Papers of John Adams, volume 8

To Unknown

To the President of the Congress

From the President of the Congress, 20 October 1779 President of Congress Huntington, Samuel JA


From the President of the Congress, 20 October 1779 President of Congress Huntington, Samuel Adams, John
From the President of the Congress
Sir Philadelphia Octor. 20th: 1779

I have the honour to transmit you herewith enclosed Two Commissions wherein you are Authorized and appointed Minister Plenipotentiary from these United States to Negotiate Treaties of Peace and Commerce with Great Brittain; Accompanied with instructions in each Case, for your government in the Execution of those Several Commissions.1

For your further Information and benefit, are enclosed Copies of the Instructions to the honble. Ben. Franklin and John Jay Esqr. our Ministers Plenipotentiary at the Courts of Versailes and Madrid.2

Also two Acts of Congress of the 4th and 15th Instant Ascertaining your Salary and making provision for your Subsistance on your Arrival in France.3


The nature and Importance of the Trust committed to your charge, will, I perswade my self engage your Immediate Attention and induce you to undertake the Service, and Embark for France without loss of time.

Wishing you a prosperous Voyage and Success in your Embassy I have the honour to be with Sentiments of the highest Esteem & Regard—Your humble Servant

Saml. Huntington President

P.S The honbe. Frances Dana Esqr. is appointed your Secretary.

RC (Adams Papers); with eight enclosures.


The two commissions, approved on 4 Oct. but dated 29 Sept., and the first and second two sets of instructions, adopted on 14 Aug. but dated 16 Oct., are calendared (above).


Franklin's instruction as received from Huntington was undated, but, using another copy in his possession, JA copied it into his Autobiography under the date of 16 Oct. ( Diary and Autobiography , 4:185–187). The instruction, adopted on 14 Aug., noted that recognition of American rights to the Newfoundland fishery was to be a provision in an Anglo-American commercial treaty rather than a peace ultimatum. The reason for this, although not stated, was that France had refused to make any commitment regarding the fishery in the Treaty of Alliance and thus would not agree to continue the war to obtain recognition of America's fishing rights in the peace treaty. Franklin was, therefore, ordered to seek an additional article to the alliance, providing that if Britain disturbed either party in the exercise of its rights to the Newfoundland fishery the other would join in a war to protect and preserve those rights. It was a futile effort from the beginning, but see JA's comments on the instruction in his Autobiography (same, 4:187 ).

Jay's instructions for negotiating a treaty with Spain are printed in Wharton, ed., Dipl. Corr. Amer. Rev. , 3:352–353, 374–375.


The text of the two resolutions is in JCC , 15:1145, 1179–1180.