Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from William Short, with Enclosure, 23 August 1785

From William Short, with Enclosure

The Hague August 23d. 1785

Dear Sir

After waiting on Mr. Dumas we went two Days ago by Appointment to the Baron de Thulemeiers. A simple Matter of Etiquette as you will see prevented the Business on which we were, from being completed. On my producing the two Originals of the Treaty and explaining the Intention of them, the Baron de Thulemeier told us he was instructed only to receive the Copy which should be sent and to exchange for it a Copy in French which he should have prepared in his Office, adding that the established Order of the Chancelerie of the King made this in some Measure necessary, the French being the only Language which was there recieved. He observed that this was nothing more than a meer-Matter of Form, and he hoped would give us no Difficulty in accepting the Exchange. We thought ourselves by no Means at Liberty to deviate from our Instructions even in Matters apparently formal, and on mentioning our Scruples, it was proposed that each of us should consult those by whom we were employed, as the safest Mode of proceeding. The Baron de Thulemeier writes to Berlin to-day and should he recieve Permission to accept and exchange the Instruments of Treaty which you offer, he will do it without farther Delay. In the same Manner if our Answers come first we are to communicate to him what we are at Liberty to do.

Lest there should be any other Cause of Delay we thought it best to communicate at the same Time the additional Part of our Instructions respecting the Ratifications &c. He desired that they might be explained to him in writing in Order that he might ask Advice on them at Berlin, adding there would be not the smallest Doubt of our agreeing that Matter. At his Request therefore I wrote him a short Letter in Answer to one which he sent me respecting the Exchange of the Instruments, and of which I have the Honor to inclose you a Copy.

That nothing might be left undone which we could do before recieving our Answers we met Yesterday Evening and exchanged the respective full-powers in the Form prescribed. We have at present therefore only to await farther Instructions from yourself or Mr. Adams, or the return of the Courier from Berlin. I hope the Determination we took of awaiting farther Orders from you before we ventured to accept an Instrument of the Treaty in French only will meet your Approbation, and I beg the Favor of you Sir to let me know as soon as shall be convenient what you wish should be done under the Circumstances I have just described.

I shall write to Mr. Adams also by the Post of this Day on this Subject. As he has not a Copy of the Treaty in French it will not be necessary to trouble him with what I am about to add. After the Baron de Thulemeier had examined one of the Instruments of the Treaty he found a Number of little Deviations which appear evidently to be the Faults only of the Copyist, although some of them tend to make a manifest Alteration in the Sense. He has furnished me with a List of them which I inclose for your Examination Sir and to recieve your Instructions thereon. On examining the other Instrument of the Treaty, I find none of those Faults in the Baron de Thulemeiers List except three which you will observe noted below his. But on reading over that Instrument, having no other to compare it with, I thought I discovered some other Faults of the Copyist also. I have given it to be examined by the Baron de Thulemeier and have not yet recieved any Information respecting it. I have been thus prolix Sir because I wish to have the Line we are to pursue, marked out with the most particular Precision not thinking that we are at Liberty to deviate in the smallest Instance. I beg you to be assured of the Sentiments of Respect with which I have the Honor to be your most obedient Servant,

W. Short


Fautes à corriger dans la Partie françoise à la grosse du Traité
Art: 4. ligne 11. avant la fin, au lieu de dès que la raison de l’Etat l’exige, corrigez la raison d’Etat.
Art: 7. ligne 4. au lieu, de protéger et défendre, corrigez de protéger & de défendre.
Art: 11. l: 9. 10. et 11. au lieu de si ce n’est par insulte faite à la religionad’autres, corrigez pour insulte faite à la religionade l’autre.
Art: 13. à la 2de. page l: 16. au lieu de qui auroient été, corrigez qui auront été.
et l: 5 avant la fin de l’article, au lieu de le navire ne sera plus armé dans le port, corrigez amené dans le port.
Art: 15. l: 4. au lieu de stipules, corrigez stipulé.
Art. 16. l: 3. au lieu de l’une de parties, corrigez l’une des parties.
Art. 21. §3. l: 4. au lieu de, bsans caution, corrigez bsous caution.
§5. l: 3. au lieu de faire de tels règlemens, corrigez faire tels règlemens.1
Art. 23. l: 12. avant la fin, au lieu de à facilities & répandre, corrigez cà faciliter et à répandre.1
Art. 24. à la 3e. page, l: 4. d’en bas, confondus au balancés, corrigez ou balancés.
4e. page, l: 5 d’en bas, qui auront été fixés, corrigez fixées.

Notes on the other Instrument of Treaty

In the second Copy it is pour, but has d’autres.
         it is sans instead of sous.
         it is à faciliter & répandre.2

