Papers of John Adams, volume 14


The American Peace Commissioners to Francis Dana

Proposed Articles for the Definitive Peace Treaty, [ca. 10–13 December 1782] Oswald, Richard Adams, John Franklin, Benjamin Jay, John
Proposed Articles for the Definitive Peace Treaty
[ca. 10–13 December 1782]1

Articles to be proposed in the definitive Treaty.

Freedom of Navigation, according to the Principles of the late marine Treaty between the Neutral Powers.2 Dr Franklin desired to draw an Article respecting exempting Husbandmen Fishermen and Merchants as much as possible from the Calamities of War, in any future War.3 Article respecting the Barbary Powers.4 Bermudas.—to be farther considered. The Isle of Sables.5 Fortifications on the Frontiers. not to be mentioned. The concession of Canada & Nova scotia, to join the Confederation. Reciprocity. Warranty to W. India Islands. No armed Vessells on the Lakes on either Side.—6 Ballance of the Account of Prisoners.7

MS (Adams Papers); endorsed: “Minutes of Articles to be / proposed in the definitive / Treaty.” Filmed at [Dec. 1782 – June 1783].


These dates are derived from JA's Diary entries for 10, 12, and 13 Dec. (JA, D&A , 3:94–96). In the first, JA indicated that Franklin “was for beginning early to think about the Articles of the difinitive Treaty” and then listed the five items that comprise Nos. 1, 6, 4, 5, and 9 in this document. On the 12th the commissioners “consulted about Articles to be inserted in the definitive Treaty” and on the 13th Franklin showed JA the article regarding noncombatants that is alluded to in No. 2. The preparation of these proposals reflected the commissioners’ expectation that negotiations, preferably with 120Richard Oswald, would begin soon. In fact substantive discussions began only after David Hartley arrived at Paris in late April. It should also be noted that the first three proposals were more suited to a commercial treaty and reflected the expectation that some sort of Anglo-American commercial agreement would be signed along with a definitive peace treaty. In the end, however, none of the proposals were included in the definitive treaty and there was no commercial agreement. The articles listed here should be compared with Franklin's longer “Sketch,” which notably proposed “that the Subjects of the United States and those of the King of Great Britain shall not be deemed Aliens in the Dominions of either, but enjoy the same Rights of Citizenship” (Franklin, Papers , 38:433–435). For JA's acceptance of this proposal, see his draft articles for a supplemental treaty, [ca. 27 April 1783], below.


This refers to the conventions between Russia, Denmark, and Sweden by which the three nations established an Armed Neutrality based on the principles enunciated by Catherine II in her declaration of 10 March 1780. For those conventions, as well as the declarations of other nations acceding to those principles and other relevant documents, see Scott, Armed Neutralities , p. 273–436. For the principles contained in Catherine's declaration and their importance for JA and the United States, see vol. 9:121–126. That the principles of the Armed Neutrality should be included in a peace or commercial settlement with Great Britain had a substantive basis, for although the commissioners’ June 1781 instructions said nothing about it, Congress had resolved on 5 Oct. 1780 to direct its ministers in Europe to seek admission to the confederation of neutrals ( JCC , 18:905–906). This led JA to make a concerted effort in early March 1781 to achieve Congress’ objective (vol. 11:182–185), while accession to the Armed Neutrality was the principal purpose of Francis Dana's mission to Russia. Indeed, the proposal here was included verbatim in the commissioners’ 12 Dec. letter to Dana, below.


This proposal reflected beliefs long held by Franklin that included, although not stated here, the abolition of privateering. For his reasons for such a proposal and the text of his proposed article, see Franklin, Papers , 37:609–610, 618–620; 38:444–445. For the later implementation of these principles, at least regarding “Cultivators of the earth, artizans, manufacturers, and fishermen,” see Art. 23 of the 1785 Prussian-American Treaty of Amity and Commerce (Miller, Treaties , 2:178–179).


This proposal reflected the inclusion of such an article in the French and Dutch treaties of amity and commerce of 1778 and 1782, Arts. 8 and 23, respectively (Miller, Treaties , 2:8–9, 78).


This concerned the right of American fishermen to dry and cure fish on Sable Island, which is located 100 miles off the coast of Nova Scotia. JA had asserted during the negotiations that it was a traditional right of American fishermen (JA, D&A , 3:45–46, 74). The stipulation was specifically mentioned in Art. 3 of the proposed treaty that Richard Oswald presented to the commissioners on 25 Nov., above, but was not explicitly acknowledged in either the preliminary or definitive treaties.


This proposal was not adopted until the Treaty of Washington of 1871 (Morris, Peacemakers , p. 416).


This proposal was intended to promote the humane treatment of prisoners of war by ensuring that the captors would receive compensation to cover their expenses at the conclusion of peace. For the implementation of this principle and other matters concerning the treatment of prisoners, see Art. 24 of the 1785 Prussian-American Treaty of Amity and Commerce (Miller, Treaties , 2:179–181).