Papers of John Adams, volume 16

John Adams to Thomas Barclay, 12 May 1784 Adams, John Barclay, Thomas
To Thomas Barclay
My dear Sir The Hague May 12. 1784

I am Sorry to have given you, So much Trouble about the House, to no purpose: But I am weary of these perpetual Incertitudes in 207 which We are kept, and I must put an End to them as far as they regard me, by planning my Affairs for myself, or they will soon put an End to me. I conclude therefore to remain here without farther Wandering, and not to go to Paris at all, at least not untill I know what Character I go in, what I go for, and how long I am to stay.

inclosed is a Letter from Messrs Hopes, which you wrote for, respecting the Bills upon Spain.1

I Should be glad to know, if Mr Ridley left my Trunk and the Key of it with you: and whether the Ratifications of the definitive Treaty are exchanged. and When and how Mr Jay goes.

And also if you know of any honest, faithfull Man who would undertake to bring my Trunk, Cloaths Books &c to the Hague. The Trunk ought to be well packed, and the Plate in it, well placed. I will pay Such a Man, what you shall agree with him for. if you dont readily find one, I will Send one from hence.— The Trunk ought never to be out of his Sight.2


LbC (Adams Papers); internal address: “Hon. Mr Barclay.”; APM Reel 107.


For the letter to Hope & Co., which Barclay enclosed with his letter of 26 April, see JA’s 4 May letter to Barclay, and note 2, both above.


JA also wrote to Wilhem & Jan Willink on 12 May, asking if they had a reliable man who could retrieve a trunk and some other things from Paris (LbC, APM Reel 107). The trunk, according to JA, contained “some Cloaths, some Plate, and some Papers & manuscript Books of great Importance. The Plate consists of Silver Spoons and Forks, of about Ninety or an hundred Pound sterling Value.” The Willinks replied on 14 May (Adams Papers) that they had “a man of unquestionable fidelity whom we should with all confidence entrust on the proposed errand,” but that his departure would be delayed about two weeks because of “Some domesticq affairs.”

Joint Commission to Negotiate a Treaty of Amity and Commerce with Great Britain, 12 May 1784
Joint Commission to Negotiate a Treaty of Amity and Commerce with Great Britain
The United States in Congress Assembled
[12 May 1784]1

To all to whom these presents shall come or be made known—Send Greeting—

Whereas an intercourse between the Subjects of His Britannic Majesty and the Citizens of the United States of America founded on the principles of equality, reciprocity and friendship may be of mutual advantage to both Nations— Now therefore Know Ye that we reposing special trust and confidence in the integrity, prudence and ability of our trusty and beloved the honorable John Adams late one 208 of our ministers plenipotentiary for negotiating a peace and heretofore a delegate in Congress from the State of Massachusetts and Chief Justice of the said State—the honble: Docr. Benjamin Franklin our minister plenipotentiary at the Court of Versailles and late another of our ministers plenipotentiary for negotiating a peace and the honorable Thomas Jefferson a delegate in Congress from the State of Virginia and late Governor of the said State have nominated, constituted and appointed and by these presents do nominate, constitute and appoint them the said John Adams, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson our ministers plenipotentiary giving to them or the majority of them full power and authority for us an in our name to confer, treat and negotiate with the Ambassador, Minister or Commissioner of His said Britannic Majesty vested with full and sufficient powers of and concerning a Treaty of Amity and Commerce to make and receive propositions for such Treaty and to conclude and sign the same, transmitting it to the United States in Congress Assembled for their final ratification. This Commission to continue in force for a term not exceeding two years from the date hereof—

In Testimony whereof we have caused the Seal of the United States to be hereunto affixed, Witness His Excellency Thomas Mifflin President this twelfth day of May in the Year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty four and of the Sovereignty and Independence of the United States of America the Eighth—

Thomas Mifflin Chas Thomson secy.

MS (Adams Papers); docketed by JA: “Commission to Adams Franklin / and Jefferson to / treat with Great Britain concerning Com / merce. / 12. of May 1784.”; notation: “England.”


On 11 May, in consequence of its 7 May resolution “that a commission be issued to Mr. J. Adams, Mr. B. Franklin and Mr. T. Jefferson, giving powers to them, or to the greater part of them, to make and receive propositions for such treaties of amity and Commerce, and to negotiate and sign the same, transmitting them to Congress for their final ratification; and that such commission be in force for a term not exceeding two years,” Congress resolved on the form of the commissions, all of which were to bear the date 12 May ( JCC , 26:362; 27:372–374). The commission printed here is an example of the twenty commissions issued by Congress on this date for treaties with European nations and the Barbary States. The others were Russia, Austria, Prussia, Denmark, Saxony, Hamburg, Spain, Portugal, Genoa, Tuscany, Rome, Naples, Venice, Sardinia, the Ottoman Empire, Morocco, Algiers, Tunis, and Tripoli. The commissions are virtually identical, except for the different formulas depending on the country for which each was issued and because of the copying process itself. For a detailed examination of what textual variations exist, see Jefferson, Papers , 7:262–265. The only other original 12 May commission in the Adams Papers is for the treaty with Portugal; for the others, see 209 MHi:Coolidge Collection. The commissions were enclosed with a 16 May letter from Charles Thomson to Thomas Jefferson and were carried by Jefferson when he sailed aboard the Ceres from Boston for France on 5 July. He reached Paris on 6 Aug. (Jefferson, Papers , 7:261–262, 312, 364). On 25 Aug. JA wrote to C. W. F. Dumas, below, and noted that our commissions “are as numerous as the sands.” For a later revision of the commissions to negotiate treaties with the Barbary States, see the 11 March 1785 letter from John Jay to the commissioners, and the joint commission to negotiate a treaty with Morocco of the same date, both below.

On 3 June 1784 Congress authorized three additional commissions for supplemental treaties with France, the Netherlands, and Sweden ( JCC , 27:530). This likely was done to avoid offending those nations, but the initial oversight was probably owing to the fact that relatively recent treaties existed between them and the United States. They were sent under cover of an 18 June letter from Thomson to the commissioners, below.