Commission for Negotiating Treaties of Amity and Commerce
The United States in Congress assembled
To all to whom these presents shall come or be made known send Greeting
Whereas an intercourse between the Subjects of Her Imperial Majesty of all the Russias and the Citizens of the United States of America1 founded on the principles of equality reciprocity and friendship may be of mutual advantage to both Nations2 Now therefore know ye that we reposing special trust and confidence in the integrity prudence and ability of our trusty and beloved the Honorable John Adams late one of our Ministers plenipotentiary for negotiating a peace and heretofore a delegate in Congress from the State of Massachusetts and Chief Justice of the said State, the Honorable Doctor Benjamin Franklin our Minister plenipotentiary at the Court of Versailles and late another of our Ministers plenipotentiary for negotiating a peace, and the Honorable Thomas Jefferson a delegate in Congress from the State of Virginia and late Governor of the said State,3 have nominated constituted and appointed and by these presents do nominate constitute and appoint them the said John Adams Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson our Ministers plenipotentiary giving to them or the majority of them full power and authority,4 for us and in our name to confer treat and negotiate with the Ambassador Minister or Commissioner of†5 Her said Imperial Majesty of all the Russias1 vested with full and Sufficient powers of and concerning a Treaty*5 of Amity and Commerce, to make and receive propositions for such Treaty6 and to conclude and sign the same, transmitting it to the United States in Congress assembled for their final ratification. This Commission to continue in force for a term not exceeding two years from the date hereof.7
In Testimony whereof we have caused the Seal of the United States to be hereunto affixed. Witness His Excellency Thomas Mifflin president this twelfth day of May in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty-four and of the Sovereignty and Independence of the United States of America the eighth.
Chas. Thomson Secry
Commissions of the same tenor and date were issued for treating with the Courts hereafter specified in the margin8 except that the expressions thereunto severally annexed were substituted for those marked in the preceding Commission, viz.
- Germany—His Imperial Majesty.9
- Prussia—His Prussian Majesty.10
- Denmark—His Majesty the King of Denmark.11
- Saxony—“The Citizens of the United States and the Subjects of the Most serene Elector of Saxony.”
- Hamburg—“The Citizens of America and The Imperial City Hamburg.”
- England—His Britannic Majesty.
- Spain—His Catholice Majesty.
- Portugal—Their Most Faithful Majesties.12
- Naples—His Majesty the King of the two Sicilies.
- Sardinia—His Sardiniane Majesty.
- The Pope—“The United States of America and the Dominions of His Holiness the Pope.”13
- Venice—“The United States of America and the Most serene Republic of Venice.”
- Genoa—“The United States of America and the Most serene Republic of Genoa.”
- Tuscany—“The Citizens of the United States of America and the Subjects and People of the Most serene Grand Duke of Tuscany.”
- The Porte—“The Sublime Porte.”
- Morocco—“The High, Glorious, mighty and Most Noble Prince King and Emperor of the Kingdoms of Fez, Morocco, Taffilete, Sus and the whole Algarbe and the Territories thereof.* a treaty of Amity, or of Amity and Commerce.”
- Algiers—“The Citizens of the United States of America and the Subjects of the Dey and Government of Algiers.” *a treaty of Amity or of Amity and Commerce
- Tunis—“The Citizens of the United States of America and the People of the State and Kingdom of Tunis.” †“The Regency or Government of Tunis.” *“a treaty of Amity or of Amity and Commerce.”
- Tripoli—“The United States of America and the City and Kingdom of Tripoli.” †The Most illustrious Lords and Governors of the City and Kingdom of Tripoli. *a treaty of Amity or of Amity and Commerce.
MS (DNA: PCC, No. 116, p. 21–5); in a clerk’s hand. Dft (DNA: PCC, No. 49, p. 53–60); entirely in Thomson’s hand, with variations indicated in part in notes below. This is evidently the master form prepared by Thomson for use by the engrossing clerk, and represents the style of the commission as finally approved by Congress on 11 May 1784 according to “the Gerrian taste” (JCC description begins Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, ed. W. C. Ford and others, Washington, 1904–1937 description ends , xxvii, 372–4). Thomson’s “simple draught [that] did not suit the taste of our sovereign body” exists also in two forms: a Dft (DNA: PCC, No. 49, p. 27–8) and a Tr (same, p. 29–30), both in Thomson’s hand and both identical save for minor variations. The differences between Thomson’s form and that approved by Congress are indicated in notes below, where, for convenience, the two types are referred to as “Thomson’s form” and “Gerry’s form.” The engrossed and attested copies of the twenty commissions were, of course, the ones that Thomson sent to TJ “by this Conveyance”; of these, eighteen are in MHi. Each of them is signed by Mifflin, attested by Thomson, has a paper seal of the United States wafered to the paper, and is endorsed by Benjamin Franklin with the name of the country (but see note 9). The engrossed commissions for England and Portugal have not been found.
