Benjamin Franklin Papers
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David Hartley to the American Peace Commissioners: Revised Article, [14–18] June 1783

David Hartley to the American Peace Commissioners: Revised Article3

Copies: Library of Congress (two), William L. Clements Library, Massachusetts Historical Society, National Archives; press copy of copy: National Archives

June [14–18,] 1783

It is agreed, that the Citizens of the United States of America shall be permitted to import into and to export from any Port or Place of the Territories belonging to the Crown of Great Britain in American Ships, any Goods, Wares & Merchandize, which might have been so imported or exported by the Inhabitants of the British American Colonies, before the Commencement of the late War upon Payment of the same duties and Charges as the like sort of goods or Merchandize, are now or may be Subject & Liable to if imported or exported by British Subjects in British Ships into or from any Port or Place of the Territories belonging to the Crown of Great Britain— Provided however that the Citizens of the United States shall not have any Right or Claim under this Convention to carry on any direct Intercourse of Commerce between the British West Indian Islands, and the Ports of Great Britain.

It is agreed likewise that the Subjects of Great Britain, shall be permitted to import into and to export from any part of the Territories of the United States of America, in British Ships, any Goods Wares and Merchandize, which might have been so imported or exported by the Subjects of Great Britain, before the Commencement of the late War, upon Payment of the same Duties and Charges as the like sort of Goods Wares and Merchandize are now or may be liable to, if imported or exported in American Ships, by the Citizens of the United States of America.

Mr. Hartley’s proposed agreement

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

3On June 14, when delivering the letter immediately above, Hartley also gave the commissioners a revision (now missing) of his [May 19] proposed article, which added one sentence prohibiting American ships from carrying West Indian produce into Great Britain. This change, based on Fox’s June 10 instructions, was fully explained in his June 14 letter.

We know this from a subsequent exchange between the two men. On the night of June 17, Hartley received a private note from Fox instructing him to make sure that nothing in the convention would “bind us to let the produce of the W Indies go even to America in American bottoms.” This restriction “need not be mentioned,” Fox added; Hartley should simply describe general terms under which American ships would be admitted into Britain and vice versa: Giunta, Emerging Nation, II, 154–5.

Hartley replied the next day, also in a private letter. Surely, Fox could not mean that “when American Ships bring lumber to the West Indies, they should not carry West Indian produce home for their own use”? This would be inconsistent with all Fox’s previous instructions, the provisional bills debated in the House of Commons, and “practicability.” Hartley would therefore assume that by “America,” Fox meant “British America.” Having already given the commissioners a revised article that conformed to Fox’s June 10 guidelines, he would simply “superadd” a phrase to that text, replacing “Great Britain” with the phrase “any Ports or Places within the territories belonging to the Crown of Great Britain.” He then begged Fox to “send me specifically an article that I may sign,” as his knowledge of legal language was limited. For example, the Americans had asked whether Ireland was considered a territory belonging to the crown: Hartley to Fox, June 18, 1783, Clements Library.

The change Hartley promised to make is in the present text, which is the version copied into the commissioners’ legation letterbooks. There it is dated simply “June 1783,” but we assume he made the alteration on June 18, the day after receiving Fox’s instructions. When writing his official letter to Fox on June 20, Hartley referred to this document as the “proposed Agreement June 14th 1783”: Giunta, Emerging Nation, II, 162.

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