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Motion in re Preliminary Peace Treaty, [ca. 18 October] 1783

Motion in re Preliminary Peace Treaty

MS (NA: PCC, No. 29, fol. 335). In JM’s hand. Undated and undocketed.

Editorial Note

Although the journal of Congress omits mention of this motion, it appears to be the one summarized by Charles Thomson in his committee book as a proposal made by a delegate, whom he did not identify, “to transmit Exemplfd. Copies of prelimy. Arts. of peace to the respective States.” The doubt whether this entry refers to JM’s motion arises from the fact that Congress on 18 October named a committee—James Duane, chairman, William Ellery, and Samuel Huntington—to consider the motion noted by Thomson (NA: PCC, No. 186, fol. 133). As a rule, the author of a motion was chosen to be the chairman of the committee to which it was assigned. In this instance, JM may have asked to be excused from that appointment, for he seems to have been in Philadelphia on 19, 20, and 21 October (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXV, 706–10, 712–13, 718–19). The motion is of the same purport as one introduced by Hamilton in Congress on 14 May and recommitted on 30 May (JM Notes, 14 May, and n. 1; 30 May 1783, and nn. 1, 2).

[ca. 18 October 1783]

That an Exemplification of the articles concluded on the   day1 of   between the Ministers Plenipo: of the U.S & the K. of G.B. as ratified by Congs. on the   day of   be2 transmitted to each of the States & that they be informed that Congress deem it indispensable to the honor of the Confederacy & to the principles of good faith, that every act within the States respectively sd. be foreborne which may tend to render any of the stipulations in the said articles hereafter impracticable on the part of the U.S.3

130 November 1782.

215 April 1783.

3During the spring of 1783 JM contended unsuccessfully that Congress should not ratify the preliminary articles of peace, and that the state of war would not officially end until the conclusion of definitive treaties of peace by Great Britain with France and its ally, the United States (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 , VI, 453; 454, n. 9; 465–57; 458, n. 3). He later recognized, however, that the refusal by Virginia and most of the other states to abide by the stipulations in Articles IV and V of the provisional articles for enabling British and Loyalist creditors to collect their “bona fide. Debts” and recover their confiscated “Estates” and “Properties” might hamper the American peace commissioners in negotiating a definitive treaty, and perhaps cause difficulties in procuring the return of American-owned slaves in British possession, the withdrawal of British garrisons from forts on American soil, and the timely evacuation of New York City (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 , VI, 335; 337, n. 14; 341, n. 5; 423, n. 7; Walke to Delegates, 3 May, nn. 2, 5; Pendleton to JM, 4 May, n. 5; Harrison to Delegates, 9 May, and n. 6; JM Notes, 14 May, and n. 1; 26 May, n. 1; 30 May, and n. 1; Jones to JM, 31 May, and n. 14; 21 June, n. 21; 28 June; Beckley to Randolph, 20 June, n. 7; Delegates to Harrison, 23 Aug., and n. 2; 8 Sept. 1783, and nn. 3, 4).

In the report submitted to Congress on 20 October and adopted two days later, the Duane committee concurred with the aim of the motion but tempered the language in deference to each state’s sensitivity about its rights. The committee prepared a circular letter, to be sent by President Boudinot to the state executives, stressing that Congress “consider with deep regret any act which might render it impracticable to give a just efficacy to the provisional articles for the restoration of peace, which are expressly stipulated to be inserted in the Definitive treaty” (NA: PCC, No. 186, fol. 133; JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXV, 716–17, 717, n. 1). The Virginia delegates, in their letter to Harrison on 1 November (1st letter) probably enclosed a copy of the circular letter, dated 29 October. The governor seems to have submitted it to the Virginia General Assembly on 13 November (Delegates to Harrison, 1 Nov. [1st letter]; Harrison to the speaker of the House of Delegates, 13 Nov. 1783 in Executive Letter Book, 1783–1786, p. 231, MS in Va. State Library; Burnett, Letters description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress (8 vols.; Washington, 1921–36). description ends , VII, 358).

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