Benjamin Franklin Papers

Draft Letter from the American Peace Commissioners to Bariatinskii and Arkadii Markov, [before 15 July 1783]

Draft Letter from the American Peace Commissioners to Bariatinskii and Arkadii Markov3

AL (draft): American Philosophical Society

Around July 13, the American commissioners had been given to understand that mediation by the imperial courts was “a mere formality—a mere Compliment, consisting wholly in the Imperial Ministers putting their names & Seals to the parchment, & can have no ill effect.”4 On that basis, and believing that Vergennes was in favor of it, Adams drafted the present letter accepting the offer of mediation. Two French versions were then prepared: a translation of the draft, which was addressed to the Russian mediators, and a similar translation addressed to Mercy-Argenteau, the Austrian mediator. The commissioners took the former to Versailles on Tuesday, July 15, for Vergennes’ approval. The latter remains among Franklin’s papers at the American Philosophical Society.5

Vergennes did approve the letter. The commissioners asked him directly whether engaging mediators might not expose them to unwelcome interference, perhaps instigated by the British. Vergennes explained that they were free to do as he had done, tell the ministers that their mediation would be “accepted” only after the major points were settled—in other words, consign them to a ceremonial function. He also pointed out how awkward it might be if, during the signing ceremony, the mediators were permitted to sign all the treaties but theirs. Involving Russia and Austria, moreover, would be a significant public acknowledgment of the United States. Satisfied that accepting mediation could be to their advantage, the American commissioners left their unsigned letter with Vergennes to be shown to the Russian and Austrian ministers.6 In the meantime, they waited for Fox to respond to their treaty proposals.

Passy July [blank; i.e., before July 15,] 1783

To their Excellencies The Prince Bariatinskoy, and Mr De Markoff Ministers Plenipotentiary from her Majesty the Empress of all the Russias.

The Subscribers, Ministers Plenipotentiary, from the United States of America, for making Peace with Great Britain, have the Honour to inform the Ministers from Her Majesty the Empress of Russia, that the United States of America, on the fifteenth day of June 1781 having been informed by his most Christian Majesty, that their Imperial Majesties the Emperor of Germany, and the Empress of Russia, actuated by Sentiments of Humanity, and a desire to put a Stop to the Calamities of War, had offered their Mediation to the belligerent Powers, in order to promote Peace, constituted the Subscribers together with the Honourable Henry Laurens and Thomas Jefferson Esquires, their Ministers Plenipotentiary, giving and granting to them, or Such of them as Should assemble, or in Case of Death, Absence, Indisposition or other Impediment of the others to any one of them, full Power and Authority in their Name and on their Behalf, in Concurrence with his Most Christian Majesty to accept in due Form the Mediation of their Imperial Majesties the Emperor of Germany and the Empress of Russia.7

The Subscribers have also been informed by his Excellency the Comte de Vergennes, that his Most Christian Majesty and his Britannic Majesty, have accepted the Mediation of their Imperial Majesties in the definitive Treaty of Peace about to be concluded between those Powers.

The Subscribers therefore in the absence of the Honourable Henry Laurens and Thomas Jefferson, have the Honour to inform your Excellencies that by Virtue of their Commission aforesaid Copy of which is inclosed, they are ready in Behalf of the Said United States of America to accept the Mediation of their Imperial Majesties in the definitive Treaty of Peace to be concluded between his Britannic Majesty and the Said States.


[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

3Markov (Morkov) (1747–1827) had served as the Russian special envoy at The Hague since 1782. In April, 1783, he was appointed joint minister plenipotentiary to France to assist Bariatinskii in mediating the Anglo-French and Anglo-Spanish definitive treaties: Nina N. Bashkina et al., eds., The United States and Russia: the Beginning of Relations, 1765–1815 ([Washington, D.C., 1980]), p. 1135; Repertorium der diplomatischen Vertreter, III, 354, 359; Giunta, Emerging Nation, I, 827.

4JA to Livingston, July 13, 1783, in Adams Papers, XV, 106–7. Unbeknownst to the commissioners, this is what France and Britain had intended all along. Before reviving the idea of mediation with the imperial courts in February, 1783, Vergennes and Manchester agreed that they would not allow the mediators to play any substantive role in the negotiations: Madariaga, Harris’s Mission, p. 432.

5It is in the hand of L’Air de Lamotte. As explained below, the unsigned letter taken to Versailles was left there. It was never retrieved, to our knowledge, and is now missing.

6JA to Livingston, July 16, 1783, in Adams Papers, XV, 122–3.

7XXXV, 161–3, 166, 173.

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