Thomas Jefferson Papers

Proclamation Announcing Ratification of Definitive Treaty, 14 January 1784

Proclamation Announcing Ratification of Definitive Treaty

By the United states2 in Congress assembled.

A Proclamation.

Whereas Definitive articles of peace and friendship between the3 United states of America4 and his Britannic majesty were concluded and signed at Paris on the third day of September 1783. by the plenipotentiaries5 of the said United states and of his said Britannic majesty duly and respectively authorized for that purpose which definitive articles are in these words following [here insert them.]6

And we the United states in Congress assembled having seen and duly considered the definitive articles aforesaid did by a certain act under the seal of the United states bearing date this 14 day of Jany 17847 approve, ratify and confirm the same and every part and clause thereof, engaging and promising that we would sincerely and faithfully perform and observe the same, and never suffer them to be violated by any one, or transgressed in any manner, as far as should be in our power.

And being sincerely disposed to carry the said articles into execution truly, honestly and with good faith according to the intent and meaning thereof we have thought proper by these presents to notify the premisses to all the good citizens of these states, hereby requiring8 and enjoining all9 bodies of magistracy Legislative Executive and Judiciary, all persons bearing office civil or military of whatever rank, degree, or powers and all others the good citizens of these states of every vocation and10 condition11 that reverencing those stipulations entered into on their behalf under the authority of that federal bond by which their existence as an independant people is bound up together, and is known and acknowleged by the nations of the world; and with that good faith which is every man’s surest guide, within their several offices, jurisdictions and vocations, they carry into effect the said Definitive articles and every clause and sentence thereof sincerely, strictly and completely. Given under the seal of the United states. Witness his Excellency Thomas Mifflin our President at Annapolis this 14 day of Jany 178412 and of the sovereignty and independance of the United states of America13 the eighth.

MS (DLC: PCC, No. 29); entirely in TJ’s hand, but with amendments made in Congress inserted in the hand of Charles Thomson. The more important alterations made by TJ are indicated in the notes below.

Although the committee appointed on 13 Dec. 1783 was directed only “To prepare a form of ratification” of the Definitive Treaty, it is obvious that TJ drew up the present text of a proclamation at the same time and no doubt handed it in on 16 Dec. along with the draft of the text of ratification (see notes to that document). It is a singular fact that TJ was the author both of the document of 1776 that announced the decision to assert independence and of that of 1783 that proclaimed its achievement. Aside from having the same author, both documents also have in common the fact that they were announcements of acts already performed, not the acts themselves. Thus the present document bears the same relation to the resolution of ratification of 14 Jan. 1784 that the Declaration of Independence does to the resolution of independence of 2 July 1776—that is, it proclaimed to the world what Congress had already done. In still another sense both documents enjoy a common distinction: they were presented to the world in broadside form by John Dunlap, whose typographical presentation in both instances was remarkably similar, perhaps consciously so.

Having ratified the Treaty and authorized the issuance of a proclamation, Congress then took up the third recommendation of the committee that had reported on 16 Dec. 1783—that is, that Congress recommend to the states to provide for the restitution of estates of bona fide British subjects that had been confiscated (see report of the committee under date). This final part of the committee’s report was adopted the same day, 14 Jan. 1784, and it was “Ordered, that a copy of the proclamation of this date, together with the recommendation, be transmitted to the several states by the secretary” (JCC description begins Worthington C. Ford and others, eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, Washington, D.C., 1904–37, 34 vols. description ends , xxvi, 31). TJ, knowing what a burden of paper work lay on Charles Thomson, took no chances of delay and so sent under his own frank a copy of the proclamation and of the recommendation to Gov. Harrison on 17 Jan. (see both letters of that date).

