Papers of John Adams, volume 15

105 To Robert R. Livingston, 12 July 1783 Adams, John Livingston, Robert R.
To Robert R. Livingston
Sir Paris July 12th. 1783.1

Reports have been spread, that the Regency of Algiers has been employed in fitting Ships to cruise for American Vessels. There are reports too, that Spain has an Armament prepared to attack their Town. How much truth there may be in either, I cannot pretend to say.

Whether Congress will take any Measures for treating with these piratical States must be submitted to them. The Custom of these Courts, as well as all those of Asia & Africa, is to recieve Presents with Ambassadors. The Grand Pensionary of Holland told me, that the Republick paid annually to the Regency of Algiers an hundred thousand Dollars. I hope a less Sum would serve for Us— But in the present State of our Finances, it would be difficult to make payment.

Mr. Montgomery, of Alicante, has ventured to write a Letter to the Emperor of Morocco; in consequence of which his Majesty was pleased to give Orders to all his Vessels to treat American Vessels with all friendship. Mr. Montgomery ventured too far however, in writing in the Name of the United States, and what will be the consequence of the deception, I know not.2

Dr. Franklin lately mentioned to Mr. Jay & me, that he was employed in preparing with the Portuguese Ambassador a Treaty between the United States and Portugal. The next Ambassador’s day at Versailles I asked him, if we could be admitted to the Brasils?— He said, No— They admitted no Nation to the Brasils. I asked, if We were admitted to the Western Islands? He said he thought Madeira was mentioned. I told him, I thought it would be of much Importance to Us to secure an Admission to all the Azores, & to have those Islands, or some of them, made a Depot for the Sugars, Coffee, Cotton, Coccoa &ca of the Brasils.3 He liked this Idea, & went immediately and spoke to the Ambassador upon it. He said the Ambassador had told him, that they could furnish us with these Articles at Lisbon 15. pr. Cent cheaper, than the English could from their West India Islands. This Treaty I suppose will be submitted to Congress, before it is signed, and I hope Congress will give a close attention to it, in order to procure an exemption from as many Duties as possible, and as much freedom & security of Trade in all their 106Ports of Europe & the Western Islands, as possible. If any particular Stipulations should be necessary, concerning the free admission of all the Articles of our Produce, as Rice, Wheat, Flour, Salt-Fish, or any other, the Members of Congress may readily suggest them. I could wish, that the Court of Lisbon had sent a Minister to Philadelphia, to negotiate the Treaty there. I wish that Advantages may not be lost, by this method of preparing Treaties here, by Ministers who have made no particular Study of the Objects of them— Benefits on both sides may escape attention in this way. A good Treaty with Portugal is of so much consequence to Us, that I should not wonder if Congress should think it necessary to send a Minister to Lisbon to compleat it.

I have the honor to be, with great / Respect, / Sir, your most obedient & / most humble Servant.

John Adams4

RC in John Thaxter’s hand (PCC, No. 84, IV, f. 460–462); addressed: “His Excellency / Robert R. Livingston Esqr. / Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs / at / Philadelphia”; internal address: “Hon. R. R. Livingston Esqr / Secretery of foreign Affairs.” LbC (Adams Papers); APM Reel 108.


In the Letterbook is the notation by John Thaxter: “Deliverd to Capt. Barney by J. Thaxter at Havre de Gräce 29. July 1783.”


For Robert Montgomery’s effort to open negotiations with Morocco and Congress’ negative reaction to it, see his letter of 27 May, and note 1, vol. 14:501–502, as well as JA’s reply of 18 June, above, and Montgomery’s further explanation of the initiative in his letter of 2 Aug., below.


Benjamin Franklin indicated to Livingston in his 22 July letter that he had proposed a commercial treaty, similar to that with Sweden, to the longtime Portuguese ambassador to France, Vicente de Sousa Coutinho, and was awaiting the draft treaty’s return from Lisbon. Franklin enclosed the draft treaty with that letter (Wharton, Dipl. Corr. Amer. Rev. , 6:583, 588–591; Repertorium , 3:317). Article 3 of the draft permitted Americans to trade with Portuguese possessions in Europe as well as Madeira and the Azores, but not with Brazil. In fact, the exclusion did not matter because the treaty was never concluded.


In JA’s hand.

To Robert R. Livingston, 13 July 1783 Adams, John Livingston, Robert R.
To Robert R. Livingston
Sir Paris. 13th. July. 1783.1

Yesterday Collo: Ogden arrived with the originals, of what we had before received in Duplicates by Capn: Barney. The Ratification of the Dutch Treaty had been before recd. & exchanged.2 The Ratification of Their High-Mightinesses is in the safe Custody of Mr: Dumas at present, at the Hague.—

I believe we shall accept of the mediation of the two Imperial Courts at the Definitive Treaty, as it is a mere formality—a mere Compliment, consisting wholly in the Imperial Ministers putting their names & Seals to the parchment, & can have no ill effect. The 107Inclination of the C. de Vergennes seems to be that we should accept it, and as he calls upon us to decide, in the Affirmative or Negative, I believe we shall give an answer in the affirmative—

The Empress has promised to receive Mr: Dana, as soon as the Definitive Treaty shall be signed, & he has prepared a Treaty of Commerce, wh: will be valuable if he can obtain it—3

The Emperor of Germany has caused to be intimated, several ways, his inclination to have a Treaty of Commerce with us; but his rank is so high, that his House never makes the first formal advance. I shd. think it adviseable that we should have a Treaty with that Power for several reasons.

