Adams Papers

John Adams to Benjamin Franklin and John Jay, 2 April 1784

To Benjamin Franklin and John Jay

The Hague. April 2. 1784


I duely received the Letter, you did me the Honour to write me, on the Subject of a Treaty with Prussia and have communicated it to the Baron de Thuelemeier.1 The King agrees to take the Treaty with Sweeden for a Model and if your Excellencies have any Alterations to propose I should be obliged to you for the Communication of them. The Baron waits the further Instructions of the King, before he proposes any Additions or Subtractions. I Should be obliged to your Excellencys for a Copy of the Treaty with Sweeden as I am So unlucky, as not to have one here.

inclosed is a Copy of a Petition to Congress transmitted me, from Boston by which it appears that the Britons in New York have condemned many Vessells taken after the Commencement of the Armistice.— This Judgment Seems to me to amount to this that a Parrallel of Latitude is not a Circle which surrounds the Globe. if your opinion, Gentlemen is clear upon this head, as I doubt not it is, I think it would be a publick Service to write it to Congress, as this will at least determine the Sufferers to pursue their Rights by Appeal to England. There can be no dispute about it in England I think.2

With great Regard

LbC (Adams Papers); internal address: “Their Excellencys Benjamin Franklin / & John Jay Esqrs”; APM Reel 107.

1This was the 28 Feb. letter from Benjamin Franklin and John Jay, above. It was presumably communicated to the Baron von Thulemeier in early March, but there is no reference to it in any of JA’s previous letters.

2JA had received a letter of 10 Nov. 1783 from John Hurd (Adams Papers), a Boston merchant, requesting his assistance in obtaining a clarification of the date on which hostilities had ceased in American waters. Enclosed with the letter was a copy (not found) of the 18 Aug. petition to Congress signed by seventy merchants from Boston and nearby ports, including Hurd and Isaac Smith Sr. The petitioners complained that they had assumed that hostilities ended in American waters on 3 March, but that British authorities at New York considered 3 April to be the decisive date, resulting in the seizure and condemnation of vessels that the merchants had thought to be in no danger (PCC, No. 41, I, f. 383–386). At issue was the language of the proclamations of the cessation of hostilities signed by George III on [14 Feb.] and by JA, Franklin, and Jay on 20 February. The proclamations declared the end of hostilities would date from the signature of the Anglo-French preliminary treaty on 3 February. The relevant passage with regard to the merchants’ complaint was “that the Term Should be one Month from the Channel and the North Seas as far as the Canary Islands, inclusively, whether in the Ocean or the Mediterranean; Two Months from the Said Canary Islands, as far as the Equinoctial Line or Equator” (vol. 14:264–266, 281, 284–285). The Canary Islands lay on the 28th parallel, which runs through central Florida, south of any of the thirteen United States. Americans, therefore, assumed, and JA agreed here and elsewhere, that 3 March was the applicable date. This issue had been raised in Robert R. Livingston’s letter to the commissioners of 21 April and again in Congress’ instructions of 29 October. JA and his colleagues always assumed that the 3 March date applied to the United States and should be self-evident to all parties (vol. 14:437; 15:34, 36, 146, 332–333). For further comments on the issue, see Franklin’s letter of 16 April 1784; JA’s 20 April letters to Franklin and Jay and to Hurd; and the commissioners’ second letter of 28 Oct. to the Duke of Dorset, all below.

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