Papers of John Adams, volume 15

Draft Definitive Peace Treaty between the United States and Great Britain, [ante 19 July 1783] Adams, John
Draft Definitive Peace Treaty between the United States and Great Britain
[ante 19 July 1783]1

(Project for) the definitive Treaty of Peace and Friendship, between his Britannic Majesty and the United States of America, concluded at    the    Day of    1783.

In the name of the most Holy Trinity, Father, Son, & Holy Ghost. So be it.

Be it known to all those, to whom it shall or may, in any Manner, belong.

It has pleased the most high to diffuse the Spirit of Union & Concord among the Nations, whose Divisions had Spread Troubles in 152the four Parts of the World, & to inspire them with the Inclination to cause the Comforts of Peace to succeed to the Misfortunes of a long and bloody War, which, having arisen between Great Britain and the United States of America, in its Progress communicated itself to France, Spain, and the United Netherlands.

Consequently the United States of America did, on the fifteenth Day of June, in the Year of our Lord, One thousand, seven hundred and Eighty one, name and appoint their Ministers Plenipotentiary, and resolve, ordain and grant their Commission in the following Words, Vizt.

(Here insert it.)

And his Majesty the King of Great Britain did on the twenty first Day of September, in the twenty second Year of his Reign, issue his Commission under the great Seal of Great Britain to Richard Oswald Esqe. in the Words following, Vizt.

(Here insert it)

And his said Britannic Majesty, on the one Part, and the said United States of America, on the other, did lay the Foundations of Peace in the Preliminaries, signed at Paris the thirtieth of November last, by the said Richard Oswald Esqr. On the Part of his said Majesty, and by the said John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, John Jay & Henry Laurens Esquires, on the Part of the said United States, in Virtue of their respective full Powers aforesaid, and after having mutually shown to each other their said full Powers in good Form, and mutually exchanged authenticated Copies of the same.

And his said Britannic Majesty did, on the twenty fourth day of July in the Year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty two, and in the twenty second Year of his Reign, issue his Commission signed with his Royal Hand, and under the great Seal of G. Britain, to Alleyne Fitz Herbert Esqr. in the following Words, Vizt.

(Here insert it)

And the said Alleyne Fitz Herbert, on the Part of his said Britannic Majesty, and John Adams & Benjn. Franklin, in the necessary absence of the said John Jay & Henry Laurens, on the part of the said United States, did, at Versailles, on the twentieth Day of January last, communicate to each other their full Powers aforesaid, in good Form, and agreed upon an Armistice in the Words following.


(Here insert it)

And his Britannic Majesty did on the    Day of    in the Year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty three, and in the twenty third Year of his Reign, issue his Commission, signed with his Royal Hand, and under the great Seal of Great Britain, to David Hartley Esqr. in the folloing Words, Vizt.

(Here insert it)

And now the said David Hartley, Minister Plenipotentiary of his said Britannic Majesty, in behalf of his said Majesty on the one Part, and John Adams, Benjn. Franklin, & John Jay, Ministers Plenipotentiary of the said United States of America, in behalf of the said States, on the other, having communicated to each other their aforesaid full Powers in good Form, and mutually exchanged authenticated Copies of the same, have, by Virtue thereof, agreed, and do hereby agree & conclude, upon the Articles, the Tenor of which is as follows, Vizt. 2

Whereas reciprocal Advantages and mutual Convenience are found, by Experience, to form the only permanent Foundation of Peace and Friendship, between States, it is agreed to form the Articles of this Treaty on such Principles of liberal Equity & 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 & Harmony.3

Article, 1st.

The same as Art. 1st. of the Prely. Treaty, but finishing at “every Part thereof.”4

Article 2d.

The same as Art. 2d. of the Prely. Treaty, but commencing with the remaining Part of Art. 1st.and that all Disputes” &c. & ending with the Words, “And the Atlantic Ocean.”5

Article, 3d.

The same as Article 3d. of the Preliminary Treaty.

Article, 4d.

