Front Page Titles (by Subject) 4 Jan. 1786: TO SECRETARY JAY. - The Works of John Adams, vol. 8 (Letters and State Papers 1782-1799)
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4 Jan. 1786: TO SECRETARY JAY. - John Adams, The Works of John Adams, vol. 8 (Letters and State Papers 1782-1799) 
The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States: with a Life of the Author, Notes and Illustrations, by his Grandson Charles Francis Adams (Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1856). 10 volumes. Vol. 8.
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TO SECRETARY JAY.
Grosvenor Square, 4 January, 1786.
I have only time to acquaint you that, since my last, there have been some appearances of an intention in ministry to take up American affairs. Lord Carmarthen and Mr. Pitt have certainly had conferences with committees of merchants, who have represented to them the necessity of arrangements with the United States upon terms which will give satisfaction. Nevertheless, I have no confidence in this at all; and I think that congress and the States should not relax in any measure in consequence of it.
Mr. Pitt did say to Mr. Campbell, the principal man among them, that Mr. Adams, the American minister, was well disposed to a friendly settlement, and had made some propositions to the King’s ministers, who were also well disposed. He was very inquisitive whether they had seen Mr. Adams. They answered they had not, and that they were not known to him in the business. This was true, in a literal sense; but, in fact, they had taken pains to give me circuitous information that they had been consulted by Lord Carmarthen, and to desire of me such information as I could give them; and I had, by means of Colonel Smith, conveyed to the sight of a person in their confidence some papers, containing such matter as I thought might be trusted to them in such a mysterious way. The representation they have made is very strong, as they say; but I cannot yet obtain a copy of it. They pretend to say that Mr. Pitt assured them their report had given him new light, and they think America may have whatever she desires, except a free trade with the West India Islands. This will prove only a delusion, for, if the ministry really are desirous of an equitable settlement, I am well persuaded they cannot yet carry it in parliament; so that I hope the States will persevere in their own measures, and that even all the Southern States will, at least, lay heavy duties upon the tonnage of such nations as have not treaties with us, and prohibit the importation, in their bottoms, of any merchandises, except the produce of the country to which they belong. Even the importation of Irish linens in British bottoms should be forbidden, as well as Silesia linens, hemp and duck from Russia, and iron from Sweden, wines from Portugal, goods from the East Indies, &c.
With great regard, &c.
TO JOHN JAY.
London, 4 January, 1786.
A day or two after the receipt of your letter of November 1st, and that of President Lee, which came with it, I wrote to the Archbishop of Canterbury, by Colonel Smith, for an hour when I might have the honor to pay my respects to his Grace; and was answered, very politely, that he would be glad to have the honor of seeing me next day, between eleven and twelve. Accordingly, I went yesterday, and was very agreeably received by a venerable and a candid prelate, with whom I had before only exchanged visits of ceremony.
I told his Grace that, at the desire of two very respectable characters in America, the late president of congress and the secretary for the department of foreign affairs, I had the honor to be the bearer, to his Grace, of a letter from a convention of delegates from the Episcopal churches in most of the southern States, which had been transmitted to me open, that I might be acquainted with the contents; that in this business, however, I acted in no official character, having no instructions from congress, nor indeed from the convention; but I thought it most respectful to them, as well as to his Grace, to present the letter in person. The Archbishop answered that all he could say, at present, was, that he was himself very well disposed to give the satisfaction desired; for that he was by no means one of those who wished that contention should be kept up between the two countries, or between one party and another in America; but, on the contrary, was desirous of doing every thing in his power to promote harmony and good humor. I then said that if his Grace would take the trouble to read two letters, from Mr. Lee and Mr. Jay, he would perceive the motives of those gentlemen in sending the letter to my care.
I gave him the letters, which he read attentively and returned, and added that it was a great satisfaction to him to see that gentlemen of character and reputation interested themselves in it; for that the Episcopalians in the United States could not have the full and complete enjoyment of their religious liberties without it. And he subjoined that it was also a great satisfaction to him to have received this visit from me upon this occasion. He would take the liberty to ask me, if it were not an improper question, whether the interposition of the English bishops would not give uneasiness and dissatisfaction in America. I replied that my answer could only be that of a private citizen; and, in that capacity, I had no scruple to say that the people of the United States, in general, were for a liberal and generous toleration. I might, indeed, employ a stronger term, and call it a right, and the first right, of mankind to worship God according to their consciences; and, therefore, I could not see any reasonable ground for dissatisfaction, and that I hoped and believed there would be none of any consequence.
His Grace was then pleased to say that religion, in all countries, especially a young one, ought to be attended to, as it was the foundation of government. He hoped the characters which should be recommended would be good ones. I replied that there were in the churches in America able men, of characters altogether irreproachable, and that such, and such only, I presumed would be recommended.
I then rose to take my leave, and his Grace asked me if he might be at liberty to mention that I had made him this visit upon this occasion. I answered, certainly, if his Grace should judge it proper.
Thus, sir, I have fulfilled my commission, and am
JAMES BOWDOIN TO JOHN ADAMS.
Boston, 12 January, 1786.
I am honored by your Excellency’s letter of the 2d of September by Mr. Storer.
The navigation act of Massachusetts having been found to militate with the French treaty of commerce, and to exclude our fish from the Levant, by excluding the subjects of the Italian and other states coming with their vessels for it, when our own, in attempting to carry it to them, would be intercepted by the Algerines, it was judged expedient to repeal it in part, so that it now operates in full force only against the subjects of Great Britain and their property. A copy of the repealing act will be sent to you, and also of an act passed by the legislature of Rhode Island at their last session.
I have transmitted copies of our repealing act to the executives of the several States, and warmly urged a similitude of measures, without which the United States cannot hope to bring about an alteration in the commercial system of Britain. That system, in my idea of it, is clearly opposed to her own interest, considered in all its parts, and in a complex view of it. It is very true, their encouragement of their whale-fishery, by suffering the alien duty on oil to depress ours, will increase their shipping in this branch, increase their seamen, and, in several other ways, be advantageous to them. To a person that looks no farther, it would appear that this was good policy; and the goodness of it would be inferred from the advantages arising. But when he should extend his view, and see how that stoppage of the American whale fishery, by depriving the Americans of so capital a mean of paying for the woollen goods they used to take of Britain, must, at the same time, occasion the American demand to cease, or be proportionately diminished, not to mention the risk of a change or deviation of the trade from the old channel, he will calculate the national profit and loss that arises from that stoppage.
without the nation’s paying a shilling for the risk of insurance, or any other risk whatever.
They will have made an exceeding good voyage, if the whole of that sum should be equal to one half of the cost of the outfits; though, from many of the vessels not meeting with fish, and from a variety of accidents to which such a voyage is subject, it probably would not be a quarter. The whole of the product goes towards payment of the outfits and charges of the voyage, and a large sum must be advanced for the second voyage, &c.
Now, although this mode of commerce would be productive of some national benefits, yet, considered in a comparative view with the benefits resulting from the former mode, they would be found of little importance. A like comparison may be made with other branches of commerce, particularly the British West Indian, and the result will be found the same. For the sake, then, of gaining pence and farthings, Britain is sacrificing pounds by her new regulations of trade. She has a right to see for herself; but, unhappily, resentment and the consequent prejudices have so much disordered her powers of vision, that it requires the skilful hand of a good political optician to remove the obstructing films. If she will not permit the application of your couching instruments, or, if applied, they can work no effect, the old lady must be left to her fate, and abandoned as incurable.
But it is to be hoped, not so much on her account as our own, that they may be successful. One ground of hope is the private negotiation, which Mr. Nathaniel Barrett is gone to France to perfect and execute, relative to their taking our whale oil duty free, and, in lieu of it, giving, at an agreed rate, according to their quality, such French manufactures as are best suited to our market; excepting a certain proportion of the oil, which must be paid for by bills of exchange, to raise money for the men engaged in the voyage. About two months ago, Mr. Barrett sailed for France with letters for Mr. Jefferson and the Marquis de Lafayette; and, if he succeeds, a great revolution in trade will probably be the consequence, and France, on the principle of reciprocal benefit, exclude Britain from all trade with America. This appears to me so probable, that, if you could impress the British ministry with the same idea, you would find little difficulty to bring about a commercial treaty with them, perfectly agreeable to your own mind, and to the wishes of the United States. An interchange of a few letters on this subject, with Mr. Jefferson, would give you the present state of the negotiation.
With the most perfect regard, &c.
TO THOMAS JEFFERSON.
London, 19 January, 1786.
I am favored with yours of the 27th December, and am obliged to you for what you said to the Count de Vergennes, in the case of the Chevalier de Mezières.1 You may always very safely depend upon it, that I never have given, and never shall give any opinion against the letter or spirit of the treaty with France. In this case, I have never given any opinion at all; indeed, I have never been consulted. The Marquis de Bellegarde, with whom I had a slight acquaintance at the Hague, called upon me here, after the death of General Oglethorpe, and desired that Mr. Granville Sharp might call upon me, and show me some papers relative to the General’s lands in Georgia and South Carolina. Mr. Sharp called accordingly, but showed me no papers. I never looked nor inquired into the case, but advised both to write and send powers of attorney to our old friend, Edward Rutledge, who was able to give them the best advice and information, and all the assistance which the law allows in their claim. The treaty with France never occurred to me, nor was suggested to me in the conference; nor did I ever give any opinion on any question concerning it. I have never written a line to America about it, nor put pen to paper. The supposition, that any opinion of yours in private conversation, or of mine, if any such had been given, which never was, should influence courts and juries in Georgia or Carolina, is ridiculous. The case, as you state it, indeed appears to be unconnected with the treaty entirely; and, if sound sense can remove a prejudice, what you have said upon it will put an end to the jealousy.
Does the Count de Vergennes pretend that the United States of America are bound by their treaty with France never to lay a duty on French vessels? The Massachusetts and New Hampshire navigation laws leave French ships, subjects, and merchandises upon the footing gentis amicissimæ. Does the treaty require more?
I have been informed by Richard Jackson, Esq., whose fame is known in America, that a question has been referred to a number of the first lawyers, common and civil, among whom he was one, “Whether the citizens of the United States, born before the Revolution, were still entitled in the British dominions to the rights of British subjects.” Their unanimous determination was, that such as were born before the signature of the definitive treaty of peace, are still to be considered as British subjects, if they claim the rights in the British dominions. This decision was, I believe, more upon analogy and speculation, than upon any established principle or precedent, since ours is, I believe, a new case. How it has been determined in America, I know not; but, I think, not the same way. However the lawyers and judges may determine it, I wish the assemblies would adopt it as a rule, respecting estates held before the separation, since a generosity of this kind will be more for their honor and their interest, as I conceive, than a rigorous claim of an escheat, however clear in law.
The Chevalier de Pinto informs me that he has written to his Court for explanations upon some points, and expects an answer in a few days. When it arrives, he will call upon me. In the mean time, he says, his Court is solicitous to send a minister to America, but that etiquette forbids it, unless congress will agree to send one to Lisbon. They would send a minister to New York, if congress would return the compliment; but, if congress will not send a minister plenipotentiary, they wish to send a resident, or even a chargé des affaires; but etiquette will not permit this, unless congress will send a resident or chargé des affaires to Portugal.
Is it really expected or intended that Eden shall do more than Crawford did? Pray let me know if there is any probability of a treaty in earnest between France and England.
. . . . . . .
Mr. Voss, from Virginia, has just now called upon me, and shown me a state of the debt of that commonwealth, which is very consolatory. It is dated 12th November, 1785, and signed B. Stark, H. Randolph, and I. Pendleton. The whole debt at that period was only £928,031.9. The annual interest £55,649.15.3. Pension list, £6000. Officers of government, £29,729. Criminal prosecutions, £5,509. Thus it appears that £96,878.15.3. annually will pay the whole interest of their debt and all the charges of government. Virginia, by this, may sing O be joyful. On the 19th November, the lower house resolved to invest congress with full powers to regulate trade; and, in the mean time, that all commerce should cease with the British colonies in the West Indies and North America, and that all ships of foreign nations, with whom we have no treaties of commerce, should be prohibited from importing any thing but the production of their own country. It seems they revoked these resolutions again, because the house was thin, but with design to take them up in another day. This, perhaps, may not be done until next year; but it is a strong symptom of what is coming. Mr. Voss gives me a comfortable account of the trade in peltries, as well as grain and tobacco. Every vessel that arrives brings fresh comfort; and I fancy our commerce with the East Indies will be effectually secured by the reception of Mr. Pitt’s bill. Mr. Voss tells me, that the British debts will not be permitted to be sued for until the treaty is complied with by the English, by the evacuation of the posts and payment for the negroes. Lord Carmarthen told me, yesterday, that he was laboring at an answer to my memorial concerning the posts, and that he should complete it as soon as he could get all the information he was looking for concerning the British debts; for that complaints had been made by the creditors here to ministry. I am glad I am to have an answer; for, whatever conditions they may tack to the surrender of the posts, we shall find out what is boiling in their hearts, and by degrees come together. An answer, though it might be a rough one, would be better than none. But it will not be rough. They will smooth it as much as they can; and I shall transmit it to congress, who may again pass the smoothing-plane over it. I expect it will end in an accommodation; but it will take eighteen months’ more time to finish it.
