Commission for Benjamin Franklin, Arthur Lee, and John Adams
27 November 1777
The delegates of the United States of New Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pensylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia, to all who shall see these presents send greeting.
Whereas a trade upon equal terms between the subjects of his most Christian majesty the king of France and the people of these states will be beneficial to both nations, Know ye therefore that we confiding in the prudence and integrity of Benjamin Franklin one of the delegates in Congress from the state of Pensylvania, Arthur Lee esquire of Virginia and John Adams one of the delegates in congress from the state of Massachusetts Bay, have appointed and deputed, and by these presents do appoint and depute them the said Benjamin Franklin, Arthur Lee and John Adams our commissioners giving and granting to them the said Benjamin Franklin, Arthur Lee and John Adams or to any two of them and in case of the death absence or disability of any two, to any one of them full power to communicate, treat, agree and conclude with his most Christian majesty the king of France or with such person or persons as shall by him be for that purpose authorised, of and upon a true and sincere friendship and a firm inviolable and universal peace for the defence protection and safety of the navigation and mutual commerce of the subjects of his most Christian majesty and the people of the United States and also to enter into and agree upon a treaty with his most Christian majesty or such person or persons as shall be by him authorised for such purpose, for assistance in carrying on the present war between Great Britain and these United States, and to do all other things which may conduce to those desireable ends and promising in good faith to ratify whatsoever our said commissioners shall transact in the premises.
Done in Congress at Yorktown this twenty seventh day of November1 in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and seventy seven. In testimony whereof the president by order of the said Congress hath hereunto subscribed his name and affixed his seal.2
Attest: Cha Thomson secy
RC (Adams Papers); red seal, with a device and the letters “H L,” affixed next to signature of Henry Laurens; docketed: “Commissio[n] To Franklin Lee and A[dams] as Plenipotentiaries to the King of France. Louis 16th. Dated the 27th of November 1777 and presented to the Office of the Secretary of foreign Affairs on the 13th of April 1778. at Versailles.” A small piece cut from the MS has mutilated the docketing.
1. The Journals record Adams’ election as a commissioner in place of Deane on 28 Nov. (JCC description begins Worthington C. Ford and others, eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, Washington, 1904–1937; 34 vols. description ends , 9:975). On that day Laurens notified JA and sent him a copy of the minutes (Adams Papers).
2. This commission was forwarded to JA on 3 Dec. by the president of the congress, and a duplicate was sent by the Committee for Foreign Affairs as an enclosure in a letter written also on the third (both below). Enclosed in the latter, too, were copies of congressional resolves originally sent to JA in James Lovell’s letter of 1 Dec. (below). The circumstances of JA’s nomination as commissioner were described by Elbridge Gerry in a letter to JA of 29 Sept. 1779. Gerry placed JA’s name before the congress in the belief that he would accept, although he had not told Gerry that he would; indeed, JA recalled in his Autobiography that he protested against any such move because he felt unqualified. The other person nominated for the post was Robert R. Livingston. In a note CFA gives the names of those who voted for JA according to markings Gerry made in JA’s copy of the Journals and lists those who presumably voted for Livingston (JA, Works description begins The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States: with a Life of the Author, ed. Charles Francis Adams, Boston, 1850–1856; 10 vols. description ends , 9:492 and note; Diary and Autobiography description begins Diary and Autobiography of John Adams, ed. L. H. Butterfield and others, Cambridge, 1961; 4 vols. description ends , 4:3).