Papers of John Adams, volume 11

From Francis Dana

From Job Field and Others

Enclosure: Key for a Code System, 8 September 1781 Dana, Francis JA


Enclosure: Key for a Code System, 8 September 1781 Dana, Francis Adams, John
Enclosure: Key for a Code System
ca 8 September 1781 1


1. The Empress. or Russian.

2. The Emperor—Austrian

3. The King.

4. The Minister—Ministry.

5. Prussia—Prussian.

6. Sweden—Swedish.

7. Denmark—Danish

8. Holland—Dutch.

9. France—French.

10. Spain—Spanish.

11. Britain—British.

12. Congress—America

13. United States—American.

14. Prince de Potemkin.

15. Comte de Panin.

16. Comte D'Ostermann.

17. Dr. Franklin.

18. Mr. Adams.

19. Mr. Jay.

20. Mr. Laurens.

21. Mr. Dana.

22. Mr. Carmichael.


3, 5. gives new life to the Confederation

The King of Prussia gives &c.


4, 8. I believe, is our sincere Friend.

The Minister of Holland, I believe, &c.

4, 7. has been superseded.

The Minister of Denmark, has &c.

7, 4. is a perfect Faction.

The Danish Ministry, is &c.

9, 4. make the most of their Favours.

The French Ministry, make &c.

Thus reversing the numbers gives the Terms in the second Column.

For words in general, take Entick's new spelling Dictionary printed by Edw. & Chas. Dilly in the Poultry London 1772.2 This book is paged throughout, and printed two columns a page. The common course is to give the page, next the column of that page, and lastly the place in the column in which the word intended is to be found. Thus No. 71. 1. 15. that is page 71. first column and 15th. line you will find the word which was intended viz. Confederation.3

But to be still more secure you may choose to give the page opposite to the one intended and to reckon the columns from the right to the left, 1, 2, 3, 4. across both pages, and the lines from the bottom of the Column. Thus, to give the same word, No. 70. 2. 23. You pass over to the opposite page which is 71. and reckon the columns from the right, instead of the left, and counting up from the bottom of the second column to the 23d. word, you will find it the same. The 3d. column by the same rule, will give the word Conders, and the 4th. Concord.

This method will hold in all but the first page, which has no opposite, will render the decyphering extremely difficult, if not impracticable, for a person acquainted with the general method, by seeing that neither the page or the number of the Columns cited, agree with the book will conclude the reference made to some other. It is at the same time, I think, equally easy and attended with very little trouble. Those cyphers J.L. has sent you, are exceeding troublesome and tedious. I know you dislike corresponding in Cyphers, but it may be at times highly expedient. I shou'd have upon a certain matter which has , but I dare not trust it.

P.S. Mr. E. Jennings has one of those books of the E 4

RC and enclosure (Adams Papers); endorsed on the first page: “recd Decr 14.1781” by John Thaxter on the fourth page: “Augt 28th. 1781.” RC filmed at 28 Aug. (Adams Papers, Microfilms, Reel No. 355). Enclosure: notation by JA on the first page: “Strahlborn and Wolff, Banquiers a St. Petersbourg”; notation by Francis Dana on the fourth page: “Cyphers J.A. & F.D.” filmed with Ciphers and Cipher 482Keys (same, Reel No. 602). A corner of the folded enclosure is torn, resulting in the loss of a number of words on pages one through three.

The content of all or some notes that appeared on this page in the printed volume has been moved to the end of the preceding document.


It seems likely that this document was enclosed with the present letter. Evidence is provided by JA's reply of 14 Dec. (MHi: Dana Family Papers). There Adams indicated that the letter of 8 Sept., which had arrived that very day, was the first that he had received since Dana's departure. Then, in the fourth paragraph of his reply, JA began using the code supplied to him by Dana. It is significant that this very lengthy paragraph was done prior to JA's announcements, in the fifth paragraph, that he had received, “this Evening,” Dana's letter of 15 Sept. to the president of Congress (Wharton, ed., Dipl. Corr. Amer. Rev. , 4:710–714) and, in a postscript dated 15 Dec., that he had just received Dana's letter of 22 Oct. (Adams Papers).


John Entick, The New Spelling Dictionary, London, 1772. Although Dana explains very clearly how to use a dictionary code, there is no evidence that Dana or JA ever used it in their correspondence.


Supplied from Entick's Dictionary as directed by Dana.


Dana wrote the postscript vertically in the left margin.