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Docno: ADMS-06-10-02-0258

Author: Huntington, Samuel
Author: President of Congress
Recipient: Adams, John
Date: 1780-12-29

Instructions Respecting a Treaty of Amity and Commerce with the Netherlands

[salute] Sir

Instructions to the honble. John Adams

You will herewith receive a commission authorising you to negotiate a treaty of Amity and Commerce with the United Provinces of the low countries.
You will also receive a plan, in articles which you are to adopt in whole or without any essential alteration, being always cautious not to admit anything inconsistent with the treaties already concluded { 448 } between these United States and France, and being particularly attentive to the ninth, tenth and seventeenth articles of our treaty of Amity and Commerce with France numbered as they were finally ratified.2
In settling regulations respecting contraband you will regard not only the enumeration made in our treaty with France, but conform to such regulations as shall be agreed Upon by the Congress of the northern powers concerning which we have expressed our Intentions by resolves passed the fifth day of October last and herewith transmitted.3
Done at Philadelphia this twenty ninth day of December in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and Eighty and in the fifth year of our Independence by the Congress of the United States.
[signed] Saml. Huntington President
[signed] Attest Chas. Thomson Secy.
MS (MHi: John Adams, Embassy MSS, 1779–1785); endorsed: “Instructions for a Treaty with Holland”; by John Thaxter: “President of Congress 29th. Decr. 1780.”
1. Adopted on the same day that JA was appointed minister to the Netherlands (JCC, 18:1204, 1206), these instructions were sent under a covering letter of 1 Jan. 1781 from the president of Congress (Adams Papers; Wharton, ed., Dipl. Corr. Amer. Rev., 4:224). That letter, which reached JA on or about 19 March 1781 (same, 4:313), also contained JA's commission and a proposed Dutch-American treaty (both below), and a congressional resolution of 5 Oct. (see note 3). JA's appointment was occasioned most immediately by Henry Laurens' capture, but see also JA's letters to Congress of 24 and 25 Sept. (Nos. 9 and 10, above), and particularly note 3 to the latter.
2. That is, the ratified treaty of 31 articles. Art. 9 prohibited either party from fishing in areas held by the other, while Art. 10 confirmed French fishing rights on the Grand Banks and the coast of Newfoundland set down in the Treaty of Utrecht. Art. 17 permitted France or the United States to bring prizes into each other's ports without the receiving party taking cognizance of the prize's legality, but prohibited either France or the United States from allowing an enemy of one party to bring into its ports a prize taken from the other (Miller, ed., Treaties, 2:9–11, 16–17, 32–34).
3. The resolution of 5 Oct. attested to Congress' willingness to abide by the principles of maritime commerce set down by Catherine II in her Declaration of Armed Neutrality and empowered the ministers of the United States to accede to the armed neutrality if invited (JCC, 18:905–906). The resolution had important results. On 27 Nov., Congress defined contraband according to Art. 24 of the Franco-American Treaty of Amity and Commerce and adopted new instructions for the commanders of American warships that required that neutral vessels be permitted free navigation unless they were carrying contraband, thereby firmly establishing the principle that free ships made free goods (JCC, 18:1097–1098; Miller, ed., Treaties, 2:21–23). On 19 Dec., Congress appointed Francis Dana minister to Russia with full power to accede to the armed neutrality and conclude a Russo-American treaty of amity and commerce (JCC, 18:1166–1173).
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, 2018.