Benjamin Franklin Papers

[Thomas Mifflin] to the American Peace Commissioners, 5 January 1784

[Thomas Mifflin] to the American Peace Commissioners1

Press copy of copy: American Philosophical Society; copy:2 William L. Clements Library; press copy of copy: Massachusetts Historical Society

Annapolis Jany. 5. 1784. In Congress


I am directed to inform you3 “that the definitive Treaty after a very long Passage arrived during an Adjournment of Congress from Princeton to this Place. No more than seven States are yet assembled. These are unanimously desirous to ratify the Treaty and the measure will be taken up as soon as nine States are assembled.4 In the mean while as the weather is severe and travelling extreamly difficult from a heavy fall of Snow, it is to be feared that the Ratification may not arrive in the time limited for the Exchange,5 and that inconveniences may arise unless the time for exchanging the Ratification should be extended.”

I am with the highest Esteem & Respect Gentlemen, Your obedient humble Servt.—

The Honorable John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, John Jay & Henry Laurens.

1BF assumed at first that this letter was from Charles Thomson, as the MS he received (now missing) was unsigned but in Thomson’s hand: BF to Thomson, March 9, 1784 (National Archives). Thomson later informed him that the letter was from Mifflin, who had accidentally sealed it before signing: Thomson to BF, Aug. 13, 1784, in Smith, Letters, XXI, 771. BF called it a letter from Thomson when sending copies to his colleagues: BF to Hartley, March 11, 1784 (Library of Congress); BF to JA, March 15, 1784 (Mass. Hist. Soc.).

2Made by Hartley from the copy (now missing) that BF sent him on March 11. Hartley erroneously indicated that it was signed by Thomson. The surviving press copies, made from two different copies by L’Air de Lamotte, left the signature line blank.

3The quotation marks that follow are puzzling; the entire text, including this initial phrase, was approved by Congress on Jan. 5. The committee that drafted this letter for Mifflin’s signature had been authorized to do so on Jan. 3: JCC, XXVI, 4–5, 8.

4The assembled states were Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina. Nine were needed for ratification: JCC, XXV, 836–7. A motion to authorize seven states to ratify the treaty was debated in late December but never put to a vote, and a compromise motion to ratify tentatively was referred to committee on Jan. 2: Smith, Letters, XXI, 235n; Jefferson Papers, VI, 424–6, 439–42.

5The treaty specified a time limit of six months, which would make the deadline March 3: XL, 574.

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