Report on the Ratification of the Provisional Peace Treaty
[Philadelphia] April 15, 1783
Resolved1 a Committee be appointed to prepare and lay before Congress a draft of a ratification of the articles entered into between the Commissioners of the United States & the commissioner of His Britannic Majesty at Paris on the 30th day of November last.
Resolved that the Commander in Chief be directed to enter into preparatory2 arrangements relative to the 7th. article of the said treaty with the Commanders in Chief of the British land & naval forces in America; and that a Committee be appointed to prepare a letter to him on this subject.3
AD, Papers of the Continental Congress, National Archives.
1. In the Journals there is a paragraph that precedes this resolution. It reads:
“Congress took into consideration the articles agreed upon at Paris, on the 30 day of November last, entitled ‘Articles agreed upon by and between Richard Oswald, esq. the commissioner of his Britannic Majesty, for treating of peace with the commissioners of the United States of America, in behalf of his said Majesty on the one part, and John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, John Jay and Henry Laurens, four of the commissioners of the said states, for treating of peace with the commissioner of his said Majesty, on their behalf, on the other part; to be inserted in, and to constitute the treaty of peace proposed to be concluded between the crown of Great Britain and the said United States; but which treaty is not to be concluded until terms of a peace shall be agreed upon between Great Britain and France, and his Britannic Majesty shall be ready to conclude such treaty accordingly;’ and thereupon.…” (JCC description begins Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (Washington, 1904–1937). description ends , XXIV, 241.)
During the debate on April 14, 1783, H had objected to a committee report which stated that it was not necessary for Congress to ratify the provisional peace treaty and that a discharge of prisoners of war would be “premature and unadvisable.” “Mr. Hamilton,” Madison recorded, “contended that Congress were bound, by the tenor of the Provl. Treaty immediately to Ratify it, and to execute the several stipulations inserted in it; particularly that relating to discharge of Prisoners.” Two days later H “acknowledged that he began to view the obligation of the … Treaty in a different light and in consequence wished to vary the direction to the Commander in chief from a positive to a preparatory one …” (“Notes of Debates in the Continental Congress,” MS, James Madison Papers, Library of Congress). Madison dates this statement April 16, but according to the Journals it was made on April 15.
2. H first wrote and then crossed out the word “necessary.”
3. On April 16, 1783, H made a motion to delete the last part of the report which read “and that a Committee be appointed to prepare a letter to him on this subject.” Congress refused to accept it (JCC description begins Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (Washington, 1904–1937). description ends , XXIV, 252).