The Treaty of Amity and Commerce between the United States and France was signed on February 6, 1776. France became the first nation to officially recognize the independent United States as a country, separate from Britain. The treaty also set up a trade agreement between the two nations. It was negotiated by Benjamin Franklin, Silas Deane, and Arthur Lee.
The most Christian King, and the thirteen United States of North America, to wit, New Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay Rhode island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania Delaware, Maryland, Virginia North-Carolina, South Carolina & Georgia, willing to fix in an equitable and permanent manner the Rules which ought to be followed relative to the Correspondence & Commerce which the two Parties desire to establish between their respective Countries, States, and Subjects, hi most Christian Majesty and the, said United States have judged that the said End could not b, better obtained than by taking for the Basis of their Agreement the most perfect Equality and Reciprocity, and by carefully avoiding all those burthensome Preferences, which are usually Sources of Debate, Embarrasment and Discontent; by leaving also each Party at Liberty to make, respecting Commerce and Navigation, those interior Regulations which it shall find most convenient to itself; and by founding the Advantage of Commerce solely upon reciprocal Utility, and the just Rules of free Intercourse; reserving withal to each Party the Liberty of admitting at its pleasure other Nations to a Participation of the same Advantages. It is in the Spirit of this Intention, and to fulfil these Views, that his said Majesty having named and appointed for his Plenipotentiary Conrad Alexander Gerard, Royal Sindic of the City of Strasbourg, Secretary of his Majesty’s Council of State, and the United States on their Part, having fully impower’d Benjamin Franklin Deputy from the State of Pennsylvania to the general Congress, and President of the Convention of said State, Silas Deane late Deputy from the State of Connecticut to the said Congress, and Arthur Lee Councellor at Law; The said respective Plenipotentiaries after exchanging their Powers, and after mature Deliberation, have concluded and agreed upon the following Articles.
This illustration by Charles E. Mills depicts the signing of the Treaty of Amity and Alliance. Benjamin Franklin is shown with his hand on the table, Arthur Lee has his arms crossed, and Silas Deane has his hands on a chair. Image Source: Library of Congress.
There shall be a firm, inviolable and universal Peace, and a true and sincere Friendship between the most Christian King, his Heirs and Successors, and the United States of America; and the Subjects of the most Christian King and of the said States; and between the Countries, Islands, Cities, and Towns, situate under the Jurisdiction of the most Christian King, and of the said United States, and the people and Inhabitants of every Degree, without exception of Persons or Places; & the Terms herein after mentioned shall be perpetual between the most Christian King his Heirs and Successors and the said United States.
The most Christian King, and the United States engage mutually not to grant any particular Favor to other Nations in respect of Commerce and Navigation, which shall not immediately become common to the other Party, who shall enjoy the same Favor freely, if the Concession was freer made, or on allowing the same Compensation, if the Concession was Conditional.
The Subjects of the most Christian King shall pay in the Port Havens, Roads, Countries I lands, Cities or Towns, of the United States or any of them, no other or greater Duties or Imposts of what Nature soever they may be, or by what Name soever called, than those which the Nations most favoured are or shall be obliged to pay; and they shall enjoy all the Rights, Liberties, Privileges, Immunities and Exemptions in Trade, Navigation and Commerce, whether in passing from one Port in the said States to another, or in going to and from the same, from and to any Part of the World, which the said Nations do or shall enjoy.
The Subjects, People and Inhabitants of the said United States, and each of them, shall not pay in the Ports, Havens Roads Isles, Cities & Places under the Domination of his most Christian Majesty in Europe, any other or greater Duties or Imposts, of what Nature soever, they may be, or by what Name soever called, that those which the most favoured Nations are or shall be obliged to pay; & they shall enjoy all the Rights, Liberties, Privileges, Immunities & Exemptions, in Trade Navigation and Commerce whether in passing from one Port in the said Dominions in Europe to another, or in going to and from the same, from and to any Part of the World, which the said Nation do or shall enjoy.
