Papers of John Adams, volume 14


Alleyne Fitzherbert to the American Peace Commissioners

From William Lee, 18 February 1783 Lee, William Adams, John
From William Lee
Dear Sir. Bruxelles 18 Feby. 1783.

I am advised from very good authority that the Emperor is desirous of entering into a Treaty of Commerce with the United States of Ama., on terms of equality & mutual advantage, therefore shall be much obliged to you for informing me if there is any person in Europe authoriz'd by Congress to enter into such a Treaty with his Imperial Majesty.1

Altho’ I have no doubt of your being well inform'd in these Points, I hope you will excuse me for mentioning, that it is an invariable rule with the Court of Austria never to make Officially the first advances to any other Sovereign Power, therefore if Congress approve of a Commercial Treaty being enter'd into with his Majesty, it is necessary that the formal Proposition for that purpose shou'd be first made on the part of America.


I have the Honor to be with the greatest Respect and / Esteem— / Dear Sir / Your most Obedt. & most / Humble Servant

W: Lee2

RC (Adams Papers); internal address: “His Excellency / John Adams Esqr. &c. &c. / at / Paris.”


JA copied this and the following paragraph, added an extract from his reply to Lee of 23 Feb., dated it 23 Feb., and enclosed it in his 22 Feb. letter to Francis Dana, below.


In 1777 Congress appointed Lee commissioner to Prussia and Austria. Lee visited Vienna in the summer of 1778, but the effort to establish diplomatic relations with the two nations proved fruitless (vol. 6:125–126, 215).