To Edmund Randolph
RC (LC: Madison Papers). Cover addressed by JM, “Edmund Randolph Esqr. Richmond. By Express.” Docketed by Randolph, “J. Madison March 12. 1783.” For the “Express,” see Delegates to Harrison, 12 Mar. 1783, n. 24.
Philada. March 12. 1783
My dear Sir,
Capt. Barney commanding the American packet boat which has been long expected with official intelligences from our Ministers in Europe arrived here this morning. He brings a supply of money the sum of which I cannot as yet specify & comes under a passport from the King of G. B. The despatches from our Ministers are dated the 5. 14 & 24 of Decr. Those of the 14th inclose a copy of the preliminary articles provisionally signed between the American & British Plenipotentiaries.1 The tenor of them is that the U.S. shall be acknowledged & treated with as free, sovereign & independt., that our boundaries shall begin at the mouth of St. Croix, run thence to the ridge dividing the waters of the Atlantic from those of St. Laurence, thence to the head of Cont. river, thence down to 45.° N. L. thence to Cadaraqui, thence thro’ the middle of Lakes Ontario, Erie, Huron & Superior to Long Lake, to the lake of the woods & thence due W to the Missi[ssip]pi, thence down the middle of the river to L: 31. thence to Apalichicola, to flint river, to St. Mary’s & down the same to the Atlantic,2 that the fisheries shall be exercised nearly as formerly;3 that Congress shall earnestly recommend to the States a restitution of Confiscated property a permission to the refugees to come & remain for 1 year within the States to solicit restitution, and that in the most obnoxious cases restitution may be demanded of purchasers on reimbursing them the price of the property,4 that debts contracted prior to 1775 shall be mutually paid according to sterling value;5 that all prisoners shall be mutually set at liberty; troops withdrawn & all records & papers restored; that the navigation of the Mississippi from the source to the mouth shall be mutually free for the subjects of G. B. & the Citizens of America,6 a proposition comprehending the W. I. was offered on the subject of Commerce, but not admitted on the part of G. B.7
In the course of the negociation G. B. contended for not only the limits marked out in the Quebec Act, but all ungranted soil, for a contraction of the fisheries, and for absolute stipulations in favr. of the loyalists.8
The despatches of the 14th. Speak also of the principal preliminaries between F. & G. B. being settled; but of little progress being made in those between Hold. & Spn. & the latter; & of none between Spn. & U.S.9
A letter of the 24. Decr. from Dr. Franklin varies the scene somewhat. It says that uncertainties were arising from the unsettled state of minds in England & incloses a letter from Ct. de Vergennes observing that difficulties had arisen from the very facilities yielded on the part of France; & concluding with these words as well as I can recollect, “Je ne desespere pas. J’espire plutôt; mais tout est incertain.”10
Franklin’s correspondence on this occasion denotes a vigor of intellect, which is astonishing at his age. a letter to the British Minister on the case of the Tories in particular is remarkable for strength of reasoning, of sentiment & of expression.11 He concludes his letter to Congs. with observing that he is now entering on his 78th. year, 50 of wh[ich] have been spent in the public Service; and that having lived to see like Simeon of old the salvation of his Country, his prayer is that he may be permitted to retire from public life.12 Mr. Adams has also transmitted a resignation.13
The arrival of this intelligence will probably procure from Congs. some final decision with respect to Mr. Jefferson.14
Having given you all the facts which hurry wd. admit I leave you to your own conclusion as to the object of them.
J Ma[dison Jr.]
1. JM Notes, 12–15 Mar., and n. 1; Delegates to Harrison, 12 Mar. 1783, and n. 2. The “Washington” brought 600,000 livres, the first installment of the loan of 6,000,000 livres which King Louis XVI agreed to advance during 1783 (Wharton, Revol. Dipl. Corr description begins Francis Wharton, ed., The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States (6 vols.; Washington, 1889). description ends ., VI, 159–60).
4. Ibid., and n. 12; JM Notes, 12–15 Mar., and n. 2. JM used the phrase “most obnoxious cases” to characterize those Loyalists who had borne arms against the United States. In Article V of the preliminary peace treaty, that category of Loyalists is referred to only as “persons of any other description” (Wharton, Revol. Dipl. Corr description begins Francis Wharton, ed., The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States (6 vols.; Washington, 1889). description ends ., VI, 98–99).
5. By introducing the phrase “prior to 1775,” JM altered the intent of Article IV of the treaty. That article defined the debts as those “heretofore contracted” and “bona fide” (ibid., VI, 98). Debts of this description had been incurred as late as 3 July 1776. For John Jay’s exhaustive report of 13 October 1786 on the subject of debts owed British creditors, see JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXXI, 781–874.
8. Ibid., and nn. 2, 6; Wharton, Revol. Dipl. Corr description begins Francis Wharton, ed., The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States (6 vols.; Washington, 1889). description ends ., V, 550, 553, 579; VI, 112–13, 131–32; Richard B. Morris, The Peacemakers, pp. 287, 317–18, 344–82. For the Quebec Act of 22 June 1774, see also 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, 8; 9–10; 14, n. 10; 15, n. 18.
10. For Franklin’s dispatch of 24–25 December 1782, enclosing a copy of Vergennes’ letter to him dated the twenty-fifth, see Wharton, Revol. Dipl. Corr description begins Francis Wharton, ed., The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States (6 vols.; Washington, 1889). description ends ., VI, 163, 168. The delegates in their letter of 12 March 1783 (q.v., and nn. 17, 18) translated the two sentences written in French. According to the copy enclosed by Franklin, Vergennes had written, “Je ne desespere pas, j’espere plutot, mais tout est encore incertain” (NA: PCC, No. 82, II, 335).
11. In his dispatch of 12 December to Robert R. Livingston, John Jay commented: “Dr. Franklin’s firmness and exertions on the subject of the Tories did us much service. I enclose herewith a copy of a letter he wrote [on 26 November] about that matter to Mr. Oswald. It had much weight, and is written with a degree of acuteness and spirit seldom to be met with in persons of his age” (Wharton, Revol. Dipl. Corr description begins Francis Wharton, ed., The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States (6 vols.; Washington, 1889). description ends ., VI, 77–80, 130).
12. JM refers to Franklin’s dispatch of 5 and 14 December 1782 to Livingston (ibid., VI, 110–14). Franklin paraphrased Luke 2:29–32, which in the King James version of the Bible reads: “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people.”
13. In a dispatch to Livingston on 4 December, John Adams wrote: “As the objects for which I ever consented to leave my family and country are thus far accomplished, I now beg leave to resign all my employments in Europe.” If Congress, contrary to his opinion, decided to continue the embassy at The Hague, even though the Treaty of Amity and Commerce with the Netherlands had been concluded, he recommended that his successor as minister plenipotentiary should be Francis Dana. In his dispatch of 14 December 1782 Adams repeated his request to resign and asked Livingston that Congress’ acceptance “be transmitted to me several ways by the first ships” (Wharton, Revol. Dipl. Corr description begins Francis Wharton, ed., The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States (6 vols.; Washington, 1889). description ends ., VI, 106, 133–34).