Motion of Instruction to Francis Dana
MS (NA: PCC, No. 36, II, 121).
[22 May 1783]
Mr Madison Mr Carroll1
That Mr. Dana be informed that the Treaties lately entered into for restoring peace, have caused such an alteration in the affairs of these States, as to have removed the primary object of his mission to the Court of Russia, the acquisition of new supports to their Independence2
That he be instructed, in case he shall have made no propositions to the Court of Russia on the subject of a Treaty of Commerce to decline making such untill he shall receive further instructions from Congress: that in case he shall have made such propositions, he be informed that it is the desire of Congress, that as far as will consist with the honor of the U. S. he insist on a limitation of the Treaty to the period of 15 years, and that the same be subject to the revisal & approbation of Congress before they shall be obliged to accept or ratify it.
That a Come: be appointed to prepare & report a plan of a Treaty proper to be transmitted to Mr. Dana.3
1. The journal entry for 22 May begins: “Congress resumed the consideration of the subject under debate yesterday; and the report of the committee being again postponed,” JM offered a motion, seconded by Daniel Carroll. For “the report of the committee,” see JM Notes, 21–22 May 1783, and n. 1.
2. Near the top of the manuscript JM started the draft of his motion beginning with what is now the second paragraph. Evidently having sharpened his quill, he wrote beneath this paragraph so much of his new introductory paragraph as begins with “that the Treaties lately entered into” and ends with “supports to their Independence,” and preceded the whole with an asterisk. He then wrote at the top of the page, “That Mr. Dana be informed.” and placed an asterisk at each end of the phrase. This odd separation indicates that the paragraph relating to the “primary object” of Dana’s mission, although first in the text as introduced, was drafted later than the rest of the motion (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIV, 354). For the “primary object,” see JM Notes, 21–22 May 1783, and n. 1.
3. Ibid. The effort of Oliver Ellsworth of Connecticut and Nathaniel Gorham of Massachusetts to have Congress postpone consideration of JM’s motion was supported only by the delegates of their own states and Rhode Island. JM’s motion was then lost by a vote of 5 to 3. The delegates of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina were unanimously for the proposal; those of Massachusetts, Connecticut, and South Carolina unanimously against; the two of Rhode Island deadlocked; New York’s single vote not counting, and New Hampshire, Delaware, and Georgia unrepresented. Thereupon, Congress unanimously adopted Ellsworth’s motion: “That Mr. Dana be instructed, in case he has not already proceeded too far in the commercial treaty,” to “stipulate, that the treaty be limited to the term of fifteen years; and that the same be subject to the revisal and approbation of Congress, before they shall be under obligations to accept or ratify it.” FitzSimons was named chairman of a committee to “report a plan of a commercial treaty proper to be transmitted to Mr. Dana” (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIV, 355–57). See also Rights of Neutral Nations, 12 June, and nn. 5–7; JM Notes, 12 June 1783.