In the above Exemption is particularly comprised the Imposition of 100 Sols pr Ton, established in France on foreign Ships; unless when the Ships of the United States shall load with the Merchandize of France for another Port of the same Dominion, in which Case the said Ships shall pay the Duty abovementioned so long as other Nations the most favour’d shall be obliged to pay it. But it is understood that the said United States or any of them are at Liberty when they shall judge it proper, to establish a Duty equivalent in the same Case.
The most Christian King shall endeavour by all the means in his Power to protect and defend all Vessels and the Effects belonging to the Subjects, People or Inhabitants of the said United States, or any of them, being in his Ports Havens or Roads or on the Sea near to his Countries, Islands Cities or Towns and to recover and restore to the right owners, their agents or Attornies all such Vessel & Effects, which shall be taken within his Jurisdiction; and the Ships of War of his most Christian Majesty or any Convoys sailing under his authority shall upon all Occasions take under their Protection all Vessels belonging to the Subjects, People or Inhabitants of the said United States, or any of them & holding the same Course or going the same Way, and shall defend such Vessels, as long as they hold the same Course or go the same way, against all Attacks, Force and Violence in the same manner, as they ought to protect and defend the Vessels belonging to the Subjects of the most Christian King.
In like manner the said United States and their Ships of War sailing under their Authority shall protect and defend, conformable to the Tenor of the preceeding Article, all the Vessels and Effect belonging to the Subjects of the most Christian King; and use al their Endeavours to recover cause to be restored the said Vessels and Effects, that shall have been taken within the Jurisdiction of the said United State or any of them.
The most Christian King will employ his good Offices and Interposition with the King or Emperor of Morocco or Fez, the Regencies of Algier, Tunis and Tripoli, or with any of them, and also with every other Prince, State or Power of the Coast of Barbary in Africa, and the Subjects of the said King Emperor, States and Powers, and each of them; in order to provide as fully and efficaciously as possible for the Benefit, Conveniency and Safety of the said United States, and each of them, their Subjects, People, and Inhabitants, and their Vessels and Effects, against all Violence, Insult, Attacks, or Depredations on the Part of the said Princes and States of Barbary, or their Subjects.
The Subjects, Inhabitants, Merchants, Commanders of Ships Masters and Mariners of the States, Provinces, and Dominions of each Party respectively shall abstain and forbear to fish in all Places possessed or which shall be possessed by the other Party: The most Christian Kings Subjects shall not fish in the Havens, Bays, Creeks, Roads Coasts or Places, which the said united States hold or shall hereafter hold; and in like manner the Subjects, People and Inhabitants of the said United States shall not fish in the Havens Bays, Creeks, Roads, Coasts or Places, which the most Christian King possesses or shall hereafter possess; and if any and if any Ship or Vessel shall be found fishing contrary to the Tenor of this Treaty, the said Ship or Vessel with its lading, proof being made thereof, shall be confiscated. It is however understood, that the Exclusion stipulated in the present Article shall take place only so long, and so far as the most Christian King or the United States shall not in this respect have granted an Exemption to some other Nation.
The United States their Citizens and Inhabitants shall never disturb the Subjects, of the most Christian King in the Enjoyment and Exercise of the Right of Fishing on the Banks of Newfoundland; nor in the indefinite and exclusive Right which belongs to them on that Part of the Coast of that Island which is designed by the Treaty of Utrecht; nor in the Rights relative to all and each of the Isles which belong to his most Christian Majesty; the whole conformable to the true Sense of the Treaties of Utrecht and Paris.
It is agreed and concluded that there shall never be any Duty imposed on the Exportation of the Mellasses that may be taken by the Subjects of any of the United States from the Islands of America which belong or may hereafter appertain to his most Christian Majesty.
See Note 1 below.
In compensation of the Exemption stipulated by the preceeding Article, it is agreed and concluded that there shall never be any Duties imposed on the Exportation of any kind of Merchandize which the Subjects of his most Christian Majesty may take from the Countries and Possessions present or future of any of the thirteen United States, for the Use of the Islands which shall furnish Mellasses.
See Note 2 below.
ART 13 .
