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Browsing: Adams Family Correspondence, Volume 5

This note contained in document ADMS-04-05-02-0176
1. This report, presented by a committee composed of Jefferson, Gerry, and Hugh Williamson, was read in Congress on 22 Dec. 1783. As printed in the Journal at that date, the text has Jay's name crossed out as a commissioner, and Jefferson's added. The report was recommitted on 22 Jan., reported again on 4 March, recommitted on 12 April, and reported again on 14 April (JCC, 25:821–828). Finally, on 7 May the Congress, having been informed by Franklin's letter of 9 March that John Jay definitely intended to return to America, elected Jay secretary for foreign affairs, and named Jefferson to replace him as a commissioner. It then granted the three commissioners, Adams, Franklin, and Jefferson, “or the greater part of them,” specific powers to negotiate treaties of commerce with sixteen nations, and approved detailed instructions for them (same, 26:355–362). Gerry reported this final action in a brief note to AA on 7 May (Adams Papers), declaring that “Mr. Adams, Docter Franklin and Mr. Jefferson are appointed in the Order mentioned,” and thought their new responsibilities would keep them abroad for “about two Years.” The order of appointment on this commission was of great importance to JA. He had complained in Oct. 1779, in a letter to Gerry that he never sent, that Congress had placed his name after that of Arthur Lee in the three-man commission of 1778–1779, even though he had done far more in service to his country than either Lee, ranked third in the commission of 1776–1778, or Silas Deane, the second-ranked commissioner, whom he replaced. In this same letter, JA voiced his irritation that Congress was placing John Jay, minister to Spain, above him in rank as a diplomat, although Jay, too, had achieved far less than he had. The latter complaint, however, was based on a misunderstanding that was soon cleared up (JA, Papers, 8:213–214). More important in 1784, of course, was the fact that Congress had renewed the first-place position that JA had held on the peace commission of 1781–1783, and thereby confirmed his clear precedence over his archrival, Franklin.
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.