It is agreed, that Creditors, on either Side, shall meet with no lawful Impediment to the Recovery of the full Value in sterling Money of all Bonâ fide Debts heretofore contracted;6 excepting that 154the respective Governments on both Sides, may, if they think proper, pass Acts directing, that, in Consideration of the Distresses and Disabilities brought on by the War, and by the Interruption of Commerce, no Execution shall be issued on a Judgment to be obtained in any such Case, until after the Expiration of three Years from the Date of this Definitive Treaty; nor shall such Judgments include any Allowance of Interest for the Time that passed during the War, & until the signing hereof.

Article, 5th.

And whereas Doubts have arisen concerning the true Construction of the 5th. Article of the provisional Treaty, and Great Difficulties are likely to arise in its Execution, it is hereby agreed, that the same shall be declared, void and omitted in this definitive Treaty.

And, instead thereof it is agreed, that as exact an Account as may be, shall be taken by Commissioners to be appointed for that Purpose on each Part, of all Seizures, Confiscations, or Destruction of Property, belonging to the adherents of the Crown of Great Britain in America, (exclusive of Prizes made at Sea, and Debts mentioned in the preceeding Article) and also an Account of all Seizures, Confiscations, or Destruction of Property, belonging to the adherents of the United States, residing either therein, or in Canada; and the said Property being duly appraised and valued, the Accounts thereof shall be compared, and the Ballance shall be paid in Money by the Party which has suffered least, within one Year after such adjustment of the said Accounts. And it is farther agreed, that all Persons who have any Interest in confiscated Lands, either by Debts or Marriage Settlements, or otherwise, shall meet with no lawful Impediment in the Prosecution of their just Rights.7

Article, 6th.

The same as Art. 6th. of the Preliminary Treaty.

Article, 7th.

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.8 And his Britannic Majesty shall, with all convenient Speed, and without causing any Destruction, or carrying away any Negroes, or other Property of the American Inhabitants, withdraw all his Armies, Garrisons, and Fleets from the said United States, & from every Port, Place, and Harbour, within the 155same, 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 & Parsons, to whom they belong. And all Destruction of Property, or carrying away of Negroes, or other Property, belonging to the American Inhabitants, contrary to the above Stipulation, shall be duly estimated and compensated to the Owners.9

Article, 8th.

The Navigation of the Rivers Mississippi & St. Laurence, from their Sources to the Ocean, shall for ever remain free & open to the Subjects of Great Britain and the Citizens of the United States.10

Article, 9th.

The Prisoners Made respectively by the arms of his Britannic Majesty, & the United States, by Land & by Sea, not already set at Liberty, shall be restored, reciprocally and bonâ fide, immediately after the Ratification of the Definitive Treaty, without Ransom, and on paying the Debts they may have contracted during their Captivity: and each Party shall respectively reimburse the Sums, which shall have been advanced for the subsistence and maintenance of their Prisoners, by the Sovereign of the Country, where they shall have been detained, according to the Receipts, and attested Accts. and other authentic Titles, which shall be produced on each Side to Commissioners, who shall be mutually appointed for the Purpose of settling the same.11

Article, 10th.

His Britannic Majesty shall employ his good offices and Interposition with the King or Emperor of Morocco or Fez, the Regencies of Algiers, Tunis and Tripoly, or with any of them, and also with every other Prince, State, or Power of the Coast of Barbary in Africa, & the Subjects of the said King, Emperor, States, and Powers, and each of them, in order to provide, as fully & efficaciously as possible, for the Benefit, Conveniency and Safety of the said United States, and each of them, their Subjects, People & Inhabitants and their Vessels and Effects against all Violence, Insult, Attacks or Depredations, on the Part of the said Provinces & States of Barbary or their Subjects.12


Article, 11th.