The Subjects and Inhabitants of the said United States, or any one of them, shall not be reputed Aubains in France, & consequently shall be exempted from the Droit d’Aubaine or other similar Duty under what name soever. They may by Testament, Donation, or otherwise dispose of their Goods moveable and immoveable in favour of such Persons as to them shall seem good; and their Heirs, Subjects of the Said United States, residing whether in France or elsewhere, may succeed them ab intestat, without being obliged to obtain Letters of Naturalization, and without having the Effect of this Concession contested or impeded under Pretext of any Rights or Prerogatives of Provinces, Cities, or Private Persons. And the said Heirs, whether such by particular Title, or ab intestat, shall be exempt from all Duty called Droit de Detraction, or other Duty of the same kind; saving nevertheless, the local Rights or Duties as much and as long as similar ones are not established by the United States or any of them. The Subjects of the most Christian fling shall enjoy on their Part, in all the Dominions of the sd. States, an entire and perfect Reciprocity relative to the Stipulations contained in the present Article.
But it is at the same Time agreed that its Contents shall not affect the Laws made or that may be made hereafter in France against Emigrations, which shall remain in all their Force and Vigour; and the United States on their Part, or any of them, shall be at Liberty to enact such Laws relative to that Matter, as to them shall seem proper.
ART. 14 .
The merchant Ships of either of the Parties, which shall be making into a Port belonging to the Enemy of the other Ally and concerning whose Voyage & the Species of Goods on board her there shall be just Grounds of Suspicion shall be obliged to exhibit as well upon the high Seas as in the Ports and Havens not only her Passports, but likewise Certificates expressly strewing that her Goods are not of the Number of those, which have been prohibited as contraband
ART. 15 .
If by the exhibiting of the above said Certificates, the other Party discover there are any of those Sorts of Goods, which are prohibited and declared contraband and consigned for a Port under the Obedience of his Enemies, it shall not be lawful to break up the Hatches of such Ship, or to open any Chest, Coffers, Packs, Casks, or any other Vessels found therein, or to remove the smallest Parcels of her Goods, whether such Ship belongs to the Subjects of France or the Inhabitants of the said United States, unless the lading be brought on Shore in the presence of the Officers of the Court of Admiralty and an Inventory thereof made; but there shall be no allowance to sell, exchange, or alienate the same in any manner untill after that due and lawful Process shall have been had against such prohibited Goods and the Court of Admiralty shall by a Sentence pronounced, have confiscated the same: saving always as well the Ship itself as any other Goods found therein, which by this Treaty are to be esteemed free: neither may they be detained on presence of their being as it were infected by the prohibited Goods, much less shall they be confiscated as lawful Prize: But if not the whole Cargo, but only part thereof shall consist of prohibited or contraband Goods and the Commander of the Ship shall be ready and willing to deliver them to the Captor, who has discovered them, in such Case the Captor having received those Goods shall forthwith discharge the Ship and not hinder her by any means freely to prosecute the Voyage, on which she was bound. But in Case the Contraband Merchandiscs, cannot be all receiv’d on board the Vessel of the Captor, then the Captor may, notwithstanding the Offer of delivering him the Contraband Goods, carry the Vessel into the nearest Port agreable to what is above directed.
ART. 16 .
On the contrary it is agreed, that whatever shall be found to be laden by the Subjects and Inhabitants of either Party on any Ship belonging to the Enemys of the other or to their Subjects, the whole although it be not of the Sort of prohibited Goods may be confiscated in the same manner, as if it belonged to the Enemy, except such Goods and Merchandizes as were put on board such Ship before the Declaration of War, or even after such Declaration, if so be it were done without knowledge of such Declaration. So that the Goods of the Subjects and People of either Party, whether they be of the Nature of such as are prohibited or otherwise, which, as is aforesaid were put on board any Ship belonging to an Enemy before the War, or after the Declaration of the same, without the knowledge of it, shall no ways be liable to confiscation, but shall well and truely be restored without Delay to the proprietors demanding the same; but so as that, if the said Merchandizes be contraband, it shall not be any Ways lawful to carry them afterwards to any Ports belonging to the Enemy. The two contracting Parties agree, that the Term of two Months being passed after the Declaration of War, their respective Subjects, from whatever Part of the World they come, shall not plead the Ignorance mentioned in this Article.
