George Washington Papers

From George Washington to the United States Senate, 11 June 1789

To the United States Senate

New York, June 11th 1789.

Gentlemen of the Senate,

A Convention between his most Christian Majesty and the United States for the purposes of determining and fixing the functions and prerogatives of their respective Consuls, Vice Consuls, Agents and Commissaries, was signed by their respective Plenipotentiaries on the 29th of July 1784.1

It appearing to the late Congress that certain alterations in that Convention ought to be made, they instructed their Minister at the Court of France to endeavour to obtain them.

It has accordingly been altered in several respects, and as amended was signed by the Plenipotentiaries of the contracting powers on the 14th of November 1788.2

The 16th article provides, that it shall be in force during the term of 12 years, to be counted from the day of the exchange of Ratifications, which shall be given in proper form, and exchanged on both sides within the space of one year, or sooner if possible.

I now lay before you the original, by the hands of Mr Jay, for your consideration and advice. The Papers relative to this negociation are in his custody, and he has my orders to communicate to you whatever official Papers and Information on the subject, he may possess and you may require.3

Go: Washington
Presidt U.S.

LS, DNA:RG 46, entry 11; LB, DLC:GW; LB, DNA:PCC, item 122.

This was the first treaty submitted to the United States Senate. For the negotiation of the treaty by Thomas Jefferson in Paris, see “The Consular Convention of 1788,” editorial note, in Boyd, Jefferson Papers, description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 40 vols. to date. Princeton, N.J., 1950–. description ends 14:66–92.

1On 25 Jan. 1782, the Continental Congress sent Benjamin Franklin instructions and a plan to negotiate a consular convention with the French government. A copy of the 1784 convention, signed by Franklin and Vergennes, is in DLC: Jefferson Papers. Objections were raised almost immediately that the 1784 convention violated the instructions and plan formulated by Congress. For an article-by-article comparison of Congress’s “scheme” for a convention and the 1784 treaty, see John Jay’s report to the Continental Congress, 4 July 1785 (DNA:PCC, item 81). See also De Pauw, Documentary History of the First Federal Congress, description begins Linda Grant De Pauw et al., eds. Documentary History of the First Federal Congress of the United States of America, March 4, 1789-March 3, 1791. 20 vols. to date. Baltimore, 1972–. description ends 2:260–71).

2For the text of the 1788 convention, see Miller, Treaties, description begins Hunter Miller, ed. Treaties and Other International Acts of the United States of America. Vol. 2, 1776-1818. Washington, D.C., 1931. description ends 2:228–41.

3On 21 July Jay was requested to bring the documents relative to the treaty to the Senate and “to give his opinion how far he conceives the faith of the United States to be engaged, either by former agreed Stipulations, or Negotiations, entered into by our Minister at the Court of Versailles to ratify, in its present sense or form, the Convention now referred to the Senate.” The next day Jay reported to the Senate that “as the Convention in Question is free from several Objections to which the one of 1784 was liable, and is, in every Respect preferable to it, and as it contains a Clause limiting its Duration to twelve Years, it seems to follow as of necessary Consequence, that the United States ought to ratify it.” The Senate consented to the convention on 29 July 1789 (De Pauw, Documentary History of the First Federal Congress, description begins Linda Grant De Pauw et al., eds. Documentary History of the First Federal Congress of the United States of America, March 4, 1789-March 3, 1791. 20 vols. to date. Baltimore, 1972–. description ends 2 : 10–12).

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