I am, &c.
TO SECRETARY JAY.
Grosvenor Square, 21 January, 1786.
On Wednesday, the Chevalier de Pinto informed me that he had written to Lisbon for explanations from his Court upon certain points; that he expected an answer in a few days, and that, as soon as he should receive it, he would call upon me, and proceed in the negotiation; that, in the mean time, he would not disguise from me the solicitude of his Court to send a minister to congress. Etiquette forbade that the Court of Portugal should send an ambassador, minister plenipotentiary, or envoy to America, until the United States should agree to send one of equal rank to Lisbon; but, if congress had any reasons for not sending ministers of so high an order, they might send a resident or chargé d’affaires. I answered him, that I had heard it was the intention of congress to send a consul, but that I could say no further.
Lord Carmarthen, on Thursday, told me he was at work upon an answer to my memorial concerning the posts, and should complete it as soon as he could collect some further information concerning the debts, of the obstructions to the payment of which, the ministry had received complaints from persons in this country who were interested in them. You may conclude from this, as well as I, what kind of answer it will be. I am very glad that I am to have an answer. Whatever it may be, it will lead to further eclaircissement and a final accommodation. Yet I think the answer will not come before the spring. It will take eighteen months more to settle all matters, exclusive of the treaty of commerce.
Mr. Eden has said, within a few days, that he believed there would be a treaty of commerce with the United States of America within a year or two. He may wish to be employed in it; for, however sanguine he may be of his success at Versailles, I shall lose my guess, if he ever accomplishes a commercial treaty with that Court. He may, however. This nation would now crouch to France for the sake of being insolent to us. The disposition to crush the weak, is almost always attended with that of cringing to the strong. Arrogance to inferiors is ever servile to superiors. But a treaty with France, such as she would accept, would be hurtful to such numbers, and raise such an opposition, that I cannot yet believe. Mr. Eden will be permitted to sign one. The term of two years is expired, and Del Campo has done nothing. Crawford is returned without doing any thing, as I suppose.
The true secret of the appointment of Mr. Eden, as I conceive, is, the Court of Versailles was offended that Crawford was not allowed to do any thing, and used some sharp expressions which intimidated the ministry. Eden was appointed for two ends,—first, to appease the wrath at Versailles; and, secondly, to keep up a mysterious, delusive hope in the English nation. Perhaps, too, the ministry are afraid of commercial speculations between France and Ireland. These conjectures are precarious, and no great stress should be laid on them.
With great respect, &c.
TO COUNT SARSFIELD.
Grosvenor Square, 21 January, 1785.
If I were so fortunate as you are, and could pass the water from Dover to Calais in three hours, I would go to Paris and dine with you in some of your American parties; but I can never get over from Harwich to Helvoet, nor from Dover to Calais, in less than seventeen hours, and, sometimes, not under three days.
I have all the pieces relative to the United Provinces, excepting the Pays de Drenthe. I have one piece upon slavery, one upon women, and two introductions to the subject of fiefs. That is all that I have.1
Among all my acquaintance, I know not a greater rider of hobby-horses than Count Sarsfield. One of your hobby-horses is, to assemble uncommon characters. I have dined with you two or three times at your house, in company with the oddest collections of personages that were ever put together. I am thinking, if you were here, I would invite you to a dinner to your taste. I would ask King Paoli, King Brant, Le Chevalier d’Eon, and, if you pleased, you might have Mr. and Mrs.—with whom you dined in America. How much speculation would this whimsical association afford you!
How goes on your inquiry into fiefs? If you do not make haste, I may, perhaps, interfere with you. I have half a mind to devote the next ten years to the making of a book upon the subject of nobility. I wish to inquire into the practice of all nations, ancient and modern, civilized and savage, under all religions,—Mahometan, Christian, and Pagan,—to see how far the division of mankind into patricians and plebeians, nobles and simples, is necessary and inevitable, and how far it is not. Nature has not made this discrimination. Art has done it. Art may then prevent it. Would it do good or evil to prevent it? I believe good, think what you will of it. How can it be prevented? In short, it is a splendid subject; and, if I were not too lazy, I would undertake it.
I want to see nations in uniform. No church canonicals, no lawyer’s robes, no distinctions in society, but such as sense and honesty make. What a fool! what an enthusiast! you will say. What then? Why should not I have my hobby-horse to ride as well as my friend? I’ll tell you what. I believe this many-headed beast, the people, will, some time or other, have wit enough to throw their riders; and, if they should, they will put an end to an abundance of tricks, with which they are now curbed and bitted, whipped and spurred.
TO THE MARQUIS OF CARMARTHEN.
Grosvenor Square, 6 February, 1786.
I have the honor of transmitting to your Lordship a copy of a letter of the 21st of December last, from his Majesty’s consul-general in the United States to their secretary of state for the department of foreign affairs, which has been laid before congress,1 who have been pleased to direct me to communicate it to his Majesty, with this information, that the complaint stated in it being in general terms, and unsupported by any particular facts or evidence, they do not think it necessary or proper to take any measures in consequence of it; and, with this assurance, that, as it is their determination the treaty of peace shall be punctually observed by their citizens, and that his Majesty’s subjects shall enjoy in the United States all the rights which friendly and civilized nations claim from each other, so they will always be ready to hear every complaint which may appear to be well founded, and to redress such of them as, on investigation, shall prove to be so. Let me request the favor of your Lordship to lay this communication before his Majesty.
Your Lordship will permit me to avail myself of this opportunity of remarking, that the office of consul-general does not extend to matters of this kind; neither the rights of commerce nor of navigation being in question; and, therefore, that it was delicacy towards his Majesty, rather than a sense of the propriety of such an application from a consul-general, which induced congress to treat it with this mark of attention.
As the United States, my Lord, have a minister plenipotentiary residing at this Court, in consequence of a proposition to that purpose, made by his Britannic Majesty’s minister, through his Grace, the Duke of Dorset, his ambassador at Paris, your Lordship will permit me to propose to the consideration of his Majesty’s ministers the expediency, as well as propriety, of sending a minister plenipotentiary from his Majesty to the United States of America. I am authorized, my Lord, to give assurances that congress expect such a minister, and are ready to receive and treat him in a manner consistent with the respect due to his sovereign.
With great respect, &c.
TO SECRETARY JAY.
Grosvenor Square, 17 February, 1786.
At a late levee, the King, in conversation with one of the foreign ministers, was pleased to say “that the Tripoline ambassador refused to confer with his ministers, and insisted on an audience; but that nothing had been said at it more than that Tripoli and England were at peace, and desirous to continue so.” His Majesty added, “all he wants is a present, and his expenses borne to Vienna and Denmark.”
If nothing more was said at the audience, there are not wanting persons in England who will find means to stimulate this African to stir up his countrymen against American vessels. It may reasonably be suspected that his present visit is chiefly with a view to the United States, to draw them into a treaty of peace, which implies tribute, or at least presents; or to obtain aids from England to carry on a war against us. Feeling his appearance here to be ominous, like that of other irregular bodies, which, “from their horrid hair, shake pestilence and war,” I thought, at first, to avoid him; but, finding that all the other foreign ministers had made their visits, and that he would take amiss a longer inattention, it was judged necessary to call at his door, for the form; but, when the attempt was made, which was last evening, so late that there was no suspicion of his being visible, the ambassador was announced at home, and ready to receive the visitant. It would scarcely be reconcilable to the dignity of congress to read a detail of the ceremonies which attended the conference; it would be more proper to write them to harlequin, for the amusement of the gay at the New York theatre.
It is sufficient to say, that his Excellency made many inquiries concerning America, the climate, soil, heat, cold, &c., and observed, “it is a very great country, but Tripoli is at war with it.” In return, it was asked how there could be war between two nations, when there had been no hostility, injury, insult, or provocation on either side. His Excellency replied, that Turkey, Tripoli, Tunis, Algiers, and Morocco were the sovereigns of the Mediterranean; and that no nation could navigate that sea without a treaty of peace with them; that America must make such treaties with Tripoli first, then with Constantinople, then with Algiers and Morocco, as France, England, and all the other powers of Europe had done. A secretary brought him some papers, one of which was put into my hands. It was a French translation of a full power from the Pacha, Dey, and Regency of Tripoli to treat with all the powers of Europe, and to manage all the foreign concerns of his country, without limitation of time or place. The original commission, in his own language, was also produced and shown. It was observed that America was not named in it. But it was replied, that the power was universal to manage every thing, and that a treaty might be made at once, or, at least, that conferences might be held, and the result written to Tripoli and America for further instructions. “What time was required to write to Congress and receive an answer?” “Three months, at least.” “That was too long, but he should remain here sometime. You may call here to-morrow or next day, with an interpreter, and we will hear and propose terms.”
As his Excellency expected to gain by the negotiation as much as the American knows he must lose, you will perceive the former was the most eager to promote it. When Mr. Jefferson’s answer to a letter upon this subject shall arrive, it will be proper to learn his terms; but there is reason to believe they will be too high for your ministers to accept, without further instructions.
This is the substance of a conference, which was carried on with much difficulty, but with civility enough on both sides, in a strange mixture of Italian, lingua Franca, broken French, and worse English.
This minister appears to be a man of good sense and temper.
With great respect, &c.
TO SECRETARY JAY.
Grosvenor Square, 20 February, 1786.
Yesterday, the Tripolitan ambassador sent a message by a Dr. Benamor, an English Jew most probably, who has formerly resided in Barbary and speaks the Arabic language, as well as the Italian and lingua Franca, to inform me that he wished to return his visit in the same friendly and respectful manner; and that, as he had much at heart a treaty between the Barbary and American States, he wished it might be soon. It was agreed that he should be received at noon.
At twelve, his Excellency came in ceremony, accompanied with his secretary, and Benamor, for an interpreter, “whom he had chosen in preference to the interpreter assigned him by the Court, because he was sorry to see that this nation was not so steady in its friendship to America as the French. The French consul at Tripoli congratulated him upon his appointment, and hoped he would meet in England a minister with whom he might make a treaty of peace with America; but he was sorry to say he found here much ill will to the Americans, and a desire to prevent him from seeing the American minister. For this reason, he would have nothing to do with the Court interpreter. It was the delight of his soul, and the whole pleasure of his life, to do good; and he was zealous to embrace an opportunity, which now presented itself, of doing a great deal. The time was critical, and the sooner peace was made the better; for, from what passed before he left home, he was convinced if the treaty should be delayed another year, it would, after that, be difficult to make it. If any considerable number of vessels and prisoners should be taken, it would be hard to persuade the Turks, especially the Algerines, to desist. A war between Christian and Christian was mild, and prisoners, on either side, were treated with humanity; but a war between Turk and Christian was horrible, and prisoners were sold into slavery. Although he was himself a mussulman, he must still say he thought it a very rigid law; but, as he could not alter it, he was desirous of preventing its operation, or, at least, of softening it, as far as his influence extended. The Algerines were the most difficult to treat. They were eager for prizes, and had now more and larger ships than usual. If an application should be made first to Algiers, they would refuse; but when once a treaty was made by Tripoli, or any one of the Barbary States, they would follow the example. There was such an intimate connection between all, that, when one made peace, the rest followed. Algiers had refused to treat with Spain, in defiance of all her armaments, until Tripoli interposed, and then they relaxed at once. He called God to witness,” that is to say, he swore by his beard, which is a sacred oath with them, “that his motive to this earnestness for peace, although it might be of some benefit to himself, was the desire of doing good.”
