Benjamin Franklin Papers

The American Peace Commissioners: Three Proposed Articles, [29 April 1783]

The American Peace Commissioners: Three Proposed Articles9

Copies:1 Massachusetts Historical Society (three), National Archives (two), William L. Clements Library, Archives du Ministère des affaires étrangères, Library of Congress; press copy of copy: American Philosophical Society; transcript and partial copy:2 National Archives

[April 29, 1783]

No. 1.


It is agreed, that so soon, as his Britannic Majesty shall have withdrawn all his Armies, Garrisons and Fleets, from the United States of America,4 and from every Port, Post, Place and Harbour within the Same, as stipulated by the 7. Article of the Provisional Treaty of 30. Nov. 1782,5 Then, and from thenceforth, for and during the Term of [blank] Years,6 all Rivers, Harbours, Lakes, Ports and Places, belonging to the United States, or any of them, shall be open and free, to the Merchants and other Subjects of the Crown of Great Britain, and their trading Vessels; who shall be received, treated, and protected, like the Merchants and trading Vessels of the State in which they may be, & be liable to no other Charges or Duties.

And reciprocally all Rivers, Harbours, Lakes, Ports and Places under the Dominion of his Britannic Majesty, shall, thenceforth be open and free to the Merchants and trading Vessels of the said United States, and of each & every of them, who shall be received, treated and protected, like the Merchants & trading Vessels of Great Britain, and be liable to no other Charges or Duties: Saving always to the Chartered Trading Companies of Great Britain, such exclusive Use and Trade of their respective Ports & Establishments, as neither the other Subjects of Great Britain, or any the most favoured Nation participate in.

No. 2.


It is agreed that such Persons as may be in Confinement in the United States of America, for or by Reason of the Part which they may have taken in the late War shall be set at Liberty immediately on the Evacuation of the said States by the Troops and Fleets of his Britannic Majesty.

And it is likewise agreed, that all such Persons who may be in Confinement in any Parts under the Dominion of his Britannic Majesty, for and by Reason of the Part which they may have taken in the late War, shall at the same time be also immediately set at Liberty.

No. 3.


The Prisoners made respectively by the Arms of his Britannic Majesty & those of the United States of America, both by Land & Sea, shall be immediately set at Liberty without Ransom, on paying the Debts they may have contracted during their Captivity: And each contracting Party shall respectively reimburse the Sums which shall have been advanced for the Subsistence & Maintenance of their Prisoners, by the Sovereign of the Country where they shall have been detained, according to the Receipts & attested Accounts, & other authentic Titles, which shall be produced on each Side.

Notation by William Temple Franklin: 3 Articles proposed by the American Ministers & deliver’d to Mr. D. Hartley the 29. Apl 1783.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

9For the drafting of these, and the April 29 meetings at which BF approved them and the Americans presented them to Hartley, see Adams and Jay to BF, April 28. Hartley immediately forwarded them to Fox as “articles drawn up between the American Ministers and myself,” with comments that are cited in the annotation below: Hartley to Fox, April 29, 1783 (Giunta, Emerging Nation, II, 99–100). Four days later, when sending Fox duplicates of his correspondence, he referred to these as articles “for a supplemental or ulterior treaty … for the purpose of immediately opening the ports between Great Britain & the united states of America.” As they were substantially the same as what Hartley himself had proposed to the Americans, he presumed that they would be approved by the British ministry: Hartley to Fox, May 3, 1783 (Giunta, Emerging Nation, II, 106).

1We print a copy in L’Air de Lamotte’s hand, corrected by WTF and with WTF’s notation. (That same notation is part of every copy, sometimes serving as a title.) The press copy is from the copy at the AAE, which is also in L’Air de Lamotte’s hand. The copy JA wrote into his diary (one of those listed at the Mass. Hist. Soc.) is in Butterfield, John Adams Diary, III, 115n.

2Only article 1 of this copy survives, but on surrounding sheets are BF’s notation, “Further Propositions to D. Hartley Esq,” and WTF’s notation, “We promised Mr. Hartley to forward these Papers to Congress.”

3This is an expanded, time-limited version of a suggestion the commissioners had made to Fitzherbert: above, [c. Feb. 20].

4Hartley objected to this phrase, Which made “an uncertain and conditional term to the commencement of future intercourse, and with a little aspect of Jealousy.” He proposed instead that these issues be separated; he would sign an article for withdrawing the troops, and the next article would provide for the opening of American and British ports. In reporting this to Fox, he added that “This will be agreed to by the American Ministers, as soon as my Commission shall come with instructions to sign such an Article.” He asked Fox to send him the orders for troop withdrawal: Hartley to Fox, April 29, 1783, cited above.

5XXXVIII, 386.

6The American commissioners first suggested July 1, 1785, as a terminal date, but knowing that a bill was under consideration in the House of Commons that would give the king power to regulate commerce for a limited time period, they left this blank until the bill passed. Hartley received word from Fox on April 30 that the bill did pass, but it neglected to specify the time period: Giunta, Emerging Nation, II, 99–101, 101–2. (The king was given power to regulate commerce until Dec. 20, 1783; see our annotation of Hodgson to BF, April 18.)

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