Papers of John Adams, volume 14

Draft Peace Treaty Presented by Richard Oswald to the American Peace Commissioners, 25 November 1782 Oswald, Richard Adams, John Franklin, Benjamin Jay, John
Draft Peace Treaty Presented by Richard Oswald to the American Peace Commissioners
Monday Nov. 25. 1782.1

The Three Commissioners Adams, Franklin and Jay, met at Mr Oswalds Lodgings at the Hotel de Muscovie, and after Some Conferences, Mr Oswald delivered them the following Articles, as fresh Proposals of the British Ministry, Sent by Mr Stratchey. vizt.

Articles agreed upon, by and between Richard Oswald Esquire, the Commissioner of his Britannic Majesty, for treating of Peace, with the Commissioners of the United States of America, in behalf of his Said Majesty, on the one Part, and John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and John Jay, three of the Commissioners of the Said States, for treating of Peace, with the Commissioner of his Said Majesty, on their Behalf, on the other Part. To be inserted in, and to constitute the Treaty of Peace, proposed to be concluded, between the Crown of Great Britain, and the Said United States, but which Treaty is not to be concluded, untill the Terms of a Peace, Shall be agreed upon between Great Britain and France, and his Britannic Majesty shall be ready to conclude Such Treaty accordingly.

Whereas reciprocal Advantages and mutual Convenience, are found by Experience, to form the only permanent foundation of Peace and Friend Ship between States, it is agreed to form the Articles of the proposed Treaty on Such Principles of liberal Equity and Reciprocity, as that partial Advantages (those Seeds of Discord) being excluded, Such a beneficial and Satisfactory Intercourse, between the two Countries may be established, as to promise and Secure to both, perpetual Peace and Harmony.

Article 1st.

His Britannic Majesty acknowledges, the Said United States, vizt New Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pensylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia to be free, Sovereign, and independent States, that he treats with them as Such, and for himself, his Heirs and Successors, relinquishes all claims to the Government, Propriety and territorial Rights of the Same, and every Part thereof, and that all Disputes which might arise in future on the Subject of the Boundaries of the Said United States may be prevented; it is hereby agreed and declared, that the following are and shall be their Boundaries. vizt2

Article 2.

From the North West Angle of Nova Scotia, vizt. that Angle which is formed by a Line drawn due North from the Source of St Croix River to the High Lands, along the Said High Lands, which divide those Rivers that empty themselves into the River St Laurens from those which fall into the Atlantic Ocean, to the North Western most Head of Connecticut River, thence down along the Middle of that River, to the 45 Degree of North Latitude; from thence by a Line due West on Said Latitude untill it Strikes the River Iroquois or Cataroquy; thence along the middle of Said River into Lake ontario, through the middle of Said Lake untill it Strikes the Communication by Water between that Lake and Lake Erie, thence along the middle of Said Communication, into Lake Erie, through the Middle of Said Lake, untill it arrives at the Water Communication between that Lake and the Lake Huron; thence along the Middle of Said Water Communication into the Lake Huron; thence through the Middle of Said Lake to the Water Communication between that Lake and Lake Superiour; thence through Lake Superiour northward of the Isles Royal and Philipeaux to the Long Lake; thence through the middle of Said long Lake, and the Water Communication between it, and the Lake of the Woods, to the Said Lake of the Woods; thence through the Said Lake to the most Northwestern Point thereof, and from thence on a due western course to the River Missisippi, thence by a Line to be drawn along the middle of the Said River Missisippi untill it Shall intersect the Northern most Part of 31st. Degree of North Latitude.

South by a Line to be drawn due East from the Determination of the Line last mentioned, in the Latitude of 31 Degrees north of the Equator to the Middle of the River Apalachicola, or Catahouchi; thence along the middle thereof to its Junction with the Flynt River, thence Strait to the Head of St Marys River; and thence down along the middle of St Marys River to the Atlantic Ocean.