ART. 17 .
And that more effectual Care may be taken for the Security of the Subjects and Inhabitants of both Parties, that they suffer no injury by the men of War or Privateers of the other Party, all the Commanders of the Ships of his most Christian Majesty & of the said United States and all their Subjects and Inhabitants shall be forbid doing any Injury or Damage to the other Side; and if they act to the contrary, they shall be punished and shall moreover be bound to make Satisfaction for all Matter of Damage, and the Interest thereof, by reparation, under the Pain and obligation of their Person and Goods.
ART. 18 .
All Ships and Merchandizes of what Nature soever which shall be rescued out of the hands of any Pirates or Robbers on the high Seas, shall be brought into some Port of either State and shall be delivered to the Custody of the Officers of that Port, in order to be restored entire to the true Proprietor, as soon as due and sufficient Proof shall be made concerning the Property thereof.
ART. 19 .
It shall be lawful for the Ships of War of either Party & Privateers freely to carry whithersoever they please the Ships and Goods taken from their Enemies, without being obliged to pay any Duty to the Officers of the Admiralty or any other Judges; nor shall such Prizes be arrested or seized, when they come to and enter the Ports of either Party; nor shall the Searchers or other Officers of those Places search the same or make examination concerning the lawfulness of such Prizes, but they may hoist Sail at any time and depart and carry their Prizes to the Places express’d in their Commissions, which the Commanders of such Ships of War shall be obliged to shew: On the contrary no Shelter or Refuge shall be given in their Ports to such as shall have made Prize of the Subjects, People or Property of either of the Parties; but if such shall come in, being forced by Stress of Weather or the Danger of the Sea, all proper means shall be vigorously used that they go out and retire from thence as soon as possible.
ART. 20 .
If any Ship belonging to either of the Parties their People or Subjects, shall, within the Coasts or Dominions of the other, stick upon the Sands or be wrecked or suffer any other Damage, all friendly Assistance and Relief shall be given to the Persons shipwrecked or such as shall be in danger thereof; and Letters of safe Conduct shall likewise be given to them for their free and quiet Passage from thence, and the return of every one to his own Country.
ART. 21 .
In Case the Subjects and Inhabitants of either Party with their shipping whether publick and of War or private and of Merchants, be forced, through Stress of Weather, pursuit of Pirates or Enemies, or any other urgent necessity for seeking of Shelter and Harbour, to retreat and enter into any of the Rivers, Bays, Roads or Ports belonging to the other Party, they shall be received and treated with all humanity and Kindness and enjoy all friendly Protection & Help; and they shall be permitted to refresh and provide themselves at reasonable Rates with victuals and all things needful for the sustenance of their Persons or reparation of their Ships and conveniency of their Voyage; and they shall no Ways be detained or hindred from returning out of the said Ports or Roads but may remove and depart when and whither they please without any let or hindrance.
ART. 22 .
For the better promoting of Commerce on both Sides, it is agreed that if a War shall break out between the said two Nations, six Months after the Proclamation of War shall be allowed to the Merchants in the Cities and Towns, where they live, for selling and transporting their Goods and Merchandizes; and if any thing be taken from them, or any Injury be done them within that Term by either Party or the People or Subjects of either, full Satisfaction shall be made for the same.
ART. 23 .
No Subjects of the most Christian King shall apply for or take any Commission or Letters of marque for arming any Ship or Ships to act as Privateers against the said United States or any of them or against the Subjects People or Inhabitants of the said United States or any of them or against the Property of any of the Inhabitants of any of them from any Prince or State with which the said United States shall be at War. Nor shall any Citizen Subject or Inhabitant of the said United States or any of them apply for or take any Commission or letters of marque for arming any Ship or Ships to act as Privateers against the Subjects O f the most Christian King or any of them or the Property of any of them from any Prince or State with which the said fling shall be at War: And if any Person of either Nation shall take such Commissions or Letters of Marque he shall be punished as a Pirate.