When he was informed that congress had received some friendly letters from the Emperor of Morocco, and that an agent was gone to treat with his Majesty, he “rejoiced to hear it, and doubted not that this agent would succeed, as the Emperor was a man of extensive views, and much disposed to promote the commerce of his subjects.” As it was now apparent that his principal business here was to treat with the United States, and that no harm could be done by dealing frankly with him, the commission of congress to treat with Tripoli was shown to him, as well as those to Morocco, Algiers, and Tunis. He “was rejoiced to see them; and, although he could not answer for Algiers, he would undertake for Tunis and Tripoli; and he would write in favor of any person who might be sent, or go with him in person, to assist in the completion of peace with all the States of Barbary, which was more than he had ever before said to any ambassador or minister in Europe.” It was then proposed that his Excellency should mention the terms which he might think proper to propose; but he “desired to be excused at present; and that to-morrow evening, at his house, he might have an opportunity of explaining himself more particularly.” This was agreed to.
It was then observed, that, although America was an extensive country, the inhabitants were few in comparison with France, Spain, and England; nor would their wealth bear any proportion to that of these nations, or of Holland; that we were just emerged from the calamities of war, and had, as yet, few ships at sea, especially in the Mediterranean, so that the Barbary corsairs could not expect to make any considerable number of prizes. “God forbid,” was his reply, “that I should consider America upon a footing at present, in point of wealth, with these nations. I know very well that she has but lately concluded a war, which must have laid waste her territories; and I would rather wish to leave to her own generosity the compliments to be made upon the occasion, than stipulate any thing precisely.”
This man is either a consummate politician in art and address, or he is a benevolent and wise man. Time will discover whether he disguises an interested character, or is indeed the philosopher he pretends to be. If he is the latter, Providence seems to have opened to us an opportunity of conducting this thorny business to a happy conclusion.
Colonel Smith will go to Paris to communicate the whole to Mr. Jefferson, and entreat him to come over to London, in order to finish as much as possible of it immediately, and to agree with the Portuguese minister at the same time. Mr. Jefferson has long projected a visit to England, and this will be a good opportunity. No notice will be taken of it, publicly, in America; and his real errand will be concealed from the public here.
If the sum limited by congress should be insufficient, we shall be embarrassed; and, indeed, a larger sum could not be commanded, unless a new loan should be opened in Holland. I doubt not a million of guilders might be obtained there, upon the same terms with the last two millions. This would enable congress to pay their interest in Europe, and to pay the French officers, who are uneasy.
With great respect, &c.
THE MARQUIS DE LAFAYETTE TO JOHN ADAMS.
Paris, 22 February, 1786.
My Dear Sir,—
I have been honored with your favor by Mr. Joy, to whom I will readily render every service in my power; and I am also to thank you for the valuable books you took the trouble to collect for me. In the cause of my black brethren I feel myself warmly interested, and most decidedly side, so far as respects them, against the white part of mankind. Whatever be the complexion of the enslaved, it does not, in my opinion, alter the complexion of the crime which the enslaver commits, a crime much blacker than any African face. It is to me a matter of great anxiety and concern, to find that this trade is sometimes perpetrated under the flag of liberty, our dear and noble stripes, to which virtue and glory have been constant standard-bearers. Inclosed, I beg leave to send a letter to Mr. Sharp with acknowledgments for his attention.
No event of great importance in Paris. Cardinal de Rohan’s affair has produced many memoirs; which of the different tales is the right one, I do not pretend to say. The cardinal has been either a rogue or a fool; the latter seems the most probable. All the farms have been renewed with an augmentation of revenue, that of tobacco excepted, and on this, as well as on every other point, I stand a warm opposer to the principles of the farm. On this side of the channel, when good deeds fail, you will, at least, find good intentions; in England, neither. While policy is the result of passion, not of reason, every sensible calculation is at an end. And it is still a matter of doubt with me, however strange it appears, if they will give up the posts, or let us have the pleasure to walk into those formidable works on our Saratoga tune of Yankee doodle.
With every sentiment, &c.
TO SECRETARY JAY.
Grosvenor Square, 22 February, 1786.
On Monday evening another conference was held with the Tripolitan ambassador, attended with his interpreter, Benamor, who is a decent man, and very ready in the English as well as Arabic and Italian. The foreign ministers here say, it is the custom of all the ambassadors from Barbary to be much connected with Jews, to whom they are commonly recommended. It may be supposed the Jews have interested motives, and, therefore, although their interference cannot be avoided, they ought to be objects of jealousy. Benamor soon betrayed proofs enough that he had no aversion to the ambassador’s obtaining large terms.
The ambassador, who is known to many of the foreign ministers here, is universally well spoken of.
When he began to explain himself concerning his demands, he said, “they would be different, according to the duration of the treaty; if that were perpetual, they would be greater; if for a term of years, less. His advice was, that it should be perpetual. Once signed by the bashaw, dey, and other officers, it would be indissoluble, and binding forever upon all their successors. But, if a temporary treaty were made, it might be difficult and expensive to revive it; for a perpetual treaty, such as they had now with Spain, a sum of thirty thousand guineas must be paid upon the delivery of the articles signed by the dey and other officers. If it were agreed to, he would send his secretary by land to Marseilles, and from thence by water to Tripoli, who should bring it back by the same route, signed by the dey, &c. He had proposed so small a sum in consideration of the circumstances, but declared it was not half of what had been lately paid them by Spain. If we chose to treat upon a different plan, he would make a treaty perpetual, upon the payment of twelve thousand five hundred guineas for the first year, and three thousand guineas annually, until the thirty thousand guineas were paid.” It was observed that these were large sums, and vastly beyond expectation. But his Excellency answered, that they never made a treaty for less. Upon the arrival of a prize, the dey and the other officers were entitled by law to large shares, by which they might make greater profits than these sums amounted to, and they never would give up this advantage for less.
He was told, that, although there was a full power to treat, the American ministers were limited to a much smaller sum; so that it would be impossible to do any thing until we could write to congress and know their pleasure. Colonel Smith was present at this, as he had been at the last conference, and agreed to go to Paris to communicate all to Mr. Jefferson, and persuade him to come here, that we may join in further conferences, and transmit the result to congress. The ambassador believed that Tunis and Morocco would treat upon the same terms, but would not answer for Algiers; they would demand more. When Mr. Jefferson arrives, we shall insist upon knowing the ultimatum, and transmit it to congress.
Congress will perceive that one hundred and twenty thousand guineas will be indispensable to conclude with the four powers at this rate, besides a present to the ambassadors and other incidental charges; besides this, a present of five hundred guineas is made upon the arrival of a consul in each State. No man wishes more fervently that the expense could be less; but the fact cannot be altered; and the truth ought not to be concealed.
It may be reasonably concluded that this great affair cannot be finished for much less than two hundred thousand pounds sterling. There is no place in Europe or America where congress can obtain such a sum but in Holland; perhaps a loan for two millions of guilders might be filled in Amsterdam upon the terms of the last. If it is not done, this war will cost us more millions of sterling money in a short time, besides the miserable depression of the reputation of the United States, the cruel embarrassment of all our commerce, and the intolerable burthen of insurance, added to the cries of our countrymen in captivity.
The probable success of Mr. Barclay and Mr. Lamb need not be pointed out.
If a perpetual peace were made with these States, the character of the United States would instantly rise all over the world. Our commerce, navigation, and fisheries would extend into the Mediterranean, to Spain and Portugal, France and England. The additional profits would richly repay the interest, and our credit would be adequate to all our wants.
Colonel Smith is gone to Paris; he departed yesterday. By the sixth article of the confederation “No State, without the consent of the United States in congress assembled, shall send any embassy to, or receive any embassy from, or enter into any conference, agreement, alliance, or treaty with any king, prince, or state.” All the States are so deeply interested in this case, that surely no separate State can have occasion to move for the consent of congress upon this occasion; but if, unexpectedly, congress should not agree to treat, there are several States in the Union so deeply interested in navigation that it would richly compensate each of them to go to the whole extent of two hundred thousand pounds to obtain peace. Nevertheless, a single State might obtain peace and security for its ships at a much cheaper rate.
With great and sincere esteem, &c.
TO SECRETARY JAY.
Grosvenor Square, 26 February, 1786.
The envoy from Portugal has received from his Court an answer to his despatches relative to the treaty with the United States; and the inclosed extract from it, which has been delayed some time by the sickness of the Chevalier de Freire, the Portuguese secretary of legation, that minister did me the honor to deliver to me two days ago, with his request that it might be transmitted to congress. At the same time, he delivered me the inclosed state of the trade between the United States and Portugal the last year. When Mr. Jefferson arrives, we shall endeavor to finish this business.
The proposition of sending and receiving a minister has been many times made before. Congress will, no doubt, answer this which is now made, formally and officially. The regard which is due from one sovereign to another, and, indeed, common decency, seems to require it. To refuse it, would be thought surprising; indeed, according to all the rules of politeness between nations and sovereigns, it ought to be left at the option of her most faithful Majesty to send what grade of public minister she shall judge proper; and assurances should be given of the most amicable disposition of congress to receive him with all the respect due to his sovereign, and to send a minister to her Majesty of equal character.
The United States are, at this moment, suffering severely for want of an equitable adjustment of their affairs with the powers of Europe and Africa, which can never be accomplished, but by conforming to the usages established in the world. If the United States would come to the resolution to prohibit all foreign vessels from coming to their ports, and confine all exports and imports to their own ships and seamen, they would do, for any thing that I know, the wisest thing which human prudence could dictate; but then the consequence would be obvious. They must give up the most of their commerce, and live by their agriculture. In this case, they might recall their ministers, and send no more.
On the other hand, if the United States would adopt the principle of the French economists, and allow the ships and merchants of all nations equal privileges with their own citizens, they need not give themselves any further trouble about treaties or ambassadors. The consequence, nevertheless, would be the sudden annihilation of all their manufactures and navigation. We should have the most luxurious set of farmers that ever existed, and should not be able to defend our seacoast against the insults of a pirate.
As these are two extremes that we know Americans will never consent to, we must vindicate our own manufactures and navigation by legislation at home and negotiation abroad; and, therefore, the prejudices against exchanges of public ministers will be found some of the most pernicious that ever have arisen among American citizens. Laws at home must be made in conformity to the state of affairs abroad, which can never be known to congress but by ambassadors.
With great respect, &c.
TO SECRETARY JAY.
Grosvenor Square, 27 February, 1786.
At the last conferences, as they call here what is understood in Paris by ambassador’s days, the Marquis of Carmarthen was pleased to make an apology for not having yet answered the memorial requiring the evacuation of the posts. “It would sound oddly to say that he had delayed his answer to prevent delays; but it was true. He had drawn up his answer; but, as he was obliged to say something concerning the old debts, he had been obliged to wait for a little further information, that he might state, in one view, all the acts of the assemblies which had interposed impediments.” As this is some kind of respect to the memorial, it ought to be communicated to congress, as, no doubt, it was intended and expected that it should be.
The public prints will inform you that the Newfoundland bill and the American intercourse bill are revived. It would be sufficient to convince every American what the system is, to say that Mr. Jenkinson was the member of administration and the House of Commons, selected to conduct this business. Comparing his well known character with what he said, you will believe that the same men and the same principles, which have governed this nation in their conduct towards America these twenty years, prevail to this hour, as far as the circumstances will admit; and that Mr. Pitt is either a convert to their sentiments, or is only an ostensible minister.
It remains with the States to determine what measures they will take to discourage a commerce the most impoverishing and ruinous that can be imagined, to promote a more beneficial intercourse with the rest of Europe, and to support their own manufactures and navigation; for on such measures alone can they have any dependence in future.
With sincere esteem, &c.
TO WILLIAM WHITE.
London, 28 February, 1786.
Your favor of the 26th of November,1 by Mr. Peters, I had not the honor to receive till a few days ago. I am much obliged to you for this mark of your confidence, and for the pamphlets and papers inclosed, which I had yesterday an opportunity of communicating to the Archbishop of Canterbury, when his Grace did me the honor of a visit, to deliver me the inclosed letter, with the desire of the bishops that I would transmit it to the committee.
I have not understood that there will be any political objections against the measure you desire. If any such should arise, as an American citizen, though not an Episcopalian, I can very consistently endeavor to remove it, because I do not believe that the benevolence of the Father of all is confined by our lines of distinction or differences of opinion; and because I think that, when we can enlarge our minds to allow each other an entire liberty in religious matters, the human race will be more happy and respectable in this and the future stage of their existence. It would be inconsistent with the American character, and with the principles of our constitutions, to raise political objections against the consecration of bishops, as it is merely a religious ceremony. The States will, no doubt, take care that no temporal powers inconsistent with their civil politics shall be annexed to the character. This, however, is their affair.
With great respect, &c.
TO MATTHEW ROBINSON.1
London, 2 March, 1786.
