Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to Robert R. Livingston, 12 June 1783

To Robert R. Livingston

ALS and transcript: National Archives

Passy, June 12. 1783


I write to you fully by a Vessel from Nantes, which I hope will reach you before this.4 If not, this may inform you, That the Ratification of the Treaty with Sweden is come, & ready to be exchang’d when I shall receive that from Congress;5 That the Treaty with Denmark is going on, and will probably be ready before the Commission for signing it arrives from Congress; it is on the Plan of that propos’d by Congress for Sweden:6 That Portugal has likewise propos’d to treat with us, and the Ambassador has earnestly urg’d me to give him a Plan for the Consideration of his Court, which I have accordingly done, and he has forwarded it:7 The Congress will send Commissions & Instructions for concluding these Treaties to whom they may think proper; it is only upon the old Authority given (by a Resolution) to myself with Messrs Deane and Lee, to treat with any European Powers, that I have ventured to begin these Treaties in consequence of Overtures from those Crowns.8 The Definitive Treaty with England is not yet concluded, their Ministry being unsettled in their Minds as to the Terms of the Commercial Part; nor is any other definitive Treaty yet compleated here, nor even the Preliminaries signed of one between Holland and England.

It is now near 5 Months since we have had a Line from you, the last being dated the 13th of January:9 Of course we know nothing of the Reception of the Preliminary Articles, or of the Opinion of Congress respecting them:1 We hop’d to have receiv’d before this time such Instructions as might have been thought proper to be sent us for rendring more perfect the definitive Treaty. We know nothing of what has been approv’d or disapprov’d. We are totally in the dark, and therefore less pressing to conclude, being still (as we have long been) in daily Expectation of hearing from you.— By chance only we learn that Barney is arriv’d; by whom went the Dispatches of the Commissioners, and a considerable Sum of Money:2 No Acknowledgment of the Receipt of that Money is yet come to hand, either to me or Mr Grand. I make no doubt that both you and Mr Morris have written; and I cannot imagine what is become of your Letters.—

With great Esteem, I have the honour to be, Sir, Your most obedient & most humble Servant

B Franklin

P.S. I beg leave to recommend to your Civilities the Bearer of this, Dr Bancroft; whom you will find a very intelligent sensible Man, well acquainted with the State of Affairs here, and who has heretofore been employ’d in the Service of Congress. I have long known him, and esteem him highly.

honble. R. R. Livingston Esqe

Notation: Letter June 12. 1783 Doct Franklin Read 30 Sept 1783 Referred to Mr. Huntington Mr Lee Mr Duane Answered by the Instruc. to our foreign Ministers3

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

4No record of it survives.

5BF had just learned of Sweden’s ratification; see BF to Pierres, June 11. Two months earlier, when sending a duplicate copy of the treaty to Livingston, BF hoped that Congress had already received the original and ratified it: XXXIX, 467. They did not ratify until July 29; see Boudinot to BF, Aug. 15.

6See the annotation of Walterstorff to BF, May 20.

7BF and the Portuguese ambassador in fact agreed upon a modified version of that draft; see BF to Sousa Coutinho, June 7, and the Portuguese counterproposal immediately following.

8XXII, 629–30; XXXVII, 204.

9Though Robert Morris wrote on Jan. 13 (XXXVIII, 580–2), no letter of that date from Livingston has been found. His letters of Jan. 2 and 6 are in XXXVIII, 537–8, 552–6.

1Livingston informed the American commissioners of the ratification in a letter of April 21: XXXIX, 486.

2Capt. Barney arrived in Philadelphia on March 12 with specie from the French government and a copy of the Nov. 30 preliminary agreement: XXXVIII, 560n; XXXIX, 380.

3A congressional committee of Samuel Huntington, Arthur Lee, and James Duane drafted instructions for American ministers abroad which were approved on Oct. 29: JCC, XXV, 631, 637, 753–7.

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