Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to Robert R. Livingston, 21 January 1783

To Robert R. Livingston

Two ALS4 and transcript: National Archives; press copy of ALS: Myron Kaller and Associates, Asbury Park, New Jersey (1991)

Passy, Jany. 21. 1783.


I have just received your Letters of Novr. 9. & Decr. 3.5 This is to inform you, & to request you would inform the Congress, that the Preliminaries of Peace between France, Spain, and England were yesterday signed, and a Cessation of Arms agreed to by the Ministers of those Powers, and by us in Behalf of the United States: Of which Act, so far as relates to us, I inclose a Copy.6 I have not yet obtained a Copy of the Preliminaries agreed to by the three Crowns, but hear in general that they are very advantageous to France and Spain. I shall be able in a Day or two to write more fully and perfectly. Holland was not ready to sign Preliminaries, but their principal Points are settled.7 Mr Laurens is absent at Bath, and Mr Jay in Normandy, for their Healths,8 but will both be here to assist in forming the Definitive Treaty. I congratulate you & our Country, on the happy Prospects afforded us by the Finishing so speedily this glorious Revolution; and am with great Esteem, Sir, Your most obedient & most humble Servant

B Franklin

Honble. R. R. Livingston Esqr

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

4With minor differences in phraseology.

5XXXVIII, 292–5, 405–6. The Heer Adams, which carried them, arrived in Lorient on Jan. 18: Barclay to JA, Jan. 19, 1783 (Mass. Hist. Soc.).

6On Jan. 20 Fitzherbert presented BF and JA with a Declaration of the Cessation of Hostilities between Great Britain and the United States, a general statement vowing to observe the same terms and timetable as were included in the preliminary articles he signed that day with France and Spain. The American commissioners drafted and signed a document that both accepted the British declaration and made a reciprocal one: XXXVIII, 605–8. Because the terms were not specified in those documents, the commissioners had WTF transcribe the relevant articles of the Anglo-French preliminaries, Articles 1 and 22. BF enclosed a copy of those articles in this letter to Livingston. (It was a press copy in L’Air de Lamotte’s hand, now at the National Archives. A copy in WTF’s hand is at the Mass. Hist. Soc.) Article 1 stated that as soon as the preliminaries were ratified, orders would be sent to all armies, squadrons, and subjects of the two powers to stop hostilities; each power would likewise issue sea passes for the ships carrying the news to their possessions. Article 22 spelled out the timetable by which the armistice would take effect in different parts of the world, starting from the date of the ratification: 12 days for ships in the Channel and in the North Sea; one month for the area from the Channel and North Sea to the Canary Islands, in either the Atlantic Ocean or the Mediterranean; two months from the Canaries to the equator; five months for anywhere beyond the equator: Parry, Consolidated Treaty Series, XLVIII, 238–9.

7They were settled by Alleyne Fitzherbert and the comte de Vergennes: XXXVIII, 595n.

8Laurens, who described himself as extremely ill, arrived in London on Jan. 15 and set out for Bath the next day, after receiving permission from the king to stay in England to recuperate: XXXVIII, 515n; Laurens Papers, XVI, 129–30. Jay returned on Jan. 23: XXXVIII, 596n.

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