Benjamin Franklin Papers

The American Peace Commissioners to David Hartley: Proposals, [29 June 1783]

The American Peace Commissioners to David Hartley: Proposals2

Copies: William L. Clements Library,3 Massachusetts Historical Society, National Archives, Archives du Ministère des affaires étrangères; press copy of copy and transcript: National Archives

[June 29, 1783]

Propositions made to Mr Hartley for the definitive Treaty—

1st To omit in the Definitive Treaty the Exception at the End of the 2d Article of the Provisional Treaty: Viz: these Words “Excepting such Islands as now are, or heretofore have been within the Limits of the said Province of Nova Scotia.”4


2dly The Prisoners made respectively by the arms of his Britannic Majesty & the United States, by Sea and by Land,6 not already set at Liberty, shall be restored reciprocally and bonâ fide immediately after the Ratification of the definitive Treaty, without Ransom, and on paying the Debts they may have contracted during their Captivity; and each Party shall respectively reimburse the Sums which shall have been advanced for the Subsistence & Maintenance of the Prisoners, by the Sovereign of the Country where they shall have been detained, according to the Receipts and attested Accounts, and other authentic Titles which shall be produced on each side.


3dly His Britannic Majesty shall employ his good Offices and Interposition with the King or Emperor of Morocco or Fez, the Regencies of Algier, Tunis & Tripoli, or with any of them, and also with every other Prince, State or Power of the Coast of Barbary in Africa, and the Subjects of the said King, Emperor, States & Powers, & each of them, in order to provide as fully and efficaciously as possible for the Benefit, Conveniency and Safety of the said United States, and each of them, their Subjects, People and Inhabitants, and their Vessels and Effects against all violence, insults, attacks or depredations on the Part of the said Princes & States of Barbary, or their Subjects.


4thly If War should hereafter arise between Great Britain and the United States, which God forbid, the Merchants of either Country, then residing in the other, shall be allowed to remain nine Months, to collect their Debts & settle their affairs, and may depart freely, carrying off all their Effects without Molestation or Hindrance. And all Fishermen, all Cultivators of the Earth, and all Artisans & Manufacturers, unarmed & inhabiting unfortified Towns, Villages, or Places, who labour for the common Subsistence and Benefit of Mankind, and peaceably follow their respective Employments, shall be allowed to continue the same, and shall not be molested by the armed force of the Enemy, in whose Power by the Events of War they may happen to fall; but if any thing is necessary to be taken from them for the use of such armed Force, the same shall be paid for at a reasonable price. And all Merchants or Traders with their unarmed Vessels employed in Commerce, exchanging the Products of different Places, and thereby rendering the Necessaries, Conveniences & Comforts of Human Life more easy to obtain and more general, shall be allowed to pass freely unmolested. And neither of the Powers, Parties to this Treaty, shall grant or issue any Commission to any private armed Vessels empowering them to take or destroy such trading-Ships or interrupt such Commerce.


5thly And in Case either of the contracting Parties shall happen to be engaged in War with any other Nation, it is farther agreed in order to prevent all the Difficulties & misunderstandings that usually arise, respecting the Merchandize heretofore called Contraband, such as Arms, Ammunition & Military Stores of all Kinds, that no such Articles carrying by the Ships or Subjects of one of the Parties to the Enemies of the other, shall on any Account be deemed Contraband so as to induce Confiscation & a loss of Property to Individuals: Nevertheless it shall be lawful to stop such Ships, and detain them for such length of Time as the Captors may think necessary to prevent the Inconvenience or Damage that might ensue from their proceeding on their Voyage, paying however a reasonable Compensation for the Loss such Arrest shall occasion to the Proprietors. And it shall farther be allowed to use in the Service of the Captors, the whole or any Part of the Military Stores, so detained paying to the Owners the full Value of the same.


6thly The Citizens & Inhabitants of the said United States, or any of them, may take and hold real Estates in Great Britain, Ireland or any other of his Majesty’s Dominions, and dispose by Testament, Donation or otherwise, of their Property, real or personal, in favour of such Persons, as to them shall seem fit; and their Heirs, Citizens of the United States or any of them, residing in the British Dominions or elsewhere, may succeed them Ab intestato, without being obliged to obtain Letters of Naturalization.

