Papers of John Adams, volume 15

To Robert R. Livingston

Henry Laurens to the American Peace Commissioners

The President of Congress to the American Peace Commissioners, 16 June 1783 President of Congress Boudinot, Elias American Peace Commissioners
The President of Congress to the American Peace Commissioners
Gentn., Philadelphia, June 16. 1783.

I am sorry to inform you, that by the Resignation of Mr. Livingston, as minister for foreign affairs, it has become necessary, that you should receive the Resolutions of Congress relative to your Mission, through my Hands.1 The Disadvantage arising from this Necessity, untill a Successor to that worthy Gentleman is appointed, will be yours, as it is impossible for me to do more than barely to transmit the Acts of Congress, necessary for your Information.

Enclosed you have one of the 1st. May last,2 & another of the 12th. Instant, which I hope will get safe to hand, time enough for your Government.3 The Commission & Instructions referred to in the first, not being ready, it was thought best to forward the Resolution without Delay, that you might know what was intended in the present important Period of your Negotiation.— We have been much 40surprized that we have not received any Communications from you, since the Cessation of Hostilities, except a Letter of the 5. April from M. Laurens.4

I have the honor to be with the most perfect Consideration & Esteem. / Gentlemen, / Your &c.

(signed) Elias Boudinot.

LbC-Tr in Jean L’Air de Lamotte’s hand (Adams Papers); APM Reel 103.


Robert R. Livingston resigned in Dec. 1782 but continued in office until he left Philadelphia in early June 1783. Congress appointed John Jay as his successor on 7 May 1784 (vol. 14:246).


This resolution stemmed directly from JA’s 5 Feb. 1783 letter to the president of Congress. It authorized JA, Benjamin Franklin, and John Jay to negotiate an Anglo-American commercial treaty and, as the following paragraph indicates, ordered a commission and instructions to be prepared. Congress, however, never implemented its resolution and no commission or instructions were ever sent (vol. 14:238–245). For JA’s reaction to the arrival of the 1 May resolution, which changed his entire attitude toward remaining in Europe, see his first 8 Sept. letter to the president of Congress, below.


The resolution of 12 June revoked the power given to American ministers in Europe to accede to the Armed Neutrality. It also indicated Congress’ determination that if the definitive treaty included a provision regarding neutral rights, the United States should not be required to “support those stipulations by arms.” For the origins of the resolution in a number of letters sent to Congress by C. W. F. Dumas and for an inference by Robert R. Livingston as to the commissioners’ intentions, see Livingston’s 31 May letter to the commissioners, and note 2, vol. 14:512–514. For the commissioners’ reaction to Livingston’s and Congress’ rationale for the resolution, see their 10 Sept. letter to the president of Congress; and for the implementation of the resolution, see Congress’ instructions of 29 Oct., both below.


For Henry Laurens’ letter, which largely concerned the demise of the American Intercourse Bill and Parliament’s growing sentiment in favor of restrictions on Anglo-American trade, see Laurens, Papers , 16:174–179.