In our last we informed your Excellency that the definitive Treaties between the late beligerent powers, tho’ the most important
Our Ministers had endeavoured to insert some Commercial stipulations in our treaty and the British Ministers partly through negligence since they have heard our ports are open or through indecision occasioned by ignorance of the Subject have apparently studied to avoid it. They knew not how far the British Acts of navigation ought to be specified to commercial considerations drawn from peculiar circumstances of the present crisis. They say virtual and substantial reciprocity they are willing to give, that literal reciprocity is impossible as much from our engagements as from their system of navigation. We want the substance and not the shadow, which we take virtual and substantial reciprocity to be, and as there is not at present a disposition to give it to us, our ministers seem to be of opinion to drop all Commercial articles and leave every thing of that kind to a future special treaty to be made either in Europe or America as Congress may think fit to order.
That you may clearly understand the ideas the British Ministry entertain respecting our Commerce with their West India Islands, we send you the following extract of a letter from a confidential person to the President of Congress.
“On the 8th of August I waited on Lord North and desired his opinion of the proclamation respecting our Commerce with their West India Islands. He with great apparent candor told me that the proclamation and the principle on which it was formed, would undoubtedly be adhered to, during the continuance of the Act of Parliament under which it was issued; that Parliament must then determine respecting future measures; that he could not presume to know what that determination might be though it seemed to him probable, that the same system and principles would be accepted, and continued, that the Navigation Act had been the resource and support of the British naval power, and must not be infringed without urgent necessity; that he was desirous of supporting a good understanding with the United States by all means compatible with the interest of Great Britain, but that the Americans after making themselves independent were unreasonable in desiring privileges, which never had been granted to any independent people, especially as they appeared to have,
Congress now have this matter before them and if the proclamation cannot be set aside but should be persisted in, it will become a matter worthy their attentive discussion whether it will be most
France we expect will aid us in establishing our Commerce as she did our independence, the character of that Court & nation seems of late years to be considerably changed. Her ideas of agrandizement by conquest, are out of fashion, and those of Commerce are now more enlightened and are more generous than heretofore. We shall soon, we believe, feel something of this in our being admitted to a greater freedom of trade with their Islands. The wise there think France great enough, its ambition at present seems to be only that of Justice & magnanimity towards other nations, fidelity and utility to its Allies.
We observed formerly, that whenever the definitive Treaty may arrive there is not the least reason to believe that it will contain a single explanation or provision more than is contained in the preliminary articles. By this we meant a Verbatim Transcript of the provisional articles with the necessary alterations of preamble, &c. You no doubt will be surprised at this as in some things they are absolutely so ambiguous as not to be understood: The Secretary for foreign affairs pointed out some or all to our Ministers, and made some strictures on the manner of transacting the negotiation; to which they reply.
“We are happy to find that the provisional articles have been approved and ratified by Congress, and we regret that the manner
The 6th Article, viz, where it declares “that no future confiscations shall be made, &c., ought to have fixed that time with greater accuracy. We think the most fair and true construction is, that it relates to the date of the cessation of hostilities, that is the time when peace in fact took place in consequence of prior informal tho’ binding contracts to terminate the War. We consider the definitive Treaties as only giving the dress to those contracts and not as constituting the obligation of them. Had the cessation of hostilities been the effect of a truce and consequently nothing more than a temporary suspension of War, another construction would have been the true one.”
“We are officially assured by Mr. Hartley that positive orders for the evacuation of New York have been dispatched and that no avoidable delay will retard that event. Had we proposed to fix a time for it the British Court would have contended that it should have been a time posterior to the date of the definitive Treaty, and that would have probably been more disadvantageous to us than as that article now stands.”
“We are surprised to hear that any doubts have arisen in Amer“ica respecting the time when the cessation of Hostilities took place there. It most certainly took place at the expiration of one month after the date of that declaration in all parts of the world, whether the land or sea, that lay North of the Latitude of the Canaries; the Ships afterwards taken from us in the more Northwardly latitude ought to be reclaimed and given up: we shall apply to Mr. Hartley on this subject, and also on that of the transportation of Negroes from New York. contrary to the Words and intention of the provisional Articles.”
Doctor Franklin further observes there are, no doubt, certain ambiguities in our articles, but it is not to be wondered at when it is considered how exceedingly averse Britain was to expressions which explicitly wounded the Tories, and how disinclined we were
The words for restoring the property of Real British subjects were well understood and explained between us not to mean or comprehend American refugees. Mr. Oswald and Mr. Fitz Herbert know this to have been the case and will readily confess and admit it. This mode of expression was preferred by them as a more delicate mode of excluding those refugees and of making a proper distinction between them and the Subjects of Britain whose only particular interest in America consisted of holding lands or property there.
As soon as it is practicable further observations on this subject shall be forwarded; at present we are not sufficiently informed to give that satisfaction we wish and you have a right to expect. We expect that an attestation of the ratification of the Treaty by order of Congress, will be sent forward to the respective States with a Letter explanatory of the conduct of Congress respecting it; until then we shall not say any thing further.
The Commercial Treaty with Sweden will be sent forward by the next post. We hoped to be able to send it by this conveyance, but altho’ it was printed last week some accident hath prevented our receiving the Copies from Philadelphia.
Sir Guy Carlton has informed the Commander in Chief that he expects to be able to evacuate New York within the month of November.
Congress yesterday passed a proclamation for disbanding all our officers and Soldiers who were on furlough, our whole army now is sufficient to Garrison West Point.
Our situation begins to be very disagreeable: we are now and have been for some time without one Shilling of money, and the prospects formerly held out to us have vanished; our Colleagues are not yet arrived, and we know not when to expect them. The Treasurers of all the States in the Union except North Carolina, regularly send forward monthly the Salary of their Delegates; we depend on borrowing for our decent support, and fear very shortly that our credit will be like the remittances from our State. How far this will comport with the dignity of a Sovereign State we leave the Chief Magistrate to judge.
Be pleased to present our dutiful respects to the General Assembly,