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Virginia Delegates to Benjamin Harrison, 1 November 1783 (second)

Virginia Delegates to Benjamin Harrison

RC (Virginia State Library). Cover missing. Addressed to “His Excellency Benjamin Harrison.” In the hand of John Francis Mercer, except for Arthur Lee’s signature. For the absence of JM’s signature, see Delegates to Harrison, 24 June 1783, ed. n. The present letter and the other one of 1 November from the delegates to Governor Harrison were given a single docket, reading “Delegates letters. Novr. 1st 1783.”

In Congress Nov. 1. 1783

Sir

This day the Honourable Peter John Van Berckel Minister plenipotentiary from their High Mightinesses had his first public audience.1 We do ourselves the honor of transmitting to you a Copy of his Credentials, of his address on delivering them & the answer returned by Congress.2 The reception & Ceremony were more conformable to present circumstances & embarrassmts than to the Representatives of a Great Nation. Still the characters who were in attendance, & the cordiality with which they were conducted may well compensate for Pomp splendor & shew.3

There is just now receiv’d authentic information from Colo. Ogden immediately arriv’d from France, that the Definitive Treaty was signed on the third of Septr.4 Mr. Adams, Mr. Franklin & Mr. Jay signed on the part of America, & Mr. Thackster Secretary of Mr. Adams had embarked in the L’Orient Packet with an authenticated Copy, & may be daily expected.5 We beg leave to congratulate Yr. Excellency on the happy event which is not the less important from the delay which has attended it.

We are with great respect & esteem Yr. Excellency’s most Obt:

Arthur Lee

John F. Mercer

1The “audience” was on 31 October, not 1 November 1783 (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXV, 780–86). Following “Mightinesses,” Mercer assumed that Governor Harrison would interpolate “the States-General of the United Netherlands.” For van Berckel, see JM to Jefferson, 10 June, and n. 23; to Randolph, 30 Aug.; 30 Sept., and n. 4; 13 Oct. 1783.

2These enclosures, each correctly dated 31 October 1783, are in Mercer’s hand. He obviously made a careful copy of President Boudinot’s answer on behalf of Congress from either the manuscript or from the entry in the journal (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXV, 785–86). On the other hand, Mercer’s version of van Berckel’s “address” and his “Credentials” contrasts considerably in phraseology, but not in meaning, with their translations from the French and Dutch, respectively, as spread on the journal (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXV, 781–84).

3The form of the ceremonial is described, and the characters to be invited are listed in JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXV, 748–51. See also Varnum L. Collins, Continental Congress at Princeton, pp. 218–25, 231–36. Thomas FitzSimons was told by van Berckel that he was “not a little disappointed at his Reception.” “He told me very politely,” continued FitzSimons, “that the States of Holland, to do honor to their 1st Embassy to the United States had sent their Minister with a Respectable fleet, that when Mr. Adams arrived in Holland the states sent a person to receive him, and provided a proper place for his reception” (Burnett, Letters description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress (8 vols.; Washington, 1921–36). description ends , VII, 370).

4Colonel Matthias Ogden, who had disembarked at New York City on 30 October from the ship “Hartford,” in which he had returned from England, reached Princeton the next day with unofficial but authentic news of the signing of the definitive treaty of peace between Great Britain and the United States (Varnum L. Collins, Continental Congress at Princeton, p. 231). For Ogden, see Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (7 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , I, 159, n. 6; V, 473; VI, 224, n. 5.

5Hunter Miller, ed., Treaties and Other International Acts, II, 151–57. The treaty, which was laid before Congress on 13 December 1783 at Annapolis, was not spread on the journal until 14 January 1784 (Jefferson to JM, 11 Dec. 1783, and n. 3; JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXV, 812; XXVI, 22–28). John Thaxter, Jr., private secretary to John Adams, arrived in Philadelphia on 22 November with an official copy of the treaty (Burnett, Letters description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress (8 vols.; Washington, 1921–36). description ends , VII, 376–77). For Thaxter, see Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (7 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , IV, 282, n. 19.

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