Benjamin Franklin Papers
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The American Peace Commissioners: Acceptance of the British Declaration of the Cessation of Hostilities, [20 January 1783]

The American Peace Commissioners: Acceptance of the British Declaration of the Cessation of Hostilities

Copies: Massachusetts Historical Society (three),5 National Archives (three), Library of Congress (two), Public Record Office, Archives du Ministère des affaires étrangères; press copy of copy: National Archives; transcripts: National Archives (three)

When Franklin, Adams, and William Temple Franklin arrived at Vergennes’ office at ten o’clock on the morning of January 20, they learned that Fitzherbert and Aranda would arrive at eleven to conclude the preliminary peace agreements between France and Great Britain, and Great Britain and Spain.6 After examining and signing those documents, Fitzherbert (in lieu of Oswald, who had been called back to England) presented Franklin and Adams with a declaration of an armistice. Their reciprocal declaration, the present document, incorporated his text.7 The two documents were signed, sealed, and exchanged. Adams commented in his diary, “Thus was this mighty System terminated with as little Ceremony, and in as short a Time as a Marriage Settlement.”8

The Americans returned to Paris, where they dined with the duchesse d’Enville and the duc de La Rochefoucauld. The latter recalled Franklin telling him as they embraced, “Pouvois-je espérer, à mon âge, de jouir d’un pareil bonheur?”9

Vergennes related the news to Lenoir at three o’clock in the afternoon, and the lieutenant général de police saw to it that the information was disseminated in cafés and theaters. That evening at the Théâtre-Français, the renowned comedian Molé announced that the company would perform L’Anglois à Bordeaux the following Saturday, in honor of the peace. This one-act play by Charles-Simon Favart had been composed in March, 1763, in honor of the signing of the Treaty of Paris; its allusions were updated for this reprise.1

[January 20, 1783]

Nous soussignés Ministres Plenipotentiaires des Etats-Unis de l’Amerique Septentrionale, aïant reçu de la Part de M. Fitzherbert Ministre Plenipotentiaire de sa Majesté Britanique une Declaration relative a une suspension d’Armes a établir entre sa de. [dite] Majesté et les dits Etats dont la teneur s’ensuit.

“Comme les Articles Preliminaires arrettés et signés aujourd’hui entre sa Majesté le Roi de la Grande Bretagne et sa Majesté le Roi très Chretien2 d’une Part, et aussi entre sa dite Majesté Britanique et sa Majesté Catholique3 d’autre Part, renferment la Stipulation de la Cessation des Hostilités entre ces trois Puissances; laquelle doit commencer après l’Echange des Ratifications des dits Articles Préliminaires; Et comme par le Traité Provisionel signé le trente Novembre dernier, entre sa Majesté Britanique et les Etats Unis de l’Amerique Septentrionale; il a été stipulé, que ce Traité sortiroit son Effet aussitot que la Paix entre les des. [dites] Couronnes seroit retablie, Le sousigné, Ministre Plenipotentiaire de sa Majesté Britanique, declare au Nom et par Ordre exprès du Roi son Maitre, que les dits Etats Unis de l’Amerique Septentrionale, leurs Sujets et leurs Possessions seront compris dans la Suspension d’Armes susmentionée, et qu’ils jouiront en Consequence du Benéfice de la Cessation des Hostilités aux mêmes Epoques, et de la meme maniere que les trois Couronnes susdites leurs Sujets et leurs Possessions respectives, le tout a Condition, que de la Part et au Nom des dits Etats Unis de l’Amerique Septentrionale il soit delivré une Declaration semblable qui constate leur Assentiment a la presente Suspension d’Armes et renferme l’Assurance de la plus parfaite Reciprocité de leur Part.

“En foi de quoi, Nous Ministres Plenipotentiaire de sa Majesté Britanique, avons signé la presente Declaration, et y avons fait aposer le Cachet de nos Armes.

(signé) Alleyne Fitz-Herbert

Avons au Nom des dits Etats Unis de l’Amerique septentrionale, et en Vertu des Pouvoirs dont ils nous ont munis, accepté la Declaration ci dessus; l’acceptons par ces Presentes purement et simplement, et declarons reciproquement que les dits Etats feront cesser toutes hostilités contre sa Majesté Britanique ses Sujets et ses Possessions aux Termes et aux Epoques convenus entre sa de. [dite] Majesté le Roi de la Grande Bretagne sa Majesté le Roi de France et sa Majesté le Roi d’Espagne, ainsi et de la meme maniere qu’il a été convenu entre ces trois Couronnes, et pour produire le meme Effet.

En foi de quoi Nous Ministres Plenipotentiaires des Etats-Unis de l’Amerique septentrionale avons signé la Presente Declaration et y avons apposé les Cachets des nos Armes. A Versailles le Vingt Janvier mil sept Cent quatre vingt trois.

John Adams } signé { B. Franklin
L.S. L.S.
[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

5We print the one in WTF’s hand. He made one slip of the pen that we have silently corrected, in the date of Fitzherbert’s declaration.

6For the texts of these treaties see Clive Parry, comp., The Consolidated Treaty Series (243 vols., Dobbs Ferry, N.Y., 1969–86), XLVIII, 231–42, 249–52. They were published along with the British/American Preliminary Articles in the Public Advertiser on Jan. 30, and the Courier de l’Europe on Jan. 31.

7Copies of the British declaration in the original French and in English translation are in the American commissioners’ legation letterbooks at the Mass. Hist. Soc. and Library of Congress; translations of both the British and American declarations are in Giunta, Emerging Nation, I, 756–7. See also Wharton, Diplomatic Correspondence, VI, 223–4.

8Butterfield, John Adams Diary, III, 106.

9We assume that BF and WTF were present at that dinner, which JA mentions in his diary; La Rochefoucauld wrote that BF had uttered those words to him on the day the peace was signed, with an “air de satisfaction douce et complète”: Butterfield, John Adams Diary, III, 107; Eulogy by La Rochefoucauld, June 13, 1790, in Gilbert Chinard, L’Apothéose de Benjamin Franklin (Paris, 1955), p. 97.

1As it happened, the theater’s featured performance on Jan. 20 was the premiere of a French adaptation of a British play, King Lear; the duc de Croÿ was delighted by the symbolism and cheered this display of anglomanie. Ducis’ Le Roi Léar, however, was a radical revision of Shakespeare’s play. Not wanting to portray a monarch gone mad (as he explained in the avertissement), and wanting to reward filial gratitude (the avertissement urged parents to bring their children), Ducis arranged it so that both Lear and Cordelia (Helmonde) survive, and Lear regains his sanity and his throne. Emmanuel-Henri, vicomte de Grouchy, and Paul Cottin, eds., Journal inédit du duc de Croÿ, 1718–1784 (4 vols., Paris, 1906–07), IV, 266–7; Jour. de Paris, issues of Jan. 20, 21, and 26; Bachaumont, Mémoires secrets, XXII, 42–4; Jean-François Ducis, Le Roi Léar (Paris, 1783).

2Louis XVI.

3Charles III of Spain.

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