James Madison Papers

Report on Form of Public Audience for La Luzerne, [7–9 May] 1782

Report on Form of Public Audience for La Luzerne

MS (NA: PCC, No. 25, II, 99–103, 105, 105½). In small part, the report is in JM’s hand. Docketed: “Report of Comtee relative to the Ceremonial on admitting the Minister of France to a Public Audience—Pass’d. May 7th 1782.”

Editorial Note

On 2 May 1782 the secretary for foreign affairs wrote to inform Congress that La Luzerne wished “a public audience” in order to deliver a letter from King Louis XVI “announcing the birth of a Dauphin” (Louis Joseph Xavier, d. 1789) on 22 October 1781 (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXII, 235, 262). With his letter, Livingston enclosed a summary description of the formalities attending the audience accorded on 6 August 1778 by Congress to Conrad Alexandre Gérard as the first diplomatic representative accredited by France and suggested a few alterations which would make that ceremony suitable for use at the reception of La Luzerne (NA: PCC, No. 79, II, 133–37; JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XI, 751–57; XXII, 246).

Upon receiving Livingston’s notification on 2 May, Congress immediately designated 13 May as the date for the audience (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXII, 235). The docket of Livingston’s letter states that, after it was read on 3 May, Congress referred it to John Rutledge, Elias Boudinot, and JM. Congress evidently instructed this committee to be guided by the secretary for foreign affairs’ suggestions in recommending a ceremonial sufficiently elaborate and dignified to befit the importance of the occasion (William E. O’Donnell, Chevalier de La Luzerne, pp. 216–17, and nn.).

The committee’s report, strongly reflecting Livingston’s influence and mostly in the handwriting of a clerk, was laid before Congress on 7 May.

[7–9 May 1782]

The Committee to whom the Report of the Secretary of foreign affairs relative to the Ceremonial on admitting the Minister of France to a public Audience, beg leave to report the following, as proper to be adopted on this Occasion—1

The Minister shall come in his own coach to the state house, & shall be received at the foot of the steps by two Members of Congress deputed for that purpose, who shall conduct him to his seat in the room of Congress,

As the Minister enters, the President & the house shall rise, The president remaining covered. The Minister shall bow to the president & then to the house before he takes his seat. The President shall uncover his head as he returns his bow. The Minister shall then seat & cover himself. The Members conducting him shall sit on each side of him. The Members of the house shall seat themselves

When the Minister speaks he shall rise. The President & house shall remain sitting till he has spoken & delivered his Letter by his secretary to the secretary of Congress, who shall deliver it to be read by the interpreter in the original language. The interpreter shall then deliver a translation to be read by the secretary of Congress, after which the president shall deliver his answer standing & covered, the Minister & the house also standing but uncovered. The president & the Minister having bowed to each other, & the latter to the house, who shall be standing to receive it; he shall be reconducted to the foot of the stairs of the state house, in the same manner in which he came in

That after the Audience shall be over, the house shall adjourn,2

That places be assigned for the principals in the three3 executive departments under Congress—and for the President of Executive Council of the state

That General Officers, Judges of appeals, the treasurer, Pay Master Genl[,] Comptroller, Auditor & Chaplains of Congress, the assistants & principal secretaries in each of the Departments, be admitted without the bar of the house.4

That the Secretary at War take order to receive the Minister with military honor, & to conclude the audience with the discharge of thirteen cannon—& a feu de joy of Musquetry5 & for the display of fire works in the evening at 8 o’clock

That all that relates to the placing the persons particularly admitted6 to the Audience, be under the direction of the Secretary of Congress

That each member of Congress be entitled to admit two persons & be furnished with tickets for that purpose by the Secretary.

That tickets be sent by the secretary for foreign affairs to such foreigners or other strangers as he may judge it proper to admit.

That on Monday next an entertainment be provided by Congress at the City Tavern,7

That a letter be written to the Commander in Chief, & to the commander in the southern department by the secretary for foreign affairs, informing them of the public annunciation of the birth of the Dauphin, that the same may be published in both armies, with such demonstrations of Joy as their commanders shall respectively direct8

That the Secretary for foreign Affairs also inform the Governors & Presidents of the respective States of the birth of an heir to the Crown of France,9 that the people of each State may partake in the Joy which an event that so nearly affects the happiness of their great & generous Ally cannot fail to excite.10

1This preamble is in JM’s hand.