You have obliged me very much by your kind letter of 27th February. The Americans are indeed Englishmen, and will continue such, in language and sentiments and manners, whether they are allowed to be friends, or compelled to be enemies, of those other Englishmen who inhabit these islands, Great Britain, and Ireland. The privileges of purchasing, inheriting, exercising trades, voting or being chosen into offices of all kinds, if declared by act of parliament, would, no doubt, be considered in a friendly light, but, give me leave to say, would have no material effect, while embarrassments are either studiously or ignorantly thrown in the way of commerce. The United States are willing to throw wide open every port in their dominions to British ships and merchants and merchandizes, and I am ready, in their behalf, to pledge their faith in a treaty to this effect, upon the reciprocal stipulation of this nation that her ports shall be equally open to our ships, merchants, and produce. But the United States must repel monopolies by monopolies, and answer prohibitions by prohibitions. I may be uninformed respecting the East Indies; but, although the East India Company have, by their charter and act of parliament, an exclusive privilege of importing East India goods into the port of London only, I do not know that Americans, or any other foreign nation, are prohibited to trade with the British factories and settlements in Asia. This, nevertheless, is not a point with us. The ministry might except the charter of the rights of the East India Company. But the American commerce is a system, and a free intercourse between the United States and Canada, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, and the West India Islands, as well as a market for their oil and fins and spermaceti candles, and ready-built ships, is so essential to it, that, if one nation will not, another must concede it. If England will not, Germany, Holland, France, &c. will. This commerce is even more necessary to your colonies, than it is to us; and the present policy is sowing the seeds of disquiet and discontent in the minds of your colonies, that will alienate them all, if persisted in. This uneasiness has already broken out in Barbadoes into violence, which occasioned the troops to fire upon the people, by which a number were killed, as the public prints inform us; and it will increase from day to day. The 5th of March, 1770, ought to be an eternal warning to this nation. On that night the foundation of American independence was laid.
I have the honor to agree perfectly with you in opinion, that England might receive more benefit from a liberal commerce with America, than she would if we had remained under her government; and I may be permitted to say that, having been, from 1774 to this day, either in congress, or in her service abroad, I have been fully acquainted with every step and motive of her conduct towards the powers of Europe; and it has been her constant rule to concede no preferences to France, or any other nation, that she might be at liberty to settle a commercial plan with England upon the fairest terms. Little did she expect or foresee that England would refuse the favors intended her. I must say the ministry appear to have no idea of the principles on which congress have acted. The consequence must be that the trade of America must leave this country and go to her rivals. The ministry, and the nation too, seem to consider the United States as a rival, and we know very well what in English lexicography is the meaning of the word rival. It is an enemy, to be beat down by every means. But it may be depended on that, if the United States are treated in this manner, they will make common cause with the other rivals of British commerce, who, at this day, are almost as numerous as the nations of Europe.
It is the earnest desire of the United States to live in friendship with this country, and to have no other contention but in reciprocal good offices. It seems to be your opinion that the people of England have the same disposition. I beg you to explain yourself on this head, as I must confess I have not met with any symptoms of it, excepting in a few, a very few individuals; much fewer than I expected when I first arrived here. To what purpose is the universal industry to represent the commerce of the United States as of no importance? Where would have been the stocks, the exchange, and the revenue of this country, without it? There has been a constant stream of produce, cash, and bills flowing into this country, since the peace, from the United States. Remittances, to an immense amount, have been made; and even a large sum through France, Spain, Portugal, and Holland, which has contributed in no small degree to turn the balance of exchange so much in your favor, as well as to throw a surplus into the exchequer, and raise the stocks; and these remittances might have been nearly doubled, if common sense had dictated to the British politicians to receive from us, in payment, such things as we have.
The Americans are, at this day, a great people, and are not to be trifled with. Their numbers have increased fifty per cent. since 1774. A people that can multiply at this rate, amidst all the calamities of such a war of eight years, will, in twenty years more, be too respectable to want friends. They might sell their friendship, at this time, at a very high price to others, however lightly it may be esteemed here.
I have the misfortune to differ widely from your opinion in the address, that the “independence of America happened a century too soon.” It would be easy to show that it happened at the best point of time. There is no imaginable period, past or future, at which it could have been brought into event to so much advantage for America. But this would lead me too far. The information you may have received concerning the confusions, distresses, &c. of the United States, are of a piece with those misrepresentations which have constantly misguided this nation for five and twenty years. The inconveniences now felt are confined to those who have been deceived into an excess of trade with this country, by expectations, which have been disappointed, that the usual remittances would be received; and they have arisen from a desire to live and trade in friendship with England. The country in general is in a thriving and flourishing condition, and this country alone will finally be the sufferer by the impediments they have thrown in the way of their own interest.
You will perceive, sir, that I have written too freely and too largely. In my situation, it may be imprudent. But the subject is of great importance, and deserves your closest attention. You will greatly oblige me by communicating your sentiments with equal frankness.
With great esteem, &c.
THE TREASURY BOARD TO JOHN ADAMS.
Board of Treasury, 7 March, 1786.
We do ourselves the honor of transmitting to you the resolves of congress of the 15th day of February last, from which you will observe the embarrassments under which the United States labor to comply with their foreign engagements, through the want of exertions in the several States to pay in their quotas of the annual requisitions. The present state of the treasury is, in consequence, so reduced, that we are apprehensive it may not, perhaps, be in our power to remit to the commissioners of the Dutch loans in Europe sufficient funds, in season to discharge the whole interest which will become due on the Dutch loans on the first day of June next, if the sum of eighty thousand dollars, which has been appropriated by the resolves of congress of the 15th February, 1785, for the purpose of forming treaties with the Barbary powers, should be drawn out of the hands of the Dutch commissioners before that day. We are using our endeavors to make arrangements, so that our remittances may arrive in season; but, as they may be prevented by some casualty from coming to hand by the 1st of next June, it becomes our duty to request the favor of you to avoid, if it possibly can be done, drawing out of the hands of the Dutch commissioners the moneys appropriated for the purpose of making treaties with the Barbary powers, before the 1st of June next; and to direct it, if our remittances should not arrive in season, to be appropriated to the payment of the June interest.
You may rest assured, sir, that every exertion will be made by this Board, that the remittances may arrive in season, without placing any dependence on this resource; and that, at all events, the sum of seventy thousand dollars shall be remitted to the Dutch commissioners on or before the first day of August next, to wait your orders.
To your Excellency, who knows so well the importance of preserving the public faith with foreign nations, and particularly with the Dutch money-lenders, it would be unnecessary to use any arguments to show the propriety of our application on this subject. We are satisfied that, if the state of the negotiations will possibly admit of it, you will permit this money to remain for the purposes we have mentioned.
On examining the abstract of the distribution of the obligations on the five millions loan to the 30th September last, we find that there remained undistributed, on that day, one hundred and thirty-eight obligations, equal to 130,000 florins. It is much to be wished that this loan may be completed with all the despatch possible. Without it, we have too much reason to fear we shall experience difficulties in remitting sufficient sums to Europe to pay the interest of the foreign loans, and the salaries of foreign ministers and agents, during the present year.
We have the honor to be, &c.
TO GRANVILLE SHARP.
Grosvenor Square, 8 March, 1786.
I took the first opportunity to send your present of books to my friend the Marquis de Lafayette, and have, this morning, received the inclosed letter for you from that nobleman.
Let me avail myself of this opportunity of presenting my thanks for your obliging present of books to me. You have merited the respect and esteem of all men, amongst whom liberty and humanity are not disregarded, by your writings. The idea that captives in war are slaves, is the foundation of the misfortunes of the negroes. This principle is honored and admitted by all the powers of Europe who pay tribute to the states of Barbary. I expect that one part of Africa will avenge upon my fellow citizens the injury they do to another by purchasing their captives. Yet I presume we shall be compelled to follow the base example of submission, and pay tribute or make presents, like the rest of Christians, to the mussulmen.
I wish you would take up the whole of this African system, and expose it altogether. Never, never will the slave trade be abolished, while Christian princes abase themselves before the piratical ensigns of Mahomet.
With great esteem,
THE TREASURY BOARD TO JOHN ADAMS.
Board of Treasury, 6 April, 1786.
We do ourselves the honor of transmitting to you a duplicate of our letters to yourself and the commissioners of the Dutch loans of the 7th and 22d March last. The latter, together with one of this date, addressed to the same gentlemen, and inclosing a bill in their favor on Messrs. Wilhem and Jan Willink, of Amsterdam, we request the favor of you to forward by the first mail. Our letter to the commissioners is left open for your perusal, by which you will find that our directions to those gentlemen are to appropriate the proceeds of this bill for the purpose specified in the resolve of congress of the 14th February, 1785, relative to the proposed treaties with the Barbary powers, in case the moneys appropriated for this object have not been drawn out of their hands previous to the receipt of this bill. But, in case this event has taken place, our orders are to discount the bill, and to apply the proceeds for the payment of the Dutch interest, which becomes due on the first of June next. This remittance, added to the sum of thirty thousand dollars, which will be remitted to them for the same purpose by Messrs. Constable, Rucker & Co., in pursuance of a contract made with this Board, will very nearly complete the whole sum of interest which will become due on that day. The deficiency, we trust, will be made up by additional subscriptions to the loan; but, should this not be the case, we must request you not to draw the whole moneys appropriated for the Barbary treaties out of the hands of the commissioners (if not already done), relying on our taking measures to remit, with all possible despatch, to those gentlemen a further sum of twenty thousand dollars, with directions to apply it, in the first instance, to make up any deficiency arising on this account on the sum of eighty thousand dollars appropriated for the purpose above mentioned.
We have the honor to be, &c.
TO JAMES BOWDOIN.
London, 9 May, 1786.
Your Excellency’s letter of the 12th January1 I have had the honor to receive, and am much obliged to you for the information in it.
Your opinion of the policy of this country will be found, in the result of things, to be just; and your reasoning, in support of it, is so conclusive, and at the same time so obvious, that it is astonishing it has not its effect upon the cabinet. Every consideration has been repeatedly urged, to no effect; seamen, the navy, and power to strike an awful blow to their enemies at sea, on the first breaking out of a war, are the ideas that prevail over all others. Mr. Jenkinson, an old friend of the British empire, is still at his labors. He is about establishing a bounty upon fifteen ships to the southward, and upon two to double Cape Horn, for spermaceti whales. Americans are to take an oath that they mean to settle in England, before they are entitled to the bounty.
I have long since informed congress, that nothing is to be expected from this country but poverty, weakness, and ruin. If, after all, our people will carry on a ruinous trade, it is their own concern. But no man can do them a greater injury than by holding up to their view a hope that we shall receive any relief by taking off the duty on oil, or by admission to the West India Islands. They will infallibly be deceived, if they entertain any such expectations.
I have been circumstantially informed, from time to time and step by step, from Mr. Jefferson, the Marquis de Lafayette, and Mr. Barrett, of all the negotiations for exchanging our oil for the produce, manufactures, and sugars of France. The great revolution in trade, which you mention, ought to be promoted by every friend of America, and it must take place. I have made use of all these considerations. But if an angel from heaven should declare to this nation, that our States will unite, retaliate, prohibit, or trade with France, they would not believe it. There is not one man in the nation who pretends to believe it; and, if he did, he would be treated with scorn.
Let me entreat you, sir, and every other citizen of the United States, to extinguish all hopes of relief to their trade from this country.
Peace with the Turks, comprehending, under this term, Constantinople, Tunis, Tripoli, Algiers, and Morocco, is essential to our navigation and commerce, and political consideration in Europe. Two or three hundred thousand guineas, and nothing less, will obtain it. It will be miserable policy and economy to lose two or three millions in trade, insurance, &c. &c., and still worse, to add two or three millions more in fitting out a navy to fight them, in order to save that sum in customary presents. We are now limited to a sum that will be worse than thrown away.
Intrigues of individuals are said to be on foot, to set South America free from Spain; and, not improbably, the pulse may be felt in the United States. But I hope the States will not only be prudent themselves, but oblige individuals to be so too. Portugal and Spain are bound, by a treaty of 1778, to support each other in such a case; and all the world will be in flames. We had better avoid the fury of them.
Three great objects agitate the cabinets of Europe in secret. The passage of the Dardanelles and navigation of the Danube, I consider as one. A free commerce with all the East Indies, is a second; and the independence of South America, is the third. They will all be pursued until they are obtained, as I fully believe. But, as all know the contest will be sharp, extensive, and long, all are afraid to begin. This is all confidential between you and me, and a few of our discreet friends. God bless our country; but I still tremble for its safety.
With great respect, &c.
TO SECRETARY JAY.
Grosvenor Square, 16 May, 1786.
