Benjamin Franklin Papers

The American Commissioners to the Duke of Dorset: Résumé, 9 December 1784

The American Commissioners to the Duke of Dorset3

AL (draft)4 and copy: Massachusetts Historical Society; copy: National Archives

(Passy, December 9, 1784: We received your letter of November 24, and are greatly satisfied with your ministers’ assurances. As to the previous stipulation proposed by your Court, we can only say that if by this proposition it is intended that the United States should appoint a minister to reside at your court, we, not being authorized to answer, shall send a copy of your letter to Congress, which will make a determination. If it is intended only that the proposed negotiation should be conducted in London, we can inform you that we three have full power as ministers plenipotentiary to treat and conclude on all the subjects in question.5 Although we do not believe, along with you, that it would be inconsistent with the dignity of the United States to treat in a third place, and although it would be inconvenient for us to leave Paris, yet we would nonetheless agree to go to London, as we are not limited by our commission or instructions to any particular place. We await further information, and if your ministers wish to meet us in London, we will go without loss of time.⟩

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

3Published in Adams Papers, XVI, 446–7; Jefferson Papers, VII, 560–1.

4In JA’s hand.

5This had been clearly stated in one of the American commissioners’ Oct. 28 letters to Dorset. They suspected that his reply, with its “stipulation,” was an attempt to “gain time in order to see how [British] schemes will work without a treaty”: TJ to James Monroe, Dec. 10, 1784, in Jefferson Papers, VII, 564. JA and TJ would go to London if necessary, apprehensive as they were about the trouble and expense of the journey and how it would then oblige them to honor Spain’s request that a treaty be negotiated in Madrid. BF’s indisposition would excuse him from such travel, especially as only two commissioners were required to conclude a treaty. See the letter just cited; JA to Elbridge Gerry, Dec. 12, 1784, in Adams Papers, XVI, 451; and Bancroft to Carmarthen, Dec. 8, 1784, in Giunta, Emerging Nation, 11, 506–7.

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