Benjamin Franklin Papers
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David Hartley to the American Peace Commissioners: Propositions for the Definitive Treaty, [19 June 1783]

David Hartley to the American Peace Commissioners: Propositions for the Definitive Treaty

Copies:8 Massachusetts Historical Society (two), William L. Clements Library, Library of Congress, National Archives (two); transcript: National Archives

When the American peace commissioners saw David Hartley at Versailles on Tuesday, June 17, they told him that Congress had issued an order on April 24 opening American ports to British vessels—or so they understood from credible private sources.9 They were expecting official confirmation in the dispatches from America that were due to arrive any day. In reporting this to Fox, Hartley observed that if it were true, it would obviate the need for a commercial convention. As the Americans had responded to his proposed article of June [14–18] with silence, a reaction he considered “very significant,” Hartley believed that they should focus on concluding the definitive treaty. Indeed, he told Fox, he and the commissioners had arranged to meet on June 19 “to draw up a project of the definitive treaty.”1

At the June 19 meeting, held at Franklin’s residence, the parties agreed to suspend negotiations for a temporary commercial convention “upon the presumption of the American Ports being actually open to British Ships.” Hartley then presented the commissioners with this set of propositions, calling them “Memorandums for consideration” since they were subject to Fox’s approval.2 They were prompted by the complaints of Quebec fur traders, who had lost access to American furs. Fox had forwarded these complaints to Hartley in April, along with instructions on what to propose by way of regulations.3

[June 19, 1783]

Mr Hartleys Propositions for the definitive Treaty.

1. That Lands belonging to Persons of any Description, which have not actually been sold, Shall be restored to the old Possessors without Price.

2. That an equal and free Participation of the different carrying Places, and the Navigation of all the Lakes and Rivers of that Country, through which the Water Line of Division passes, between Canada and the United States Shall be enjoyed fully and uninterruptedly by both Parties.4

3. That in any Such Places, within the Boundaries assigned, generally to the American States as are adjoining to the Water Line of Division and which are not Specifically under the Dominion of any one State, all Persons at present resident, or having Possessions or Occupations as Merchants or otherwise may remain in peaceable Enjoyment of all civil Rights and in Pursuit of their respective Occupations.

4. That in any Such Places adjoining to the Water Line of Division, as may be under the Specific Dominion of any particular State, all Persons at present resident, or having Possessions or Occupations, as Merchants or otherwise, may remain in the peaceable Enjoyment of all civil Rights, and in pursuit of their Occupations untill they Shall receive Notice of Removal from the State to which any Such Place may appertain; and that upon any Such Notice of Removal a Term of three Years Shall be allowed for Selling or withdrawing their valuable Effects, and for Settling their Affairs.

5. That his Britannic Majestys Forces not exceeding [blank] in Number, may continue in the Posts now occupied by them contiguous to the Water Line, for the Term of Three Years, for the Purpose of Securing the Lives, Property and Peace of any Persons Settled in that Country, against the Invasion or Ravages of the neighbouring Indian Nations, who may be Suspected of retaining Resentments in Consequence of the late War.

6. That no Tax or Impost whatsoever Shall be laid on any Articles of Commerce, passing or repassing through the Country, but that the Trade may be left entirely open for the Benefit of all Parties interested therein.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

8We publish the one in JA’s hand.

9One source of this false rumor was John Vaughan; see his letter of June 10 and Giunta, Emerging Nation, II, 166.

1When congressional confirmation of the rumor had still not arrived by June 26, the commissioners began to doubt its veracity: Hartley to the Duke of Portland, June 26, 1783, Clements Library. For the commissioners’ conversation with Hartley see his letter to Fox, June 18, 1783, Clements Library; Butterfield, John Adams Diary, III, 138. That same day at Versailles, Vergennes also counseled the Americans to postpone commercial discussions until a future time, given the inequity of the recent British proposal: Butterfield, John Adams Diary, III, 138.

2Butterfield, John Adams Diary, III, 139; Hartley to Fox, June 20, 1783, in Giunta, Emerging Nation, II, 165.

3Hartley to Fox, May 3 and June 20, 1783: Giunta, Emerging Nation, II, 106, 165–6. In the June 20 letter just cited, Hartley said that he had in fact exceeded his instructions in some respects, and that memoranda 2, 5, and 6 were taken from the Quebec merchants’ memorial. See also Harlow, Second British Empire, I, 463–5.

4This was a restriction of what the American peace commissioners had proposed on April 29, which gave American merchants access to all lakes and rivers under British dominion: XXXIX, 525.

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