Papers of John Adams, volume 14


From C. W. F. Dumas

Draft Article on Loyalists, [ca. 26 November 1782] Adams, John Franklin, Benjamin Jay, John
Draft Article on Loyalists
[ca. 26 November 1782]1

Congress will recommend to the Legislature of each of the thirteen States to appoint Commissioners to be under Oath to appraise at a just Value, at this Time the Estates that have been confiscated, and to make Provision, in a reasonable Time, not exceeding two Years for the a Compensation, to those of the Refugees who have not taken an active Part in the War against the United states, and of those who having taken an active Part have conducted themselves like civilized Ennemies, and have governed themselves by the Law of Nations.

And to extend Amnesty to all excepting Such as were the most culpable & Instrumental in bringing on the War, and Such as shall appear, to have been guilty of Cruelties, Devasations Depredations and other Crimes Excesses, in the Prosecution of the War, not warrantable nor excuseable by the Laws of War.

MS (Adams Papers); endorsed: “Project / of an Article for Refugees.” Filmed at [Nov. 1782].


This draft is wholly in JA's hand and was likely done early in the commissioners’ discussions of the loyalist issue and never offered to the British negotiators as an alternative to the terms of the draft treaty of 25 Nov., above. The proposal offered here reworks the articles in the 25 Nov. draft, making them conditional on the behavior of the loyalists, and may to some degree be an effort to conform to Henry Strachey's comment about “excepting a few by Name of the most obnoxious of the Refugees” (JA, D&A , 92 3:72). However, there was no more likelihood of its being effective than the corresponding article in the treaty signed on 30 Nov., below, since the proposed remedies were to be nonbinding recommendations of Congress, which could not be forced on the states. This draft, however, was more in line with the views of JA, who “pitied those People too much to be willing to aggravate their Sorrows and Sufferings, even of those who had deserved the Worst” (same, 3:57), than those of Franklin, for which see the draft treaty of 25 Nov., note 7, above.