British-American Diplomacy
Declarations for Suspension of Arms and Cessation of Hostilities 1783 : Hunter Miller's Notes


The declarations of January 20,1783, have in various compilations been printed in English, and as if originally in that language only.

That the declaration on the part of the United States was in both French and English is certain; a facsimile thereof from the British archives is now in the Department of State file. The British declaration was certainly in French, and almost certainly in French only; in any case, both were first drawn up in French.

In a letter to Lord Grantham from Fitzherbert (who signed for the British Government) enclosing the American declaration and written on the date of signature (Bancroft's Transcripts, America, France, and England, VI, 109-10, NYPL), he says:

This declaration they [the American (commissioners] gave me on receiving a similar one from me a copy of which I do not send as it is comprehended verbatim in theirs. These papers were drawn up by M. de Vergennes & I agreed to them readily as they appeared liable to no other objection but that of being in the French language which objection Messrs. Adams & Franklin have partly removed by agreeing to sign duplicates of it in English.

No trace has been found of the receipt in the United States of the original of the British declaration, which was delivered to Benjamin Franklin and John Adams at the office of Count de Vergennes at Versailles during the morning of Monday, January 20, 1783. The letters of both Franklin and Adams to Livingston (January 21 and 22, 1783, Wharton, Diplomatic (correspondence, VI, 225-26) purport to transmit copies, though that word, then as now, was sometimes used in a loose sense as meaning duplicate originals.

The Department of State file contains (a) a copy of the French text of the American declaration, which recites textually (in French) the British declaration; and (b) a paper, the first portion of which is headed "A Declaration" and has the word "Translation" in parentheses, and which is an English text (translation) of the British declaration; then follows a copy of an English text (not as signed, but translated from the French) of the American declaration, which last omits the textual recital of the British declaration, inserting in lieu thereof "Here follows the Declaration as above"; the two papers are both endorsed "taken from Dr. Franklin's file."

Also in the file, as above mentioned, is a facsimile of the original declaration on the part of the United States, signed by Adams and Franklin, in English and French.

The text here printed is from that facsimile; and the British declaration, being therein textually recited in each language, is not separately printed. It is to be added that the English of the British declaration which has been most frequently printed (e. g., in the Statutes at Large) is the above-mentioned translation in the Department of State file; this differs in various respects from the text here. Still another variant translation of the period is that in 84 C. C. Papers, IV, folios 329-30, by John Pintard.

Furthermore, the text heretofore usually printed as the English of the American declaration (aside from its recital of the British declaration) is a translation from the French, taken from that in the Department of State file; and as indicated above, it differs from the English text signed; for example:

In 8 Statutes at Large, 58: " do by these presents merely and simply accept it."

As signed: "and do accept the same by these Presents."

The French is: "l'acceptons par ces presentes purement et simplement."

Pintard wrote: "we do accept of it by these presents, without exception or reserve."


The declarations of Great Britain and the United States formed part of a general scheme of an armistice and a peace for all the belligerents; they were signed concurrently with the Preliminary Articles of Peace between Great Britain and France and between Great Britain and Spain to which they refer; the relevant terms of those agreements, as well as the respective dates of exchange of ratifications, are stated in the proclamation voted by Congress on April 11, 1783, the text of which is with the notes to Document 7, and reference is made to them also in the proclamation or declaration of the American Commissioners in Paris of February 20, 1783, the text of which follows these notes. The full text of the preliminaries between France and Great Britain and between Spain and Great Britain (in French) are in Von Martens, Recueil de traits, 2d ea., III, 503-14; English translations are in The Parliamentary History of England, XXIII, 346-54.

In particular, these declarations and the proclamations made pursuant thereto by the two countries, brought into the agreement the terms of Article 22 of the Preliminaries of Peace between Great Britain and France of January 20, 1783. As that treaty was written in French and the various proclamations in English, there was, in effect, an English version of the French text of that article; and subsequent diplomatic exchanges (e. g., Adams to Carmarthen, July 14 and 27, 1785, Diplomatic Correspondence, 1783-1789, II, 401-6, and also Adams to Jay, August 25, 1785, ibid., 455-62), following divergent judicial views as to the phrase regarding the Canary Islands, were based somewhat on the point of equivalence. Article 22 of the treaty between Great Britain and France reads as follows:

