Benjamin Franklin Papers

The American Peace Commissioners to Robert R. Livingston, 27 July 1783

The American Peace Commissioners to Robert R. Livingston

LS:7 National Archives; copies: Library of Congress, Massachusetts Historical Society

Passy, July 27. 1783.


The Definitive Treaties between the late beligerent Powers are none of them yet compleated. Ours has gone on slowly, owing partly to the Necessity Mr. Hartley (Successor of Mr Oswald) thinks himself under of sending every Proposition, either his own or ours, to his Court for their Approbation; and their Delay in answering, thro’ Negligence perhaps since they have heard our Ports are open, or thro’ Indecision occasioned by Ignorance of the Subject, or thro’ want of Union among the Ministers. We send you herewith Copies of several Papers that have pass’d between us.8 He has for sometime assured us that he is in Hourly Expectation of Answers but they do not arrive. The British Proclamation respecting the Commerce appears to vex him a good deal. We enclose a Copy.9 And we are of Opinion that finally we shall find it best to drop all Commercial Articles in our Definitive Treaty; and leave every thing of that kind to a future special Treaty to be made either in America or in Europe as Congress shall think fit to Order. Perhaps it may be best to give Powers for that Purpose to the Minister that probably will be sent to London. The Opinion here is, that it will be becoming in us to take the first Step towards the mutual Exchange of Ministers; and we have been assured by the English Minister who treats with us here, that ours will be well received.

The Dutch Preliminaries are not yet agreed on, and it seems to be settled, that we are to sign all together, in the Presence of the Ministers of the two Imperial Courts who are to be complimented with the Opportunity of signing as Mediators, tho’ they have not yet, and perhaps will not be consulted in the Negociations. Mr. Adams is gone to Holland, for three Weeks, but will return sooner if wanted. The Propositions you mention as made to us from that State,1 we suppose he has given you an Account of. Nothing was or is likely to be done upon them here, and therefore it was less necessary to say any thing concerning them. A Minister from thence has been gone sometime to Congress,2 and if he has those Propositions in Charge, they will best be consider’d there.

With great Esteem, we have the Honour to be, Sir, Your most obedient & most humble Serts.

B Franklin
John Jay
Henry Laurens.

R. R. Livingston Esqr.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

7In WTF’s hand.

8These included Hartley to the American Commissioners, June 14, and the enclosed memorial of June I; Hartley’s [June 19] propositions for the definitive treaty and the commissioners’ answers of June 29; the commissioners’ proposals of June 29; and the Commissioners to Hartley, July 17. They also sent an extract of a May 9 letter from Fox to Hartley, asking him to request of the commissioners that they intercede in obtaining relief for a group of British merchants who had twice petitioned the ministry about the Indian land cessions that had been discussed during the peace negotiations (XXXVIII, 273–4). Fox enclosed their memorials: identifying themselves as “merchants trading to South Carolina and Georgia,” they wrote to Shelburne on May 3, 1782, and to Fox on April 11, 1783. (The extract and memorials were copied into the commissioners’ letterbooks: Mass. Hist. Soc., Library of Congress. A sheet filed with the enclosures at the National Archives bears this notation by WTF: “We promised Mr. Hartley to forward these Papers to Congress.”)

9George III’s July 2 Order in Council. This was the final enclosure, according to a list that accompanied this letter (National Archives).

1See Livingston to the Commissioners, May 31.

2Pieter Johan van Berckel; see Hogendorp to BF, June 13.

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