The Model Treaty, or the Plan of 1776, was created during the American Revolution and was an idealistic guide for foreign relations and future treaties between the new American government and other nations.
On June 11, 1776, the Continental Congress resolved to create three committees, one for drafting the Declaration of Independence, one for drafting the Articles of Confederation, and one for drafting a "Model Treaty" to guide foreign relations.
The committee was formed on June 12. "Resolved That the committee to prepare a plan of treaties to be proposed to foreign powers, consist of five members: The members chosen, Mr. [John] Dickinson, Mr. Benjamin Franklin, Mr. John Adams, Mr. Benjamin Harrison V, and Mr. Robert Morris." (Journals of the Continental Congress, 5:432.)
The Model Treaty was not with a specific country, but rather was a template for future relations with foreign countries and was America’s first diplomatic statement[dead link]. It adhered to the ideal of free and reciprocal trade. It was also a practical document reflecting the existing American non-political trade arrangements with France and Spain that Robert Morris had established as chairman of the Secret Committee. It was a proposal to formalize those arrangements as arrangements between countries and not just individuals.
This nonmilitary treaty had three main components:
- Free ports to guarantee free goods,
- Freedom of neutrals to trade in normal goods,
- Agreement on a contraband list.
On September 24, 1776, Congress accepted the Model Treaty and commissioners to France were chosen on the next day. Benjamin Franklin took the Model Treaty to Paris, and it was used as the starting point for negotiations with France, which ultimately resulted the signing of two treaties: an economic treaty, the Treaty of Amity and Commerce, and a treaty of military alliance, the Treaty of Alliance.
- Continental Congress, Encyclopedia Britannica
- Jones, Howard (2002). Crucible of Power: A History of American Foreign Relations to 1913. Scholarly Resources Inc. pp. 7–8. ISBN 0-8420-2916-8.