Thomas Jefferson Papers

Report on the Definitive Treaty of Peace and the Letter from the American Commissioners, [16 December 1783]

Report on the Definitive Treaty of Peace and the Letter from the American Commissioners

[16 December 1783]

The committee to whom were referred the Definitive treaty of peace between the United states of America and his Britannic majesty, and the joint letter from Mr. Adams, Mr. Franklin and Mr. Jay, have agreed to the following report.

Resolved that it is the opinion of this committee that the said Definitive treaty ought to be ratified by the United states in Congress assembled.1

That a Proclamation should be immediately issued notifying the said definitive treaty and ratification to the several states of the Union, and requiring their observance thereof.2

That Congress should immediately and earnestly recommend to the legislatures of the respective states, to provide for the restitution of all estates, rights and properties, which have been confiscated, belonging to real British subjects; and also of the estates, rights, and properties of persons resident in districts which were in possession of his Britannic majesty’s arms at any time between the 30th. day of November 1782. and the day of December 17833 and who have not borne arms against the said United states and that persons of any other description shall have free liberty to go to any part or parts of any of the thirteen United states, and therein to remain twelvemonths unmolested in their endeavors to obtain the restitution of such of their estates, rights and properties as may have been confiscated; and that Congress should also immediately and earnestly recommend to the several states a reconsideration and revision of all acts or laws regarding the premises, so as to render the said laws or acts perfectly consistent not only with justice and equity, but with that spirit of conciliation, which, on the return of the blessings of peace, should universally prevail: and that Congress should also immediately and earnestly recommend to the several states, that the estates, rights and properties of such last mentioned persons, should be restored to them, they refunding to any persons, who may be now in possession, the bon fide price (where any has been given) which such persons may have paid on purchasing any of the said lands, rights or properties since the confiscation.

MS (DLC: PCC, No. 29); endorsed by Charles Thomson: “Report of Mr Jefferson &c On Definitive treaty Delivered 16 Decr. 1783 Read.—Entd. Passed Jany 14. 1784.” With the exceptions noted below, the MS is entirely in TJ’s hand. According to Committee Book (PCC, No. 186), the committee on the Definitive Treaty and the joint letter from the American ministers in Paris (dated 10 Sep. 1783 and printed in Wharton, Dipl. Corr. Amer. Rev., vi, 687–91) was appointed on 13 Dec. and consisted of TJ, Gerry, Ellery, Read, and Hawkins. Read on 16 Dec., the Report was adopted in an altered form on 14 Jan. 1784; see under that date.

On the subject of confiscated property and admission of “persons of any other description” to any part of the United States, one of the Virginia delegates wrote the following on 10 Dec. to a member of the General Assembly: “Your taking up the subject of the Citizen Bill, was, in my judgment, premature, before the recommendations of Congress, on that subject had come forth. I am, myself, principled against refugees and British debts. I think the former will make wretched Republicans; and to the latter, in my opinion, all just title has been forfeited. But let us see what the faith of America as a caution, and her interest as a people, require, and leaving all prejudice against those people aside, act in conformity thereto. Our conduct, or rather the conduct of some very wild and unthinking people, scattered throughout the United States, has hurt us much in the eyes of all Europe, where that article in favor of refugees is considered as very humiliating to Great—Britain, and such as our honor and interest call on us to explain and adhere to liberty” (Pa. Journal, 3 Jan. 1784, entitled: “Richmond [Virginia] Dec. 20. Extract of a letter from a Member of Congress, to his correspondent in this City, a gentleman in the General Assembly, dated Annapolis, December 10th, 1783”). This letter was probably written by Hardy, Lee, Mercer, or Monroe; the sentiments expressed about debts and the fact that it is not recorded in SJL make it certain that TJ was not the author. On TJ’s later connection with the recommendation here made to the states concerning confiscated property and Loyalists, see an excellent summary in Malone, Jefferson, ii, 414–17.

1This paragraph was corrected by deletions and interlineations in Charles Thomson’s hand to read: “Resolved that the said Definitive treaty be ratified by the United states in Congress assembled.”

2Opposite this paragraph, also in Thomson’s hand, is the word “Agreed.”

3Corrected in Thomson’s hand to read: “the 14th day of Jany 1784.”

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