Benjamin Franklin Papers

Franklin and John Adams to the President of Congress, 23 July 1778: résumé

Franklin and John Adams to the President of Congress7

LS:8 National Archives; copies: Harvard University Library,9 South Carolina Historical Society (two); transcript: National Archives

<Passy, July 23, 1778: We are informed by the Count de Vergennes that the British cabinet plans to offer independence to the United States if it will make a separate peace.1 M. de Vergennes requests us to inform Congress that war between Britain and France, though not formally declared, is considered as having begun with the mutual withdrawal of ambassadors and hence the treaty with the United States is in full force.2 He expects Congress’s answer will be the same should a separate peace be proposed. We have expressed the opinion that you will unhesitatingly give such an answer even though you may not have been informed that war has begun and the treaty become binding.>

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

7Published in Taylor, Adams Papers, VI, 312.

8In WTF’s hand. Lee refused to sign: see the preceding document.

9In Arthur Lee’s hand.

1A false rumor also prevalent in America: Weldon A. Brown, Empire or Independence: A Study in the Failure of Reconciliation, 1774–1783 (University, La., 1941), p. 282.

2A half-truth. Although with the withdrawal of ambassadors in March, 1778, both Britain and France prepared for military operations against each other, neither side wished to bear the diplomatic consequences of appearing the aggressor. This was the reason France had made her treaty with the United States eventual rather than immediate. In reality open hostilities had begun only in June. Jonathan R. Dull, A Diplomatic History of the American Revolution (New Haven and London, [1985]), pp. 97–9.

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