If War, should hereafter arise between Great Britain & the United States, which God forbid, the Merchants of either Country then residing in the other, shall be allowed to remain 9 Months to collect their Debts and settle their Affairs, and may depart freely, carrying off all their Effects, without Molestation or Hindrance. And all Fishermen, all Cultivators of the Earth, and all Artisans or Manufacturers, unarmed & inhabiting unfortified Towns, Villages or Places, who labour for the common Subsistence and Benefit of Mankind, and peaceably follow their respective Employments, shall be allowed to continue the same, and shall not be molested by the armed force of the Enemy, in whose Power, by the Events of War, they may happen to fall; but, if any Thing is necessary to be taken from them for the Use of such armed Force, the same shall be paid for at a reasonable Price. And all Merchants or Traders, with their unarmed Vessels employed in Commerce, exchanging the Products of different Places, & thereby rendering the Necessaries, Conveniences, and Comforts of human Life more easy to obtain, and more general, shall be allowed to pass freely unmolested. And neither of the Powers, Parties to this Treaty, shall grant or issue any Commission to any private armed Vessel, impowering them to take or destroy such trading Ships, or interrupt such Commerce.13

Article, 12.

And in Case either of the contracting Parties shall happen to be engaged in War with any other Nation, it is farther agreed, in order to prevent all the Difficulties & misunderstandings that usually arise, respecting the Merchandize heretofore called Contraband, such as Arms, Ammunition, and military Stores of all Kinds, that no such Articles carrying by the Ships or Subjects of one of the Parties to the Enemies of the other, shall, on any Account be deemed Contraband, so as to induce Confiscation and a Loss of Property to individuals; Nevertheless, it shall be lawful to stop such Ships, and detain them for such Length of Time as the Captors may think necessary, to prevent the Inconvenience or Damage, that might ensue from their proceeding on their Voyage, paying, however, a reasonable Compensation for the Loss such arrest shall occasion to the Proprietors. And it shall farther be allowed to use in the Service of the Captors the whole or any Part of the military Stores so detained, paying to the Owners the full Value of the same, to be ascertained by the current Price at the Place of its Destination.14


Article, 13th.

The Citizens and Inhabitants of the said United States, or any of them, may take and hold real Estates in Great Britain, Ireland, or any other of his Majesty’s Dominions, and dispose by Testament, Donation, or otherwise, of their Property, real or Personal, in favour of such Persons as to them shall seem fit; and their Heirs, Citizens of the said United States, or any of them, residing in the British Dominions, or elsewhere, may succeed them ab intestato, without being obliged to obtain Letters of Naturalisation.

The Subjects of his Britannic Majesty shall enjoy, on their Part, in all the Dominions of the said United States, an entire and perfect Reciprocity, relative to the Stipulations contained in the present Article.15

Article, 14.

His Britannic Majesty consents that the Citizens of the United States may cut Logwood as heretofore, in the District allotted to his Subjects by the Treaty with Spain, on Condition that they bring or send the said Logwood to Great Britain or Ireland, and to no other Part of Europe.16

Article, 15th.

All the Lakes, Rivers, and Waters, divided by the Boundary Line or Lines between his B. My’s. Territories and those of the United States, as well as the Rivers mentioned in Art:    shall be freely used & navigated by the Subjects & Citizens of his said Majesty, and of the said States, in common over the whole Extent or Breadth of the said Lakes, Rivers and Waters. And all the carrying Places, on which side soever situated of the sd. dividing Waters, or between the said Rivers and the Waters or Territories of either of the Parties, may and shall be freely used by the Traders of both, without any Restraint, Demand of Duties, or Tax, or any Imposition whatsoever, except such as the Inhabitants of the Country may be subject to.17

Article, 16th.

That in all Places, belonging to the United States, or either of them, in the Country adjoining to the Water Line of Division, and which, during the War, were in his Majesty’s Possession, all Persons at present, resident or having Possessions or Occupations as Merchants, or otherwise, may remain in the peaceable Enjoyment of all civil Rights & in pursuit of their Occupations, unless they shall within seven Years from the Date hereof receive Notice, from 158Congress, or the State to which any such Place may appertain, to remove, and that upon any such Notice of Removal a Term of two Years shall be allowed for selling or withdrawing their Effects, and for settling their Affairs.

Article, 17th.

It is further agreed That his Britannic Majesty’s forces not exceeding    in Number, may continue in the Posts now occupied by them, contiguous to the Water Line, until Congress shall give them Notice to evacuate the said Posts, and American Garrisons shall arrive at said Posts for the Purpose of securing the Lives, Property and Peace of any Persons, settled in that Country, against the Invasion or Ravages of the Neighbouring Indian Nations, who may be suspected of retaining Resentments in Consequence of the late War.

