Papers of John Adams, volume 16

John Adams’ Instructions as Minister to Great Britain, 7 March 1785 Adams, John
John Adams’ Instructions as Minister to Great Britain
By the United States in Congress Assembled
March 7th: 17851

Instructions for the Minister Plenipotentiary appointed to represent the United States of America at the Court of Great Britain2


You will in a respectful but firm Manner insist that the United States be put without further Delay into Possession of all the Posts and Territories within their Limits which are now held by british Garrisons; and you will take the earliest Opportunity of transmitting the Answer you may receive to this Question.

You will remonstrate against the Infraction of the Treaty of Peace by the Exportation of Negroes and other american Property contrary to the Stipulations on that Subject in the seventh Article of it. Upon this Head you will be supplied with various authentic Papers and Documents particularly the Correspondence between General Washington and others on the one Part, and Sir Guy Carleton on the other.—3

You will represent to the british Ministry the strong and necessary Tendency of their Restrictions on our Trade to incapacitate our Merchants in a certain Degree to make Remittances to theirs.—

You will represent in strong Terms the Losses which many of our and also of their Merchants will sustain, if the former be unseasonably and immoderately pressed for the Payment of Debts contracted before the War. On this Subject you will be furnished with Papers in which it is amply discussed.—

Chas Thomson secy..

MS (Adams Papers); endorsed: “Instructions of / March 7. 1785. / recd at Paris May. 2d.” and “To insist on the Posts and Negroes / To remonstrate vs. the restrictions on / Trade. / And represent the Losses on both / Sides by to hasty demands of debts.” Filmed at 18 March.


These instructions, which were received on 2 May, were enclosed with John Jay’s letter of 18 March, below. They are basically a reiteration of instructions that Congress had given to the peace commissioners over time and represent unsettled issues from the peace negotiations themselves, for which see the peace commissioners’ 17 July 1783 letter to David Hartley, and notes, vol. 15:135–137.


In the left margin at this point was written in Jay’s hand, “John Jay— / Secretary for the Departmt. of foreign Affairs—”


Jay enclosed the documents respecting the transportation of slaves, raised in Art. 7 of the Anglo-American peace treaty, and others relating to the payment of prewar debts, mentioned in the final paragraph of this letter, with his letter of 13 April 1785. For that letter and its enclosures regarding the transported slaves, see Dipl. Corr., 1783–1789 , 2:349–365.