Papers of John Adams, volume 15

To Elbridge Gerry

To Elbridge Gerry

The American Peace Commissioners to David Hartley, 5 September 1783 American Peace Commissioners Hartley, David
The American Peace Commissioners to David Hartley
Sir, Passy Septr 5 17831

We have received the Letter which you did us the Honour to write yesterday.

Your friendly Congratulations on the signature of the definitive Treaty, meet with cordial Returns on our Part; and we sincerely rejoice with you in that event; by which the Ruler of Nations has been graciously pleased to give Peace to our two Countries.

We are no less ready to join our endeavours than our wishes with yours, to concert such measures for regulating the future intercourse between Great Britain & the United States, as by being consistent with the Honour and Interest of both may tend to increase & perpetuate mutual Confidence & good-will.—2 We ought nevertheless to apprize you that as no construction of our Commission could 260at any Period extend it, unless by Implication, to several of the proposed Stipulations; and as our Instructions respecting commercial Provisions however explicit, suppose their being incorporated in the definitive Treaty, a Recurrence to Congress, previous to the signature of them will be necessary, unless obviated by the Dispatches we may sooner receive from them.

We shall immediately write to them on the Subject, and we are persuaded that the same disposition to Confidence and Friendship, which has induced them already to give unrestrained Course to British Commerce, and unconditionally to liberate all Prisoners, at a time when more caution would not have appeared singular, will also urge their attention to the objects in question, and lead them to every proper measure for promoting a liberal & satisfactory intercourse between the two Countries—

We have communicated to Congress the repeated3 friendly assurances with which you have officially honoured us on those subjects, and we are persuaded that the Period of their being realized, will have an auspicious & conciliating influence on all the Parties in the late unhappy dissensions—

We have the honour to be Sir, / with great Respect & Esteem / Your most obedt & humble Servants

John Adams B Franklin John Jay

FC (PRO:FO 4, 2:220–221); internal address: “Honble D Hartley Esqr / His Britannic Majesty’s / Minister Plenipotentiary.” LbC-Tr’s (Adams Papers); APM Reel 103.


There are two copies of this letter in the Letterbook that Jean L’Air de Lamotte prepared for the commissioners. The first copy bears the heading “Copy of the Letter to Mr. Hartley, as 1st. sent.” The second copy is headed “Copy of the Letter to Mr. Hartley with the alterations” and except for minor variations matches the British file copy printed above. JA printed both versions in the Boston Patriot of 26 Feb. 1812, there designating the first as “the first draft.” Since there is no evidence that variant copies of this letter actually were sent to Hartley, it seems likely that after the letter was drafted and signed it was reconsidered and altered, perhaps to make it less discouraging regarding the possibility of an Anglo-American commercial agreement, but see the commissioners’ 7 Sept. letter to Hartley, below. Differences in capitalization, spelling, and punctuation between the draft version and the letter as sent have not been indicated, but for substantive differences between the two versions, see notes 2 and 3.


From this point through the next paragraph below, the draft of the letter reads “We must, nevertheless, candidly inform you, that we consider our Commission as terminated; and, therefore, without further Authority from Congress, will not be able to sign and conclude. All we can at present do, is, to confer with you & recommend to Congress such Propositions as may appear to us to merit their Assent: And we shall propose to them to send a Commission to Europe without delay for these important Purposes.

“The unrestrained Course already given by the States to the British Commerce with 261them, & the unconditional Liberation of Prisoners, at a Time when more Caution would not have been singular, are marks of Liberty and Confidence, which, we flatter ourselves, will be equalled by the Magnanimity of his Majesty & the People of Great Britain.”


In the draft version, “repeated” is preceded by “Warm &.”