Adams Papers

The Marquis de Lafayette to the American Peace Commissioners, 12 May 1783

The Marquis de Lafayette to the American Peace Commissioners

Paris, May 12th. 1783.


Having yesterday conferred with Count de Vergennes upon some Public Concerns, He requested I would tell you what, instead of troubling you with the Demand of a meeting, I think better to mention in this Note.

The several Powers said he, are going to make up their Treaties, and when ready to sign, they will of Course meet to do it alltogether. The Mediation of the Emperor and that of Russia have been required, and under that Mediation the French Treaty will be signed, it now rests with America to know if She will conclude her Treaty under the Mediation, or chooses to let it alone. There is no Necessity for it, But in Case you prefer to have it, Count de Vergennes thinks it is time to join with England in making a combined Application to the Court of Vienna and that of Petersbourg.1

So far Gentlemen I have been requested to speak to you, I will add that from my last Conferences on the Subject, I hope we may get the Harbour of L’orient, as we have wished, for the American Trade.2

Be pleased to accept the Assurances of my great and affectionate Respect.

(signed) La Fayette.

LbC-Tr in Jean L’Air de Lamotte’s hand (Adams Papers); internal address: “To the American Ministers for negociating / a Peace.”; APM Reel 103.

1Henry Laurens replied to Lafayette on 13 May, indicating that the mediation would be taken up whenever JA called the commissioners together to discuss the issue (ScHi: Laurens Papers). JA in particular and his colleagues in general were not enthusiastic about the revived Austro-Russian mediation, and there is no indication that they took any action regarding Lafayette’s letter. Not until mid-July did they even draft a letter to the Russian and Austrian ministers at Paris, and ultimately the issue died when the British refused to participate (to Francis Dana, 1 May, above; Wharton, Dipl. Corr. Amer. Rev. description begins The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States, ed. Francis Wharton, Washington, 1889; 6 vols. description ends , 6:551, 674–676).

2Lafayette refers to the thus far unfulfilled French promise in Art. 30 of the 1778 Franco-American Treaty of Amity and Commerce to grant to the United States “in Europe one or more free Ports” (Miller, Treaties description begins Treaties and Other International Acts of the United States of America, ed. Hunter Miller, Washington, 1931–1948; 8 vols. description ends , 2:26–27). Nothing was done until 1784 when the ports of Lorient, Dunkerque, Marseilles, and Bayonne were opened, but France’s reluctance to modify its mercantilist system meant that Franco-American trade would never become a viable alternative to that between Britain and America (Laurens, Papers description begins The Papers of Henry Laurens, ed. Philip M. Hamer, George C. Rogers Jr., David R. Chesnutt, C. James Taylor, and others, Columbia, S.C., 1968–2003; 16 vols. description ends , 16:198–199).

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