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The Jeffersonian cyclopedia;

a comprehensive collection of the views of Thomas Jefferson classified and arranged in alphabetical order under nine thousand titles relating to government, politics, law, education, political economy, finance, science, art, literature, religious freedom, morals, etc.;
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8579. TREATY (British peace), Ratification of.—
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8579. TREATY (British peace), Ratification of.—

The definitive treaty of peace
which had been signed at Paris on the 3rd of
September, 1783, and received here, could not
be ratified without a House of nine States. On
the 23d of December, therefore, we [the Congress
sitting at Annapolis] addressed letters to
the several Governors, stating the receipt of the
definitive treaty; that seven States only were in
attendance, while nine were necessary to its
ratification; and urging them to press on their
delegates the necessity of their immediate attendance.
And on the 26th, to save time, I
moved that the Agent of Marine (Robert Morris )
should be instructed to have ready a vessel
at this place, at New York, and at some
Eastern port, to carry over the ratification of
the treaty when agreed to. It met the general
sense of the House, but was opposed by Dr.
[Arthur] Lee, on the ground of expense, which
it would authorize the Agent to incur for us;
and, he said, it would be better to ratify at
once, and send on the ratification. Some members
had before suggested that seven States
were competent to the ratification. My motion
was therefore postponed, and another brought
forward by Mr. Read, of South Carolina, for
an immediate ratification. This was debated the
26th and 27th. [Jacob] Read [of South Carolina],
Lee, [Hugh] Williamson and Jeremiah
Chase, urged that the ratification was a mere
matter of form, that the treaty was conclusive
from the moment it was signed by the ministers;
that, although the Confederation requires
the assent of nine States to enter into a
treaty, yet, that its conclusion could not be
called entrance into it; that supposing nine
States requisite, it would be in the power of
five States to keep us always at war; that nine
States had virtually authorized the ratification,
having ratified the provisional treaty, and instructed
their ministers to agree to a definitive
one in the same terms, and the present one was,
in fact, substantially, and almost verbatim, the
same; that there now remain but sixty-seven
days for the ratification, for its passage across
the Atlantic, and its exchange; that there was
no hope of our soon having nine States present;
in fact, that this was the ultimate point of time
to which we could venture to wait; that if the
ratification was not in Paris by the time stipulated,
the treaty would become void; that if
ratified by seven States, it would go under our
seal, without its being known to Great Britain
that only seven had concurred; that it was a
question of which they had no right to take
cognizance, and we were only answerable for it
to our constituents; that it was like the ratification
which Great Britain had received from the
Dutch, by the negotiations of Sir William Temple.
On the contrary, it was argued by Monroe,
Gerry, Howel, Ellery and myself, that by the
modern usage of Europe, the ratification was
considered as the act which gave validity to a
treaty, until which, it was not obligatory. [488] That the commission to the ministers reserved
the ratification to Congress; that the treaty
itself stipulated that it should be ratified; that
it became a second question, who were competent
to the ratification? That the confederation
expressly required nine States to enter into
any treaty; that, by this, that instrument must
have intended, that the assent of nine States
should be necessary, as well to the completion as to the commencement of the treaty, its object
having been to guard the rights of the
Union in all those important cases where nine
States are called for; that, by the contrary construction,
seven States, containing less than
one-third of our whole citizens, might rivet
on us a treaty, commenced indeed under commission
and instructions from nine States, but
formed by the minister in express contradiction
to such instructions, and in direct sacrifice
of the interests of so great a majority; that the
definitive treaty was admitted not to be a verbal
copy of the provisional one, and whether the
departures from it were of substance or not,
was a question on which nine States alone were
competent to decide; that the circumstances of
the ratification of the provisional articles by
nine States, the instructions of our ministers to
form a definitive one by them, and their actual
agreement in substance, do not render us competent
to ratify in the present instance; if these
circumstances are in themselves a ratification,
nothing further is requisite than to give attested
copies of them in exchange for the British ratification;
if they are not, we remain where we
were, without a ratification by nine States, and
incompetent ourselves to ratify; that it was but
four days since the seven States, now present,
unanimously concurred in a resolution, to be
forwarded to the Governors of the absent States,
in which they stated as a cause for urging on
their delegates, that nine States were necessary
to ratify the treaty; that in the case of the Dutch
ratification, Great Britain had courted it, and
therefore was glad to accept it as it was; that
they knew our Constitution and would object
to a ratification by seven; that, if that circumstance
was kept back, it would be known hereafter,
and would give them ground to deny the
validity of a ratification into which they should
have been surprised and cheated, and it would
be a dishonorable prostitution of our seal; that
there is a hope of nine States; that if the treaty
would become null, if not ratified in time, it
would not be saved by an imperfect ratification;
but that, in fact, it would not be null, and
would be placed on better ground, going in unexceptional
form, though a few days too late,
and rested on the small importance of this circumstance,
and the physical impossibilities
which had prevented a punctual compliance in
point of time; that this would be approved by
all nations, and by Great Britain herself, if not
determined to renew the war, and if so determined,
she would never want excuses, were this
out of the way. Mr. Read gave notice, he
should call for the yeas and nays; whereon


Page 885
those in opposition, prepared a resolution, expressing
pointedly the reasons of their dissent
from his motion. It appearing, however, that
his proposition could not be carried, it was
thought better to make no entry at all. Massachusetts
alone would have been for it; Rhode
Island, Pennsylvania and Virginia against it,
Delaware, Maryland and North Carolina would
have been divided. * * * Those who thought
seven States competent to the ratification, being
very restless under the loss of their motion,
I proposed on the 3rd of January, to meet them
on middle ground, and therefore moved a resolution,
which premised that there were but
seven States present, who were unanimous for
the ratification, but that they differed in opinion
on the question of competency; that those,
however, in the negative were unwilling that
any powers which it might be supposed they
possessed, should remain unexercised for the
restoration of peace, provided it could be done,
saving their good faith, and without importing
any opinion of Congress, that seven States were
competent, and resolving that the treaty be
ratified so far as they had power; that it should
be transmitted to our ministers, with instructions
to keep it uncommunicated; to endeavor
to obtain three months longer for exchange of
ratifications; that they should be informed that
so soon as nine States shall be present, a ratification
by nine shall be sent them: if this
should get to them before the ultimate point of
time for exchange, they were to use it, and not
the other; if not, they were to offer the act of
the seven States in exchange, informing them
the treaty had come to hand while Congress
was not in session; that but seven States were
as yet assembled, and these had unanimously
concurred in the ratification. This was debated
on the 3rd and 4th [489] ; and on the 5th, a vessel
being to sail for England, from Annapolis, the
House directed the President to write to our
ministers accordingly. January 14. Delegates
from Connecticut having attended yesterday,
and another from South Carolina coming in this
day, the treaty was ratified without a dissenting
voice; and three instruments of ratification
were ordered to be made out, one of which was
sent by Colonel Harmer, another by Colonel
Franks, and the third transmitted to the Agent
of Marine, to be forwarded by any good opportunity.—
Autobiography. Washington ed. i, 55. Ford ed., i, 77.


Vattel L. 2 § 156. L. 4, § 77. 1. Mably Droi
D'Europe, 86.—Note by Jefferson.


A note in the Ford edition says Jan. 4th was a
Sunday, and that Congress was not in session.—Editor.