The American Commissioners5 to David Hartley
ALS (draft): Library of Congress; copy: Massachusetts Historical Society; copy and transcript: Library of Congress; two copies: National Archives6
<Passy, June 16,7 1778: I received yours of the 5th, informing us that the government has agreed to an exchange of prisoners, and we have written Captain Jones for the list; it contains, I understand, at least two hundred men. We expect ours to be taken from those longest confined in Forton and Plymouth, in proportion to the numbers in each; this will allay all suspicion that you pick our worst and weakest in return for your good ones. If you think proper to empty your prisons, we will solemnly promise to make up the extra number from your sailors captured in America. We shall distinguish in our list those in the navy and merchant seamen, so that you may do the same; our navy men would be uneasy if civilians were taken first.
To avoid marching your men to Calais we shall try to get permission for your ship to enter Brest, and otherwise shall ask your Admiralty for safe passage to carry them by sea to Calais. Please tranfer any men confined on warships to your prisons, so that they may take their chances with the rest.>
5. This is technically a personal letter from BF, as explained below; but he is writing in the name of the commission. The letter is published in Butterfield, John Adams Diary, IV, 138–9, where the signatures of all three commissioners are mistakenly inserted.
6. The ALS is in BF’s hand and closes with “Your affectionate Friend . . . BF.” The first copy is in Adams’ hand and has no signatures; the second copy and the transcript are of the ALS. One of the copies in the National Archives, in Arthur Lee’s hand, has his note: “Dr. Franklin sent this Letter without ever communicating it to Mr. Lee.” These facts indicate that BF was the only signer.
7. The day of the month is blank in Adams’ copy.