Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to [the Conde de Sousa Coutinho], 7 June 1783

To [the Conde de Sousa Coutinho]8

LS9 and transcript: Library of Congress

Passy, June 7. 1783


I have perused carefully the Plan of a Treaty which your Excellency did me the honour to leave with me on Wednesday.1 I shall transmit it to my Sovereign as it is, to avoid delay; but in the meantime would make a few Remarks for your Consideration.

1. I apprehend the Words at the End of the first Article [que celles dèja établies avec les Puissances les plus favorisées]2 are not necessary in that Place, as the Article relates merely to Peace or Friendship, and not at all to Commerce.

2. The 4th. and 5th. Articles promising Protection to each others Ships, only against Injuries done by the Subjects of the Government where they are, leaves it open to other Nations who may happen to be at War with either of the contracting Parties, to attack and take in the Harbours of one the Ships of the other, which ought not to be suffered, and certainly is not intended to be suffered: Some farther Words therefore seem to be necessary.

3. I should be glad to have a Copy to send to Congress of the Reglements dèja établis, mentioned in the 6th. Article. It is the more necessary as the 7th. Article engages us to observe them.

4. I approve much of the 9th. & 10th. Articles which your Excellency has added. They are reasonable and just.

5. In Article 12. It seems to me that it would be well to omit the Words [que seront] in the 6th. and 7th. Lines;3 and to add, after the Word [respectifs] in the 9th. Line, the following Words of Explanation [c’est à dire les Armes et Munitions de Guerre de toute Espece].4

I submit these Remarks to your Excellency’s Judgment, and I am with great Respect, Sir, Your most obedient & most humble Servant

B Franklin

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

8The Portuguese ambassador to the French court. This letter is the earliest evidence of BF’s ongoing negotiations for a commercial treaty between the United States and Portugal. BF comments here on Sousa Coutinho’s counterproposal to the now-missing plan for a treaty that BF had supplied at the ambassador’s invitation. The counterproposal as sent to Congress, with BF’s suggested changes marked, is published immediately below; see the headnote there for background on the negotiations.

9In L’Air de Lamotte’s hand, with BF adding the final portion of the complimentary close. Located among BF’s papers, this seems to be his retained copy.

1June 4.

2Here and below, the brackets and underlining are BF’s.

3Article 12, which had to have been supplied by BF, closely resembles Article 5 of the American commissioners’ June 29 proposals to Hartley, with the exception of the phrase on which BF is here commenting, beginning with “que seront” and ending with “leurs Traités respectifs”. Sousa Coutinho must have added this phrase.

4A general definition of contraband had to be included because Sousa Coutinho had removed Congress’ Article XVI, which defined it specifically.

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