Article, 18th.

It is farther agreed, that his Britannic Majesty shall cause to be evacuated the Ports of New-York, Penobscot and their Dependences, with all other Posts and Places in Possession of his Majesty’s Arms within the United States, in three Months after the signing of this Treaty, or sooner if possible, excepting those Posts, contiguous to the Water Line above mentioned, which are to be evacuated on Notice as specified in Art:   18

Article, 19th.

It is agreed that all Vessels, which shall have been taken by either Party from the other, after the Term of twelve Days within the Channel or the North Seas, or after the Term of one Month any where to the Northward of the Latitude of the Canaries inclusively, or after the Term of two Months between the Latitude of the Canaries and the equinoxial Line, or after the Term of five months in any other Part of the World, all which sd. Terms are to be computed from the 3d. Day of Feby. last, shall be restored.19

His sacred said Britannic Majesty and the said United States promise to observe, sincerely and bonâ fide, all the Articles contained and settled in the present Treaty; and they will not suffer the same to be infringed, directly or indirectly, by their respective Subjects & Citizens.20

The solemn Ratifications of the present Treaty, expedited in good and due form, shall be exchanged in the City of London, or 159Philadelphia, between the contracting Parties, in the Space of    Months, or sooner if possible, to be computed from the Day of the Signature of the present Treaty.

In Witness whereof, We, the underwritten, their Ministers Plenipotentiary, have signed with our Hands, in their Name, and in Virtue of our full Powers, the present definitive Treaty, & have caused the Seal of our Arms to be put thereto.

Done at    the    Day of    1783.—

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

160 1.

This date is derived from JA’s assertion in his 10 Aug. letter to Robert R. Livingston, below, that he completed this draft treaty prior to his departure for the Netherlands on 19 July and that during his absence “a fair Copy” had been prepared and delivered to David Hartley. None of the commissioners’ letters indicate when this happened, but JA wrote in his first letter to Livingston on 13 Aug., below, that “the Duke of Manchester told me, that Mr: Hartley’s Courier who carried our Project of a Treaty, arrived in London last Saturday.” Since Saturday was the 9th, and assuming that Hartley sent the draft off immediately and that it reached London in three or four days, it seems likely that Hartley received the draft on 5 or 6 August.

The draft treaty was the final effort by JA and his colleagues to go beyond the preliminary articles signed on 30 Nov. 1782. The draft contains some of the elements of a commercial treaty (see notes 12–16) but does not actually deal with the conditions under which trade would take place since the commissioners had no power to conclude a commercial agreement. The draft includes the articles from the preliminary treaty, some of them significantly altered. Others are derived from proposals advanced during the five months that the commissioners waited for the negotiation of the definitive treaty to begin, and some proceed from the actual negotiations with Hartley. The commissioners could have had little expectation of success, and by 21 Aug. 1783 their doubts had been confirmed. On that date Benjamin Franklin wrote to Henry Laurens that “it is come finally to this, that the ministers propose our signing, as a definitive treaty, the preliminary articles, with no alterations or additions” (Wharton, Dipl. Corr. Amer. Rev. , 6:658). Note that the articles from the preliminary treaty indicated below were included in the definitive treaty, but unless otherwise indicated the other proposed articles, passages, or alterations were not.


To this point, except for the final paragraph referring to Hartley, the preamble is taken virtually verbatim from JA’s “first Sketch of a Definitive Treaty” of [1 Feb.] (vol. 14:227–230). When JA prepared the draft either he or his secretary was overzealous in his copying, for the references to Alleyne Fitzherbert in paragraphs 8 and 9 were retained despite Fitzherbert’s replacement in April by the Duke of Manchester (vol. 14:402). Compare this preamble with the much shorter opening to the [3 Sept.] definitive treaty, below, which does not include the commissions of the British and American signatories.


This paragraph is taken directly from the [30 Nov. 1782] preliminary treaty (vol. 14:103).


