Documenting the American South Logo
Colonial and State Records of North Carolina
Letter from Benjamin Hawkins to Alexander Martin
Hawkins, Benjamin, 1754-1816
September 27, 1783
Volume 16, Pages 894-896

[From Executive Letter Book.]

Princeton, September 27th, 1783.


I have not had the pleasure of any of your Excellency’s favours since the 12th July. I observed to you that I should have no objections to be put into the present delegation & to continue at Congress till the Gentlemen appointed should be able to come forward with conveniency to themselves. I did not then expect that I should be obliged to continue so long as I must necessarily be, and above all, without any support from the State.

I have for some time been absolutely without as much money as will support me one day except what I borrow and perhaps may not be able to repay. Surely it can never comport with the dignity of a sovereign State, to let their Delegates depend on such humiliating & precarious means for support. How long we could be supported in our own State on a resolution allowing us two hundred dollars p. month, without the money I know not: but of this we are certain no money can be raised here on such security.

-------------------- page 895 --------------------

We have this day some Letters from Mr. Laurens at London of the 9th of Aug.: he has had a conference with the British Ministers respecting the Commercial Treaty they formerly proposed to our Ministers. They informed him that the proclamation we have sent you was designedly calculated to prevent our trade to their West India Islands. They expressed a strong desire to have an American Minister there, and observed that with one all difficulties would be immediately removed, and a commercial treaty and every thing else adjusted to the mutual satisfaction of both Countries. Lieutenant Sullivan and Capt. Carbery the principals in the meeting at Philadelphia are at London, they have applied to Mr. Laurens, are exceedingly hurt at their conduct, and beg him to intercede for them. They are very anxious to return to America. We have a communication from Mr. de la Luzerne to this effect from the C de Vergennes of the 20th July, That is difficult to determine when a definitive treaty will be concluded; That France agrees perfectly with England on every point respecting their treaty; That the same may be said of Spain. But that power as well as France attached to the true principles by which negotiations of such importance ought to be regulated, will not sign but in concert. That Holland had not yet settled her arrangements but it will be soon done. They have also determined not to sign but in concert; That therefore the negotiations are retarded by nothing but the American treaty which seems to be in a state of Languor occasioned by the British Plenipotentiary; That it seems that, the Americans by admitting too precipitately English Vessels in their ports have deprived themselves of a powerful Weapon to enduce England to a conclusion of the Treaty. By a continuation of the prohibitory Laws until the final settlement of peace it is probable that they would have furnished the most pungent arms to the party who sincerely wishes that the Treaty with America might be concluded. However the French Court is disposed to believe that it will not be much delayed. The Congress may be assured that the definitive Treaty will not be signed but in conjunction with America.

Mr. Carmichael has written us from Madrid of which the following is an extract which I send you for our Merchants “The directors for the supplying of the Army & Navy have engaged to give the preference to America for such Articles as they may from time

-------------------- page 896 --------------------
to time stand in need of from them and for this purpose have taken from me the addresses of Merchantile Houses in the different States. I mention this in order that the different Members of Congress may be enabled to inform their constituents, who perhaps might chuse to furnish supplies of the produce of the States to which they belong to this Country and who may be able to do it on better terms than the parties I have recommended. The articles most in demand will be masts, spars, Tar, pitch, turpentine, flower, grain, fish, &c., &c.”

As most of these articles can only (if furnished from the United States) be furnished from our State, it will certainly be wise in the Legislature to revise the inspection laws and endeavour by the quality to monopolize this trade. If we should not furnish these articles in perfection, they will certainly go to the Baltic for them, and thereby deprive us of the most valuable branch of our trade.

Be pleased to give my most respectful compliments to the Legislature, assure them of my constant attention to their interest.

With the greatest respect, &c.,