Benjamin Franklin Papers

The American Peace Commissioners to David Hartley, 5 September 1783

The American Peace Commissioners to David Hartley

Copies: Public Record Office,1 William L. Clements Library, Library of Congress, Massachusetts Historical Society, National Archives; press copy of copy: National Archives; copies of draft:2 Library of Congress, Massachusetts Historical Society

Passy Septr 5 1783


We have received the Letter which you did us the Honour to write yesterday.

Your friendly Congratulations on the signature of the definitive Treaty, meet with cordial Returns on our Part; and we sincerely rejoice with you in that event, by which the Ruler of Nations has been graciously pleased to give Peace to our two Countries.

We are no less ready to join our endeavours than our wishes with yours, to concert such measures for regulating the future intercourse between Great Britain & the United States, as by being consistent with the Honour and Interest of both may tend to increase & perpetuate mutual Confidence & good-will.3 We ought nevertheless to apprize you that as no construction of our Commission could at any Period extend it, unless by Implication, to several of the proposed Stipulations; and as our Instructions respecting commercial Provisions however explicit, suppose their being incorporated in the definitive Treaty, a Recurrence to Congress, previous to the signature of them will be necessary, unless obviated by the Dispatches we may sooner receive from them.

We shall immediately write to them on the Subject, and we are persuaded that the same disposition to Confidence and Friendship, which has induced them already to give unrestrained Course to British Commerce, and unconditionally to liberate all Prisoners, at a time when more caution would not have appeared singular, will also urge their attention to the objects in question, and lead them to every proper measure for promoting a liberal & satisfactory intercourse between the two Countries.

We have communicated to Congress the repeated friendly assurances4 with which you have officially honoured us on those subjects, and we are persuaded that the Period of their being realized, will have an auspicious & conciliating influence on all the Parties in the late unhappy dissensions.

We have the honour to be Sir, with great Respect & Esteem Your most obedt & humble Servants

John Adams
B Franklin
John Jay

Honble D Hartley Esqr His Britannic Majesty’s Minister Plenipotentiary

1Enclosed in Hartley to Fox, Sept. 7 (Public Record Office).

2Preserved in the legation letterbooks, where they precede the final texts; both are dated Sept. 5. In the letterbook at the Mass. Hist. Soc., this version is labeled “Copy of the Letter to Mr. Hartley, as 1st. sent”, while the final version is labeled “Copy of the Letter to Mr. Hartley, with the Alterations.” When JA reprinted both versions in 1812, he called the first a draft; see Adams Papers, XV, 260n. The difference is in the rewritten central section concerning the Americans’ authority to conclude a commercial treaty; see the following note.

3The revised section runs from this point through the end of the following paragraph. The copy of the draft (Library of Congress) reads: “We must nevertheless candidly inform you that we consider our Commission as terminated and therefore without further Authority from Congress will not be able to sign and conclude. All we can at present do is to confer with you and recommend to Congress such Propositions as may appear to us to merit their Assent and we shall propose to them to send a Commission to Europe without Delay for these important Purposes.

“The unrestrained Course already given by the States to the British Commerce with them and the unconditional Liberation of Prisoners, at a Time when more Caution would not have been singular are marks of Liberality and Confidence, which we flatter ourselves will be equalled by the Magnanimity of his Majesty and the People of Great Britain.”

4Changed from “warm & repeated assurances.” For those assurances see the commissioners’ July 27 letter to Livingston.

Index Entries