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136   Congressional Articles 1783  $300 Unopened $300 0 You must login to place a bid.

#136 - Congressional Articles 1783

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Alexander Hamilton’s motion to include reparations for illegally freed slaves in the Treaty of Paris

Contemporary manuscript copy of an article presented to the Continental Congress on May 26, 1783, three pages on two adjoining sheets, 7.25 x 8.75, protesting the British practice of carrying away slaves while evacuating from the United States. Proposed by Alexander Hamilton, these stipulations were added to the Treaty of Paris as part of Article 7. In part: “Whereas by the Article agreed upon the 30th of November last by and between the Commissioners of the United States of America, for making Peace, and the Commissioners on the Part of his Britannic Majesty, it is stipulated, that his Britannic Majesty shall with all convenient speed, and without causing any destruction or carrying away any Negroes or other property of the American Inhabitants, withdraw all his Armies, Garrisons & fleets from the said United States, and from every port, place & harbour within the same.—And whereas a considerable Number of Negroes belonging to the Citizens of these States have been carried off there from, contrary to the true Intent and meaning of the said Articles.—Resolved, that copies of the Letters between the Commander in Chief & Sir Guy Carleton and other papers on this subject be transmitted…to the Court of Great Britain, and take proper Measures for obtaining such Reparation as the Nature of the Case will admit.—Ordered, that a Copy of the foregoing resolve be transmitted to the Commander in Chief and that he be directed to continue his remonstrances to Sir Guy Carleton, respecting the permitting Negroes belonging to the Citizens of these States to leave New York, and to the discontinuance of that measure.” In very good condition, with intersecting folds and moderate areas of staining affecting the overall appearance, though all writing remains legible.

During the Revolutionary War nearly 3000 slaves escaped from their masters and sought refuge behind British lines in New York, where commander Guy Carleton promised postwar freedom in exchange for military service. As the war reached its conclusion, Carleton oversaw the evacuation of these ‘black loyalists’ by ship to Nova Scotia as freedmen, which American leaders argued was tantamount to destruction or theft of property. In the preliminary draft of the Treaty of Paris, signed on November 30, 1782, the British agreed to withdraw quickly and cease this practice—Carleton, however, neglected these instructions and kept his promise, continuing to transport ex-slaves to their freedom. He said that if this proved to be an infraction of the treaty, then compensation would have to be paid by the British government—the reparations referred to in this document. The specificity of this proposed article demonstrates how the slave interest dominated the politics of the early republican period. Although Alexander Hamilton thought the practice of carrying off slaves was a violation of the treaty, he ultimately decided that it was more beneficial for the United States to continue to uphold the treaty rather than nullify it. A fascinating document from the conclusion of the American Revolution.

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