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Foreign Letters, 1785-1790


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by Craig R. Scott, CG

The images in this series are from National Archives microfilm publication M61, Foreign Letters of the Continental Congress and the Department of State, 1785-1790, part of Record Group 59, General Records of the Department of State. They reproduce a volume of copies of instructions from the government to US ministers and consuls, from John Jay, Secretary of Foreign Affairs and later Acting Head of the Department of State, and Thomas Jefferson, his successor as Secretary of State. The actual title of this volume is “Foreign Letters No. 121.”

Document types

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Page ix
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There are two types of records found in this series: index pages and copies of letters sent.

Index Pages

Index pages are found in the beginning of the series and may provide quicker access to the letters than using the search feature. The first image shown here is index page ix, which lists letters to and from the Marquis de Lafayette, Benjamin Franklin, and others.

Copies of Letters

The second images shown here is a copy of a letter from John Jay to Thomas Barclay, Consul General of the United States for the Kingdom of France, regarding shipping rates. Jay is concerned that the US obtain the same shipping rates as those of Spain. He also informs Barclay, through this letter, that Mr. Jefferson has been appointed Minister Plenipotentiary at the Court of Versailles, since Dr. Franklin has requested a return to the United States.

Using the collection

Locate specific topics and people by using the search feature within the title, or browse the index pages located at the front of the series. The letters in the volume are arranged in chronological order.

Related records

This series of records was preceded by several others. It is the successor to Item No. 118 of the Papers of the Continental Congress which is titled "Transcript of Foreign Letters of Robert R. Livingston, 1781-1783." Earlier instructions are in Item 79, "Letters of the Committee for Foreign Affairs and of Robert R. Livingston, Secretary of Foreign Affairs, 1776-1783." All are available at Fold3 in Papers of the Continental Congress, NARA M247, which also contains many other early diplomatic and consular records.

This series of records was succeeded by the series “United States Ministers, Instructions,” which is reproduced on National Archives microfilm publication M28, Diplomatic and Consular Instructions of the Department of State.

Record copies of letters that the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of State addressed to or received from foreign ministers and consuls in the United States are Item 120, "American Letters, 1784-1792," and available on Fold3 as NARA publication M40, Domestic Letters of the Department of State, 1784-1906.

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Search or browse Foreign Letters of the Continental Congress and Department of State, 1785-1790 here.


The records shown here are scanned from the National Archives microfilm publication M61, Foreign Letters of the Continental Congress and the Department of State, 1785 - 1790. The original records are located in Record Group 59, General Records of the Department of State in the National Archives.

About the contributor

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Craig Scott
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A professional genealogical and historical researcher for more than twenty years, Craig R Scott is a Certified Genealogist who specializes in the records of the National Archives, especially those that relate to the military. He is a member of the Company of Military Historians, on the Board of Directors of the Association of Professional Genealogists, and has served in the past on the boards of the Virginia Genealogical Society and the Maryland Genealogical Society. He is the author of The 'Lost Pensions': Settled Accounts of the Act of 6 April 1838 and Records of the Accounting Officers of the Department of the Treasury, Inventory 14 (Revised).

Contributor: fold3_catalog
Created: September 13, 2007 · Modified: November 18, 2011

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