Additional Instructions to Benjamin Franklin, Silas Dean, and Thomas Jefferson, Commissioners from the United States of America to the King of France

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Page one of "Additional Instructions to the Commissioners to France" in Wythe's hand, October 16, 1776. Image from Fold3.

In the papers of the Continental Congress is a draft of a document written by George Wythe as part of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, which is an addition to instructions to be given to a group of emissaries to King Louis XVI of France, who were to present a treaty from the newly united States, regarding trade and commerce, and proposed alliance in the case of war with with Great Britain.

A plan for treaties with foreign nations was first presented to Congress on July 18, 1776.[1] A revised plan was laid on the table on September 17.[2] Instructions to the commissioners who were to carry the treaty were reported on September 10, and both the treaty and instructions were approved on the 24th.[3] Originally the proposed commission consisted of Benjamin Franklin, Silas Deane, and Thomas Jefferson (provisionally listed here by their initials), but Jefferson declined the position and was replaced with Arthur Lee on October 22.[4]

The additional instructions were written by Wythe sometime after September 26, and the document is endorsed as "Agreed to," October 16, 1776. The draft is heavily-edited and revised, containing many words which have been crossed out and replaced, and an entire section at the end intended to be inserted earlier. The text of Wythe's draft is reproduced here; the final document with corrections is published in the Journals of the Continental Congress (1906).[5]

Document text, 16 October 1776

Page 1

Additional instructions to BF, SD, and TJ, commissioners from the United States of America to the king of France.

Whilst you are negotiating the affairs you are charged with at the court of France, you will [struck out] have opportunities of conversing frequently with the ministers and agents of other european princes and [struck out] states residing there.

You shall endeavour, when you find occasion fit and convenient, to obtain from them a recognition of the our independency and sovereignty [struck out], and to conclude treaties of peace, and amity between their princes or states and us ^ [illegible] *. If that cannot be effected, you shall, to the utmost of your power, prevent their taking part with Great Britain in the war ^which his britannic majesty is prosecutes^ against us, or entering into offensive alliances with that king, and protest and present remonstrances [struck out] against the same, [struck out] desiring ^ the [struck out] interposition mediation and good offices on our behalf of his most christian majesty, the king of France, and of any other princes or states whose dispositions are not hostile towards us. In case overtures be made to you by the ministers or agents of any european ^princes or states for commercial treaties between them and us,

* you may conclude such treaties accordingly, + provided^ that the terms thereof be first imparted to his most christian majesty and approved of by him, that they that the same be not inconsistent with the treaty you shall make with his most christian majesty, that they

^do not oblige us to become a party in any war which may happen in consequence thereof, and that the immunities, exemptions, privileges, pro-

Page 2

Page two of "Additional Instructions to the Commissioners to France." Image from Fold3.

tection and defense and advantages, or the contrary, thereby stipulated, be equal and reciprocal.

Report of the Comee. on preparing
further instructions to the
Commissioners 277

postponed. — Agreed to Octr. 16, 1776

See also


  1. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789, ed. Worthington C. Ford, vol. 5, 1776, June 5-October 8 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1906), 576-589.
  2. Journals, vol. 5, 768-779.
  3. The original instructions to the commissioner to France are published in the Journals, vol. 5, 813-817.
  4. "The Continental Congress: Instructions to Franklin, Silas Deane, and Arthur Lee as Commissioners to France, (24 September–22 October 1776)," Founders Online, National Archives.
  5. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789, ed. Worthington C. Ford, vol. 6, 1776, October 9-December 31 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1906), 884.

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