Last night I was honored with your letter of April 7th, and am happy to find that twelve States have granted to congress the impost. New York, I am persuaded, will not long withhold her assent, because that, in addition to all the other arguments in favor of the measure, she will have to consider that all the blame of consequences must now rest upon her; and she would find this, alone, a greater burden than the impost. This measure, alone, as soon as it is completed, will have a great effect, and instantly raise the United States in the consideration of Europe, and especially of England. Its beneficial effects will be soon felt in America, by producing a circulation of that property, the long stagnation of which has been a principal cause of the distress of the community. The States, jointly and severally, would find immediate benefits from establishing taxes to pay the whole interest of their debts, those of the confederation, as well as those of particular States; the interest of money would instantly be lowered, and capitals be employed in manufactures and commerce, that are now at usury. It is no paradox to say that every man would find himself the richer, the more taxes he pays; and this rule must hold good, until the taxes shall amount to a sum sufficient to discharge the interest due to every creditor in the community. The power to regulate the commerce of the whole, will not, probably, be long withheld from congress; and when that point shall be agreed to, you will begin to hear a cry in England for a treaty. Like Daniel Defoe’s game cock among the horses feet, it will be, “Pray, gentlemen, don’t let us tread upon one another.”
You have, I hope, before now, Lord Carmarthen’s answer of February 28th to my memorial of November 30th. I had determined in my own mind not “to demand a categorical answer without the further orders of congress,” and it is a great satisfaction to find your opinion coincide. It is now with congress to deliberate what answer they should make to his Lordship; and, for my own part, I do not see what answer they can give, until they know the sense of Massachusetts, New York, Virginia, and South Carolina.
With the highest regard, &c.
TO THE MARQUIS OF CARMARTHEN.
London, 18 May, 1786.
I do myself the honor of transmitting to your Lordship, herewith inclosed, an act of the United States of America in congress assembled, the 13th of October, 1785, together with copies of sundry other papers, relative to the boundary line between the United States and his Majesty’s late province of Nova Scotia, part of which is now called New Brunswick. It is still fresh in the recollection of every person who was concerned in the negotiation of the late peace, that Mitchell’s map was made use of by the British and American plenipotentiaries, and the river St. Croix was marked out on that map, as there delineated, for the boundary; which circumstance alone, it is hoped, will be sufficient to determine all questions which may have been raised concerning so recent a transaction. In former controversies between the crowns of Great Britain and France, concerning the boundary between the late province of Massachusetts Bay and Nova Scotia, it has often been contended by the British ministers and commissioners that the river St. Croix was a river still further eastward than the easternmost of those three which fall into the bay of Passamaquoddy, but never once admitted to be a river more westerly. So that the plenipotentiaries at the peace, on both sides, had reason to presume that, when they fixed on the St. Croix, surveyed by Mitchell and laid down by him on his map, there never could afterwards arise any controversy concerning it. Yet it seems, my Lord, that a number of his Majesty’s subjects have crossed over the river and settled in the territory of the United States, an encroachment in which they can not be supposed to be countenanced by his Majesty’s government.
Difficulties of this kind, if early attended to, are easily adjusted; and I shall be ready, at all times, to enter into conferences with your Lordship, that every point may be discussed, and all uneasiness prevented; but, while new maps are every day made, and old ones colored, according to an erroneous idea, a foundation may be laid for much future evil, both to nations and individuals.
I am, my Lord, &c.
TO THOMAS JEFFERSON.
London, 23 May, 1786.
I am honored with yours of the 11th,1 with the inclosures from Mr. Lamb, Mr. Carmichael, and Mr. Barclay.
I am not surprised that Mr. Lamb has only discovered that our means are inadequate, without learning the sum that would be sufficient. Il faut marchander avec ces gens là. They must be beaten down as low as possible; but we shall find, at last, the terms very dear. The Algerines will never make peace with us until we have treaties finished with Constantinople, Tunis, Tripoli, and Morocco; they always stand out the longest. Mr. Barclay will have no better fortune, and I don’t believe it worth while for him to wait a moment to discover what sum will do.
I think, with you, that it is best to desire Mr. Lamb immediately to return to congress, and Mr. Randal too. It is surprising that neither of them has given us more circumstantial information, and that Mr. Randal has not come on to Paris and London. I think you will do well to write him to come forward without loss of time, and am glad you sent copies of all the letters to Mr. Jay. I concur with you entirely in the propriety of your going on with the Comte de Merci in the negotiation, and in transmitting to congress the plan you may agree upon, that they may send a new commission, if they judge proper.
I have a letter from Mr. Randal, at Madrid, 4 May, but shall not answer it, as I wish you to write him, in behalf of both of us, to return immediately to Paris and London. I have a letter, too, from Isaac Stephens, at Algiers the 15th of April. He says the price is $6,000 for a master, $4,000 for a mate, and $1,500 for each sailor. The Dey will not abate a sixpence, he says, and will not have any thing to say about peace with America. He says the people, that is the sailors, I suppose, are carrying rocks and timber on their backs for nine miles out of the country, over sharp rocks and mountains; that he has an iron round his leg, &c. He begs that we would pay the money for their redemption, without sending to congress; but this is impossible.
TO SECRETARY JAY.
Grosvenor Square, 25 May, 1786.
I have not presented a formal memorial, in the name of our sovereign, concerning the negroes carried off contrary to the treaty, although it has been frequently and constantly insisted upon with the British ministry, for several reasons. One was, a desire to confine the first memorial to one point, the frontier posts, that the real motives and intentions of the cabinet might be the more distinctly laid open to congress. Another reason was, the frankness of ministers, to own, in conversation, that the negroes must be paid for, as a clear point. Another was, that time might be allowed to you, sir, to transmit me the whole amount and evidence of the claim. And lastly, that I might have the explicit instructions of congress to demand payment for the negroes in money, and especially at what prices they should be stated.
By the answer of Lord Carmarthen to the memorial of the 30th of November, congress will see that the detention of the posts is attempted to be justified by the laws of certain States impeding the course of law for the recovery of old debts, &c. Were another memorial to be now presented relative to the negroes, the same answer would undoubtedly be given, or, more probably, a reference only to that answer. It is my duty to be explicit with my country, and, therefore I hope it will not be taken amiss by any of my fellow citizens, when they are told that it is in vain to expect the evacuation of posts, or payment for the negroes, a treaty of commerce, or restoration of prizes, payment of the Maryland or Rhode Island demand, compensation to the Boston merchants, or any other relief of any kind, until these laws are all repealed. Nor will the ministry ever agree to any explanation concerning the interest during the war, or payments by instalments. The old creditors have formed themselves into a society and have frequent meetings, send committees to Mr. Pitt and Lord Carmarthen, and, I am well informed, oppose even a treaty of commerce, upon this ground; and the ministers know them to be so numerous that they could raise a clamor, a consideration which has always had more weight at this Court and in parliament than the interest of America or the British empire.
What, then, is to be done? The States, it may be said, will not repeal their laws. If they do not, then let them give up all expectation from this Court and country, unless you can force them to do as you please by investing congress with full power to regulate trade.
I will run the hazard, sir, of all the clamor that can be raised against me by my friends, or by my enemies, if any such there are, and of all the consequences that can befall me, for writing my sentiments freely to congress on a subject of this importance. It will appear to all the world with an ill grace, if we complain of breaches of the treaty, when the British Court have it in their power to prove upon us breaches of the same treaty, of greater importance. My advice, then, if it is not impertinent to give it, is, that every law of every State which concerns either debts or royalists, which can be impartially construed contrary to the spirit of the treaty of peace, be immediately repealed, and the debtors left to settle with their creditors, or dispute the point of interest at law. I do not believe a jury would give the interest. I beg leave to suggest another thing; if congress are themselves clear that interest during the war was not part of that bonâ fide debt which was intended by the contracting parties, they may declare so by a resolution, or the legislatures of the separate States may declare so, and then the courts of justice and the juries will certainly give no interest during the war; but, even in this case, those States which have few debts, and have made no laws against the recovery of them, will think it hard that they should be subjected to dangers by the conduct of such as have many, and have made laws inconsistent with the treaty, both respecting debts and tories. You will give me leave, sir, to suggest another idea; suppose the States should venture to do themselves justice; for example, suppose Maryland should undertake to pay herself for her bank stock and negroes carried off after the treaty, by accepting security for it from her own citizens, who are debtors to British subjects, and giving discharges to those debtors, or engaging to stand between them and the claims of the creditor; suppose the Carolinas, Virginia, and all the other States which had negroes carried off after the peace, should do the same; suppose Massachusetts should make up the losses of the inhabitants of Boston in goods carried off by General Howe, in the same way, at least those of them who were promised compensation by General Howe, for these are undoubtedly creditors of the British government; suppose, further, that each State should undertake, in the same way, to compensate the owners of vessels taken after the commencement of the armistice.
I throw out these hints as possibilities and speculations only, sensible that they might open a door to much altercation; but I will not fail to add, that I think it would be much sounder policy and nobler spirit to repeal at once every law of every State which is in the smallest degree inconsistent with the treaty respecting either debts or tories, and am well persuaded that no inconvenience would be felt from it; neither law suits, nor bankrupticies, nor imprisonments, would be increased by it; on the contrary, the credit and commerce of all the States would be so increased, that the debtors themselves, in general, would find their burthens lighter.
With great esteem, &c.
P. S. Inclosed are two acts of parliament and the King’s last proclamation. The other acts which affect America shall be sent as soon as they are passed, and I can obtain them.
THOMAS JEFFERSON TO JOHN ADAMS.
Paris, 30 May, 1786.
In my letter of this day, I omitted to inform you that, according to what we had proposed, I have had a long consultation with the Count de Vergennes, on the expediency of a diplomatic mission to Constantinople. His information is that it will cost a great deal of money, as great presents are expected at that Court, and a great many claim them; and his opinion is, that we shall not buy a peace one penny the cheaper at Algiers. He says that these people do indeed acknowledge a kind of vassalage to the Porte, and avail themselves of it when there is any thing to be claimed, but regard it not at all when it subjects them to a duty; that money and fear are the two only agents at Algiers. He cited the example of Spain; which, though under treaty with the Porte, is yet obliged to buy a peace at Algiers at a most enormous price. This is the sum of his information. The Baron de Tott is gone to Flanders for the summer.
I am, &c.
TO JAMES BOWDOIN.
London, 2 June, 1786.
Dr. Gordon yesterday called upon me with the letter which your Excellency did me the honor to write me on the 10th of April. I have long since transmitted to congress the answer of the Board of Admiralty to the representations relative to the conduct of Captain Stanhope, in which the letters of that officer are disapproved.
The representations of the encroachments on the territory of the United States have been laid before the British ministry; but I presume they will, like many others, be little attended to. In short, sir, I must be so free as to say to you, that, by every thing I have seen and heard in this country, nothing of any material consequence will ever be done, while there remains in force a law of any one State impeding the recovery of bonâ fide debts contracted before the 30th of November, 1782, or inconsistent with the article of the treaty of peace respecting the tories.
It is very true that Mitchell’s map governed the American and British plenipotentiaries in settling the line between the two nations. There is upon that map but one river which is marked with the name of St. Croix, and that was the object undoubtedly fixed upon. There is no river upon that map, that I remember, marked with the name of Schoodack or Megacadava. Next to the great river St. Johns, proceeding westward on that map, is a little river inscribed Mechior; next to that, is another stream running between the words Carriage harbor; next to that we come to a larger river, running from Kousaki lake into the bay Passamaquoddy, and inscribed with the name of river St. Croix; next to that, still proceeding westward, is Passamaquoddy river. But that inscribed, river St. Croix, running from the sea, or what I call Passamaquoddy bay, up to the Kousaki lake, was marked with the pencil for the boundary. It is impossible for me to say more. If the true St. Croix cannot be discovered by these marks, there is no remedy but by an ulterior agreement, or the law of the strongest. It is astonishing that, to this hour, no man can produce a map of all the bays, harbors, islands, and rivers in that neighborhood, that can be depended on. If the ministry will meet me in a fair discussion of the question, or in any of the methods pointed out to me by my superiors for a settlement, I shall be glad. They have it under consideration, and, as soon as they give me an answer, I shall transmit it to congress; but, as they do not love pains and trouble so well as you and I do, I fear they will leave it all to Sir Guy Carleton, who is no more of a friend to the United States than any other British knight, and will be guided by the royalists more than by maps or surveys. Why any of my countrymen should choose to give to these royalists so much importance as they do, I know not. We should recollect that all parties in this country are pledged to support them, and party faith is a stronger tie than national faith.
