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Browsing: Diary of John Adams, Volume 3

Docno: ADMS-01-03-02-0016-0030

Author: Adams, John
DateRange: 1776-06 - 1776-08

[In Congress, June–August 1776]

The Committee for preparing the Model of a Treaty to be proposed to France consisted of1 [] When We met to deliberate on the Subject, I contended for the same Principles, which I had before avowed and defended in Congress, viz. That We should avoid all Alliance, which might embarrass Us in after times and involve Us in future European Wars. That a Treaty of commerce, which would opperate as a Repeal of the British Acts of Navigation as far as respected Us and Admit France into an equal participation of the benefits of our commerce; would encourage her Manufactures, increase her Exports of the Produce of her Soil and Agriculture, extend her navigation and Trade, augment her resources of naval Power, raise her from her present deep humiliation, distress and decay, and place her on a more equal footing with England, for the protection of her foreign Possessions, and maintaining her Independence at Sea, would be an ample Compensation to France for Acknowledging our { 338 } Independence, and for furnishing Us for our money or upon Credit for a Time, with such Supplies of Necessaries as We should want, even if this Conduct should involve her in a War. If a War should ensue, which did not necessarily follow, for a bare Acknowledgement of our Independence after We had asserted it, was not by the Law of Nations an Act of Hostility, which would be a legitimate cause of War. Franklin although he was commonly as silent on committees as in Congress, upon this Occasion, ventured so far as to intimate his concurrence with me in these Sentiments, though as will be seen hereafter he shifted them as easily as the Wind ever shifted: and assumed a dogmatical Tone, in favour of an Opposite System. The Committee after as much deliberation upon the Subject as they chose to employ, appointed me, to draw up a Plan and Report. Franklin had made some marks with a Pencil against some Articles in a printed Volume of Treaties, which he put into my hand. Some of these were judiciously selected, and I took them with others which I found necessary into the Draught and made my report to the Committee at large, who after a reasonable Examination of it, agreed to report it. When it came before Congress, it occupied the Attention of that Body for several days. Many Motions were made, to insert in it Articles of entangling Alliance, of exclusive Priviledges, and of Warrantees of Possessions: and it was argued that the present Plan reported by the Committee held out no sufficient temptation to France, who would despize it and refuse to receive our Ambassador. It was chiefly left to me to defend my report, though I had some able Assistance, and We did defend it with so much Success, that the Treaty passed without one Particle of Alliance, exclusive Priviledge, or Warranty.2
1. Here two-thirds of a line was left blank in the MS , doubtless indicating that JA intended to consult the Journals of Congress (which were on his shelves) and fill in the names. The members of “the committee to prepare a plan of treaties to be proposed to foreign powers,” appointed on 12 June, were Dickinson, Franklin, JA , Harrison, and Robert Morris ( JCC , 5:433). JA himself listed the names of the committee members when he went over this ground later in his Autobiography with the Journals in hand; see a later entry under 12 June 1776, below.
2. JA 's draft of the “Plan of Treaties,” a document which “furnished the model for all, except one, of the eighteenth century treaties of the United States, and may be regarded as a charter document of early American maritime practice” (Bemis, Diplomacy of the Amer. Revolution , p. 46), is in PCC, No. 47, and is printed, with appended forms of passports, &c., also drafted by JA , in JCC , 5:576–589, under date of 18 July 1776, when it was reported to Congress. On 20 July Congress ordered it printed for the use of the members; on 22 and 27 Aug. it was debated in committee of the whole and on the latter date, after amendments, referred back to the original committee for the purpose of drawing up instructions to agents to be sent to France. On 17 Sept. it was adopted in its final form as a “plan of a treaty [to] be proposed to His Most Christian Majesty” (same, p. 768–779; see also p. 594, 696, 709–710, 718, and entry No. 121 in “Bibliographical Notes,” same, 6:1124). JA 's present summary of his arguments for the Plan probably pertains to the debates in committee of the whole late in August.
|| JA 's draft, the committee report, and the plan as adopted by Congress, with instructions, are now available in the Papers of John Adams, volume 4.||

Docno: ADMS-01-03-02-0016-0031

Author: Adams, John
DateRange: 1775-09-18 - 1775-11-08

[Committee on the Importantion of Gunpowder, September–November 1775.]

I have omitted some things in 1775 which must be inserted.1 On { 339 } the 18th of September 1775. It was resolved in Congress, that a Secret Committee be appointed to contract for the Importation and delivery of any quantity of Gunpowder, not exceeding five hundred Tons. That in case such a quantity of Gunpowder cannot be procured to contract for the Importation of so much Saltpetre, with a proportionable quantity of Sulphur, as with the Powder procured will make five hundred tons. That the Committee be impowered to contract for the importation of forty brass field Pieces, six pounders, for 10,000 Stand of Arms and twenty thousand good plain double bridle musket Locks. That the said Committee be impowered to draw on the Treasurers to answer the said Contract. That the said Committee consist of nine members, any five of whom to be a quorum. The Members chosen Mr. Willing, Mr. Franklin, Mr. Livingston, Mr. Alsop, Mr. Deane, Mr. Dickinson, Mr. Langdon, Mr. McKean and Mr. Ward. On the Eig[h]th of November 1775. On Motion resolved That the Secret Committee appointed to contract for the Importation of Arms, Ammunition &c. be impowered to export to the foreign West Indies, on Account and risque of the Continent, as much provision, or any other produce (except horned Cattle, Sheep, hogs and Poultry) as they may deem necessary for the Importation of Arms, Ammunition, Sulphur and Saltpetre. See the Journals of Congress for 1775. Page 238. Wednesday November 8. 1775 and the Note.
1. JA was reminded of these omissions by picking up a copy of the Journals of Congress. Containing the Proceedings from Sept. 5. 1774. to Jan. 1. 1776.... Volume I, Phila.: R. Aitken, 1777, which he had long owned but until now had not consulted for autobiographical purposes. From this point through his departure from Congress in Oct. 1776, the Autobiography consists almost entirely of a series of extracts from the Journals, chosen rather unsystematically but with emphasis on JA 's own activities, copied without benefit of quotation marks, and amplified by a running commentary. CFA in his edition distinguished matter drawn from the Journals by a smaller size of type (JA, Works , 3:3–88), but direct quotations, paraphrased passages, and comments are so inextricably woven together that CFA sometimes erred in trying to disentangle them and thus proved his method unfeasible. The present editors follow JA 's MS .