James Madison Papers

Notes on Debates, 31 December 1782

Notes on Debates

MS (LC: Madison Papers). See Notes on Debates, 4 November 1782, ed. n.

The report of the Committee made in consequence of Mr. Madison’s1 motion yesterday instructing the ministers plenipo: on the article of commerce,2 passed unanimously as follows:3 “Resolved that the Ministers Plenipy for negociating peace be instructed, in any commercial stipulations with G.B which may be comprehended in a Treaty of peace, to endeavor to obtain for the Citizens and inhabitants of the U.S a direct Commerce4 to all parts of the British Dominions & possessions, in like manner as all parts of the U.S. may be opened to a direct Commerce of British subjects; or at least that such direct Commerce be extended to all parts of the British Dominions & possessions in Europe & the West Indies; and the said ministers are informed that this stipulation will be particularly expected by Congress, in case the Citizens & subjects of each party are to be admitted to an equality in matters of commerce with natives of the other party.[”]5

1JM originally wrote “M’s.” In his old age he completed his surname after “M.”

2The “ministers plenipo:” were John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, John Jay, Thomas Jefferson, and Henry Laurens. On 30 December, in accordance with JM’s motion of that day, Congress referred Benjamin Franklin’s dispatch of 14 October to a committee with JM as its chairman (Notes on Debates, 23 December, and n. 3; 30 December 1782). Among the “preliminary propositions” which the American peace commissioners had agreed upon tentatively with Richard Oswald was one described by Franklin as follows: “the citizens and subjects of each nation are to enjoy the same protection and privileges in each other’s ports and countries, respecting commerce, duties, &c., that are enjoyed by native subjects” (Wharton, Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence description begins Francis Wharton, ed., The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States (6 vols.; Washington, 1889). description ends , V, 811). See also Notes on Debates, 23 December 1782, n. 4.

To avoid duplication, the committee’s manuscript report, varying only in its preamble, given below, and in a few capitalizations, punctuation, and abbreviations from the copy in JM’s Notes on Debates, will not be reproduced. The manuscript of the report, in JM’s hand, was docketed by Charles Thomson: “Report of Comte Mr. Madison Mr Rutledge Mr Clarke Mr Hamilton Mr. Osgood Delivered Decr. 31. 1782 Read Entd.—passed Decr 31st 1782 on letter Oct. 14th. 1782 from Minister at Versailles.” The introductory statement in the manuscript reads, “The Committee to whom was referred a Letter of the 14 of Ocr. last from the Minister Plenipo: at the Ct. of Versailles &c &c. Report” (NA: PCC, No. 25, II, 171, 174).

3In his old age JM canceled “on,” which he originally had written immediately after “unanimously,” and substituted “as.” Beginning with “follows” and continuing to the close of the notes for 31 December, JM many years after 1782 interlineated the entire passage above heavily canceled words. Of these the very few now legible permit only a supposition that he at first had commented to the effect that the American commissioners should agree to nothing which would extend greater trading privileges to the British than those guaranteed to the French in the Treaty of Amity and Commerce between the United States and France. For the deleted passage JM substituted an approximate copy of the report of the committee as given in the printed journal of Congress (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIII, 838). See also Burnett, Letters description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress (8 vols.; Washington, 1921–36). description ends , VII, 4–5.

4In stressing “direct Commerce,” the committee probably wanted above all an assurance that American merchantmen, as before the Revolution, could carry British West Indian products directly to Great Britain. See Vernon G. Setser, The Commercial Reciprocity Policy of the United States, 1774–1829 (Philadelphia, 1937), p. 48.

5Congress expected that Jefferson, who anticipated an early departure for France, would carry this instruction to his fellow peace commissioners. See Boyd, Papers of Jefferson description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson (17 vols. to date; Princeton, N.J., 1950——). description ends , VI, 212, 217, and n. On 2 January 1783, in preparing the resolution for transmission, Livingston presumed that the subject to which it related was under negotiation (Wharton, Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence description begins Francis Wharton, ed., The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States (6 vols.; Washington, 1889). description ends , VI, 192); but the British had already rebuffed such a proposition, on the ground that it was a matter pertaining only to a separate treaty of amity and commerce (Samuel F. Bemis, Diplomacy of the American Revolution, p. 235, n. 23).

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