He acknowledged the impossibility of immediate payment,
the propriety of an explanatory convention, and said,
that they were disposed to allow a reasonable time.
We mentioned the term of five years, including the
present; but that judgments might be allowed immediately,
only dividing the execution into equal and annual
parts, so that the last should be levied by the close
of the year 1790. This seemed to be quite agreeable
to him, and to be as short a term as would be insisted
on by them. Proceeding to the sum to be demanded,
we agreed that the principal, with the interest incurring
before and after the war, should be paid; but as to
that incurring during the war, we differed from him.
He urged its justice with respect to themselves, who
had laid out of the use of their money during that
period. This was his only topic. We opposed
to it all those which circumstances, both public and
private, gave rise to. He appeared to feel their
weight, but said the renunciation of this interest
was a bitter pill, and such a one as the merchants
here could not swallow. He wished, that no declaration
should be made as to this article: but we observed,
that if we entered into explanatory declarations of
the points unfavorable to us, we should expect, as
a consideration for this, corresponding declarations
on the parts in our favor. In fact, we supposed
his view was to leave this part of the interest to
stand on the general expressions of the treaty, that
they might avail themselves, in individual cases, of
the favorable dispositions of debtors or of juries.
We proceeded to the necessity of arrangements of our
future commerce, were it only as a means of enabling
our country to pay its debts. We suggested, that
they had been contracted while certain modes of remittance
had existed here, which had been an inducement to
us to contract these debts. He said he was not
authorized to speak on the subject of the future commerce.
He appeared really and feelingly anxious, that arrangements
should be stipulated as to the payment of the old
debts, said he would proceed in that moment to Lord
Caermarthen’s, and discuss the subject with him,
and that we might expect to hear from him. He
took leave, and we have never since heard from him
or any other person on the subject. Congress will
judge how far these conversations should influence
their future proceedings, or those of the States.
I have the honor to be, with the highest respect and
esteem, Sir, your most obedient, humble servant,
TO JAMES MADISON.
London, April 25, 1786.
Some of the objects of the joint commission, with
which we were honored by Congress, called me to this
place about six weeks ago. To-morrow I set out
on my return to Paris. With this nation nothing
is done; and it is now decided, that they intend to
do nothing with us.