Notes on Debates
MS (LC: Madison Papers). For a description of the manuscript of Notes on Debates, see Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (6 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , V, 231–34.
The Report of the come. last mentioned consisting of a state of the variations in the Treaty of Amity & commerce with the States General from the plan proposed by Congress, of a form of ratification of the sd Treaty & of the Convention, & of a proclamation comprehending both was accepted & passed; the variations excepted wch. were not meant to be entered on the journals.1 Both the Committee & Congress were exceedingly chagrined at the extreme incorrectness of the American copies of these national acts, and it was privately talked of as necessary to admonish Mr. Adams thereof, & direct him to procure with the concurrence of the other party a more correct & perspicuous copy.2 The Report of the Come. as agreed to, havg. left a blank in the act of ratification for the insertion of the Treaty & Convention, & these being contained both in the Dutch & American languages, the former column signed by the Dutch Plenpos. only & the latter by Mr. Adams only. The Secy. asked the direction of Congs. whether both columns or the American only ought to be inserted.3 On this point several observations were made & different opinions expressed. In general the members seemed to disaprove of the mode usd & would have preferred the use of a neutral language.4 As to the request of the Secy.[,] Mr. Wilson was of opinion that the American Columns only sd. be inserted, Several others concurred in this opinion;5 supposing that as Mr. Adams had only signed those columns, our ratifications ought to be limited to them. Those who were of a different opinion, considered the two parts as inseperable & as forming one whole, & consequently that both ought to be inserted. The case being a new one to Congress,6 it was proposed & admitted that the insertion might be suspended till the next day, by which time some authorities might be consulted on the subject.7
A come. consisting of Mr. Madison, Mr. Mifflin & Mr. Williamson reported in consequence of a motion of Mr. Bland, a list of books proper for the use of Congress, and proposed that the Secy. sho’d be instructed to procure the same.8 In favr. of the Rept. it was urged as indispensable that Congress sd. have at all times at command such authors on the law of Nations, treaties Negociations &c as wd. render their proceedings in such cases conformable to propriety; and it was observed that the want of this information was manifest in several important acts of Congress. It was further observed that no time ought to be lost in collecting every book & tract which related to American Antiquities & the affairs of the U.S. since many of the most valuable of these were every day becoming extinct, & they were necessary not only as materials for a Hist: of the U.S. but might be rendered still more so by future pretensions agst. their rights from Spain or other powers which had shared in the discoveries & possessions of the New World.9 Agst. the Report were urged 1st. the inconveniency of advancing even a few hundred pounds at this crisis; 2dly. the difference of expence between procuring the books during the war & after a peace. These objections prevailed, by a considerable majority. A motion was then made by Mr. Wilson 2ded. by Mr. Madison to confine the purchase for the present to the most essential part of the books. This also was negatived.10
1. JM Notes, 22 Jan., and n. 1. Having pointed out to Congress the chief variations between the instructions to John Adams and the provisions of the treaty, the committee recommended that the latter should be “fully accepted & ratified” in spite of those differences (Report on Treaty, 23 Jan. 1783, and nn. 3, 4, 6, 7–10).
2. JM interlineated “extreme” as a replacement for one or two words too heavily deleted to be legible and also interlineated “privately talked of” above a canceled “suggested.” The copy of the treaty submitted to Congress was not an original copy, for Adams had retained the original through fear it might be lost or captured at sea, but an “authentic copy” which he forwarded in his dispatch of 8 October 1782 (Wharton, Revol. Dipl. Corr description begins Francis Wharton, ed., The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States (6 vols.; Washington, 1889). description ends ., V, 803–5; L[yman] H. Butterfield et al., eds., Diary and Autobiography of John Adams. [4 vols.; Cambridge, Mass. 1961], III, 15–16, 16, n. 2, 17–18, 24–25).
Although misspellings were corrected in the English versions of the treaty and convention before publication, JM’s other objections remained much in point. Not only did the treaty refer to “subjects” rather than “citizens” of the contracting powers, but it included a baffling provision for a ship’s “visitation at land,” referred to what presumably was a bond for good behavior as a “caution” against “malversations,” related conditions under which shippers should “not be obliged to pay neither for the vessels nor the cargoes, any duties of entry in or out,” defined a blockaded port as one “surrounded nearly by some of the belligerent powers,” and authorized city magistrates to regulate “the affair of refraction” (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIV, 72, 73, 75, 76, 78). “Indeed,” wrote Irving Brant, “it was a queer paper” (Madison, II, 266). As for the convention, it provided that either government “shall be free” to regulate the conduct of its own privateers (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIV, 81).
4. Probably French, long the established language of diplomacy.
5. James Wilson of Pennsylvania, who on 2 January 1783 attended Congress for the first time since September 1777 (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , VIII, 746; XXIV, 2). JM originally placed a period after “opinion” and began a new sentence, reading “Some however thought the safest and most proper course wd be.” He then canceled these words and changed the period after “opinion” to a semicolon.
6. Although the originals of the treaty and the convention in the Dutch archives disclose that both Dutch and English texts were signed by each of the plenipotentiaries, the attested copies forwarded by Adams showed the negotiators as signing only the text written in their respective tongues (Hunter Miller, Treaties and Other International Acts, II, 89, 95).
7. Report on Treaty, 23 Jan., and nn. 14, 18. The delegates apparently found those “authorities” of no help in clarifying the issue, for JM soon solicited the assistance of the attorney general of Virginia (JM Notes, 24 Jan.; JM to Randolph, 28 Jan. 1783). Perhaps the quandary helps in small measure to explain why JM submitted on 23 or 24 January a list of books for a library of Congress. See Report on Books, 23 Jan. 1783.
9. This sentence probably summarizes what JM himself said in support of the committee’s report. See Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (6 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , IV, 143; 154–55; 198, n. 7; 228, n. 7; 306, n. 3; 389, n. 19; V, 56; 312, nn. 18, 19; 454; 457, n. 17.
10. Neither of the two votes is recorded in the printed journal (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIV, 92, n. 1). The statute of 24 April 1800, providing for a Library of Congress, awaited the interest of President Thomas Jefferson before becoming effective.