James Madison Papers

Notes on Debates, 15 April 1783

Notes on Debates

MS (LC: Madison Papers). For a description of the manuscript of Notes on Debates, see Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (6 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , V, 231–34.

The ratification of the Treaty & discharge of prisoners again agitated.1 For the result in a unanimous ratification see secret Journal of the day; the urgency of the majority producing an acquiescance of most of the opponents to the measure.2

1JM Notes, 14 Apr. 1783, and nn. 1–3, 7, 9, 10.

2On 15 April Alexander Hamilton introduced two resolutions. During the ensuing debate their contents were considerably amended and regrouped into three resolutions before Congress adopted them. As passed, the first resolution provided that the preliminary articles of peace “be ratified, and that a ratification in due form be sent to our Ministers Plenipotentiary at the Court of Versailles, to be exchanged if an exchange shall be necessary.” The second resolution directed Robert Morris, agent of marine, to have “all the naval prisoners” freed. The third resolution directed Benjamin Lincoln, secretary at war, to make proper arrangements, “in conjunction with” Washington, “for setting at liberty all land prisoners,” and instructed Washington “to make the proper arrangements” with General Sir Guy Carleton for taking “possession of the posts in the United States” and recovering all American-owned “negroes and other property” still held by the British (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIV, 241–43). See also JM Notes, 16 Apr. 1783.

Following the adoption of these three resolutions, Congress agreed to a “form of the ratification” comprising four parts: (1) a preamble devoted principally to summarizing the credentials of the American peace commissioners empowering them to conclude and sign the preliminary articles; (2) the full text of these articles including the secret article; (3) the act ratifying “the said articles, and every part, article and clause thereof”; and (4) an attestation to the authenticity of the document as evidenced by the seal affixed and President Boudinot’s signature (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIV, 243–51).

This “form” was adopted by Congress without a recorded vote. Hence it is not clear whether JM remained opposed to the ratification or voted with the majority. Although as entered in the journal, the act of ratification clearly embraced the secret article, the American peace commissioners were informed by Livingston in his dispatch of 21 April: “You will observe that the ratification does not extend to the separate article. The treaty between Spain and Great Britain renders it unnecessary, and Congress not caring to express any sentiment upon that subject” (Wharton, Revol. Dipl. Corr description begins Francis Wharton, ed., The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States (6 vols.; Washington, 1889). description ends ., VI, 386–87). Exercising the option mentioned in the first paragraph of this footnote, Adams, Franklin, and Jay exchanged ratifications of the provisional articles on 13 August 1783 with the representative of King George III (ibid., VI, 556–57, 633, 645–46).

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