East, by a Line to be drawn along the middle of the River St Croix from its mouth in the Bay of Fundy to its Source; and from its Source directly north to the aforesaid High Lands, which divide the Rivers that fall into the Atlantic Ocean, from those which fall into the River St Laurens; comprehending all Islands within twenty Leagues of any Part of the Shores of the United States, and lying between Lines to be drawn due East from the Points where the aforesaid Boundaries between Nova Scotia on the one Part and East Florida on the other Shall respectively touch the Bay of Fundy and 86the Atlantic Ocean; excepting Such Islands as now are or heretofore have been, within the Limits of the Said Province of Nova Scotia.3

Article 3.

The Citizens of the Said United States Shall have the Liberty 4 of taking Fish of every Kind on all the Banks of Newfoundland, and also in the Gulph of St. Laurence; and also to dry and cure their Fish on the Shores of the Isle of Sables and on the Shores of any of the unsettled Bays, Harbours, and Creeks of the Magdalene Islands, in the Gulph of St Laurence, So long as Such Bays, Harbours and Creeks Shall continue and remain unsettled; on Condition that the Citizens of the Said United States do not exercise the Fishery, but at the Distance of three Leagues from all the Coasts, belonging to Great Britain, as well those of the Continent as those of the Islands Situated in the Gulph of st Laurence. And as to what relates to the Fishery on the Coasts of the Island of Cape Breton out of the Said Gulph, the Citizens of the Said United States, Shall not be permitted to exercise the Said Fishery, but at the Distance of fifteen Leagues from the Coasts of the Island of Cape Breton.5

Article 4.

It is agreed that the British Creditors Shall meet with no lawful Impediment to the Recovery of the full Value in Sterling Money of Such bona fide Debts as were contracted by any Persons who are Citizens of the Said United States before the Year 1775.6

Article 5.7

It is agreed that Restitution Shall be made of all Estates, Rights and Properties in America, which have been confiscated during the War.

Article 6.

There Shall be a full and entire Amnesty of all Acts and offences, which have been or may be Supposed to have been committed on either Side by reason of the War, and in the Course thereof; and no one Shall hereafter Suffer in Life or Person, or be deprived of his Property, for the Part he may have taken therein. All Persons, in Confinement on that Account, Shall immediately on the Ratification of the Treaty in America, be Set at Liberty: all Prosecutions which may be depending in Consequence of any of the Said Offences, Shall cease, and no fresh Prosecutions Shall at any time hereafter be commenced thereupon.

Article 7.

There Shall be a firm and perpetual Peace, between his Britannic Majesty and the Said States, and between the Subjects of the one, and the Citizens of the other.; Wherefore all Hostilities both by Sea and Land Shall then immediately cease: All Prisoners on both Sides Shall be Set at Liberty; And his Britannic Majesty Shall with all convenient Speed, and without causing any Destruction,8 withdraw all his Armies Garrisons and Fleets from the Said United States, and from every Port, Place, and Harbour within the Same, leaving in all Fortifications the American Artillery, that may be, therein. And Shall also order and cause all Archives, Records, Deeds and Papers, belonging to any of the Said States or their Citizens, which in the Course of the War, may have fallen into the Hands of his Officers to be forthwith restored and delivered to the proper States and Persons to whom they belong.

Article 8.9

The Navigation of the Missisippi, from its Source to the Ocean, Shall forever remain free and open to the Subjects of Great Britain and Citizens of the United States.

Seperate Article.

It is hereby understood and agreed, that in Case, Great Britain, at the End of the present War, Shall be, or be put, in Possession of West Florida the Line of North Boundary, between the Said Province and the United States, Shall be a Line drawn from the Mouth of the River Yassous, where it unites with the River Missisippi, due East to the River Apalachicola.

LbC (Adams Papers); APM Reel 109.


