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Browsing: Adams Family Correspondence, Volume 5


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Docno: ADMS-04-05-02-0176

Author: Gerry, Elbridge
Recipient: Adams, Abigail
Date: 1784-04-16

Elbridge Gerry to Abigail Adams

I am this day, Madam, favoured with your Letter of the 19th. of March, and embrace the earliest Oppertunity of informing You, that it is highly probable, Congress will make their Arrangements, for negotiating commercial Treaties this Week. The Subject has several Months been prepared, for Deliberation, but this has been prevented by the Want of a full Representation; untill of late, there being eleven States on the Floor, the Matter has been much discussed. I think it not improbable, that the Report, which provides, that a Number of commercial Negotiations shall be set on Foot, under the joint Direction of Messrs. Adams Franklin and Jay, will be accepted; upon our consenting that Mr. Jefferson of Virginia, who has an excellent character, and has been always on the most friendly Terms with Mr. Adams, shall be added to the Commissioners. I cannot however Madam, give You the fullest Assurance on this head, as some States are opposed to the augmenting the Number of the Ministers, and seem to insist on accepting the Resignation of Doctor Franklin, and on appointing Governor Jefferson to fill the Vacancy. This is a point, I should be disposed to push, was it practicable; but as I know it is not, at the present Crisis, the Addition appears to me a desirable object, more especially as Mr. Jay will probably return.1
Under these Circumstances, unless You have particular Reasons for wishing to take passage in Capt. Callahan it may be best to have every Thing in Readiness to embark on the shortest Notice, but not to engage positively to take a Cabin; lest, when the Ship is ready for the Sea, You should find the Measure inconvenient. If the Matter should be thus conducted, and You receive no further Information, You can proceed or not, as You may judge expedient; and should You determine in the Negative, You will probably not loose much Time, by taking Passage in the next Vessel, and will have an equal Chance for favorable Weather.
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I am very unhappy, to hear of the Death of Colo. Quincey. He was [a] Gentleman for whom I had the greatest Respect, and I sincerely condole with the Ladies of his Family and with all his Friends.
I have been somewhat explicit on the Subject of your going to Europe, that You may give our Friend some Information by Callahan, should You not proceed in his Vessel, and that Mr. Jay may be thus prevented, if possible, from returning. I would write a Line to Mr. Adams with the greatest Pleasure, but I have a dozen Letters to answer by this post, and must defer the Matter, untill I can give him more satisfactory Information.2
Inclosed is the Pamphlet You have mentioned,3 Mr. Jennings' two Publications are here, but they exceed the Bulk admitted to be carryed by the post, under the Denomination of a packet. I remain Madam with perfect Esteem & Respect, your most obt. & very hum ser
[signed] E Gerry
Neither Doctor Lee, nor Mr. Osgood are in Congress, the first has made an Excursion to Virginia; the other You will probably see at Braintree.
1. This report, presented by a committee composed of Jefferson, Gerry, and Hugh Williamson, was read in Congress on 22 Dec. 1783. As printed in the Journal at that date, the text has Jay's name crossed out as a commissioner, and Jefferson's added. The report was recommitted on 22 Jan., reported again on 4 March, recommitted on 12 April, and reported again on 14 April ( JCC , 25:821–828). Finally, on 7 May the Congress, having been informed by Franklin's letter of 9 March that John Jay definitely intended to return to America, elected Jay secretary for foreign affairs, and named Jefferson to replace him as a commissioner. It then granted the three commissioners, Adams, Franklin, and Jefferson, “or the greater part of them,” specific powers to negotiate treaties of commerce with sixteen nations, and approved detailed instructions for them (same, 26:355–362). Gerry reported this final action in a brief note to AA on 7 May (Adams Papers), declaring that “Mr. Adams, Docter Franklin and Mr. Jefferson are appointed in the Order mentioned,” and thought their new responsibilities would keep them abroad for “about two Years.” The order of appointment on this commission was of great importance to JA . He had complained in Oct. 1779, in a letter to Gerry that he never sent, that Congress had placed his name after that of Arthur Lee in the three-man commission of 1778–1779, even though he had done far more in service to his country than either Lee, ranked third in the commission of 1776–1778, or Silas Deane, the second-ranked commissioner, whom he replaced. In this same letter, JA voiced his irritation that Congress was placing John Jay, minister to Spain, above him in rank as a diplomat, although Jay, too, had achieved far less than he had. The latter complaint, however, was based on a misunderstanding that was soon cleared up (JA, Papers , 8:213–214). More important in 1784, of course, was the fact that Congress had renewed the first-place position that JA had held on the peace commission of 1781–1783, and thereby confirmed his clear precedence over his archrival, Franklin.
2. Gerry wrote to JA at length on 16 June (Adams Papers).
3. Enclosure not found, but see AA to Gerry, 19 March, and note 4, above.
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