Marking 234 Years of Treaty-Making

Posted by Eric D. Duyck
May 4, 2012
Treaty of Amity and Commerce and the Treaty of Alliance, 1778

On today's date in 1778, diplomatic history was made.

Exactly 234 years ago, the United States ratified its very first two treaties: The Treaty of Amity and Commerce and the Treaty of Alliance. Together, these treaties created a formal alliance with France -- an alliance that would ensure the success of our nation's struggle for independence.

Late last year, the U.S Diplomacy Center acquired a very rare piece of this history -- the first American printing of these two treaties, commissioned by the Continental Congress and printed by John Dunlap of Philadelphia (famous for his 1776 broadsides of the Declaration of Independence). Only 300 copies were printed; very few survive today.

In my position at the Diplomacy Center, processing incoming museum artifacts is one of my primary responsibilities. Soon after starting my job last August, a selection of historic materials transferred from the State Department's Ralph J. Bunche Library made its way to my desk. The Library had decided that the Diplomacy Center would be better-positioned to preserve these materials and share them with the public.

Among the materials was a slim volume in an unmarked, worn binding. At first sight, it seemed unremarkable. But upon opening the cover and examining the title page -- with its 1778 publication date and "Printed by John Dunlap" at the bottom -- I knew I had come across something special. Research and consultation with experts in rare publications confirmed its authenticity.

As soon as the importance and rarity of this artifact became clear, the Diplomacy Center's staff worked to ensure it would be properly protected and preserved. Thanks to the expertise and skill of Thomas C. Albro, a retired Library of Congress rare book conservator, this printing of our first treaties will be preserved and available for exhibit for many generations to come.

The photo accompanying this post shows the treaties printing after conservation treatment and re-binding using its original 1778 paper covers. More photos are available at the U.S. Diplomacy Center's website. For more information about our 1778 treaties with France, go to history.state.gov.

Comments

Comments

John
|
Canada
May 5, 2012

John in Canada writes:

The paper used looks good for its age - made from hemp by any chance?

foot38
May 8, 2012

W.W. writes:

Let me issue and control a nation’s money And I care not who makes its laws

Eric
|
District Of Columbia, USA
May 8, 2012

U.S. Diplomacy Center Museum Collections Assistant Eric Duyck in Washington, D.C. writes:

@ John in Canada: According to the conservator who worked on it, only destructive testing methods (i.e. destroying part of a page) could determine if there was any hemp content in the paper. Thanks for the question!

Eric
|
New Mexico, USA
May 9, 2012

Eric in New Mexico writes:

@ Eric Duyck,

If you could get an MRI or CAT scan of a page(the whole thing scanned actually and just digitally slice and dice 1 page), and then get this selected image resolved down to the microscopic level, the conservator might be able to determine exactly what materials were used in the paper making process itself without using any destructive process involved.

It would be kind of expensive, but an interesting forensic analysis.

Here's a couple links to give you an idea why I think you all can do the forensic analysis without harming the document at all.

'http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2007/sep/12/deadsea'

'http://phys.org/news162397576.html'

Best,

EJ

John
|
Canada
May 9, 2012

John in Canada writes:

Some application of “common sense “ would work well – during this time period – the kind of paper we use today was limited – documents or letters used with”like” paper we use today would exhibit certain decay features -unavoidable with a document this old.

Hemp was used during, before and after extensively for many products including a great deal of documentation. The British would not have had their empire without the use of hemp made sails. cotton was inferior.

Many great art works and historical documents have weathered time well because of hemp – preserving history in a way other materials could never hope to. Its a shame we demonize our history.

In fact even up to world war 2 hemp was used extensively in the military for webbing, rope and other instruments. American farmers were encouraged to grow hemp because the Philippines where a lot of hemp was grown came under threat. Many a sailer and pilot from world War 2 owe their life to “hemp” (chuckle). I think even George W. Bush Sr as a pilot in WW2 crashed -probably owes some respect for his life to this now demonized product – Oh The irony.

In the early 1900s before insanity and mass hysteria set in, many of the pharma companies -some still around today – produced many medications for many ailments produced from this plant. Seems for thousands of years our ancestors new what modern science and governments still cant get to grips with today.

The probability of this document being made of a substandard material during this period is in my humble view unlikely.

How interesting and ironic it would be, to be able to give thanks to a product now viewed as evil for preserving a piece of history.

Many thanks for your response in any event Eric and Eric.(laugh)

Eric
|
New Mexico, USA
May 11, 2012

Eric in New Mexico writes:

'http://www.phillyppa.com/inquirer.html'

John Dunlap was born in Ireland and came to Philadelphia in 1757. He was an apprentice to his uncle and learned the printing business. By 1768, John acquired his uncle's shop, and on Monday, October 28, 1771 he began publishing a weekly newspaper, "The Pennsylvania Packet," sometimes called "The General Advertiser." The paper soon became a reliable source of news about the proceedings of the Continental Congress and the progress of the War for Independence. On Tuesday, September 21, 1784, Dunlap started issuing the Packet as a daily newspaper, the first in the United States, according to the Library of Congress.

Although Dunlap did not become the official printer of the Continental Congress until 1778, it was in Dunlap's shop in July of 1776 that the first copies of the Declaration of Independence were printed. Continuing to serve the ever-changing needs of the government, Dunlap and his partner David Claypoole officially printed, the Constitution of the United States for use by the Constitutional Convention, and later for the first time, according to the Library of Congress, published it in the Pennsylvania Packet and Daily Advertiser (a name it used since it became a daily) on Wednesday, September 19, 1787.

--end excerpt

Chances are hemp was a fiber included in the treaty document discussed above. As there's a reason folks used to call newspaspers "rags".
A CT scan would offer the proof of the papermaking process Dunlap and his partner used.

'http://druglibrary.net/olsen/HEMP/IHA/iha01105.html'

Until the early 19th century, the only raw material available for paper making was rags. Rags are worn-out clothes. Since at that time clothing was solely made of hemp and flax (sometimes cotton), almost all paper in history was thus made of hemp and flax fibres. With the industrial revolution, the need for paper began to exceed the available rag supply. Although hemp was the most traded commodity in the world up to the 1830s (Conrad 1993), the shortage of rags threatened the monopoly for hemp and flax as paper-making fibres. This was the major incentive for inventors and industries to develop new processes to use the world's most abundant (and cheap) source of natural fibres: our forests.

---end excerpt

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