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Letter from John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and John Jay to Elias Boudinot [Extracts]
Adams, John, 1735-1826; Franklin, Benjamin, 1706-1790; Jay, John, 1745-1829
September 10, 1783
Volume 16, Pages 915-916

[From Executive Letter Book.]

No. 5.

Extract from the Letter of the American Ministers in Paris, dated 10th September, 1783.

We having been instructed if possible to obtain an article for a direct Trade with the West Indies made to Mr. Hartley the proposition No. — —

“He approved of it greatly and recommended it to his Court but they delayed assenting to it.”

Mr. Hartley then made us the propo. No. ——but being asked whether he was authorised to sign it in case we agreed to it he answered in the negative.

The British Court would not adopt Mr. Hartley’s propositions, but their Letters to him were calculated to inspire us with expectations that as nothing but particular local circumstances which would possibly not be of long duration restrained them from not prefering the most liberal system of Commerce with us, the Ministry would take the earliest opportunity of gratifying their own wishes as well ours on that subject.

“Mr. Hartley then made us the proposition No. ——(as follows, viz,) June, 1783. It is agreed that the Citizens of the United States of America shall be permitted to import into and export from any port or place of the territories belonging to the Crown of Great Britain in America, in American ships any goods wares or merchandize which might have been so imported or exported by the Inhabitants or the British American Colonies before the commencement of the late War

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upon the payment of the same duties and charges as the like sort of goods or merchandise are now or may be subject and liable to if imported or exported by British Subjects in British Ships into or from any port or place of the territories belonging to the Crown of Great Britain, provided however that the Citizens of the United States shall not have any rights or claims under this Convention to carry on any direct intercourse of Commerce between the British West India Islands and the ports of Great Britain;” (such was Mr. Hartley’s proposition). But at that time information arrived from America that our ports were all open to British Vessels. Mr. Hartley therefore did not think himself at liberty to proceed until after he should communicate that intelligence to his Court and receive their further instructions, those further instructions never came and thus our endeavours as to Commerical regulations proved fruitless.”

[From Executive Letter Book.]

2d Extract from the same Letter.

“Were it certain that the United States would be brought to act as a nation and would jointly and fairly conduct their Commerce on principles of exact reciprocity with all nations, we think it probable that Britain would make extensive concessions. But on the contrary while the prospect of disunion in our Councils or want of power & energy in our executive departments exist they will not be apprehensive of retaliation and consequently lose their principal motive to liberality. Unless with respect to all foreign nations & transactions we uniformly act as an entire united nation, faithfully executing and obeying the Constitutional Acts of Congress on those subjects, we shall soon find ourselves in the situation in which all Europe wishes to see us, viz, as unimportant consumers of their manufactures & productions & as useful labourers to furnish her with raw materials.”