RC (DLC); endorsed: “Dumas & Short.” Enclosures: (1) De Thulemeier to Short, 21 Aug. 1785 (RC in DLC: Short Papers, and Tr in Short’s hand in DLC: TJ Papers and in MHi: AMT), reading as follows: “Je satisfais avec Empressement a l’Engagement que j’ai contracté avec vous, Monsieur, en Vous retraçant par ces lignes les Observations que j’ai pris la Liberté de vous communiquer a l’Occasion de l’Echange des Exemplaires du Traité de Commerce conclu entre le Roi et les Etats Unis de l’Amérique. Il n’est question que d’une simple Formalité. Les Ordres de ma Cour m’ont prescrit de transmettre a Berlin la Copie du Traité signée par Messieurs les Plenipotentiaires Americains apres l’avoir muni de ma signature, et de faire passer par contre entre vos Mains celle que j’aurais fait expedier en langue Française, et a laquelle j’aurais apposé ma Signature et mon Cachet. Vous avez eu la Complaisance, Monsieur, de m’offrir un double qui épargneroit au Secrétaire d’Ambassade du Roi la Peine de Transcrire le Traité, mais comme la Traduction Anglaise se trouve a Coté de l’original Français, et qu’on désire peut-etre chez vous, que l’Expedition de l’Exemplaire que je dois avoir l’honneur de Vous remettre se fasse dans la Chancellerie de la Mission Prussienne j’ai du Vous temoigner a cet égard un scrupule que les ordres de ma cour pourroient lever sans difficulté. C’est sur cet objet que je demanderai par la poste prochaine des Ordres précis, et Vous serés a mème, Monsieur, de vous concerter egalement dans cet intervalle avec Messieurs Adams et Jefferson. Il me tarde de voir arriver le moment, ou je pourrai mettre la derniere Main a une transaction qui constatera sur un pié solide les liaisons de Commerce et d’Amitié etablies actuellement entre votre Patrie et la Mienne.” (2) Short to De Thulemeier, 22 Aug. 1785 (Tr in DLC: Short Papers, in Short’s hand), reading as follows: “The Observations which you did me the Honor to communicate Yesterday Evening shall be immediately transmitted to the American Ministers at London and Paris, their Answers to which it will be necessary for me to await. Considering myself obliged to follow the Instructions which I have had the Honor to receive from them, without the smallest Deviation, I take the Liberty of communicating also Sir, to you, what will be expected on their Part in Addition to what has been agreed on between us, in Order that you may confer thereon with your Court at present if you should find it necessary.—I am instructed Sir, ‘to ask that the Ratification of his Majesty the King of Prussia be made known to the American Ministers as soon as it shall have taken Place, giving an Assurance on their Part that that of Congress shall also be communicated as soon as it shall have taken Place.’ It is added that when both Ratifications shall be known Measures may be concerted for exchanging them.—I am also instructed Sir ‘to confer with you on the Expediency of keeping the Treaty uncommunicated to the Public until the Exchange of Ratifications, and agree accordingly.’—Both Parties being equally interested Sir in the Articles I flatter myself no Difference of Opinion can arise on them, and that the final Hand will be soon put to those Bonds of Commerce and Friendship between our Countries, which must do Honor to those who have formed them.” (3) List of errors in the French text of the treaty (DLC: TJ Papers; in a clerk’s hand, with several additions in Short’s hand); printed above. The covering letter and its enclosures were accompanied by Short’s second letter to TJ of this date, following.

Short’s letter to Mr. Adams … by the post of this day was identical with the present letter to TJ, save for the final paragraph, which reads: “I write to Mr. Jefferson also by this Post, and in addition to what I have troubled you with, I send him a List of Errors made by the Amanuensis in the French Copy of the Treaty, and which I do not think we are at Liberty to Change without your Orders, as in some Instances the sense is changed. I do not inclose you a List of these Errors because you have not a French Copy of the Treaty. Mr. Jefferson will probably communicate them to you” (Short to Adams, 23 Aug. 1785; MHi: AMT). In this Short was mistaken, for Adams had copied the French and English texts of the treaty in his letterbook (p. 107–24), at the bottom of the last page of which he made the following note: “Vide Errata at the beginning of the Book.” The errors listed “at the beginning of the Book” are those printed above and also in a further enclosure to Short’s second letter to TJ of this date. On 30 Aug. Adams wrote Short: “I hope ’er this the Baron has received orders to sign in both languages. This is a favorite point with me; but yet I would not make it a sine qua non. I would urge it with decency but give it up at last if it could not be avoided. Our treaty with France is in English and French: that with Holland is in English and Dutch and neither made any objection to it. I am sorry you did not enclose to me a list of the Errata. I have a Copy in both languages, made while you were here. I should be obliged to you for a Copy by the next post” (Adams to Short, 30 Aug. 1785; MHi: AMT). Short sent the list of errata to Adams on 5 Sep., saying: “I had been decieved in supposing that you had only a Copy of the English Part of the Treaty” (MHi; AMT).

1This correction may have been made on the copy that Dumas and Short gave to De Thulemeier, but it was not corrected on that copy that Short referred to as “the second Copy,” which was the one retained by them and transmitted by TJ to Jay, and it is now among the Archives of the State Department (DNA: RG 11, American Original File Treaty Series No. 292). Hunter Miller, ed., Treaties, ii, 179, reads “et repandre.” The text of this treaty, both in its English and French versions, is a particularly poor specimen of engrossing; in addition to the errors detected in the “second Copy” as indicated in the enclosure in Short’s second letter of 23 Aug., there were no less than six interlineations in the French text alone which either the amanuensis himself or Short had detected presumably prior to Short’s departure from Paris. These slips may partly be explained on the ground that the transcription of the text between 24 and 28 July was hurried, but this cannot wholly justify the general slovenly appearance of the document, which was much less formal than the neat, official texts that TJ himself produced in his own communications to Vergennes, Castries, &c. The signature page of the instrument (the “second Copy”) from DNA: RG 11 is illustrated in this volume.

2The text beginning with “Notes on the other Instrument …” is in Short’s hand.

Index Entries