Papers of John Adams, volume 16

To Benjamin Franklin and John Jay

From Antoine Marie Cerisier

John Adams to A. Le Jeune, 21 February 1784 Adams, John Jeune, A. Le
To A. Le Jeune
Sir The Hague Feb. 21. 1784

I have recd the Letter you did me the Honour to write me Yesterday1

Although I am a Friend to all usefull Discoveries in Science and all ingenious Inventions in Mechanicks, I can not give you any Encouragement, of obtaining an exclusive Patent from Congress. It is at least questionable, whether that Body has, by our Confederation Authority to grant Such exclusive Priviledges, in all the United States. Hence it would be necessary to apply by Petition, to the Legislature of each of the thirteen states: and I can not Say it is probable, that any of them, would attend Seriously, to Such a Proposition, at least untill an Experiment should be made in the Presence of Some of their Members, which should demonstrate both the Practicability and Utility of it.

There has never, to my Knowledge been any Preemium offered by Congress, or by any of the states for the Discovery of the perpetual Motion.

LbC (Adams Papers); internal address: “Mr. A. Le Jeune. Amsterdam”; APM Reel 107.


A. Le Jeune, about whom nothing further is known, had been introduced to JA by mutual acquaintances and, upon the strength of that introduction, wrote to JA on 20 Feb. to request his assistance in obtaining a patent from Congress for a perpetual motion machine (Adams Papers). The device, the exact specifications of which remained secret, had been invented by Jan Deterick Muller, who, according to an item quoted by Le Jeune from the 18 June 1779 Morning Chronicle and London Advertiser, had been granted a license under the great seal of England for “his new-invented Machine or engine, constrúcted on Self moving principles.” Le Jeune indicated that at the time many had sought a demonstration of the device but that Muller had been unavoidably called back to Germany before he could satisfy their desire. There he had been forced to raise additional funds and had since constructed another machine that would be publicly tested at The Hague. Knowing his interest in and support for such useful inventions, Le Jeune was led to solicit JA’s support with the expectation that he and the others involved in the project would receive a favorable response on a matter of such consequence.