1st. Because, as Emperor of Germany, and King of Bohemia & Hungary, he is at the head of one of the greatest Interests & most powerfull Connections in Europe— It is true, it is the greatest weight in the Scale, which is & has been fm. age to age, opposite to the House of Bourbon. But for this very reason, if there were no other, the United-States ought to have a Treaty of Commerce with it, in order to be in practice with their Theory, and to shew to all the world that their system of Commerce embraces, equally & impartially, all the Commercial States & Countries of Europe—

2.dly. Because the present Emperor is one of the greatest men of this Age. The wisdom & virtue of the man, as well as of the Monarch; his personal Activity, Intelligence & accomplishments; his large & liberal principles, in matters of religion, Government & Commerce, are so much of kin to those of our States—perhaps indeed so much borrowed from them, & adopted in imitation of them, that it seems peculiarly proper we shd. shew this respect to them.—

3dly: Because that, if England should ever forget herself again so much as to attack us, she may not be so likely to obtain the Alliance or Assistance of this Power against us. A Friendship, once established in a Treaty of Commerce, this Power will never be likely to violate, because she has no Dominions near us, & can have no Interest to quarrel with us.—

4thly. Because the Countries, belonging to this Power upon the Adriatic Sea, & in the Austrian Flanders, are no inconsiderable Sources of Commerce for America— And, if the present negotiations, between the two Imperial Courts, & the Porte, should terminate in a free Navigation of the Danube, the Black Sea, & the Archipelago, the Emperor’s hereditary Dominions will become very respectable Commercial Countries.—

5thly. Because, altho’ we have at present a pleasant & joyfull 108prospect of friendship & uninterrupted Alliance with the House of Bourbon, which I wish may never be obscured, yet this friendship & Alliance will be the more likely to continue unimpaired for our having the friendship & Commerce of the House of Austria: And (as in the vicissitudes of human affairs all things are possible) if in future times—however unlikely at present—the House of Bourbon should deal unjustly by us, demand of us things we are not bound to perform, or any way injure us, we may find in the Alliance of Austria, England and Holland a resource against the Storm. Supernumerary Strings to our Bow & provisions against possible Inconveniences, however improbable, can do us no harm.—

If we were not straitened for money, I should advise Congress to send a Minister to Vienna: But as every mission abroad is a costly Article, & we find it difficult at present to procure money for the most necessary purposes, I should think it proper for Congress to send a Commission to their Minister at Versailles, London, Madrid, Petersbourg or the Hague, who might communicate it to the Court of Vienna, by means of the Imperial Ambassador. The Emperor in such Case wd. authorise his Ambassador at that Court to prepare & conclude a Treaty, and in this way the business may be well done without any additional expence.—

Mr: Favie, Chargé des Affaires of the Grand Duke of Tuscany, the Emperor’s Brother, has called upon me so often to converse with me upon this Subject, that I doubt not he has been employed, or at least knows it will be agreable to his Court & their Connections, altho’ he has never made any Official insinuations about it.— This Gentleman has been employed by the Republic of Ragusa to consult American Ministers upon the subject of Commerce too. I have told him the American Ports were open to the Ragusan Vessells, as well as all others, and have given him the address, by which they propose to write to Congress.4

I have the honor to be, Sir, / Your huml: Servt:

John Adams.5

RC in Charles Storer’s hand (PCC, No. 84, IV, f. 464–467); addressed: “His Excellency / Robert. R. Livingston Esqr: / Secretary of State for foreign-Affairs. / Philadelphia.”; internal address: “Robert. R. Livingston Esqr:.LbC (Adams Papers); APM Reel 108.


In the Letterbook is the notation by John Thaxter: “Delivered to Capt. Barney by J. Thaxter at Havre de Grace 29th. July 1783.”


In addition to the dispatches from Congress, Col. Matthias Ogden carried letters of introduction from Lewis R. Morris and Benjamin Lincoln of 29 and 30 April, respectively (both Adams Papers). The ratified copies of the Dutch-American Treaty of Amity and Commerce brought by Ogden and dated 23 Jan. are probably those in the Adams Papers at that date.

109 3.

See Francis Dana’s letter of [6 June], and note 4, above, and vol. 14:369–370.


Francesco Favi, chargé d’affaires of the Tuscan legation at Paris since 1780, also acted as the representative of the Republic of Ragusa (now Dubrovnik, Croatia) on the Dalmatian coast of the Adriatic ( Repertorium , 3:451; Franklin, Papers , 33:214).


In JA’s hand.