The Subjects of his Britannic Majesty, shall enjoy on their Part, in all the Dominions of the said United States, an entire & perfect Reciprocity relative to the Stipulations contained in the present Article.


7thly The Ratification of the Definitive Treaty shall be expedited in good & due form, and exchanged in the Space of five Months (or sooner if it can be done) to be computed from the Day of the Signature.

8thly Query Whether the King of Great Britain will admit the Citizens of the United States to cut Logwood on the District allotted to his Majesty by Spain,2 and on what Terms?—

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

2Hartley sent Fox a copy of these proposals on July 1, with a lengthy cover letter: Giunta, Emerging Nation, I, 866–70.

3Hartley’s retained copy, in the hand of his secretary George Hammond. This is the only copy that includes a date, and it has the fewest number of obvious errors.

4XXXVIII, 384. The main effect of this alteration would have been to transfer Deer, Campobello, and Grand Manan Islands, now part of New Brunswick, to the United States. The intervening waters, seabed, and subsoil were the object of subsequent litigation, though they still remain under American control; see Richard B. Morris, “The Durable Significance of the Treaty of 1783,” in Hoffman and Albert, eds., Peace and the Peacemakers, pp. 245–6.

5This article had been among the three presented by the commissioners to Hartley on April 29: XXXIX, 526. It was adapted from Article 21 of the British-French provisional treaty of Jan. 20, 1783 (published in the Jan. 31 issue of the Courier de l’Europe).

6We have corrected this phrase (from “by Land and by Sea”) to conform with all other copies and the language of Article 21, cited above.

7Adapted from Article 8 of the Franco-American Treaty of Amity and Commerce: XXV, 602–3.

8The article BF composed in December, 1782 (XXXVIII, 444–5), and inserted into the proposed commercial treaty he had recently given Portugal; see Article 11 of the Portuguese Counterproposal for a Treaty of Amity and Commerce, [c. June 7], above.

When Hartley sent these proposals to Fox on July 1, he enclosed “some explanatory Papers from Dr. Franklin upon the subject of the 4th. Article,” which he said he had known about for some time. BF had sent him the article on May 8, with copies of “Thoughts on Privateering,” “Thoughts concerning the Sugar Colonies,” and an excerpt of his July 10, 1782, letter to Benjamin Vaughan: XXXIX, 569–70. Hartley urged Fox to delay responding to this article, which he described as unprecedented, “beyond the scope of a Treaty,” and leading to such “deep and important consequences” that it demanded serious consideration. Fox, in his Aug. 4 reply, called it “highly exceptionable”: Giunta, Emerging Nation, I, 867, 903.

9This corresponds to Article 12 of the Portuguese counterproposal, cited above.

1A variation of Article 13 of the Franco-American treaty: XXV, 606. Hartley believed it to be a modification of Article 10 of the supplemental treaty he sent BF on March 31 and proposed to the commissioners in April (XXXIX, 415, 510–11). For his analysis of it see his July 1 letter to Fox, cited above.

2The British right to cut logwood in specified districts of central America was guaranteed by Article 4 of the British-Spanish provisional treaty of Jan. 20, 1783.

3In his July 1 letter to Fox, Hartley commented only on Articles 4 and 6, as noted above. While expressing general optimism about the spirit of the proposals, he nonetheless told Fox that there were sentiments he could not commit to paper. He would therefore return to England for a personal conversation, once he had settled the temporary commercial convention (for which he awaited Fox’s final instructions).

Fox did not respond for almost a month. On July 2, however, he wrote a private letter to Hartley instructing him to assure the peace commissioners that their suspicions were “ill founded” and that the British would “adhere to the principles we set out with”: Giunta, Emerging Nation, II, 175. That last statement was false the day Fox wrote it. On July 2 the king issued an Order in Council denying American ships access to the British West Indies (see Falconer to BF, July 8). Hartley was never informed of this order. He learned of it from the American commissioners on July 16; see the annotation of their letter to him, July 17.

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