Benjamin Franklin Papers

The American Peace Commissioners: Passport for British Ships, [3 February 1783]

The American Peace Commissioners: Passport for British Ships9

Copies:1 Massachusetts Historical Society (three), Library of Congress

[February 3, 1783]

We John Adams, Benjamin Franklin and John Jay, three of the Ministers Plenipotentiary of the United States of America for making Peace with Great Britain.

To all Captains or Commanders of Ships of War, Privateers or armed Vessels belonging to the said States, or to either of them, or to any of the Citizens of the same, And to all others whom these Presents may concern send Greeting.

Whereas Peace and Amity are agreed upon between the said United States and his Britannic Majesty, & a Suspension of Hostilities to take place at different Periods in different Places hath also been agreed upon by their respective Plenipotentiaries. And Whereas it hath been further agreed by the said Plenipotentiaries, to exchange one hundred2 Passports for Merchant Vessels. To the End that such as shall be provided with them shall be exempted from Capture, altho’ found in Latitudes at a time prior to the taking place of the said Suspension of Hostilities therein. Now Therefore Know Ye, that free Passport, Licence and Permission is hereby given to the [blank] Commander now lying at the Port of [blank] and bound from thence to [blank]

And we do earnestly enjoin upon and recommend to You to let and suffer the said Vessel to pass unmolested to her destined Port, and if need be, to afford her all such Succour and Aid as Circumstances and Humanity may require.

Given under our Hands and Seals at Paris on the [blank] day of [blank] in the Year of our Lord 1783.

Passport to Ships given by the Commisios. for making Peace

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

9For background see the headnote to BF’s Passport for British Ships, Feb. 1. The language of this passport, which superseded BF’s, was debated at the meeting JA called for eleven o’clock on Feb. 3. At two o’clock that afternoon JA sent a note to Fitzherbert informing him that the American peace commissioners “have determined to exchange an hundred Passports, which are now printing and will be ready for Signature Tomorrow.” Adams Papers, XIV, 231. Fitzherbert sent them to England on Feb. 9 along with the French and Spanish passports; they arrived on Feb. 13: Morris, Jay: Peace, pp. 492, 493n; Fortescue, Correspondence of George Third, VI, 238.

These first hundred passports were soon distributed, causing the American commissioners to order a second hundred printed. In the second printing, they deleted the phrase “one hundred,” as noted below. Once they discovered that British merchants were being charged for the forms, they had a third set printed with the word “GRATIS” added; see Hodgson to BF, Feb. 25, and BF to Hodgson, March 9, where the third printing is shown as an illustration.

1The one we publish is a freestanding copy in the hand of JA’s secretary, John Thaxter, Jr. The other copies listed are from the commissioners’ letterbooks.

2In a letterbook copy by John Thaxter, Jr., he added a note explaining that, after the first hundred passports were sent, “one hundred more were added of the same Form, except the Omission of the Words ‘one hundred’— In the second hundred, it is, ‘to exchange Passports,’ instead of ‘one hundred’”. Mass. Hist. Soc.

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