Holland, than there was before our Treaty with France. And we apprehend that if that Acknowledgement were really necessary,3 or waited for, England <would probably> might endeavour to make an Advantage of it in the future Treaty of Pacification, to obtain for it some Privileges in Commerce, perhaps exclusive of Holland. We wish therefore that Idea to be laid aside, and that no farther Mention may be made to us of England in this Business.

We are, Sir, Your most obedient humble Servants.4

Dft (ViU: Lee Papers); docketed by Benjamin Franklin: “Rough to M Dumas Treaty”; in another hand: “The Commrs. to M. Dumas Oct. 16th. 1778.” This mis-dating is due to the fact that at first glance the date can be read as 16. However, Arthur Lee’s uncorrected copy of the draft in his Letterbook (PCC, No. 102, IV, f. 75–76) was dated the 10th; Dumas refers in his letter of 27 Oct. (below) to the recipient’s copy (not found) as being of the 10th; and Arthur Lee’s notation is dated 13 Oct. (see note 4). The marginal notes by Franklin and Lee (see notes 2 and 3) indicate that the draft was done at Passy and sent to Lee, who returned it with his suggestions. All alterations in the draft are in Franklin’s hand. The text is worn at the right margin and on the fold in the center.

1For the declaration, as well as an extract from van Berckel’s letter to Dumas, see van Berckel to the Commissioners, 23 Sept., and note 2 (above).

2At this point, immediately before “be,” at the beginning of a line, Lee inserted an “X” and, in the left margin of the first page, wrote: “M. Vanberkle’s Letter proposes to have the commercial Treaty with France examined and accommodated to our present object, by some Merchants of Amsterdam. I submit therefore whether we can with propriety assur[e] them that such a treaty would be agreable before we have seen it; and whether it woud be better [to] say—They may be assured that a treaty founded upon the principles of reciproci[ty] and fair intercourse woud at this time meet with no obstacle on the part of the United States. I put in, at this time, to leave room for them to apprehend that if delayd it may meet with obstacles. A. Lee.”

Responding to Lee’s comments, Benjamin Franklin noted in the top margin of the first page: “The Remark in the Margin is not founded; the Words such a Treaty evidently refer to the foregoing Description of the Treaty, which is taken from the Burgomasters own Declaration. B F.” Lee may also have underlined the passage, including the portion that was deleted, beginning with “be” and ending with “States.” The sixteen words beginning with “as is above described” and ending with “on the part of” were later interlined for insertion. The underscore under “the United States” was erased.

3Immediately after “necessary” Lee inserted an “a” and, in the left margin of the draft’s second page, noted: “Or waited for, England &c. It seems to me that this apprehension cannot be pressed upon them too often, or too much; and there­fore I wou’d propose to add the above, and leave out probably which weakens the argument. A. Lee.” Lee’s proposed insertion, as well as “might” as a substitute for “would probably,” were interlined.

4After the alterations suggested by Lee had been inserted and the recipient’s copy prepared, the revised draft was returned to Lee. Immediately below the comment quoted in note 3 he wrote: “Chaillot. Oct. 13th. 1778. I cannot help repeating my opinion that a personal interview to state and urge the Arguments for an immediate conclusion woud succeed; and that such a treaty woud prevent our Enemies from venturing upon another campaign. A. Lee.” In view of the political situation in the Netherlands and van Berckel’s letters to the Commissioners and Dumas of 23 Sept., Lee’s proposal had no chance of succeeding and such an initiative was never attempted, but see Dumas’ letter of 30 Oct., note 4 (below).

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