The paper relative to Alexander Gross of Truro, I must transmit to Mr. Jefferson, it being in his department. I may, nevertheless, previously communicate it to the Comte d’Adhemar, and request his friendly offices in the matter.
TO COUNT D’ADHEMAR.
London, 3 June, 1786.
I do myself the honor to inclose to your Excellency an extract of a letter I received yesterday from his Excellency James Bowdoin, Governor of Massachusetts, together with the documents under the seal of the State, therein referred to.
As the ransoming captain is an Englishman, he no doubt applauds himself for the address with which he persuaded a simple American to go as a hostage upon promises, which, as he never has given himself any concern about, he probably never intended to fulfil. At present, as Gross can have no remedy against him, he has no compassion for Gross, and would probably with great indifference suffer him to pass all his days in prison, and as the relations of the hostage are poor and unable to pay the ransom, he must remain in prison till he perishes, unless the government or the persons interested will consent to his liberation.
I beg leave to intercede with your Excellency, in behalf of my unfortunate countryman, that his case may be transmitted to your Court, to the end that he may be set at liberty, either by the humanity of the persons interested, or by the authority of government, upon whom the expense of his maintenance in prison for life will otherwise fall.
TO THOMAS JEFFERSON.
London, 6 June, 1786.
Yesterday I received your favor of 30th May, with its inclosures. You have, since that day, no doubt received my answer to yours of the 11th, in which I agreed perfectly with you in the propriety of sending Mr. Lamb to congress without loss of time. I am content to send Mr. Randal with him, but had rather he should come to you first, and then to me, and embark in London after we shall have had opportunity, from his conversation, to learn as much as we can.
The Comte de Vergennes is undoubtedly right in his judgment that avarice and fear are the only agents at Algiers, and that we shall not have peace with them the cheaper for having a treaty with the Sublime Porte. But is he certain we can ever, at any price, have peace with Algiers, unless we have it previously with Constantinople? And do not the Turks from Constantinople send rovers into the Mediterranean? And would not even treaties of peace with Tunis, Tripoli, Algiers, and Morocco, be ineffectual for the security of our Mediterranean trade, without a peace with the Porte? The Porte is at present the theatre of the politics of Europe, and commercial information might be obtained there.
The first question is, what will it cost us to make peace with all five of them. Set it, if you will, at five hundred thousand pounds sterling, though I doubt not it might be done for three, or perhaps for two. The second question is, what damage shall we suffer if we do not treat. Compute six or eight per cent. insurance upon all your exports and imports; compute the total loss of all the Mediterranean and Levant trade; compute the loss of one half your trade to Portugal and Spain. The third question is, what will it cost to fight them. I answer at least half a million a year, without protecting your trade; and when you leave off fighting, you must pay as much money as it would cost you now for peace. The interest of half a million sterling is, even at six per cent., 30,000 guineas a year. For an annual interest of £30,000 sterling, then, and perhaps for £15,000 or £10,000, we can have peace, when a war would sink us annually ten times as much.
But, for God’s sake, don’t let us amuse our countrymen with any further projects of sounding. We know all about it, as much as ever we can know, until we have the money to offer. We know if we send an ambassador to Constantinople, he must give presents. How much, the Comte de Vergennes can tell you better than any man in Europe.
We are fundamentally wrong. The first thing to be done is for congress to have a revenue. Taxes, duties, must be laid on by congress or the assemblies, and appropriated to the payment of interest. The moment this is done, we may borrow a sum adequate to all our necessities; if it is not done, in my opinion, you and I, as well as every other servant of the United States in Europe, ought to go home, give up all points, and let all our exports and imports be done in European bottoms. My indignation is roused beyond all patience to see the people in all the United States in a torpor, and see them a prey, to every robber, pirate, and cheat in Europe. Jews and Judaizing Christians are now scheming to buy up all our continental notes at two or three shillings in the pound, in order to oblige us to pay them at twenty shillings. This will be richer plunder than that of Algerines, or Lloyd’s coffee-house.
I remain, &c.
TO SECRETARY JAY.
Grosvenor Square, 16 June, 1786.
Two days ago I was honored with your letter of the 4th of May, in which another of the 1st of the same month is referred to, and as I hear there is a passenger expected from the packet, I hope to receive it from him when he arrives in town.
Lord Carmarthen told me, yesterday, that he had letters from Mr. Anstey, mentioning his civil reception. His Lordship said, too, that a minister plenipotentiary would certainly be sent to congress; that it was not from any coldness or want of respect to the United States that it had not been already done, but merely from the difficulty of finding a proper person; that he had received many applications, but they had been generally from persons who, he was sure, would not be agreeable in America; and, in some instances, from persons more suitable for a place in the customs than in the corps diplomatique.
A long conversation ensued upon the subject of the posts, debts, &c., little of which being new is worth repeating. The policy of giving up the interest during the war, and of agreeing to a plan of payment by instalments, was again insisted on, from various considerations, particularly from the evident injustice of demanding interest for that period. It was argued that the claim of interest, in most cases, was grounded upon custom and the mutual understanding of the parties; but that it never had been the custom, nor had it ever been understood or foreseen, that an act of parliament should be passed, casting the American debtor out of the protection of the crown, cutting off all correspondence, and rendering all intercourse criminal, for that was the result and the legal construction during the whole war. Here his Lordship fully agreed with me, and even outwent me in saying that it was very true that, by construction of the law of this land, it was high treason in a creditor in Great Britain to receive a remittance from his debtor in America during the war. His Lordship added some slight expressions concerning the interest, and wished that the courts were open for recovering the principal. We might leave the interest for an after consideration. In short, they waited only for some appearance of a disposition. The answer to my memorial of 30th November contained their true intentions. They sincerely meant to fulfil every engagement, whenever they saw a disposition on our part.
These expressions, you see, are somewhat oracular; but they conveyed so much meaning to me, that I will no longer hesitate to recommend to congress to take up this matter and decide it at once. It would be going too far to point out the mode, but it may be suggested to require of all the States, who have made laws irreconcilable to the treaty, immediately to repeal them, declaring, at the same time, that interest upon book debts and simple contracts, during the war, cannot be considered as any part of the bonâ fide debts intended in the treaty. As to specialties, there may be, in some cases, more difficulty. Yet I do not see but the same reasoning is applicable to all. The legal contract was dissolved by throwing us out of the protection of the crown, and our subsequent assumption of independence, and had no existence until renewed by treaty. Private honor and conscience are out of this question. Those who think themselves bound by these ties, will do as they please. But I believe, under all the circumstances, few persons, even of the most delicate sentiments, will be scrupulous. If such a declaration should be made by congress, candor will require that it should extend to both sides, to the British and refugee debtor, to American creditors, as well as vice versâ.
If congress should choose to avoid involving themselves in such a declaration, it would not be proper for individual States to do it; and in this case, I humbly conceive the laws ought to be repealed, and the question left to judges and juries, who, upon the strictest construction of law, equity, and the treaty, may, in my opinion, in most cases, if not in all, deny the interest during the war to the creditor. In some of these ways relief must be had, or in none, for the ministry here will never intermeddle in the business.
If any one should ask, what was the intention of the contracting parties at the treaty, the answer must be, the treaty itself must determine, and any one who reads it may judge as well as one of the plenipotentiaries. The word “heretofore” was not used in preference to the words “before the war,” with any view to the interest, but to comprehend debts which had been contracted during the war. The intention was, no doubt, that whatever judges and juries should find to be a debt, should be recovered; and I believe that any man, acting in the character of either, will find it difficult to say, upon his oath, that interest during the war is bonâ fide due. Did any debtor, foreseeing the war, contract a debt, and pledge his faith to pay interest during the continuance of it? Let this be proved, and a judge or juror would compel payment. But probably there is not one such case. The war may be considered as one of those accidents bonâ fide not expected or foreseen, against which equity will always give relief.
With great and sincere esteem, &c.
DAVID GRIFFITH TO JOHN ADAMS.
Philadelphia, 26 June, 1786.
The general convention of the Protestant Episcopal church acknowledge themselves greatly obliged to your Excellency, for your kind attention to their religious concerns, in forwarding their endeavors to obtain consecration for bishops, and such a succession in the orders of her ministry as is most conformable to their principles and agreeable to their wishes.
Having instructions from the convention to transmit to your Excellency their vote of thanks, I do myself the honor now to inclose it.
With the greatest respect for your character, both private and public, I have the honor to be, &c.
24 June, 1786.
In Convention. Resolved, That the thanks of this convention be given to his Excellency John Adams, Esquire, Minister Plenipotentiary at the Court of Great Britain, for his kind attention to the concerns of this church; and that the President be desired to transmit the same.
Extract from the minutes.
WILLIAM WHITE TO JOHN ADAMS.
Philadelphia, 28 June, 1786.
I had the honor and satisfaction of receiving your Excellency’s letter dated 28 February, 1786;1 and while the church to which I belong is emboldened, by your past condescension, to solicit your further attention to her concerns, I take the liberty to inclose you a production, which can have no importance but what it may derive from the weighty business of the body before whom it was delivered.
I cannot conclude without expressing my most hearty concurrence in the sentiments of your letter, with my wishes that they may always adorn those characters with whom the honor and happiness of our country shall be entrusted.
With the most perfect respect and esteem, &c.
D. GRIFFITH AND OTHERS TO JOHN ADAMS.
Philadelphia, 28 June, 1786.
The condescension your Excellency has shown, in delivering to his Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury a copy of a former address of the convention of the Protestant Episcopal church, and in transmitting the answer to it, added to your great candor and liberality in so stating the laws and constitutions of the United States on the subject of it, as will be forever remembered with gratitude by the members of our church, and by all friends of religious freedom, hath emboldened us, as a committee of a succeeding convention, to request the like attention of your Excellency to their address to the right reverend bench; a copy of which we do ourselves the honor to inclose.
The Rev. Mr. Hultgien, a native and subject of Sweden, who is the bearer of this letter, hath taken the charge of the books and other communications referred to in the address, and will provide for their being delivered, with the assistance and under the direction of the Rev. Dr. Murray, formerly a clergyman in the State of Pennsylvania, whose past endeavors to forward our views have induced us to ask of him this instance of attention.
With a deep sense of your Excellency’s great goodness, we have the honor to subscribe ourselves,
TO JOHN LAMB.
London, 29 June, 1786.
The importance of peace with the Algerines and the other inhabitants of the coast of Barbary, to the United States, renders it necessary that every information which can be obtained should be laid before congress; and, as the demands for the redemption of captives, as well as the amount of customary presents, are so much more considerable than seem to have been expected in America, it appears to us necessary that you should return, without loss of time, to New York, there to give an account to congress of all the particulars which have come to your knowledge, as well as of your own proceedings, and of the moneys which have been paid on account of the United States in consequence of your drafts upon their ministers in London.
From congress, when you arrive there, you will receive orders for your future government; and, in the mean time, we have no further occasion for your services in Europe. If you know of a certain passage immediately from any port in Spain, we advise you to avail yourself of it; if not, we think it most advisable for you to come to Paris, and from thence, after having consulted with Mr. Jefferson, to repair to Lorient and embark for New York in the first packet.
As the instructions we send to Mr. Randal are to come on to Paris in his way to America, unless he should choose to accompany you from some port in Spain, we desire you to furnish him with money for his expenses to Paris and London out of the cash already in your hands; and we recommend to him, as well as to you, all reasonable attention to economy.
We are, &c.
TO T. JEFFERSON.
London, 3 July, 1786.
Yours of the 23d June is come to hand, with a copy of Mr. Lamb’s of 6th June from Aranjuez.
There is no intelligence from America of armies marching to take the posts from the English. The news was made, as I suppose, against the opening of the three per cents; and it had the intended effect, to beat down the stocks a little.
Although the posts are important, the war with the Turks is more so. I lay down a few simple propositions.
1. We may at this time have peace with them, in spite of all the intrigues of the English or others to prevent it, for a sum of money.
2. We never shall have peace, though France, Spain, England, and Holland should use all their influence in our favor, without a sum of money.
3. That neither the benevolence of France, or the malevolence of England, will be ever able materially to diminish or increase the sum.
4. The longer the negotiation is delayed, the larger will be the demand.
From these premises, I conclude it to be wisest for us to negotiate and pay the necessary sum without loss of time. Now, I desire you, and our noble friend the Marquis, to give me your opinion of these four propositions. Which of them do you deny or doubt? If you admit them all, do you admit the conclusion? Perhaps you will say, fight them, though it should cost us a great sum to carry on the war, and although, at the end of it, we should have more money to pay as presents. If this is your sentiment, and you can persuade the southern States into it, I dare answer for it that all from Pennsylvania, inclusively northward, would not object. It would be a good occasion to begin a navy.