ART. 24 .
It shall not be lawful for any foreign Privateers, not belonging to Subjects of the most Christian King nor Citizens of the said United States, who have Commissions from any other Prince or State in enmity with either Nation to fit their Ships in the Ports of either the one or the other of the aforesaid Parties, to sell what they have taken or in any other manner whatsoever to exchange their Ships, Merchandizes or any other lading; neither shall they be allowed even to purchase victuals except such as shall be necessary for their going to the next Port of that Prince or State from which they have Commissions.
ART. 25 .
It shall be lawful for all and singular the Subjects of the most Christian King and the Citizens People and Inhabitants of the said United States to sail with their Ships with all manner of Liberty and Security; no distinction being made, who are the Proprietors of the Merchandizes laden thereon, from any Port to the places of those who now are or hereafter shall be at Enmity with the most Christian King or the United States. It shall likewise be Lawful for the Subjects and Inhabitants aforesaid to sail with the Ships and Merchandizes aforementioned and to trade with the same Liberty and. security from the Places, Ports and Havens of those who are Enemies of both or either Party without any Opposition or disturbance whatsoever, not only directly from the Places of the Enemy afore mentioned to neutral Places; but also from one Place belonging to an Enemy to another place belonging to an Enemy, whether they be under the Jurisdiction of the same Prince or under several; And it is hereby stipulated that free Ships shall also give a freedom to Goods, and that every thing shall be deemed to be free and exempt, which shall be found on board the Ships belonging to the Subjects of either of the Confederates, although the whole lading or any Part thereof should appertain to the Enemies of either, contraband Goods being always excepted. It is also agreed !’ in like manner that the same Liberty be extended to Persons, who are on board a free Ship, with this Effect, that although they be Enemies to both or either Party, they are not to be taken out of that free Ship, unless they are Soldiers and in actual Service of the Enemies.
ART. 26 .
This Liberty of Navigation and Commerce shall extend to all kinds of Merchandizes, excepting those only which are distinguished by the name of contraband; And under this Name of Contraband or prohibited Goods shall be comprehended, Arms, great Guns, Bombs with the fuzes, and other things belonging to them, Cannon Ball, Gun powder, Match, Pikes, Swords, Lances, Spears, halberds, Mortars, Petards, Granades Salt Petre, Muskets, Musket Ball, Bucklers, Helmets, breast Plates, Coats of Mail and the like kinds of Arms proper for arming Soldiers, Musket rests, belts, Horses with their Furniture, and all other Warlike Instruments whatever. These Merchandizes which follow shall not be reckoned among Contraband or prohibited Goods, that is to say, all sorts of Cloths, and all other Manufactures woven of any wool, Flax, Silk, Cotton or any other Materials whatever; all kinds of wearing Apparel together with the Species, whereof they are used to be made; gold & Silver as well coined as uncoin’d, Tin, Iron, Latten, Copper, Brass Coals, as also Wheat and Barley and any other kind of Corn and pulse; Tobacco and likewise all manner of Spices; salted and smoked Flesh, salted Fish, Cheese and Butter, Beer, Oils, Wines, Sugars and all sorts of Salts; & in general all Provisions, which serve for the nourishment of Mankind and the sustenance of Life; Furthermore all kinds of Cotton, hemp, Flax, Tar, Pitch, Ropes, Cables, Sails, Sail Cloths, Anchors and any Parts of Anchors; also Ships Masts, Planks, Boards and Beams of what Trees soever; and all other Things proper either for building or repairing Ships, and all d other Goods whatever, which have not been worked into the form of any Instrument or thing prepared for War by Land or by Sea, shall not be reputed Contraband, much less such as d have been already wrought and made up for any other Use; all which shall be wholly reckoned among free Goods: as likewise I all other Merchandizes and things, which are not comprehended and particularly mentioned in the foregoing enumeration of contraband Goods: so that they may be transported and carried in the freest manner by Subjects of both Confederates even to Places belonging to an Enemy such Towns or Places being only excepted as are at that time beseiged, blocked up or invested.