JA's Diary indicates that on the evening of 23 Nov. he was with John Jay when Jay received a request from Richard Oswald for a meeting at either Jay's or Oswald's residence. Oswald's purpose was to arrange a meeting between himself and the American Commissioners to present the proposed treaty, which was newly approved by the Shelburne ministry and had reached Paris earlier in the day in the care of Henry Strachey. Matthew Ridley's diary recorded Strachey's return on the 23d and indicated that Oswald and his colleague, Alleyne Fitzherbert, were “very doubtful about Peace” and “of Ld. Shelburne keeping his Ground.” Their apprehensions, which were well founded and shared by their American counterparts, largely concerned Arts. 3, 5, and 6 dealing with the fisheries and the loyalists (see notes 4, 5, and 7). For JA's account of the negotiations, which centered on those two issues and concluded successfully on the 29th, see JA, D&A , 3:72–81.


The preamble and Art. 1 are essentially the same as their counterparts in the draft treaty of [4 Nov.], above, that Strachey had carried to London. They were incorporated virtually unchanged into the preliminary treaty signed on 30 Nov., below. The only significant difference between this and the 88earlier draft was that the first paragraph of the preamble is here less specific and more implicit regarding the American obligation not to sign a separate peace under the terms of the Franco-American alliance of 1778.


Article 2 was also incorporated into the preliminary treaty, differing significantly from the corresponding passage in the [4 Nov.] draft, above, only in that it ran the northern boundary through the middle of the Great Lakes. For the alternatives considered before this solution was devised, see the [4 Nov.] draft, and note 4; and JA's 6 Nov. letter to Robert R. Livingston, and note 8, both above. In his Diary JA noted that the Shelburne ministry “did not approve” the boundary as set down in Art. 2, thinking “it too extended, too vast a Country, but they would not make a difficulty” (JA, D&A , 3:72).


JA underlined these two words because “Liberty” was unacceptable to the American Commissioners, who insisted that the ability of Americans to fish on the Grand Banks should be a right. “Right” was the word used in the [4 Nov.] treaty, above, that Strachey carried to London, but it was replaced with “Liberty” in the course of the cabinet's deliberations. The original word was restored in drafts of the article on [28 Nov.] and [29 Nov.] and in the treaty signed on 30 Nov., all below. In his Diary entry for 29 Nov., JA wrote that “Mr. Stratchey proposed to leave out the Word Right of Fishing and make it Liberty. Mr. Fitsherbert said the Word Right was an obnoxious Expression” (JA, D&A , 3:79).


JA believed that, as revised in London, this article was an effort to reconcile American access to the Newfoundland fisheries with any corresponding stipulation to be made in an Anglo-French peace treaty, writing in his Diary that he “could not help observing that the Ideas respecting the Fishery appeared to me to come piping hot from Versailles.” The practical effect of the change in language would have been to prohibit the Americans from fishing closer than three leagues, or nine miles, from the coast. During a long and detailed explanation of the minutiae of the cod and haddock fisheries and American participation by tradition and treaty, JA noted that the proposed change would have placed American fishermen at a severe disadvantage without securing any benefit for English fishermen. JA explained that in the springtime cod and haddock came very close to shore, even into the harbors and streams. While American fishermen could get to the fishing grounds early enough to take advantage of this phenomenon, English fishermen could not. Therefore, if Americans were not permitted to operate unrestricted along the coast, no fish would be taken by anyone. On 25 Nov., during the opening stages of his defense of American fishing rights, which continued intermittently on 26, 28, and 29 Nov., JA noted that “we have a saying at Boston that when the Blossoms fall the Haddock begin to crawl,” that is, to move out into deep water (same, 3:72–81). For the evolution of this article with regard to the access of American fishermen to the inshore fishery and their ability to dry and cure their catch, see the drafts of [28 Nov.] and [29 Nov.], all below.


As it appears here this article was considerably shorter than the version in the [4 Nov.] treaty, above, carried to London by Strachey. In the treaty signed on 30 Nov., below, it was even shorter and had been made reciprocal. For the evolution of the article see the draft at [28 Nov.], below.


