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Motion concerning Peace Negotiations, [17 June] 1782

Motion Concerning Peace Negotiations

MS (NA: PCC, No. 36, I, 345). In JM’s hand. Docketed: “Motion of Mr Witherspoon Mr Madison. June 17. 1782 passed in the negative 5 ayes 4 noes one divd.”

[17 June 1782]

That a Committee be appointed to propose & report to Congress the information & instructions proper to be transmitted to the Ministers Plenipo: for negociating peace, the better to enable them to support the several claims of the U. S. not included in their Ultimatum1

1With John Witherspoon’s assistance, JM was trying to revive his Report on Instructions on Peace Negotiations of 7 January (q.v., and its editorial note and nn.). This report had been dormant since 22 January, when it was referred to a committee comprising Daniel Carroll, Edmund Randolph, and Joseph Montgomery (ibid., headnote). The principal “claims” omitted from the ultimata of 14 August 1779, 18 October 1780, and 15 June 1781 (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XIV, 956–60; XVIII, 948–51; XX, 651–52) were those of free access to the fishing banks off Newfoundland and a transfer to the United States by Great Britain of her right, acquired by Article VII of the Treaty of Paris in 1763, to navigate the Mississippi River freely. The treaty having been annulled by war between the contracting powers, any effective guarantee of free navigation, together with the privilege of using New Orleans or some other site close to the mouth of the river as a port of deposit, would now have to be obtained by the United States from Spain. For JM’s earlier contention that British treaty rights had “devolved” on the United States, see Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (4 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , II, 132.

The tallied vote leading to the defeat of the motion does not appear in the printed journal (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXII, 336). Hence, which state delegations favored, which opposed, and what delegation deadlocked are not known. After several later efforts by Arthur Lee, John Lowell, Theodorick Bland, and Jesse Root also failed to achieve [p. 343] the aim of the present motion (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXII, 415, 428, 429, 458), JM and Witherspoon succeeded on 8 August in having Congress agree to a motion identical in intent to, but more specific than, this one of 17 June 1782 (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXII, 459–60).

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