ART. 27 .
To the End that all manner of Dissentions and Quarrels may be avoided and prevented on one Side and the other, it is agreed, that in case either of the Parties hereto should be engaged in War, the Ships and Vessels belonging to the Subjects or People of the other Ally must be furnished with Sea Letters or Passports expressing the name, Property and Bulk of the Ship as also the name and Place of habitation of the Master or Commander of the said Ship, that it may appear thereby, that the Ship really & truely belongs to the Subjects of one of the Parties, which Passport shall be made out and granted according to the Form annexed to this Treaty; they shall likewise be recalled every Year, that is if the Ship happens to return home within the Space of a Year. It is likewise agreed, that such Ships being laden are to be provided not only with Passports as above mentioned, but also with Certificates containing the several Particulars of the Cargo, the Place whence the Ship sailed and whither she is bound, that so it may be known,. whether any forbidden or contraband Goods be on board the same: which Certificates shall be made out by the Officers of the Place, whence the Ship set sail, in the accustomed Form. And if any one shall think it fit or adviseable to express in the said Certificates the Person to whom the Goods on board belong, he may freely do so.
ART. 28 .
The Ships of the Subjects and Inhabitants of either of the Parties, coming upon any Coasts belonging to either of the said, Allies, but not willing to enter into Port, or being entered into Port and not willing to unload their Cargoes or break Bulk, they shall be treated according to the general Rules prescribed or to be prescribed relative to the Object in Question.
ART. 29 .
If the Ships of the said Subjects, People or Inhabitants of either of the Parties shall be met with either sailing along the Coasts or on the high Seas by any Ship of War of the other or by any Privateers, the said Ships of War or Privateers, for the avoiding of any Disorder shall remain out of Cannon Shot, and may send their Boats aboard the Merchant Ship, which they shall so meet with, and may enter her to number of two or three Men only to whom the Master or Commander of such Ship or Vessel hall exhibit his passport concerning the Property of the Ship made out according to the Form inserted in this present Treaty, and the Ship, when she shall have shewed such Passport shall be free and st Libert, to pursue her Voyage, so as it shall not be lawful to molest or search her in any manner or to give her chase, or force her to quit her intended
ART. 30 .
It is also agreed that all Goods, when once put on board the Ships or Vessels of either of the two contracting Parties shall be subject to no farther Visitation; but all Visitation or Search shall be made before hand, and all prohibited Goods shall be stopped on the Spot, before the same be put on board, unless there are manifest Tokens or Proofs of fraudulent Practice; nor shall either the Persons or goods of the Subjects of his most Christian Majesty or the United States be put under any arrest or molested by any other kind of Embargo for that Cause; and only the Subject of that State, to whom the said; Goods have been or shall be prohibited and who shall presume to sell or alienate such sort of Goods shall be duly punished for the Offense
ART. 31 .
The two contracting Parties grant mutually the Liberty of having each in the Ports of the other, Consuls, Vice Consuls, Agents and Commissaries, whose; Functions shall be regulated by a particular Agreement.
ART. 32 .
And the more to favour and facilitate the Commerce which the Subjects of the United States may have with France, the most Christian King will grant them in Europe one or more free Ports, where they may bring and dispose of all the Produce and Merchandize of the thirteen United States; and his Majesty will also continue to the Subjects of the said States, the free Ports which have been and are open in the french Islands of America. Of all which free Ports, the said Subjects of the United States shall enjoy the Use, agreable to the Regulations which relate to them.
ART. 33 .
The present Treaty shall be ratified on both Sides and the Ratifications shall be exchanged in the Space of Six Months, or sooner if possible.
In Faith whereof the respective Plenipotentiaries have signed the above Articles, both in the French and English Languages, declaring nevertheless that the present Treaty was originally composed and concluded in the French Language, and they have thereto affixed their Seals.
Done at Paris, this Sixth Day of February, one thousand seven hundred & seventy eight
C. A. GERARD
- Article 11 was suppressed.
- Article 12 was suppressed.