Pour prevenir tons les sujets de plainte et de contestation qui pourroient naltre a l'occasion des prises qui pourroient etre faites en mer depuis la signature de ees Artieles preliminaires, on est convenu reciproquement, que les vaisseaux et effete qui pourroient etre pris dans la Manche et dans les mers do Nord, apres l'espace de dome jours, a compter depuis la ratification des presens Articles preliminaires, seront de part et d'autre restitues; que le terme sera d'un mods depuis la Manche et les mers du Nord jusqutaux isles Canaries inelusivement, soit dans l'Ocean, soit dans la Mediterranee, de deux mods depuis lesdites isles Canaries, jusqu'a la ligne equinoxiale on l'equateur; et enfin de cinq mods dans tons les autres endroits du monde sane aueune exception ni autre distinction plus partieuliere de temps et de lieu. (don Martens, Reeueil de traites, 2d ea., III, 508-9)


The British proclamation of February 14, 1783 (text in Wharton, Diplomatic Correspondence, VI, 251-52), was also issued in New York as a broadside; a print, "Re-printed by James Rivington, Printer to the King's Most Excellent Majesty," is in the New York Public Library; a facsimile thereof is in the Department of State file.

The text of the proclamation voted by Congress on April 11, 1783, is with the notes to Document 7.

The paper, called a declaration, which was signed by the American Commissioners (Adams, Franklin, and Jay) in Paris on February 20, 1783, was in substance a proclamation, following the earlier British town; it was issued at the request of the British Government (Wharton, Diplomatic Correspondence, VI, 255; the text is printed at pages 257-58). The original paper is in the British archives; the text following is from the facsimile of that original which is now in the Department of State file.

By the Ministers Plenipotentiary of the United States of America, for making Peace with Great Britain. A Declaration of the Cessation of Hostilities as well by Sea as Land, agreed upon between His Majesty, the King of Great Britain, and the United States of America.
Whereas Preliminary Articles were signed, at Paris, on the thirtieth Day of November last, between the Plenipotentiaries of his said Majesty the King of Great Britain, and of the said States, to be inserted in, and to constitute the Treaty of Peace to be concluded between his said Majesty, and the said United States when Terms of Peace should be agreed upon between his said Majesty and his most Christian Majesty: and Whereas Preliminaries for restoring Peace, between his said Majesty, the King of Great Britain, and his most Christian Majesty, were signed at Versailles, on the twentieth day of January last, by the respective Ministers of their said Majesties: and Whereas Preliminaries for restoring Peace, between his said Majesty the King of Great Britain, and his Majesty the King of Spain, were also signed at Versailles, on the twentyeth Day of January last, by their respective Ministers: and Whereas, for putting an End to the Calamity of War, as soon and as far as possible, it hath been agreed, between the King of Great Britain, his most Christian Majesty, the King of Spain, the States General of the United Provinces and the United States of America as follows, that is to say.
That such Vessells and Effects, as should be taken, in the Channell and in the North Seas, after the Space of twelve Days, to be computed from the Ratification of the said Preliminary Articles should be restored on all Sides; that the Term should be one Month from the Channell and North Seas, as far as the Canary Islands inclusively, whether in the Ocean or the Mediterranean; two Months from the said Canary Islands, as far as the Equinoctial Line, or Equator, and lastly five Months in all other Parts of the World, without any Exception or any other more particular Description of Time or Place.
And Whereas the Ratifications of the said Preliminary Articles between his said Majesty, the King of Great Britain, and his most Christian Majesty, in due Form, were exchanged by their Ministers on the third day of this instant February, from which Day the several Terms abovementioned, of Twelve Days, of one Month, of two Months, and of five Months are to be computed, relative to all British and American Vessells and Effects
Now therefore, We, the Ministers Plenipotentiary, from the United States of America, for making Peace with Great Britain do notify to the People and Citizens, of the said United States of America that Hostilities, on their Part, against his Britannic Majesty, both by Sea and tend are to cease, at the Expiration of the Terms herein before specified therefor, and which Terms are to be computed, from the third day of February instant. And We do, in the Name and by the Authority of the said United States, accordingly warn and enjoin all their Officers and Citizens, to forbear all Acts of Hostility, whatever, either by Land or by Sea against his said Majesty, the King of Great Britain, or his Subjects under the Penalty of incurring the highest Displeasure of the said United States.
Given at Paris the Twentieth Day of February, in the Year of our Lord, One Thousand, Seven hundred and Eighty Three, under our Hands and Seals
Treaties and Other International Acts of the United States of America.
Edited by Hunter Miller
Volume 2
Documents 1-40 : 1776-1818
Washington : Government Printing Office, 1931.
127 Wall Street, New Haven, CT 06511.