Thereupon, having dispatched this important business, Congress resolved on the following Wednesday to “celebrate the final ratification” by means of another public entertainment; Read, Howell, and Williamson were appointed a committee to see that this was done (same, p. 31; Committee Book, DLC: PCC, No. 186). Pennsylvania had already taken the lead in preparing for a celebration. The Penna. Journal for 31 Dec. 1783 announced: “We are well informed that the public demonstrations of joy, by authority of the state, on the definitive treaty, will be exhibited in this city, about the 20th of January. … It is expected that this exhibition will be the most magnificent that has ever been made in America. It will consist of a triumphal arch, 50 feet wide and 40 feet high, exactly in the stile of the triumphal arches among the Romans. It is to be built in Market street, between Sixth and Seventh streets. The appearance of this kind of building is extremely noble; but that now to be erected will be rendered uncommonly grand and beautiful, by its being illuminated. It will also be enriched with a number of emblems and inscriptions suitable to the occasion, disposed in the frize, pannels, ballustrade, and pedestals. … The ingenious Capt. Peale is now preparing the paintings; and those figures that are finished have afforded the highest satisfaction to all persons who have seen them. Among them is a striking likeness of our justly beloved Commander in Chief. As the illuminations will continue for many hours, the spectators will have an opportunity of examining the whole work at leisure. From the ballustrade will be thrown up a constant succession of fine fire works.” Unfortunately, the “great crowds of spectators” who assembled on Thursday, 22 Jan. 1784, to witness the lighting of the triumphal arch did not have an opportunity to examine the work at leisure, but they did get an even more spectacular exhibit than had been promised. The Penna. Journal announced on 24 Jan. 1784 that “by some unlucky accident, the paintings took fire, and were almost instantly consumed; this set fire to a great number of rockets which were on the stage, when a sergeant Stewart, of the artillery, was killed, by one of the rockets entering his head, and four or five persons were hurt.” This disaster did not stop the indefatigable artist; Peale at once began repainting the pictures at his own expense, but sympathetic Philadelphians took up a public purse as a testimonial of “their regard for his particular merit on this occasion.” By mid-March the work was almost complete again and this time it was announced that there “is to be no display of rockets or other fire-works” (same, 28 Jan. and 13 Mch. 1784).

In Virginia the General Assembly had been even more forehanded, if less spectacular, by giving a ball “to celebrate the arrival of the Definitive Treaty” and when the ratification arrived, the Council advised Gov. Harrison to take measures for having it proclaimed with “the usual solemnity” (same, 31 Dec. 1783, under dateline of Richmond, 20 Dec.; 3 Feb. 1784, MS Va. Council Jour., Vi). But Harrison had already acted by directing the sheriff of Henrico to proclaim the Treaty “with all the solemnity in your power on Thursday next, at the courthouse, in the market place, and the capitol. I shall give orders to the officer commanding here to fire an American salute after each proclamation of which you will please to give him notice by signal” (Harrison to Prosser, 2 Feb. 1784, Executive Letter Book, Vi).

1TJ was no doubt the author of the resolution introducing the text of the proclamation, as he was of that embodying the form of ratification which immediately preceded it, but no MS of this resolution appears to have survived. But, in accord with the report of the committee headed by TJ (see under 16 Dec. 1783), Congress forthwith “Resolved, That a proclamation be immediately issued, notifying the said definitive treaty and ratification to the several states of the union, and requiring their observance thereof in the form following”: it will be noticed that the phraseology closely parallels that of TJ’s resolution introducing the ratification (JCC description begins Worthington C. Ford and others, eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, Washington, D.C., 1904–37, 34 vols. description ends , xxvi, 29).

2The words “of America” are deleted here. The deletion mark is the same kind of heavy line employed by Thomson for alterations that were clearly made by Congress; hence this also was probably made by amendment on 14 Jan. rather than by TJ.

3This word interlined by Thomson in substitution for “these,” deleted.

4TJ had written “of America” and then deleted it; Thomson interlined these two words, probably as a part of the amendment in Congress indicated in note 2.

5This word interlined in substitution for “Commissioners,” deleted; TJ made a similar alteration in the text of the ratification.

6Brackets are in MS.

7TJ originally wrote: “bearing date the  day of December 1783” which Thomson altered by interlining, overwriting, and filling in the blank to read as above.

8This word interlined in the hand of William Ellery, who was a member of the committee appointed 13 Dec. 1783 to “prepare a form of ratification,” a fact which lends support to the assumption that that committee considered the matter of a proclamation also.

9TJ deleted the words “persons and” at this point.

10TJ first wrote “whatever vocation or” and then altered the phrase to read as above.

11At this point TJ deleted the following three lines: “in obedience to those delegations, moral, political, and legal whereby they are called to the observance of stipulations duly and regularly derived from their several laws and constitutions, and with that good faith which is every honest man’s best comfort, that within their” and then wisely substituted for them the corresponding passage given above.

12TJ originally wrote: “this day of Dec. 1783” which Thomson altered by interlining, overwriting, and filling in the blank to read as above.

13Two preceding words interlined by Thomson.

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