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    Thomas Digges reports on the Treaty of Paris

    [Treaty of Paris]. Thomas Digges Handwritten Report to Lord Shelburne. Three pages of a bifolium, 7.25" x 9.5", [London, circa March 30, 1782]. An autograph document by Digges forwarded to Lord Shelburne, which provides an account of Digges' recent private conversation with John Adams, one of the American peace commissioners sent to Paris to negotiate a treaty to end the American Revolutionary War, which concerned the possibility of the Americans opening direct conversations with representatives of Great Britain.

    Mr. Adams, Dr. Franklin, Mr. Jay, Mr. Laurens, and Mr. Jefferson are the Commissioners in Europe to treat for peace.
    1st. Their powers are to treat & conclude with the ambassadors, plenipotentiaries, or commissioners of the states with whom it may concern. Each of them are vested with equal Powers relative to the Establishment of Peace & a majority of them or any one of (the others not being able to attend) can treat & conclude.
    2d. Mr. Adams cannot speak to any Proposition of a direct Tendency to Truce or Peace from England without consulting his colleagues, and from them it must be expected to go to the French minister. The other Belligerent Powers having as yet no Right to expect Information about any Proposition for Peace.
    3d. There may however Questions be asked Mr. Adams & his Colleagues that they may not think essentially necessary to communicate to the French Court. And any proper Messenger [want?] to ask such Questions will be answered with confidential Secrecy.
    4th. Mr. Digges read over Mr. Adams's Commission, it is dated the 15th June 1781, and his Powers (which are easily the same as the other four) are as full as possible, and go to conclude as well as treat for Peace.
    5th. Mr. Adams's first Commission appointed him to the Court of Great Britain & this was in force until about the Beginning of September 1781 when the above Commission jointly with the other four was received in Europe; and it was so altered by Congress for no other reason than some ill-Treatment of the Americans by the British Army in So. Carolina, & from the unfavorable Treatment shown Mr. Laurens in the Tower.
    6th. Mr. Digges has Mr. Adams's Assurance that any questions put to him as to further consulting upon the mode of opening a Parley or entering into a Treaty shall be confidentially & secretly answered. And altho' his (Mr. Adams's) Name stands first in the Commission any direct Proposition made to Dr. Franklin will be equally attended to.
    7th. Mr. Digges leaves these memorandums with Lord Shelburne for the Purpose of his Lordships' communicating them to any others of the present Administration whom Mr. Digges has not the honor to know."

    On the last page of the document, there are two docketed written notes in unidentified hands.
    "Mr. Digges's account of what passed between him and Mr. Adams. 30 March 1782."
    "Received from Lord Shelburne in his lordship's letter of Saturday night 6th April 1782."

    The Treaty of Paris, signed in Paris by representatives of King George III of Great Britain and representatives of the United States of America on September 3, 1783, ended the American Revolutionary War. The treaty set the boundaries between the British Empire and the United States. Details included fishing rights and restoration of property and prisoners of war. This treaty and the separate peace treaties between Great Britain and the nations that supported the American cause - France, Spain, and the Dutch Republic - resulted from negotiations that began in April 1782 and continued through the summer. Representing the United States were Benjamin Franklin, John Jay, Henry Laurens, and John Adams. David Hartley and Richard Oswald represented Great Britain. The treaty was signed in Paris on September 3, 1783, by Adams, Franklin, Jay, and Hartley. Thomas Jefferson was named to the original commission, but did not leave the United States in time to take part on the negotiations. Henry Laurens was captured by a British warship and confined to the Tower of London until the end of the war, an incident to which Digges refers in his report to Lord Shelburne.

    The American treaty with Great Britain came about due to disagreements between the American commissioners and those of France. In September 1782 French Foreign Minister Vergennes proposed a solution that was strongly opposed by the Americans: that the United States would gain its independence but be confined to the area east of the Appalachian Mountains; Britain would take the area north of the Ohio River; and the area south of that would be set up an independent Indian state under Spanish control. At this point, the Americans thought that they could get a better deal directly from London. John Jay and, according to Digges's report to Lord Shelburne, John Adams, informed British representatives that they were willing to negotiate directly with them, cutting off France and Spain. The British Prime Minister Lord Shelburne agreed. He saw a chance to split the United States away from France and make the new country a valuable economic partner. The terms offered by Lord Shelburne were that the United States would gain all of the area east of the Mississippi River, north of Florida, and south of Canada. The northern boundary would be almost the same as today. The United States would gain fishing rights off Canadian coasts, and agreed to allow British merchants and Loyalists to try to recover their property. It was a highly favorable treaty for America. Prime Minister Shelburne foresaw highly profitable two-way trade between Britain and her former colonies, which was realized.

    Thomas Atwood Digges (1742-1821) was born into one of Maryland's most prominent Catholic families. He was a merchant in Baltimore until the late 1760s, when he moved to Portugal and engaged in international trade. In 1774 Digges moved to London, where he joined his brother George and published a largely autobiographical novel, entitled Adventures of Alfonso, the following year. Digges developed a close relationship with George Washington, since his family's estate was located across the Potomac River from Mount Vernon. This relationship resulted in his being recruited to assist the American cause, using a number of aliases, in London during the Revolutionary War. He worked closely with John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and William Lee. He became involved in the illegal shipping of munitions to the American army. Digges' activities in London raised the suspicions of many of the American representatives in Europe, who thought he was working as a double agent. This document shows that Digges had a relationship of some kind with the British Prime Minister, Lord Shelburne, yet it was one that in the end benefited the American cause.

    William Petty, 2nd Earl of Shelburne (1737-1805) was an Irish-born British Whig statesman who was the first Home Secretary in 1782 and then Prime Minister in 1782-83 during the final months of the American Revolutionary War. An advocate of a conciliatory policy toward the American colonies and a critic of Britain's harsh measures in America, Shelburne, when he became Prime Minister, was open to securing peace. He succeeded in achieving peace with America, and while this feat remains his most notable legacy, it brought his government down due to the terms of the peace agreement, which were considered extremely generous.

    This a fascinating document that offers a behind-the-scenes view of the Paris peace negotiations and diplomatic maneuverings that were taking place among the American commissioners to achieve the best deal for their country. Digges's manuscript material rarely appears on the market.

    Condition: Light dampstaining, with partial separations at the horizontal folds. Two small tape repairs have been made on the verso of the integral page.





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