At present we are sacrificing a million annually, to save one gift of £200,000. This is not good economy. We might, at this hour, have two hundred ships in the Mediterranean, whose freights alone would be worth £200,000, besides the influence upon the price of our produce. Our farmers and planters will find the price of their articles sink very low indeed, if this peace is not made.
The policy of Christendom has made cowards of all their sailors before the standard of Mahomet. It would be heroical and glorious in us to restore courage to ours. I doubt not we could accomplish it, if we should set about it in earnest; but the difficulty of bringing our people to agree upon it, has ever discouraged me.
You have seen Mr. Randal before this, no doubt, if he has not fallen sick on the road.
This letter is intended to go by Mr. Fox.
The Chevalier de Pinto’s courier unfortunately missed a packet, which delayed him, and consequently the treaty, a month. The queen his mistress, as I wrote you a few days since, has given orders to her squadron cruising in the Straits to protect all vessels belonging to the United States. This is noble, and deserves thanks.
With great respect,
T. JEFFERSON TO JOHN ADAMS.
Paris, 9 July, 1786.
I wrote you last on the 23d of May. Your favor of that date did not come to hand till the 19th of June; in consequence of it I wrote the next day letters to Mr. Lamb and Mr. Randal, copies of which I have now the honor to inclose you. In these, you will perceive, I had desired Mr. Randal, who was supposed to be at Madrid, to return immediately to Paris and London; and to Mr. Lamb, supposed at Alicant, I recommended the route of Marseilles and Paris, expecting that no direct passage could be had from Alicant to America, and meaning, on his arrival here, to advise him to proceed by the way of London, that you also might have an opportunity of deriving from him all the information he could give. On the 2d July Mr. Randal arrived here, and delivered me a letter from Mr. Lamb, dated May 20, of which I inclose you a copy, as well as of another of June 5, which had come to hand some time before; copies of these I have also sent to Mr. Jay. Yours of the 29th of June by Dr. Bancroft, and inclosing a draft of a joint letter to Mr. Lamb, came to hand on the 5th instant. I immediately signed and forwarded it, as it left him more at liberty as to his route than mine had done. Mr. Randal will deliver you the present, and supply the information heretofore received. I think, with you, that congress must begin by getting money. When they have this, it is a matter of calculation whether they will buy a peace, or force one, or do nothing.
I am also to acknowledge the receipt of your favor of June 6, 25, and 26. The case of Gross shall be attended to. I am not certain, however, whether my appearing in it may not do him harm, by giving the captors a hope that our government will redeem their citizen. I have, therefore, taken measures to find them out and sound them. If nothing can be done privately, I will endeavor to interest this government.
Have you no news yet of the treaty with Portugal? Does it hang with that court? My letters from New York, of the 11th of May, inform me that there were then eleven States present, and that they should ratify the Prussian treaty immediately. As the time for exchange of ratifications is drawing to a close, tell me what is to be done, and how this exchange is to be made. We may as well have this settled between us, before the arrival of the ratification, that no time may be lost after that. I learn, through the Maréchal de Castries, that he has information of New York’s having ceded the impost in the form desired by congress, so as to close this business. Corrections in the acts of Maryland, Pennsylvania, &c. will come of course. We have taken up again the affair of whale oil, that they may know in time in America what is to be done in it. I fear we shall not obtain any further abatement of duties; but the last abatement will be continued for three years. The whole duties payable here are nearly one hundred and two livres on the English ton, which is an atom more than four guineas, according to the present exchange.
The monopoly of the purchase of tobacco for this country, which had been obtained by Robert Morris, had thrown the commerce of that article into agonies. He had been able to reduce the price in America from 40s. to 22s. 6d. lawful, the hundred weight; and all other merchants, being deprived of that medium of remittance, the commerce between America and this country, so far as it depended on that article, which was very capitally too, was absolutely ceasing. An order has been issued obliging the farmers general to purchase, from such other merchants as shall offer, fifteen thousand hogsheads of tobacco, at thirty-four, thirty-six, and thirty-eight livres the hundred, according to the quality, and to grant to the sellers, in other respects, the same terms as they had granted to Robert Morris. As this agreement with Morris is the basis of this order, I send you some copies of it, which I will thank you to give to any American (not British) merchants in London who may be in that line. During the year this contract has subsisted, Virginia and Maryland have lost £400,000 by the reduction of the price of their tobacco.
I am meditating what step to take to provoke a letter from Mrs. Adams, from whom my files inform me I have not received one these hundred years. In the mean time, present my affectionate respects to her, and be assured of the friendship and esteem with which I have the honor to be, dear sir, &c.
TO SECRETARY JAY.
London, 30 July, 1786.
I have received the letter you did me the honor to write me on the 6th of June, with the ratification of the treaty with Prussia. As the term limited is near expiring, I shall go over to Holland, or send Colonel Smith, to make the exchange.
Mr. Penn, a member of the House of Commons, whose character is well known in America and in England as a steady friend to our country, will be the bearer of this, and will be able to acquaint you with the present disposition of this Court and nation; and I believe his information, although a British subject and senator, will not be materially different from mine.
I cannot but lament, from my inmost soul, that lust for paper money which appears in some parts of the United States; there will never be any uniform rule, if there is a sense of justice, nor any clear credit, public or private, nor any settled confidence in public men or measures, until paper money is done away.
It is a great satisfaction to me to learn that you have received, in my letter of the 4th March, the answer of this Court to the memorial respecting the posts. As that is a despatch of more importance than all others you have received from me, I shall be anxious to know your sentiments upon it. You will not expect me to answer Lord Carmarthen’s letter, nor to take any further steps concerning it, until I shall receive the orders of congress.
I wish for the instructions of that august body concerning a requisition in their name for the negroes; whether I am to demand payment for them, at what prices, and for what number.
With great regard, &c.
TO T. JEFFERSON.
London, 31 July, 1786.
I have received the ratification of the Prussian treaty, and next Thursday shall set off for the Hague, in order to exchange it with the Baron de Thulemeier.
Your favor of the 11th instant I have received. There are great and weighty considerations urged in it in favor of arming against the Algerines, and, I confess, if our States could be brought to agree in the measure, I should be very willing to resolve upon external war with vigor, and protect our trade and people. The resolution to fight them would raise the spirits and courage of our countrymen immediately, and we might obtain the glory of finally breaking up these nests of banditti. But congress will never, or at least not for years, take any such resolution, and in the mean time our trade and honor suffers beyond calculation. We ought not to fight them at all, unless we determine to fight them forever.
This thought, I fear, is too rugged for our people to bear. To fight them at the expense of millions, and make peace, after all, by giving more money and larger presents than would now procure perpetual peace, seems not to be economical. Did Monsieur de Massac carry his point without making the presents? Has not France made presents ever since? Did any nation ever make peace with any one Barbary state without making the presents? Is there an example of it? I believe not, and fancy you will find that even Massac himself made the presents.
I agree in opinion of the wisdom and necessity of a navy for other uses, but am apprehensive it will make bad worse with the Algerines. I will go all lengths with you in promoting a navy, whether to be applied to the Algerines or not. But I think, at the same time, we should treat. Your letter, however, has made me easier upon this point. Nevertheless, to humble the Algerines, I think you have undercalculated the force necessary. They have now fifty gun-boats, which, being small objects against great ships, are very formidable.1 None of these existed in the time of Monsieur Massac. The harbor of Algiers, too, is fortified all round, which it was not in M. Massac’s time, which renders it more difficult and dangerous to attempt a blockade. I know not what dependence is to be put upon Portugal and Naples, in case of a war with the barbarians; perhaps they might assist us in some degree. Blocking Algiers would not obtain peace with Morocco; so that our commerce would still be exposed.
After all, though I am glad we have exchanged a letter on the subject, I perceive that neither force nor money will be applied. Our States are so backward, that they will do nothing for some years. If they get money enough to discharge the demands upon them in Europe already incurred, I shall be agreeably disappointed. A disposition seems rather to prevail among our citizens to give up all ideas of navigation and naval power, and lay themselves consequently at the mercy of foreigners, even for the prices of their produce. It is their concern, and we must submit; for your plan of fighting will no more be adopted, than mine of treating. This is more humiliating to me than giving the presents would be. I have a letter from Mr. Jay of 7th July, by packet, containing nothing but an acknowledgment of our letter of 25th April. New Hampshire and Rhode Island have suspended their navigation acts, and Massachusetts, now left alone, will suspend theirs. So that all will be left to the convention, whose system, if they form one, will not be completed, adopted, and begin to operate, under several years. Congress have received the answer, which you saw, to my memorial of 30th November; and Mr. Ramsay writes me he is not distressed at it, because it will produce a repeal of all the laws against recovering private debts.
I am, &c.
T. JEFFERSON TO JOHN ADAMS.
Paris, 27 August, 1786.
Your favor of July 31st was lately delivered to me. The papers inform me you are at the Hague, and uncertain what stay you may make there. I send this by Mr. Voss, who is returning to London by the way of Amsterdam. I inclose you the last letters from Mr. Barclay and Mr. Carmichael, by which we may hope our peace with Morocco is signed, thanks to the good offices of a nation which is honest, if it is not wise. This event, with the naval cruises of Portugal, will, I hope, quiet the Atlantic for us. I am informed, by authority to be depended on, that insurance is made at Lorient on American vessels sailing under their own flag, against every event, at the price usually paid for risks of the sea alone. Still, however, the most important of our marts, the Mediterranean, is shut. I wrote you a proposition to accept Mr. Barclay’s offer of going to Algiers. I have no hope of its making peace; but it may add to our information, abate the ardor of those pirates against us, and shut the mouths of those who might impute our success at Morocco and failure at Algiers to a judicious appointment to the one place and an injudicious one at the other. Let me hear from you as soon as possible on this, and, if you accede to it, send me all the necessary papers ready signed. I inclose you the article “États Unis” of one of the volumes of the Encyclopédie, lately published. The author, M. de Meusnier, was introduced to me by the Duc de la Rochefoucauld. He asked of me information on the subject of our States, and left with me a number of queries to answer. Knowing the importance of setting to rights a book so universally diffused, and which will go down to late ages, I answered his queries as fully as I was able, went into a great many calculations for him, and offered to give further explanations where necessary. He then put his work into my hands. I read it, and was led by that into a still greater number of details, by way of correcting what he had at first written, which was indeed a mass of errors and misconceptions from beginning to end. I returned him his work and my details; but he did not communicate it to me after he had corrected it. It has, therefore, come out with many errors, which I would have advised him to correct, and the rather as he was very well disposed. He has still left in a great deal of the Abbé Raynal, that is to say, a great deal of falsehood; and he has stated other things on bad information. I am sorry I had not another correction of it. He has paid me for my trouble in the true coin of his country, most unmerciful compliment. This, with his other errors, I should surely have struck out, had he sent me the work, as I expected, before it went to the press. I find, in fact, that he is happiest of whom the world says least, good or bad. I think, if I had had a little more warning, my desire to see Holland, as well as to meet again Mrs. Adams and yourself, would have tempted me to take a flying trip there. I wish you may be tempted to take Paris in your return; you will find many very happy to see you here, and none more so than, dear sir, your friend and servant,
TO T. JEFFERSON.
London, 11 September, 1786.
On my return from Holland, on the 6th instant, I found your favors of the 8th and 13th August. On my arrival at the Hague, the exchange of ratifications was made on the 8th August with the Baron de Thulemeier, and I had it printed. It is only in French. Copies shall be sent you as soon as I can find an opportunity. We were present at Utrecht at the august ceremony of swearing in their new magistrates. In no instance of ancient or modern history have the people ever asserted more unequivocally their own inherent and unalienable sovereignty. But whatever pleasure I might have in enlarging upon this subject, I must forbear.
The affair of the oil has taken a turn here. The whalemen, both at Greenland and the southward, have been unsuccessful, and the price of spermaceti oil has risen above £50 per ton. Boylston’s ship arrived with two or three hundred tons, and, finding he could pay the duties and make a profit of twenty-five per cent., he sold his cargo here, instead of going to France, as he intended. This circumstance will oblige the French court, or the French merchants, or both, to take other measures, or they will lose this trade.
The price of oil will rise in Boston so much, that I am afraid Mr. Barrett’s contract must be fulfilled at an immense loss.
As to Mr. Lamb’s settlement, I still think he had better embark forthwith for New York from Spain. If he cannot, he may transmit to you and me his account, and remit to us the balance in favor of the United States.
