Benjamin Franklin Papers

Franklin: Proposed Article for the Definitive Treaty, [on or before 13 December 1782]

Franklin: Proposed Article for the Definitive Treaty8

Copy:9 Library of Congress

[on or before December 13, 1782]

Article proposed for Consideration.

If War should hereafter arise between Great Britain and the United States, which God forbid, the Merchants of either Country then residing in the other, shall be allowed to remain 9 Months1 to collect their Debts and settle their Affairs, and may depart freely carrying off all their Effects without Molestation or Hinderance. And all Fishermen, all Cultivators of the Earth, and all Artizans, or Manufacturers unarmed & inhabiting unfortified Towns, Villages or Places, who labour for the common Subsistence and Benefit of Mankind, & peaceably follow their respective Employments, shall be allowed to continue the same, and shall not be molested by the Armed Force of the Enemy in whose Power by the Events of [the]2 War they may happen to fall; but if any thing is necessary to be taken from them for the use of such Armed Force, the same shall be paid for at a reasonable Price. And all Merchants or Traders with their unarmed Vessels, employed in Commerce, exchanging the Products of different Places & thereby rendering the Necessaries, Conveniences & Comforts of human Life more easy to obtain and more general shall be allowed to pass freely unmolested. And neither of the Powers, Parties to this Treaty, shall grant or issue any Commission to any private armed Vessels empowering them to take or destroy such trading Ships, or interrupt such Commerce.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

8In this proposed article, BF seeks to codify the ideas he had expressed in a July 10 letter to Benjamin Vaughan and in two related essays: XXXVII, 610, 617–20. He showed the article to JA on Dec. 13, when JA came to Passy to review with him the draft of the commissioners’ joint letter to Livingston (signed on Dec. 14, below). JA’s private comment was, “This is a good Lesson to Mankind at least”: Butterfield, John Adams Diary, III, 96. BF enclosed a copy of this article in his letter to Oswald of Jan. 14 (below). It was incorporated verbatim into the drafts of the definitive treaty that the American commissioners presented to David Hartley in the summer of 1783. Though those drafts were not adopted, a version of this article did get incorporated into the 1785 Treaty of Amity and Commerce with Prussia, signed by BF just before he left France: Giunta, Emerging Nation, I, 872, 910; II, 711, 810.

9Made under Oswald’s direction from the texts enclosed in BF’s letter to him of Jan. 14, 1783. It closely resembles the version WTF printed in Memoirs, II, 422.

1This first sentence was an adaptation of Article 22 of the 1778 Franco-American Treaty of Amity and Commerce (XXV, 615), and the analogous Article 18 of the Dutch-American Treaty of Amity and Commerce (Giunta, Emerging Nation, II, 978–9), which JA had signed in October. The major difference between them was in the length of time the merchants would be allowed; the French treaty provided for a six-month term, but the Dutch treaty provided for nine months. BF followed what JA had just negotiated.

2This word is missing in the MS but present in subsequent versions of the article and in WTF, Memoirs.

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