In DNA: PCC, No. 55, p. 263–6 there is a letter in Thomson’s hand endorsed “Letter 3d March 1785 Chas Thomson” with no name of addressee given (Tr. same, No. 49, p. 61–3), but probably addressed to John Jay, reading in part as follows: “On the seventeenth of May 1784 twenty Commissions were made and sent by Mr. Jefferson for Messrs. Adams Franklin and Jefferson, all dated the 12 May agreeable to a form prescribed by Congress.” Thomson added that the form of the commission contained blanks, and he then listed in order the phraseology used for the various countries in the two passages represented in the present text by italics. To this there were two exceptions that Thomson explained as follows: (1) “Vienna was I think left blank to be filled by the Ministers, it not being known whether the Emperor would treat in that quality or under some other title for his hereditary dominions” (see note 9); and (2) “Morroco I think was left blank. In the following Commissions [Saxony, Hamburg, Genoa, Tuscany, Rome, Venice, Tripoli, Tunis, Algiers] there was a transposition so as to leave the first blank after the word ‘America,’ thus Whereas An Intercourse between the Citizens of the United States of America and—.” Thomson was mistaken in thinking that a blank was left in the commission for Morocco, but correct as to the transposition.
It is evident that Thomson must have preferred his own form not alone for its Quaker simplicity, but also because it obviated the necessity for a very complicated clerical problem and for a great deal of paper work made necessary by Gerry’s preference for titles. But it is also clear that Gerry was closer to customary diplomatic usage, thereby inspiring Thomson to coin what appears to be the first and is certainly the least opprobrious of the terms based on Gerry’s name—the Gerrian Taste (another, of course, being gerrymander).
1. For the text to be substituted for the italicized words in each commission, see list of countries following form of commission proper.
2. Up to this point Thomson’s form (Tr) differed from Gerry’s form by reading as follows: “Whereas we have judged it proper and necessary that treaties of amity and commerce be made between the United States of America and the Commercial powers of Europe or bordering upon the Mediterranean in order to facilitate and cultivate a friendly intercourse between them as well as for the purpose of rendering the necessaries, conveniences and comforts of human life more easy to be obtained and more general,” &c. Thomson’s Dft varies slightly from the reading of his Tr.
3. Thomson’s form did not include the honorific and identified each person by the state from which he came: “… our trusty and beloved John Adams of Massachusetts Benjamin Franklin of Pensylvania and Thomas Jefferson of Virginia.” It was chiefly this simple form that offended “the Gerrian taste.”
4. Thomson’s form added at this point the words “general and special.”
5. For the variation in text in certain commissions, see notes 10, 11, 12, 13. The asterisks and daggers are, of course, keyed to the phrases following the names of countries at end of text.
6. The passage “Her said Imperial Majesty of all the Russias vested with full and Sufficient powers of and concerning a Treaty of Amity and Commerce, to make and receive propositions for such Treaty” in Gerry’s form took the place of the following in Thomson’s form: “the powers before described, duly authorized and empowered, in making and receiving propositions for such treaties of Amity and commerce” (Tr). Dft of Thomson’s form reads: “<Emperors, potentates, kings or states whom it may concern> powers before described vested with full and sufficient powers and to make and receive propositions for such treaties of Amity and Commerce.”
7. Thomson’s form (Dft) ended at this point, though Tr added only the words “In Testimony” from the attesting clause.
8. In MS the names of countries are written in margin; they do not follow same order as given in Dft.
9. Dft does not include Germany; engrossed commission does not give name of country and is endorsed by Franklin merely “Emperor” (MHi).
10. Dft reads: “for Prussia. Whereas An intercourse between the subjects of his Prussian Majesty and the Citizens.”
11. Dft reads: “for Denmark. Whereas an intercourse between his Majesty the King of Denmark and the citizens &c.”
12. Dft reads: “Portugal. Whereas an intercourse between the subjects of her most faithful Majesty of Portugal.”
13. Dft reads, in part: “After Commissioner leave a blank.” The blank appears in engrossed commission at the point of the second italicized passage in the form printed above.