Benjamin Franklin Papers

The American Commissioners to Richard Henry Lee: Résumé, [9] February 1785

The American Commissioners to Richard Henry Lee

Copy:2 National Archives

⟨Paris, February [9],3 1785: In our letter to Congress of December 15, we enclosed our letter to the Portuguese ambassador with our proposed draft treaty. Since then, he wrote to inform us that he had received it and forwarded it to his court (Enclosure No. 1).4 Baron Thulemeier wrote a similar letter (No. 2) and requested, as he had done in his letter of October 8, that we choose a port in the Prussian king’s dominion for trade between our two countries. We supposed that we had answered this by proposing in our draft treaty that all places in the dominions of either party should be open for commerce to the subjects or citizens of the other. As Thulemeier repeated the king’s desire that we choose some place, we answered him (No. 3) and now ask for instructions from Congress.5

A few days ago, Baron de Walterstorff called on us separately to inform us that he had been granted permission to return to Copenhagen on personal business, and had been asked to bring with him our proposals, so that the court might consider them during his visit. He communicated this more particularly in a letter (No. 4), which we answered (No. 5), enclosing the draft treaty.6

We also enclose the answers we received from the chargé d’affaires of Naples and the ambassador of Turin (Nos. 6 and 7).7 We do not propose to respond, unless future overtures from them or other circumstances render it necessary or proper.8

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

2In Humphreys’ letterbook, where he titled it “3d Report to Congress.”

3The date, left blank on the copy, has been supplied from a notation in the congressional record made on May 2, when the letter was received: JCC, XXVIII, 324n.

4Sousa Coutinho’s letter of Dec. 22, summarized above.

5Thulemeier’s Dec. 10 letter and the commissioners’ response of Jan. 21 are above.

6Walterstorff wrote a letter to TJ on Feb. 1, mentioning his visits to BF and JA and requesting the commissioners’ proposals. TJ answered on behalf of all the commissioners on Feb. 3, enclosing a draft treaty. “To emancipate commerce from the shackles which oppress it, to encrease the general happiness, and lessen the miseries of mankind are the objects of these propositions, and we flatter ourselves that the means proposed are founded in the most perfect equality and reciprocity of right,” he wrote, adding that the commissioners would entertain any “improvements” that the Danish court might suggest: Jefferson Papers, VII, 631–2, 633. Walterstorff did not return to Paris, leaving unsettled not only the treaty negotiations but also the matter of prize money owed to the crew of the Alliance, which the American commissioners were instructed to obtain: XLI, 155–6. In February, 1786, Baron von Blome, the Danish minister at the French court, informed TJ that Walterstorff had been reassigned to the West Indies and that Denmark did not consider a treaty necessary for the continuance of trade between the two countries: Jefferson Papers, IX, 514–15.

7The letters from Pio, Jan. 22, and Scarnafiggi, Feb. 2, are summarized above.

8Immediately following the present letter in Humphreys’ letterbook is an entry dated “Paris Febry. 8th. 1785”. Humphreys notes that “About this time” the commissioners received 13 large packets through the French post office “containing the Minutes of the Proceedings of the Court of Admiralty at the Cape, and the adjudications as legal prizes of an equal number of British Vessels captured by armed Vessels belonging to the United States of America during the late war; which said prizes were ordered to be disposed of for the benifit of the Captors, until it should be otherwise determined by the American Ministers at the Court of Versailles—”. The commissioners, Humphreys writes, decided to deposit the papers in the office of the American minister plenipotentiary. We have found no evidence of further action taken by BF or his successor, TJ.

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