Papers of John Adams, volume 15

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 &.”

To Elbridge Gerry, 6 September 1783 Adams, John Gerry, Elbridge
To Elbridge Gerry
Dear Sir Paris Septr. 6 17831

I Shall never know when I have done writing to you. Our Affairs [are so] unsettled, and I am So uninformed, and uncertain about every Thing in America, th[at] you will excuse me if I give you, more Trouble than usual.

I take it for granted, that you will not recall all your present Ministers, and neglect to Send new ones, altogether. This would be to Suppose that you dont mean to make any Treaty of Commerce with England, Denmark, Portugal, Spain, or either of the Empires.—for you may depend upon it that neither the Emperor of Germany, the Empress of Russia, the King of England or of Spain will ever Send a Minister to you first. This is a Point of Delicacy and Etiquette which they will never give up. England would not give it up to France nor Vice Versâ.— it was lately agreed, that the Duke of Manchester and the Comte D’Adhemar Should cross the Pass of Calais at the Same time or at least in the Same Boat one as it went and the other as it returned. I judge from Hints from Dr Franklin that he will insinuate in his Letters to Members of Congress, that they ought not to Send to London a Minister, untill the K. of G. Britain Sends one to Congress. if this is insinuated it is insidiously done, to recommend himself to Vergennes by defeating the Measure. now in my opinion it is of more Importance you should have a Minister in London, than in all the rest of Europe and will be so for Some time. if you do not Send a Minister there I presume you will Send a Commission, for making a Treaty of Commerce with G. B. to some one or to all of your Ministers for Peace.— it should be most natural and honourable to insert in it all your Ministers in Europe.— perhaps there may be Some objection about the order in which they now Stand. This may be obviated by resolving upon the Commission, and the Number of Ministers to be inserted in it, and then proceeding to elect them in the Usual Way and let him Stand first who is chosen first or has the most Votes according to your usual Rule. in this Case neither would refuse or be offended, whichever 262Stood first. if you intend to make a Treaty of Commerce with Denmark or Portugal, and that such Treaty shall be made with, the Comte de Souza Baron Waltersdorf or other Minister at the Court of Versailles, it is infinitely best that the Names of all your Ministers in Europe, Shall be inserted, and the Power given to them jointly & severally as it was in the Commission for Peace, so that all may attend if they can, or at least notified and have oppertunity to send their Hints and Advice in Writing. if you mean to have a Treaty with the two Empires or either of them, you may Send a Commission, in the Same manner, if you do not chose to Send a Minister to either of those Courts.— in this Way the Expence will be no greater than it has been, and all necessary Treaties may be made in the Course of about one Year, or a Year & an half, and then if you please you may recall every Minister you have in Europe. But I think you ought not to recall all your Ministers till this is done. our Commercial and political Systems depend too much upon having these Treaties made to have them neglected. You may Send fresh hands it is true. But fresh Hands I know by woefull Experience have so many Timidities, so many difficulties arising from a clumsiness in the Language, and are so little respected at first and untill they have learned the Language, and made themselves taken Notice of. Every Man who comes new from America has a Reputation to make, I assure you, and Connections to form before he can do much, upon the whole therefore I think it will be best that at least Some of the old Hands should be employed.

For my own Part, my first Wish is very Sincerely to go home, and the greatest Pleasure you can do me is to send me, the Acceptance of my Resignation. But if it is thought proper to refuse or neglect to send me this Acceptance, that is Letters of Recall to their High Mightinesses and the Prince of orange, I think, the Honour of Congress as well as my own honour requires that you should revive my old Commission to make a Treaty of Commerce with Great Britain. But if you insert me with the rest in a general Commission to make Treaties at Paris with England Portugal Denmark the Empires or any of these, and continue me in my Post in Holland, I will not refuse.2 in this Case I can ride, from Paris to the Hague and from the Hague to Paris often enough to do the necessary Duty in both, and can take good Care of your Loan in Amsterdam. or if you think proper to send me to Vienna, I will not refuse.— But I am determined not to be shut up croaking with the Froggs in Holland, doing 263nothing, or very little while others are employed to do all your Business of Importance, in the rest of Europe. My Health besides would sink in that Country, in which I can not bear a constant Residence. Besides if Franklin is suffered to go on with his clandestine Schemes of Smuggling Treaties and thus Sacrificing the Interest and Honour of his Country and the Reputations of all her faith full servants to his own Vanity as he has done, I am determined at all Events Leave or no Leave to come home. But above all Things I pray you to determine. if you send me my Letters of Recall all is well I come home. if you send me to England, Vienna, or continue me in holland inserting me at the Same time in a Commission at Paris to make Treaties with England, the Empires Denmark Portugal or any of them, Send me my Family, for I am decidedly God willing, never to live another Year without my Wife.—3 But if I get no Answer or if I am left to grope and moap in holland, I will go home in the first Spring Ships, Leave or no Leave.— Thus my dear Friend I have laid open my Thoughts to you with Freedom, you will communicate them to whom and in what manner you think proper.— Jay is so good and wise a Man So thoroughly able and willing, that I wish him any Thing you can make him. You can find no better Materials for your choicest Work.

If you make a general Commission, and appoint a secretary to it, no Man living is fitter for it, or deserves it more than Thaxter.4

My dear Friend Farewell

John Adams.

RC (MHi:Gerry Papers); internal address: “Mr Gerry.”; endorsed: “Paris Letter / His Excellency J / Adams Esq July / 2d Aug 19 Decr / 14th 1782 / Aug 15 / Sep 3 5 5th 8 / 10 1783 / Ansd 23h / Nov 1783.” LbC (Adams Papers); APM Reel 106. Text lost due to a torn manuscript has been supplied from the LbC.


The Letterbook copy is dated 5 September.


Compare JA’s willingness here to remain in Europe as part of a joint commission to negotiate an Anglo-American commercial treaty with his earlier refusal to remain in any capacity other than minister to Britain expressed in letters to Thomas McKean of 6 Feb. and James Warren of 9 April, vol. 14:248, 388–389, and Robert R. Livingston of 16 June, above. Congress’ 1 May resolution, authorizing JA, Benjamin Franklin, and John Jay to negotiate a commercial treaty with Britain, reached JA and his colleagues on 7 Sept., for which see JA’s first letter to the president of Congress of 8 Sept., below.


Gerry referred to this sentence and quoted part of it in his 24 Nov. letter to AA ( AFC , 5:275), but see also JA’s letter to Gerry of 8 Sept., and note 4, below.


For a more detailed appeal on behalf of Thaxter, see JA’s 8 Sept. letter to Gerry, below.