Papers of John Adams, volume 16

John Adams to Thomas Barclay, 8 January 1785 Adams, John Barclay, Thomas
To Thomas Barclay
Dear Sir Auteuil January 8th: 1785.

In answer to your favour from Rochfort of the 25th Ult: I may inform you, entre nous that if I should go to England, Dr: F and Mr: J: will go with me: we shall go all together upon the business of our Commission. But whether we shall go or not is yet problematical, and depends upon an Answer, as yet to be received from the British Ministry. In all Events I think we shall not go before you return. I hope we shall not, for it would be very disagreeable to me, to go out of France, again with my accounts unsettled.

I am of your Mind, that two days, would be sufficient to settle my Accounts, upon the Grooms Maxim, that a short Horse is soon curried. for although a space of five or six years is included, I have avoided as much as possible meddling with the public Money, immense sums of which have been at my Command, so that my Accounts contain little besides the Receipts of my Salary. If I could 486 charge a Commission upon the Money I have obtained, my settlement with you would make a Figure. a Commission upon Seven Hundred Thousand Pounds sterling would be very clever, and that, very nearly is the sum, that I have borrowed in Holland. But it was fore-ordained that I and my Children should be poor that others may be immensely rich. I hope for the Pleasure of seeing you, very soon, and am, dear Sir &c.

Inclosed is a Letter which Mr: Heukelom inclosed to me, I know not for what Reason.

LbC in JQA’s hand (Adams Papers); internal address: “Mr: Barclay.”; APM Reel 107.

John Adams to the president of Congress, 10 January 1785 Adams, John President of Congress
To the President of Congress
Sir Auteuil near Paris January 10. 1785.1

I have the Satisfaction, to inform Congress that by Letters from our Bankers, in Amsterdam, I am informed, they have in Hand, near a Million of Gilders, and consequently, that the two Loans I have opened, amounting in the whole to Seven Millions of Guilders are almost full.2 This is full proof of the amelioration of our Credit, since January 1784, when I was obliged in a very tender State of Convalescence, and an uncommonly rigorous Season, to undergo, the hardships and Dangers of a Voyage and Journey in Packet Boats, Ice boats and Boors waggons, to obtain money, to save Mr: Morris’s Bills from being protested. This is a very fortunate Circumstance for us, at this time, both as it furnishes us the means of treating with the Barbary Powers, if Congress should authorise us to make the necessary Presents, upon which Point we wait their Instructions;3 and as it will enable Congress to pay the Interest of their Debt to France. Four Letters upon the Subject of this Interest, have been communicated to his colleagues, by Dr: Franklin, one from the Comte de Vergennes, and three from Mr: Grand, and no doubt transmitted to Congress.4 Dr: Franklin has sounded me, several Times to know if I was willing to pay the Salaries of the Ministers, and Mr: Carmichaels Salary, Mr: Dumas’s Salary, and Coll: Humphreys’s. in short, there is no Money in Europe, at present, but what has been obtained in Holland by my signature, and is supposed, to be under my Inspection: I shall there fore be very soon embarass’d as there will be many Applications to me for Money, and I shall not 487 dare, to advance it without Orders. I therefore pray for the explicit Instructions of Congress upon this Subject. your Ministers in Europe must not starve on the one hand, and I must not on the other, presume to appropriate Money unappropriated by Congress, without necessity. it it should be the Pleasure, of Congress, that I should draw for necessary Monies, upon the Certificate of their Ministers here, or that they should draw upon my Bankers in Amsterdam this would relieve me from a great Anxiety. at all Events, it is absolutely necessary that Congress should communicate to me their Commands.

I wish also to know, whether it is the Expectation of Congress, that I should open a new Loan, as one of the old ones is full, and the other very near it. I confess it grieves me, to put my Hand, to an Obligation, as it always brings home to my heart the Reflection, that I am burthening the Industry and labour of my fellow Citizens and Countrymen, with an heavy Load: and when Demands are laid before me, for Millions of Livres for Interest already due, I cannot help wishing that I might never have Occasion to sign another Obligation. it will nevertheless be absolutely necessary as I believe, to borrow somewhat more, but it behoves the People to consider the necessity they are under of exerting themselves in Season, to provide for the Payment of their foreign Debt, and especially to avoid as much as possible the Necessity of increasing it. They will find it very impoverishing to send annually out of their Country such large Sums for the payment of Interest. an enormous Bulk of the Produce of the Country must go to make these Sums, and we shall find the drain very exhausting to our Patience if not to our strength.

With great Respect &c—

LbC in JQA’s hand (Adams Papers); internal address: “His Excellency, / the President of Congress.”; APM Reel 107.


The RC of this letter, since lost, reached Congress on 31 March and immediately was referred to John Jay. He reported on 5 April, indicating in his covering letter and the report itself that the matters raised by JA belonged more properly to the Treasury Board rather than his own department. But regarding JA’s comments on the payment of salaries at the end of the first paragraph of this letter, Jay declared that since “the Justice as well as the Dignity of the United States requires that their Ministers & Servants should be punctually supplied, without the Intervention of personal Credit and such like expedients; Your Secretary is of Opinion, that Mr. Adams should be authorised until the further Order of Congress to cause the Salaries of your Ministers and Secretaries in Europe to be regularly paid out of the Monies in Holland.” Despite Jay’s proposal, JA received no such authorization ( JCC , 28:222, 226, 234; PCC, No. 80, I, f. 129–130; No. 81, I, 183–186; No. 185, III, f. 118).


Presumably JA refers to the consortium’s letters of 20 and 30 Dec. 1784, both above, for which see JA’s 10 Jan. [1785] letter to the Amsterdam bankers, below.


For Congress’ resolutions authorizing 488 negotiations with the Barbary States and the expenditure of funds thereon, see Jay’s 11 March letter to the commissioners, below.


Two of the letters were likely those from the Comte de Vergennes of 30 Aug. 1784 and from Ferdinand Grand of 28 Aug., both of which were addressed to Benjamin Franklin and enclosed with the commissioners’ 11 Nov. letter to the president of Congress, above. Grand’s two other letters to Franklin have not been found, but they may have been those of 29 Dec. 1784 and 5 Jan. 1785, to which Franklin replied on 9 Jan. (PCC, No. 82, III, f. 313–316). Franklin indicated in his reply that he had communicated both letters to JA, who maintained that he had “no Power to draw on or dispose of that fund [the proceeds from the loan in the Netherlands] without orders from Congress.” Franklin noted that JA had shown him the consortium’s letters indicating how much money was available, but that when Franklin communicated Grand’s 5 Jan. letter, JA seemed “rather displeas’d with my Importunity So that I can carry it no farther.”