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Browsing: Diary of John Adams, Volume 4

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[Instructions from Congress]

[addrLine] To the Honble. Benjamin Franklin Esqr. Minister Plenipotentiary of The United States of America at the Court of France 16. Oct. 177918

[salute] Sir

Having determined, in order to put a Period to the present War conformably to the humane dispositions which sway the Allied Powers, that We would not insist on a direct Acknowledgment by Great Britain of our Right in the Fisheries, this important matter is liable to an incertitude, which may be dangerous to the political and commercial Interests of the United States, We have therefore agreed and resolved, that our Right should in no case be given up. That We would not form any Treaty of Commerce with Great Britain, nor carry on any Trade or Commerce whatsoever with her, unless she shall make an express Stipulation on that Subject, and that if she shall after a Treaty of Peace, disturb the Inhabitants of these States in the exercise of it, We will make it a common cause to obtain redress for the Parties injured. But notwithstanding these precautions, as Great Britain may again light up the flames of War and use our exercise of the Fisheries as her pretext; and since some doubts may arise, whether this Object is so effectually guarded by the Treaty of Alliance with his Most Christian Majesty, that any molestation therein, on the part of Great Britain is to be considered as a Casus Foederis, you are to endeavour to obtain of his Majesty an explanation on that Subject, upon the Principle that notwithstanding the high Confidence reposed in his Wisdom and Justice, Yet considering the Uncertainty of human Affairs, and how doubts may be afterwards raised in the Breasts of his Royal Successors, the great importance of the Fisheries renders the Citizens of these States very solicitous to obtain his Majesty's Sense with relation to them, as the best Security against the Ambition and Rapacity of the British Court. For this purpose you shall propose the following Article, in which never the less such Alterations may be made as the Circumstances and Situation of Affairs shall render convenient and proper. Should the same be agreed to and executed you are immediately to transmit a Copy thereof to our Minister at the Court of Spain.
“Whereas by the Treaty of Alliance between the Most Christian { 186 } King and the United States of North America, the two Parties guaranty mutually from that time and forever against all other Powers, to wit, The United States to His Most Christian Majesty, the Possessions then appertaining to the Crown of France in America, as well as those which it may acquire by the future Treaty of Peace; And his Most Christian Majesty guaranties on his part to the United States their Liberty, Sovereignty and Independence, absolute and unlimited as well in matters of Government as Commerce, and also their possessions and the Additions or Conquests that their Confederation might obtain during the War, according to said Treaty; and the said Parties did further agree and declare that in Case of a Rupture between France and England, the said reciprocal guaranty should have its full Force and Effect, the moment such War should break out: and whereas doubts may hereafter arise how far the said Guaranty extends to this, to witt, that Great Britain should molest or disturb the Subjects and Inhabitants of France or of the said States, in taking Fish on the Banks of Newfoundland, and other the Fishing Banks and Seas of North America, formerly and usually frequented by their Subjects and Inhabitants respectively: And whereas the said King and the United States, have thought proper to determine with Precision the true interest and meaning of the said Guaranty in this respect; Now therefore as a farther demonstration of their mutual good Will and Affection it is hereby agreed, concluded and determined as follows; to witt, That if after the conclusion of the Treaty or Treaties which shall terminate the present War, Great Britain shall molest or disturb the Subjects or Inhabitants of the said United States, in taking Fish on the Banks, Seas, and Places formerly used and frequented by them so as not to encroach on the territorial rights, which may remain to her after the termination of the present War as aforesaid, and War should thereupon break out between the said United States and Great Britain; or if Great Britain shall molest or disturb the Subjects and Inhabitants of France, in taking Fish on the Banks, Seas and Places formerly used and frequented by them, so as not to encroach on the territorial Rights of Great Britain as aforesaid, and War should there upon break out between France and Great Britain; in either of these Cases of War as aforesaid, His Most Christian Majesty and the said United States shall make it a common cause, and aid each other mutually with their good offices, their Councils and their Forces, according to the Exigence of Conjunctures, as becomes good and faithfull Allies: Provided always that nothing herein contained, shall be taken or understood as contrary to or inconsistent with the true intent and meaning of the Treaties al• { 187 } ready subsisting between His Most Christian Majesty and the said States, but the same shall be taken and understood as explanatory of and conformable to those Treaties.”
[signed] Signed Saml. Huntington President
[signed] Attest Cha Thomson Secy.
Cite web page as: Founding Families: Digital Editions of the Papers of the Winthrops and the Adamses, ed.C. James Taylor. Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 2014.
http://www.masshist.org/apde2/