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The Commissioners to the Comte de Vergennes, 26 September 1778

The Commissioners to the Comte de Vergennes

Passi September 26. 1778


We had last Evening the Honour of your Excellencys Letter of the twenty fourth of this Month, in Answer to ours of the twenty Eighth ultimo relative to the Liberty for Americains to pass through this Kingdom with their Effects, in their Way home, Duty free, inclosing Copy of a Letter from Mr. Necker to your Excellency, upon the same subject. We shall take the Liberty to pursue the Rules prescribed by M. Necker as there may be occasion.1

At the same Time We had the Honour of your Excellencys Letter of the Twenty fifth,2 relative to Mr. Izzards Goods. The Question, your Excellency mentions, We apprehend cannot arise in this Case, whether an Ennemys ship makes Ennemies Merchandises, because by the Sixteenth Article3 of the Treaty of Commerce, your Excellency will recollect, that an Exception is made of Such Goods and Merchandises as were put on board such ships before the Declaration of War, or after such Declaration, if so be it were done without Knowledge of such Declaration. Ignorance of the Declaration of War not to be pleaded, after two Months.

Mr. Izzards Goods, were shipped, before any Declaration of War, or at least two Months had not passed away, after the first Appearances4 of War, and before they were shipped.

We have referred Mr. Izzard to his Excellency, M. de Sartine, and shall have the Honour to apply to him ourselves, according to your Excellencys Advice as early as possible.5 We have the Honour to be, with the most perfect Consideration, your Excellencys most obedient and most humble servants

Arthur Lee

John Adams

N.B. Dr. Franklin is in the Country.

A. Lee

RC in JA’s hand (Arch. Aff. Etr., Paris, Corr. Pol., E.-U., vol. 4); docketed: “transit des effets des Amèricains retournant en Amerique.” LbC (Adams Papers).

1Vergennes’ letter and its enclosure are not printed, but see James Smith to the Commissioners, 24 Aug., and note 3, where the date of Vergennes’ letter is given erroneously as 26 rather than 24 Sept. (vol. 6:389–392). For the Commissioners’ letter to Vergennes of 28 Aug., see vol. 6:401–405.

2Not printed, but see Izard to the Commissioners, 21 Sept. (above).

3The Commissioners here follow the American practice of referring to the articles of the Treaty of Amity and Commerce as originally numbered, before the deletion of Arts. 11 and 12. By this date the French practice, however, was to refer to the articles as numbered after the removal of the two articles, thus making the original Art. 16 the new Art. 14 (see Miller, ed., Treaties description begins Hunter Miller, ed., Treaties and Other International Acts of the United States of America, Washington, 1931–1948; 8 vols. description ends , 2:32). Subsequent editorial references to the articles will follow the revised numbering.

4In the Letterbook copy the preceding two words were interlined as a replacement for “Declaration,” which was deleted.

5No reply from Vergennes has been found, but the Commissioners also asked for restoration of Ralph Izard’s merchandise in a letter to Sartine of this same date (LbC, Adams Papers), to which Sartine replied on 7 Oct. (below).

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