Thomas Jefferson Papers

American Commissioners to De Souza, 9 September 1784

American Commissioners to De Souza

Passy, near Paris Septr. 9th 1784


The United States of America in Congress assembled, judging that an Intercourse between the Subjects of [her most Faithfull Majesty of Portugal]1 and the Citizens of the Said States founded on the Principles of Equality, Reciprocity, and friendship, may be of mutual Advantage to both Nations, on the twelfth day of May last, issued their Commission under the Seal of the Said States, to the Subscribers as their Ministers Plenipotentiary, giving to them or the Majority of them Full Power and Authority, for them the Said States and in their Name to confer, treat and negotiate with the Ambassador, Minister or Commissioner of [her Said Most Faithfull Majesty of Portugal]1 vested with full and Sufficient Powers, of and concerning a Treaty of Amity and Commerce, to make and receive Propositions for such Treaty and to conclude and Sign the same transmitting it to the Said United States in Congress assembled for their final Ratification.

We have now the Honour to inform your Excellency that We have received this Commission in due Form2 and that We are here ready to enter on the Negotiation,3 whenever a Full power from [her Said Most Faithfull Majesty of Portugal]1 shall appear for that Purpose.

We have further the Honour to request of your Excellency that you would transmit this Information to your Court, and to be with great Respect your Excellency’s most obedient and most humble Servants.4

Dft (DNA: PCC, No. 86); in the hand of John Adams; at foot of text: “His Excellency the Comte de Sousa Ambassador from Portugal at the Court of Versailles. Son Excellence, Monsieur Monsieur Le Comte de Souza Ambassadeur de leurs Majestes tres Fideles a la Cour de France En son Hotel a Paris”; endorsed: “NB Nine Letters dated 22 Septr. 84. Do. Favi 30 Septr. 84”; endorsed by Humphreys: “Paris Septr. 9 & 22 1784 to The Ambassadors of Portugal & Other [States]”; endorsed by TJ: “Portugal.”

TJ, Adams, Franklin, and Humphreys met at Passy on 30 Aug., read their instructions, and “agreed to meet every day at this place until the objects of the Commissions shall be properly arranged, and put as far as may be, into the best train of execution.” On that day they resolved to instruct John Paul Jones, who was authorized by Congress to receive prize money due in Europe, to apply to the Court of Denmark for the prizes captured by the Alliance frigate and carried into Bergen, informing him that the Commissioners would render any assistance in their power. On 31 Aug. the Commissioners agreed to announce officially to the court of Versailles the object of their mission and to inform David Hartley, minister from Great Britain, that they were ready to proceed with a treaty of commerce with Great Britain. On 4 Sep. they “gave information to the Baron de Walterstorff Minister plenipotentiary from His Majesty the King of Denmark that they had received a Commission for negotiating a Treaty of Amity and Commerce with the Court of Denmark, and desired that he would announce to his Court that they were ready to proceed on the negotiation” (Minutes of the Commissioners, DNA: PCC, No. 116). On 9 Sep. the Commissioners also sent the above letter, with minor variations (see entry under this date and notes 1–4, below) to De Thulemeier. On 13 Sep., Franklin wrote to Spinola, minister from Genoa, in reply to. a letter from Spinola of 9 Sep. in which Spinola inquired for permission to send a consul to Boston, incorporating in his reply: “previous to the appointment of a Consul, some convention will be necessary, that may ascertain his powers, privileges, &c., and that such a convention will most naturally follow a Treaty of Amity and Commerce; we take this occasion to inform you of our having full powers for making such Treaties; and that we are willing and ready to enter into a negotiation for that purpose with the Most serene Government of Genoa, whenever it shall be to them agreeable” (RC of Spinola to Franklin, DNA: PCC, No. 86; FC of Franklin to Spinola, PCC: No. 116; both printed in Dipl. Corr., 1783–89 description begins The Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States of America, from the Signing of the Definitive Treaty of Peace … to the Adoption of the Constitution, Washington, Blair & Rives, 1837, 3 vol. description ends , i, 506–7). On 15 Sep. the Commissioners “exhibited officially to the Count de Vergennes Minister and Secretary of State … the Commission of the United States in Congress assembled authorizing them to negotiate and conclude a supplementary Treaty between the United States and His Most Christian Majesty, a Copy whereof was left with the Count; who informed them, in substance as follows, ‘that he should always be ready to enter on negotiations, and receive propositions which might be of mutual advantage and tend to cement the Union and encrease the harmony which prevailed between the two nations’” (Minutes of the Commissioners, DNA: PCC, No. 116). On 22 Sep. the above letter was sent to D’Aranda and others, and on 30 Sep. to Favi, qq.v. The variations in the texts of these letters are noted below.

1For the text in brackets (supplied) the following instructions are given at the end of Tr to D’Aranda, 22 Sep., for the substitutions to be made in each letter: “chang[ing] only the style of the several Courts exactly in conformity to the expressions made use of in the original Commissions.”

2The following was deleted in Dft at this point: “which is to continue in Force for a Term not exceeding two Years from the Date of it.”

3The following is inserted in the letter to Thulemeier at this point: “and to reconsider and compleat the plan of a Treaty which has already been transmitted by your Excellency to your Court.” De Thulemeier had approached John Adams early in 1784, and negotiations for a treaty with Prussia were in process prior to TJ’s arrival in France (John Adams to the President of Congress, 9 Mch. 1784, Dipl. Corr., 1783–1789, i, 435–7).

4There are no signatures attached to Dft to De Souza; FC to De Thulemeier, 9 Sep., and to D’Aranda and others, 22 Sep., read: “(signed) John Adams Benjamin Franklin Thomas Jefferson.”

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