Benjamin Franklin Papers

The American Commissioners to Dumas, 10/16 October 1778

The American Commissioners to Dumas

AL (draft):5 University of Virginia Library; two copies: National Archives

Passy, Oct. 10/166. 1778


We have received yours of the 2d Instant, with the Declaration sign’d by Mr. Van Berckel, and his explanatory Letter to you, 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 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 facilitate 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 would take those Steps, as explain’d in M. Van Berckel’s Letter. And they may7 be assured that such a Treaty will be very agreeable to 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 that there is no more Occasion 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,8 England would probably endeavor 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.

M. Dumas
Rough to Mr Dumas Treaty

Notation: The Commrs. to M. Dumas Oct. 16th 1778.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

5In BF’s hand, with marginal comments by Arthur Lee and a reply by BF. We print this in full because of its particular relevance to Franklin; it is also published in Taylor, Adams Papers, VII.

6Originally drafted as “Oct. 10” and copied that way, BF changed the zero into a six after he had received Lee’s remarks, dated Oct. 13. Lee’s secretary Hezekiah Ford also changed the date from “10” to “16” in his letterbook (National Archives) and added, “In the above Letter (which was the one sent …) I find Dr. F. has altered it agreeable to the remarks made on it by the Honble. A Lee. Esqr.” In the absence of an LS, we are puzzled by Dumas’ reference in his letter of Oct. 27, below, to theirs of the 10th.

7Lee’s marginal comment:

M. Vanberkle’s Letter proposes to have the commercial treaty with France examined & accommodated to our present object, by some Merchants of Amsterdam. I submit therefore whether we can with propriety assure them that such a treaty wd be agreable before we have seen it; & whether it woud be better to say, They may be assurd that a treaty founded upon the principles of reciprocity 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 delayed it may meet with obstacles. A. Lee.

BF countered at the top of the 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.” He did, however, incorporate part of Lee’s suggestion word for word. Following “such a Treaty,” he crossed out “will be very agreeable to” and inserted, “as above described would at this time meet with no Obstacle on the part of.”

8Lee’s marginal note:

Or waited for, England &c. It seems to me that this apprehension cannot be pressed upon them too often, or too much; & therefore I woud propose to add the above & leave out probably which weakens the argument. A Lee

I cannot help repeating my opinion that a personal interview to state & 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. Chaillot. Ocr. 13th. 1778.

BF consequently added the phrase “or waited for,” at the footnote marker, and just following it changed “would probably” to “might”

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