This alteration, removing the final sentence of Art. 1 and making it the opening sentence of Art. 2, is one of the few instances where a change appearing in this draft was incorporated into the definitive treaty.


This change removed the words “excepting Such Islands, as now are, or heretofore have been within the Limits of the Said Province of Nova Scotia” (vol. 14:105). It was the first of the eight proposals that the commissioners presented to Hartley in their second letter of 29 June 1783, above.


To this point this article is identical to Art. 4 in the preliminary treaty (vol. 14:106) and was retained in Art. 4 in the [3 Sept.] definitive treaty, below. The remainder of the article was derived from Congress’ resolution of 30 May that Livingston enclosed in his 31 May letter to the commissioners ( JCC , 24:372–376; vol. 14:512–514, and note 1). In their letter of 18 July to Livingston, above, the commissioners indicated that they would propose including in Art. 4 language reflecting the substance of Congress’ resolution, and in fact they had done so in their 17 July letter to Hartley, and note 4, above.


Despite being only recommendatory, Art. 5 of the preliminary treaty regarding the restoration of loyalist property was the most controversial article in the treaty and was retained unchanged in the definitive treaty. But in the draft article proposed here as a substitute, only the final sentence was retained from the preliminary treaty. To a significant degree the proposed article reflected the position advanced by Franklin during the negotiation of the preliminary treaty, specifically in a paper read to the negotiators on 29 Nov. 1782 (vol. 14:88–89, note 7; Franklin, Papers , 38:376–377).


With two exceptions, indicated here and in note 9, this article is substantially the same as Art. 7 in the preliminary and definitive treaties. At this point in the preliminary treaty is the passage “wherefore all Hostilities both by Sea and Land Shall then immediately cease; all Prisoners, on both Sides Shall be Set at Liberty” (vol. 14:107). Presumably the first part of the passage was removed because hostilities had already ceased and were unlikely to be renewed, while the second portion dealing with prisoners likely was omitted because of the draft’s new Art. 9.


This sentence was added as a consequence of Congress’ resolution of 26 May 1783 and had been proposed to Hartley in the commissioners’ letter of 17 July, and note 2, above.


The inclusion of the right to navigate the St. Lawrence River in Art. 8 was a significant change from the preliminary treaty. If access to the St. Lawrence was raised previously in the course of the commissioners’ negotiations with Richard Oswald or Hartley, no record of that discussion has been found.


Except for the appointment of commissioners to settle the amount due, this article is virtually the same as that presented to Hartley by the commissioners on 29 April (JA, D&A , 3:115) and included as Art. 2 of the proposals made to Hartley in their second letter of 29 June, above. Such a provision was also among those that the commissioners proposed for the definitive treaty in Dec. 1782, and it reflected the substance of Congress’ 30 May 1783 resolution concerning prisoners, which Livingston had enclosed with his letter of 31 May (vol. 14:119–120, 512–514; JCC , 24:375–376).


This article is virtually identical to Art. 8 in the 1778 Franco-American Treaty of Amity and Commerce and closely resembles Art. 23 of the 1782 Dutch-American Treaty of Amity and Commerce (Miller, Treaties , 2:8–9, 78). It was among the commissioners’ Dec. 1782 proposals for the definitive treaty (vol. 14:119–120) and was Art. 3 of the proposals made in their second letter to Hartley of 29 June 1783, above.


This article was among the commissioners’ Dec. 1782 proposals for the definitive treaty and represented a position long held by Franklin (vol. 14:119–120, and note 3). The text of the article here is taken virtually verbatim from a proposal made by Franklin on or about 13 Dec., which JA thought “a good Lesson to Mankind at least” (Franklin, Papers , 38:444–445; JA, D&A , 3:96). It had appeared as Art. 4 of the proposals made to Hartley in the commissioners’ second letter of 29 June 1783, above. For the implementation of this provision, in almost identical language, see Art. 23 of the 1785 Prussian-American Treaty of Amity and Commerce, Miller, Treaties , 2:178–179.


