Papers of John Adams, volume 16

To Richard Henry Lee

From John Jay

The American Commissioners to the President of Congress, 9 February 1785 American Commissioners Adams, John Franklin, Benjamin Jefferson, Thomas President of Congress
The American Commissioners to the President of Congress
Sir Paris [9] Febry. 1785

In our last of Decr. 15 we had the honour of communicating to Congress our letter to the Ambassador of Portugal which accompanied the draught of the treaty of Amity & Commerce proposed on our part. Since that date he addressed to us the letter No. 1. acknowledging the receipt of ours & informing us that he had forwarded it to his court.1

The Baron de Thulemeier also, the Prussian Minister at the Hague has given us similar information in his letter No. 2. herewith enclosed: he therein also desires as he had done in his letter of Octr. 8 that we would make choice of some port within the dominions of His Sovereign at which the commerce between the two countries might be carried on. We supposed that we had answered this by proposing in our draught of the treaty that all places in the dominions of either party should be open to the subjects or citizens of the other for the purposes of commerce. As he thought proper however to repeat the desire of the King that we would make choice of some place, we wrote him an answer of which No. 3. is a copy, and have now to ask of Congress their instructions as to the choice of a place for the purposes proposed.2

The Baron de Walterstorff who had been formerly appointed by the court of Denmark to negotiate a treaty with the United States of America, & to whom we had notified our full powers for that purpose, called on us separately a few days ago & informed us that he had obtained permission from his court to make a visit to Copenhagen where his private affairs required his presence, and that the Minister had at the same time instructed him to ask from us our propositions that they might be considered during his stay at Copenhagen, and the sentiments of his court thereon be fully made known to him. This he afterwards communicated more particularly in the letter No. 4. to which an answer was returned of which No. 5. 518 is a copy, inclosing a draught of a treaty similar to the one we had the honour to communicate to you in our letter of Decr. 15.3

We have also since our last received an answer from the court of Naples through their chargé des Affaires & from that of Turin through their Ambassador at this court: (the answer of Naples is accompanied by a printed ordinance establishing the privileges of Messina as a free port) which we now enclose, distinguished by the Nos. 6. &. 7. to these we do not propose to make any reply unless future overtures from them or other circumstances should render it necessary or proper.4

With great respect / We have the honour to be / Your Excellencys / Most obedient & / Most humble servants

John Adams B. Franklin T. Jefferson

FC in David Humphreys’ hand (PCC, No. 116, f. 160–163); internal address: “His Excellency / The President of Congress / at the seat of / Congress.”; notation: “3d Report to Congress.”


The commissioners had written to the Conde de Sousa Coutinho on 30 Nov. 1784, above, and enclosed a draft treaty. Enclosure No. 1 was the ambassador’s brief reply of 22 Dec. (Jefferson, Papers , 7:580).


Nos. 2 and 3 were the Baron von Thulemeier’s letter to the commissioners of 10 Dec., for which see the Negotiation of the 10 September 1785 Prussian-American Treaty of Amity and Commerce, 10 Nov. 1784 – 14 March 1785, No. IV, and the commissioners’ reply of 21 Jan. 1785, both above.


Nos. 4 and 5 were the Baron von Walterstorff’s 1 Feb. 1785 letter to Thomas Jefferson and Jefferson’s reply of the 3d, with which he enclosed a draft treaty similar to those the commissioners had previously proposed to Prussia and Portugal (Jefferson, Papers , 7:631–632, 633).


Nos. 6 and 7 were a 22 Jan. letter from Luigi Pio and a 2 Feb. one from the Conte Ponte di Scarnafigi, both above.