2Following “adjourn,” “when the president & Members shall individually pay their compliments to the Minr. of France” was crossed out. In this instance, unlike in the instances mentioned in the next four footnotes, the deletion probably represented a change made by Congress after the report was submitted.

3Following “That” at the beginning of this paragraph, “seats be provided” was eliminated as well as “great” after “three.”

4In this paragraph, JM inserted “Pay Master Genl” and changed the last syllable of “within” to “out.”

5JM interlineated “& a feu de joy of Musquetry.”

6Apparently at JM’s suggestion, “within the bar of Congress” was deleted after “admitted.” He then inserted “particularly” before, and “to the Audience” after, “admitted.”

7The State House Inn, built in 1693 and situated across Chestnut Street from Independence Hall (the State House of Pennsylvania, 1736–1799), the meeting place of Congress (Carroll Frey, The Independence Square Neighborhood [Philadelphia, 1926], p. 17). Following “Tavern,” the words “to which shall be invited in the name of the president & Congress The Minister of France & his family” are struck out. The committee then left a broad space between the close of this paragraph and the beginning of the next. Who should be privileged to attend the “entertainment,” who should arrange for it, and who should issue the invitations to it appear to have been the most difficult questions which the committee had to answer. Written on a separate piece of paper (fol. 105) by JM, or someone whose handwriting closely resembled his, is the following substitute for the deleted words given above, “tavern for the minister of france & his suite to be under the direction of the Superint of finance who may invite thereto such general Officers & foreigners of distinction in town as the president shall approve.” After changing “Superint of finance” to “Secry. for F Affairs,” the committee evidently accepted this emendation.

In a letter to Charles Thomson, Livingston refused to comply with the directive, declaring that the menial roles of “Presidents stewar[d]” and clerk were inconsistent with the dignity of his high office and an affront to his self-respect. Thereupon, probably as late as 9 May, Congress mollified Livingston by striking out “who may invite thereto such general Officers & foreigners of distinction in town as the president shall approve,” and providing that the secretary “shall give invitations in the name of Congress to the president and council of Pennsylvania, the principals of the three executive departments under Congress, and such other persons as he may think proper” (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXII, 247–48; Burnett, Letters description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress (8 vols.; Washington, 1921–36). description ends , VI, 346–47, and nn.). JM’s share, if any, in rephrasing this paragraph to the satisfaction of Livingston and Congress is not evident. See Revised Reply of President of Congress to La Luzerne, 8–12 May 1782.

8Livingston complied with this portion of the resolution on 13 May, and Washington also informed Greene in a dispatch of 22 May (Wharton, Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence description begins Francis Wharton, ed., The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States (6 vols.; Washington, 1889). description ends , V, 416–17, 436–37; Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington description begins John C. Fitzpatrick, ed., The Writings of George Washington, from the Original Sources, 1745–1799 (39 vols.; Washington, 1931–44). description ends , XXIV, 274, 276–77). The northern army celebrated the birth of the dauphin on 31 May at West Point, with more than five hundred guests present (Douglas Southall Freeman, George Washington, a Biography [7 vols.; New York, 1948–57; Vol. VII, by J. A. Carroll and M. W. Ashworth], V, 416).

9Much to Governor Harrison’s embarrassment, he did not receive Livingston’s letter of 14 May on this subject until 16 July. See Randolph to JM, 18 July, and nn. 10 and 11; Harrison to Virginia Delegates, 19 July 1782.

10In NA: Miscellaneous Papers of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, fols. 263–66, is another version of the committee’s report. Although the report lacks the preamble and was not written by JM, he apparently added the docket, “2d Report on the Subject of the ceremonial on an audience demanded by the Minister of France May 1782.” This draft includes passages which were deleted or reworded before the text reproduced above was submitted by the committee to Congress. “2d Report” possibly connotes that Livingston’s suggestions, mentioned in the editorial note, were considered to be a first report and the text laid before Congress, a third version.

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