Virginia Delegates to Benjamin Harrison
Printed text (Burnett, Letters description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress (8 vols.; Washington, 1921–36). description ends , VII, 301, and n. 1). Probably written by John Francis Mercer, who signed it, and possibly also signed by Joseph Jones and JM. The original manuscript has not been found, although about 1930 it was among the Executive Papers in the Virginia State Library.
Princeton 20th Sept. 1783
We refer to a letter subscribed by Mr. Jones the last week to shew the disposition of the British nation with respect to our commerce.1 altho’ we are not informed what is the ultimate determination of France on this Subject, there is reason to apprehend, some indulgences excepted, a policy will be adopted by that nation similar to that of Britain.2 It hath been communicated to Congress by the minister of his most christian Majesty here, that L’Orient hath been declared a free port for the benefit of the U. States3 the determination of Congress on the cession of Virga. will soon be officially transmitted.4
1. Delegates to Harrison, 13 Sept. 1783, ed. n. On that day, even though all the Virginia delegates attended Congress, their letter to the governor was signed only by Joseph Jones (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXV, 559).
3. At the request of the Chevalier de La Luzerne, the minister of Louis XVI of France to the United States, Congress appointed a committee on 18 September to receive La Luzerne’s “communications.” The next day James Duane, chairman of the committee, closed its written report by stating “That the Court had in view the Commerce of the United States, and had ordered a diminution of the duty on the Salt and that the same regulation would take place with respect to Brandy. That his Majesty had declared L’Orient a Free Port, because it is the Port which the Americans have preferred to any other.” Congress referred the entire report, which mainly explained how the premature reopening of trade by Americans with Great Britain was retarding a simultaneous conclusion of the definitive treaties of peace between that country and the United States, France, Spain, and the Netherlands, to a committee composed of Samuel Huntington, chairman, Duane, and JM (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXV, 588–89, 589, n. 1; JM to Jefferson, 20 Sept. 1783, and n. 13; Burnett, Letters description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress (8 vols.; Washington, 1921–36). description ends , VII, 303).
4. President Elias Boudinot or Charles Thomson, secretary of Congress, probably never “officially transmitted” a copy of the resolutions of Congress on 13 September concerning the cession by Virginia (Delegates to Harrison, 13 Sept. 1783, ed. n.). With a letter on 11 December 1783 to the speaker of the House of Delegates of the Virginia General Assembly, Harrison enclosed “a copy of the proceedings in Congress on the cession offered by this State which this moment came to hand in a blank cover from Mr. Mercer” (Executive Letter Book, 1783–1786, p. 243, MS in Va. State Library). Apparently among the two or more enclosures was the copy in the hand of George Bond, “Depy Secy.” of Congress, docketed, “(A) Observations of Congress on the proposed cessions of the N. Western Territory, by the State of Virginia” (MS in Va. State Library).