Neither this nor the following article, which together require restitution and amnesty for the loyalists, appear in the treaty signed on 30 November. Nevertheless, they illustrate the gulf dividing the British and American negotiators. What to do about the loyalists was the most contentious issue of the negotiations. As Benjamin Vaughan observed in a 27 Nov. letter to Benjamin Franklin, “if you wanted to break off your treaty, I am perfectly sensible that you could not do it on grounds in which America would more join with you, than this of the refugees. On the other hand, if England wanted to break, she could not wish for better ground on her side” (Franklin, Papers , 38:368–369). The American Commissioners’ problem was that Arts. 5 and 6 were less conditional and went further than the provisions in the draft treaty of [4 Nov.], above. Indeed, their inclusion as they appear here indicates the pressure on the Shelburne ministry to do something tangible for the loyalists. This is particularly so in view of the commissioners’ 7 Nov. letter to Richard Oswald, above, in which they declared that, despite Oswald's warning that the ministry in London would consider the [4 Nov.] draft's provisions regarding the loyalists inadequate, anything beyond what was granted to the loyalists there was 89unacceptable to them and impossible for Congress to implement.

Despite the importance of the loyalist issue and its potential to render a peace settlement impossible, JA's Diary has relatively little to say about the negotiations over the loyalists. On 26 Nov. he noted that there had been “endless Discussions about the Tories” and on the 27th that Oswald and the commissioners were “endeavouring to come together, concerning the Fisheries and Tories.” Only on the 29th does he comment extensively regarding the final British capitulation to the inevitable and the acceptance of the articles appearing in the treaty of 30 Nov., below. JA's reticence probably stems from his more active role and interest in the negotiations over the fisheries; it probably also reflects his deference to Benjamin Franklin, who was “very staunch against the Tories, more decided a great deal on this Point than Mr. Jay or my self.” Indeed, in his Diary entry for 29 Nov., JA quotes extensively from the paper that Franklin presented during that day's negotiating session, a copy of which is in the Adams Papers (JA, D&A , 3:77, 78, 80–81; Franklin, Papers , 38:375–377). Franklin threatened that should the British insist on compensation for the loyalist losses in America, the commissioners would require that American citizens be compensated for the destruction and losses caused by British wartime operations. For the evolution of the articles concerning the loyalists, see the draft article at [ca. 26 Nov.], and the preliminary treaty signed on 30 Nov., both below.


This article was included virtually verbatim in the treaty of 30 Nov., below, except that at this point the negotiators inserted additional text specifically prohibiting British forces from taking slaves or other American property with them when they evacuated the United States. The addition reflected the arrival of Henry Laurens at Paris on or about 29 Nov. and was Laurens’ main contribution to the treaty (JA, D&A , 3:80).


This and the separate article were little changed from the [4 Nov.] draft, above, and were incorporated virtually verbatim into the preliminary treaty of 30 Nov., below.

To Eliphalet Brush, 26 November 1782 Adams, John Brush, Eliphalet
To Eliphalet Brush
Sir, Paris Novr. 26th. 1782.

Your favor from Bourdeaux of the 19th., I have had the pleasure to recieve, & congratulate You on your successful Voyages. I thank You too for your Care of my Dispatches and kind Attention to me.

The Dutch have been induced to make common Cause with Us, but have not yet exerted themselves in it with so much Unanimity & Zeal as might be wished for their own sakes as well as ours— Yet it makes a material Odds to have them for Us, rather than against Us. Your Friends in Holland are all well, as are those at Boston, from whence we have Letters to the 10th. of October.

If any Questions should be asked me on the part of M. de Castries or others, relative to your Affairs, I shall not fail to give all the Light in my Power. Mr. Broom I know very well & have a great Esteem for him. If I can find a safe Conveyance to Bourdeaux, I shall be glad to send a few Letters by your Vessel.— My Respects if You please to Mr. Bondfield, Mr. Price, and any other Acquaintance at Bourdeaux.

I have the honor to be, Sir, &c


LbC in John Thaxter's hand (Adams Papers); internal address: “Mr. Brush / Chez Messs. V. P. French & Neven / negociants à Bourdeaux”; APM Reel 108.