Mr. Barclay’s proposal of going to Tunis and Tripoli, I suppose appears to you, as it does to me, from what we learned from the ambassador from Tripoli in London, to be unnecessary, at least till we hear further from congress. It seems to me, too, very unlikely that any benefit will be had from the journey to Algiers.
I wish to see the treaty with Morocco, and to know the particulars of that affair first. At present I believe we are taken in, and that we shall be plagued with demands for annual presents. I confess I have no faith in the supposition that Spanish interference has counted for money, or, at least, that it will pass long for it.
If, however, you are clearly in favor of sending Mr. Barclay to Algiers, I will make out a commission, and send it to you for your signature, signed by myself, because I would not set up my own judgment against yours, Mr. Carmichael’s, and Mr. Barclay’s; but I confess at present I cannot see any advantage in it, but, on the contrary, several disadvantages. Mr. Randal is gone to congress, and we may expect further orders ere long.
With great respect, &c.
TO SECRETARY JAY.
Grosvenor Square, 27 October, 1786.
When the ratification of congress, of their treaty with the King of Prussia, arrived here, the term limited for the exchange of it was near expiring. As a few members of the States-General had discovered uneasiness at my coming to London without going to the Hague to take leave, it seemed a convenient opportunity to go over and show them as much of the respect they required as remained in my power. Accordingly I went, and, making the customary visits to the president, pensionary, and secretary, renewed the assurances of the friendship, esteem, and respect of the United States for their High Mightinesses and the republic; and the visit appeared to be kindly received. The exchange of ratifications was soon made with the Baron de Thulemeier, who had time to transmit the act of congress to the great prince who first proposed the treaty some days before he expired. The ratification, under the signature of Frederic the Great, is here inclosed.
At the same time, sir, you will receive so much of the substance of a treaty of commerce between France and England as the ministry have thought fit to publish. This is so great an event, and must have consequences so extensive, that I feel myself incapable of forming any judgment of it upon the whole. Every treaty of commerce between these nations, for three hundred years, has been found beneficial to France and hurtful to England. But at present this nation is very sanguine the advantage will be theirs. They boast of the superior skill of their manufacturers, of the superlative excellence of their manufactures, the multitude of inventions and machines peculiar to themselves, by which time and labor are saved, and productions sold cheaper than in any other country. A market like France, where five-and-twenty millions of people have occasion for English fabrics, must be a valuable acquisition. Commercial connections, by softening prejudices, may lessen the disposition to war; and a friendship, even an alliance, with France, would enable the two nations to govern the world. This is, at present, the style of conversation; and the treaty appears to be popular.
France and England are both endeavoring, at this moment, to impose upon each other, by professing desires of friendship which they never felt. The secret motive of both is to impose upon the United States of America. The English imagine that, by assuming an appearance of friendship for France, they shall excite a jealousy of France in America, and provoke congress to break their faith with her. The French are in hopes that, by putting on a show of familiarity with England, they shall stimulate congress to make them proposals of closer connections. The whole, at bottom, is a farce of political hypocrisy. The United States will continue steadily, it is to be hoped, on the reserve.
England is now pursuing her proposals of treaties of commerce with the Emperor, the Empress of Russia, with Denmark, and Portugal, and perhaps Spain. France and the Emperor took the only way to compel England to treat, when they, by their edicts, prohibited British manufactures. The United States must imitate the example, or they will never be attended to.
The present appearances of friendship are forced and feigned. The time may not be far distant, however, when we may see a combination of England and the house of Bourbon against the United States. It is not in gloomy moments only, but in the utmost gayety of heart, I cannot get rid of the persuasion that the fair plant of liberty in America must be watered in blood. You have seen enough in Europe to know that these melancholy forebodings are no chimeras. There is such a disposition in the principal powers who have possessions in the Indies, that our country will find no other resources but to swear her childdren on the holy altar to fight them all at once in defence of her liberties. It may have some tendency to save us from such extremities, if we enter into treaties with the two empires, for these will soon be jealous of any connection between France and England.
The Chevalier de Pinto’s courier is not yet returned from Lisbon with the treaty. This worthy minister makes frequent apologies on account of the absence of the Queen in the country, and the unsettled state of the Court. But, perhaps, there may be difficulties which he is not apprised of, or not inclined to mention.
Mr. Barclay’s treaty with Morocco is not yet come to hand. Congress will, I hope, determine whether we are to send him or any other to Algiers without more money in his hands. It would cost us three or four thousand pounds to send any one; and, unless he has power to offer larger presents, he would only make matters worse.
I hope our country, in every part of it, will cherish their militia as the apple of their eyes, and put every thing in as good a posture of defence as possible, and keep up a constant expectation of war. This is the best and most serious advice that can be given by
Dear sir, &c.
THE TREASURY BOARD TO JOHN ADAMS.
Board of Treasury, 31 October, 1786.
In your letter of the 19th May last you were pleased to inform us that you had already accepted bills which had been drawn on you to a considerable amount by Messrs. Barclay and Lamb, in consequence of the appropriation which had been made by congress for forming treaties with the Barbary powers; but, as we have no advice from you since that date, we are at a loss to know whether the whole, or what part, of the appropriation has been drawn for on the Dutch commissioners to the present day. The accounts transmitted by those gentlemen, to the first of June last, do not specify the particular disbursements for this object; but, as far as we are able to form an estimate from the accounts transmitted, we presume that, out of the various drafts you have made on them to the first of June last, 76,000 florins have been on account of the Barbary negotiations. If this is the case, 114,000 florins remained after that day, subject to the appropriation above mentioned.
The embarrassments of the government, for want of a steady and operative system of revenue, are daily growing more distressing; and such commotions have of late prevailed in the States of Massachusetts and New Hampshire, that we cannot promise ourselves that the complexion of our affairs will soon change for a better. Thus circumstanced, it has not been in our power, since the remittance of the last sum of 144,000 florins, through your hands to make any considerable remittance to the Dutch commissioners. We wish, therefore, most anxiously, that the whole of the moneys appropriated by congress may not have been exhausted by an unsuccessful attempt to form treaties; as we are extremely apprehensive that, in this case, there may not be sufficient funds, in the month of February next, in the hands of the Dutch commissioners, to enable them to discharge the interest which will then be due; and it is not in our power to remit, in season, any funds to make up a deficiency.
If, therefore, you can possibly avoid drawing out of the hands of Messrs. Willink the whole of the moneys which have been appropriated for the Barbary treaties till the February interest is discharged, we must request the favor of you to do it; and no time shall be lost on our part in making such further remittances as may complete any part of the sum of 200,000 florins which may have been applied towards the payment of interest.
We are, with great respect, &c.
SAMUEL OSGOOD TO JOHN ADAMS.
New York, 14 November, 1786.
I have to acknowledge the receipt of your favor, which I should have answered sooner had any thing within the compass of my knowledge occurred, of sufficient consequence to inform you of. The present secretary for foreign affairs, I have no doubt, keeps you well informed of all the political occurrences here.
But in a government where expedients only keep up its existence, it is impossible to foresee what sudden and unexpected changes may take place. The federal government seems to be as near a crisis as it is possible for it to be. The State governments are weak and selfish enough, and they will of course annihilate the first. Their stubborn dignity will never permit a federal government to exist. There are, however, a few men in every state, who are very seriously impressed with the idea that, without a proper federal head, the individual states must fall a prey to themselves, or any power that is disposed to injure them. With this idea, they are thinking, very seriously, in what manner to effect the most easy and natural change of the present form of the federal government to one more energetic, that will, at the same time, create respect, and secure properly life, liberty, and property. It is, therefore, not uncommon to hear the principles of government stated in common conversation. Emperors, kings, stadtholders, governors-general, with a senate or house of lords, and house of commons, are frequently the topics of conversation. Many are for abolishing all the state governments, and for establishing some kind of general government; but I believe very few agree in the general principles, much less in the details, of such a government.
How to effect a change, is the difficulty. The confederation provides that congress shall make the alterations, and that they shall be adopted by the several legislatures. Yet the idea of a special convention, appointed by the states, to agree upon and propose such alterations as may appear necessary, seems to gain ground. But the danger is, that neither congress nor a convention will do the business. For the situation of the United States, and of some of the particular states, is such, that an army must be kept up, and the probability is, at present, that this army will be seriously employed; and, in case of a civil war, the men of property will certainly attach themselves very closely to that army, the final issue of which, it is feared, will be, that the army will make the government of the United States. Many say, already, any change will be for the better, and are ready to risk any thing to effect it. The disturbances in Massachusetts seem most likely to produce some very important event. It is a little surprising to some, how they come to break out in such a manner there. It is said that the insurgents have two objects in view; one, to reduce their state debt and those securities given by the United States to citizens of that state for their services or moneys loaned, to their current value in the market; the other, to annihilate private debts. Perhaps this may be in part true, and the greater number may have nothing further in view but to remedy some supposed grievances; yet, as it affords a fine opportunity for the restless enemies of this country to sow dissensions, we have too much reason to believe, that they are not only looking on as spectators, but that they are industriously employed in disseminating disaffection to the present forms of government. If these enemies are British, or their old adherents among us, which seems to be the case, because they are traced from Hampshire and Berkshire to Vermont, and from thence to Canada, if they are British, their object must be something further than mere revenge; and that object can be nothing short of establishing a monarchical government in this country, and placing some one of George’s sons on the throne. If this object is worth to the British from five to ten millions sterling, and they can advance the money, they can and will effect it; not by force of arms, for, if they should come out openly against us, we should fight again; but, be assured, this country is extremely poor, as well as extravagant, and I have no doubt that ten millions, artfully applied, would secure nearly the whole country. That the British will and do cherish all their old adherents, is not to be doubted; and that those adherents never will be Americans, is a principle founded in nature.
That the French will not be silent, unoperative spectators in these negotiations, if they should happen, is most certainly to be expected. They wish to keep us just where we are, or, if a little more insignificant, quite as well; they will, therefore, view without emotion any civil commotions that tend to weaken us. But if there should be any danger of the scales preponderating in favor of any other foreign power, they will act with their usual address.
The British party is and will be great; the French party also; the genuine Americans, few; the speculators numerous, who care not what the government is, so that they can speculate upon and spunge it.
Mr. Jay will probably have furnished you with the newspapers of this country, which will contain much with respect to the hostile disposition of the Indians. That the British instigate them to make depredations on us, is very natural; but why they are reënforcing Canada, which by the public papers appears to be the case, is not so easy to determine.
All things are operating here to bring the Cincinnati into vogue. I cannot say I think they are all for supporting government, but they are for having government.
The leader of the insurgents in Masschusetts is entitled to the ribbon and eagle. He left the army in the fall of 1780, being then a captain of good reputation; his name is Shays, a man without education, but not without abilities. He is privately involved, which may be the reason why he has adopted such violent measures. It is generally supposed that he cannot retreat.
As to the situation of the finances of the United States, they can scarcely be in a worse condition. As to making any further attempt to discharge any part of the principal or interest of our foreign debt, it is in vain. The thirteen states do not pay enough to keep the civil list together, which does not require more than one hundred thousand dollars a year. I have inclosed you a schedule, which will give you a full view of the requisitions of congress, the payments, and balances due.
I am, sir, with great respect, &c.
[1 ]This was a nephew of General Oglethorpe, who as an heir had a claim upon his estates in Georgia, and whose case was taken up by the French government. It is fully treated in the collection of Mr. Jefferson’s writings made by T. J. Randolph. Vol. i. pp. 376-385.
[1 ]See volume iii. p. 280, note.
[1 ]Sir John Temple’s complaint that copies of public records were refused to the loyalists in the United States. It is omitted in this collection. See the Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States from 1783 to 1789. Vol. vi. pp. 8, 9.
[1 ]See p. 349.
[1 ]This gentleman, the brother of the more celebrated Mrs. Elizabeth Montague, and the author of one or two pamphlets relating to the American war, had entered into correspondence with Mr. Adams through the agency of Dr. Price.
[1 ]See p. 363.
[1 ]This letter, and indeed most of the others making Mr. Jefferson’s part of the correspondence at this period, have been printed in the work edited by his grandson, T. J. Randolph. Those which are inserted in this collection are such as are not found there.
[1 ]See p. 382.
[1 ]Mr. Tucker, in his Life of Jefferson, has sufficiently contrasted the opinions expressed in this letter, and in that to which it is in answer, with the positions respectively taken by the parties at a later period. But he does not show that the argument of Mr. Adams is one of expediency, drawn solely from the condition of the country at the moment, and in no way militates with his later action. Mr. Jefferson’s letter is one of the best he ever wrote. It is printed in Mr. Randolph’s collection of his writings.