This article appeared as Art. 5 of the proposals made to Hartley in the commissioners’ second letter of 29 June, above. For its implementation, in almost identical language, see Art. 13 of the 1785 Prussian-American Treaty of Amity and Commerce, Miller, Treaties , 2:171–172.


This article appeared as Art. 6 of the proposals made to Hartley in the commissioners’ second letter of 29 June, above. Compare the language here with that in Art. 6 of both the 1782 Dutch-American Treaty of Amity and Commerce and the 1783 Swedish-American Treaty of Amity and Commerce, Miller, Treaties , 2:65–66, 127–128.


Stated here as a positive concession to the United States, this article appeared as a query regarding the possibility of such a permission in the commissioners’ second letter to Hartley on 29 June, above.


Articles 15, 16, and 17, with some further alterations, are derived from Hartley’s proposals 2 through 5 in his letter of [19 June] as revised by the commissioners in their first letter to him of 29 June, both above.


For this article, see the commissioners’ 17 July letter to Hartley, and note 6, above.


The language for this article is derived 161from the British and American armistice proclamations dated [14] and [20 Feb.], respectively. The reference to 3 Feb. as the date from which the various time periods should be computed is owing to that being the date on which Britain and France exchanged ratifications of their preliminary peace treaty (vol. 14:264–266, 281–285).


This paragraph and the remaining two paragraphs of the draft are taken virtually verbatim from JA’s “first Sketch of a Definitive Treaty” of [1 Feb.] (vol. 14:228–229). This paragraph and the next one appear there as Arts. 10 and 11; the final paragraph is unnumbered. This paragraph does not appear in the [3 Sept.] definitive treaty, below, but the following two were included.

From William Carmichael, 22 July 1783 Carmichael, William Adams, John
From William Carmichael
Sir Madrid 22d. July 1783

I received a few days ago the Letter which you did me the honor to write me the 18th Ulto. by Mr Barry—1 It will be a pleasure for me to show my respect for your Excellencys recommendation, by rendering every personal civility & service to that Gentleman, which the nature of my situation in this Country will permit—

When the Ct. de Rechteren—Minister from Holland at this Court left Spain, I took the Liberty of giving him a letter for you— I know not whether he has ever had the occasion of presenting it—2

The negotiation of the Definitive Treaty cannot go on more Slowly than our Affairs go on here— I have no powers to forward them, & I see with regret that a Treaty of commerce may possibly be adjusted with G. Britain before one with us becomes an Object of Consideration— It will be difficult After cessions are once made to that court to procure a participation in objects—Which will then be regarded as rights by another Nation— Your Excellencys long Experience & more Intimate knowledge of our Situation & Affairs will enable you to Judge much better than I can presume to do on these points—

Here we expect every day the news of the signature of the Definitive Treaty— Spain seems disposed to take an active part with France against the designs of the two Imperial Courts— The Armament against Algiers has been dispersed by bad weather & obliged to take shelter in Alicant & the Different ports on that Coast—

I know not whether I can be of any use to your Excellency in this part of the World— If I can, I beg you to beleive me, when I assure that it will be a great satisfaction to prove to your Excy / How much I am / Your very Humble Sert

Wm. Carmichael

RC (Adams Papers); internal address: “His Excy. John Adams.”


William Carmichael was John Jay’s secretary. He had remained at Madrid when Jay went to Paris in 1782 for the peace negotiations and was acting as chargé d’affaires 162(JA, D&A , 4:76–77). JA’s 18 June letter informed Carmichael of Congress’ ratification of the preliminary Anglo-American peace treaty on 12 April and introduced a “Mr Barry” (LbC, APM Reel 108). “Barry” remains unidentified, but he may have been introduced to JA by Eliphalet Fitch. In his 20 Nov. letter to Carmichael, JA noted Barry’s “Connection” to Fitch (LbC, APM Reel 107). See also Carmichael’s letter of 15 Jan. 1784, below.


Carmichael had written to JA on 12 Nov. 1782 (Adams Papers). There he introduced Count Jacob Godefroy van Rechteren, Dutch minister and then ambassador to Spain between 1773 and 1793, who was returning to the Netherlands for a visit ( Repertorium , 3:269).