Report on American Participation
in a European Neutral Confederacy
[Philadelphia] June 12, 1783
Resolved that the Ministers Plenipotentia[r]y be instructed in case they should comprise in the definitive treaty any stipulations amounting to a recognition of the rights of neutral nations, to avoid accompanying them by any engagements which shall oblige the contracting parties to support those stipulations by arms.1
AD, Papers of the Continental Congress, National Archives.
1. This resolution was the last paragraph of a report delivered by a committee consisting of James Madison, Oliver Ellsworth, and H. A letter, dated March 20, 1783, from the Secretary for Foreign Affairs had been referred to the committee. The Secretary informed Congress of a Dutch proposal to the American peace commissioners that the United States either join the League of Armed Neutrality or enter into an agreement with France, Spain, and the United Provinces of the Netherlands to enforce neutral rights on the high seas. Such action on the part of the United States, the American commissioners were told, would make an express stipulation in favor of freedom of navigation unnecessary in the treaty between Great Britain and the Netherlands.
The committee reported that “the true interest of these states requires that they should be as little as possible entangled in the politics and controversies of European nations” (JCC description begins Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (Washington, 1904–1937). description ends , XXIV, 394). Although concluding that the United States should not join any neutral confederacy, the committee reported that it was in the interest of the nation to promote such a treaty. The report is printed in JCC description begins Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (Washington, 1904–1937). description ends , XXIV, 392–94.