Papers of John Adams, volume 16

James Erwin to John Adams, 17 January 1785 Erwin, James Adams, John
From James Erwin
Sr: Mogadr: South Barbary the 17 Jany. 1785

Tis with the utmost grief. I Acqt. you: the Accident which as befallen me. at my departure from Cadix. to Tereniffe. were I was bound to. but unfortunately taken by one of the Emperor of Moroccos Cruzers. and Carried into Tangier. were my Vessel lays. afterwards myself & people. with many fatigues obliged to proceed to Morocco. to the Emperor. with whom I spoke to. & notwithstanding Replied He was in peace with our Nation. still ordered us to this place.1 Suspended till an Embassador of the united States of America. appears. not doubting but Congress. will take the case in Concideration to prevent further misfortunes. being assured. will not end with me. if an American Embassador. does not come to Reconcile matters hopeing will be soon. in order to Release us from this place. Craveing most Earnestly. that you’ll interfere. thereon as I am 491 an American Subject. & fought for my Country & Liberty. and above all. to Caution. my brother Seamen that they may not become the same prey. & afterwards will be with much more difficulty to come to a Reconciliation. if I can be so happy as to merit yr. Answer on the Subject. will ever make me duty bound to you. and giveing me Leave to tender my Sincere Respects to you. I Remain with all Regard / Your Excelencies / Mt. Obt. Hble. Servt.

James Erwin

RC (Adams Papers); addressed: “To / His Excelency / John Adams / Ministr. Pliniy. of the united States / of America / Hague”; internal address: “To His Excelency / John Adams / Ministr. Pliniy: of the unitd. States of America”; endorsed: “James Erwin / Mogadore.”; and by AA: “James Erwin / janry. 1785.”


James Erwin, writing from the Moroccan port of Mogador (now Essaouira), approximately 350 miles southwest of Tangier, was the captain of the American brig Betsy. In Oct. 1784 it was captured by Moroccan forces at the direction of Sultan Sidi Muhammad ibn Abdallah. The seizure was intended, as Erwin indicates in his letter, to demonstrate the sultan’s frustration with the American failure to negotiate despite the overtures he had made to the United States indicating his interest in a Moroccan-American treaty. For the actions taken by Congress and the commissioners regarding relations with Morocco and the capture of the Betsy, see John Jay’s 11 March 1785 letter to the commissioners, and JA’s 20 March letter to Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, both below. For additional information on Sultan Sidi Muhammad ibn Abdallah, see Descriptive List of Illustrations, No. 10, above.

The American Commissioners to the Baron von Thulemeier, 21 January 1785 American Commissioners Adams, John Franklin, Benjamin Jefferson, Thomas Thulemeier, Friedrich Wilhelm, Baron von
The American Commissioners to the Baron von Thulemeier
Sir Passy Janry. 21st. 1785

We have received the letter you did us the honour to write us on the 10th day of December last.

We supposed that the principles contained in the project of a Treaty, which we had the honour to transmit you, were a virtual answer to the requisition in the last lines of your letter of the eighteenth of October. By the second & third Articles, the citizens & subjects of each power may frequent all the coasts & countries of the other and reside & trade there in all sorts of produce, manufactures or merchandises paying no greater duties than the most favoured nation. By the fourth Article each party shall have a right to carry their own produce, manufactures & merchandise in their own vessels to any parts of the dominions of the other where it shall be lawful for all the subjects or citizens of that other party to purchase them; and thence to take the produce, manufactures and merchandise of that other, which all the said citizens or subjects shall in like 492 manner be free to sell them, paying in both cases such duties, charges & fees only as are or shall be paid by the most favoured nation.

But if by a city for the commerce of exchange between the merchants of the two nations, be meant a port more free than any intended in the said second third or fourth Articles, that is to say a port absolutely free from all duties and charges, or a port, where merchandize may be landed & stored and afterwards reembarked & exported without paying any imposts or duties, we submit to your consideration whether it will not be for the interests of Prussia that both Emden & Stetten at least should be made such: however should it be thought otherwise and we be still desired to elect one of the two ports, we should ask for time to communicate the proposition to Congress and to receive their instructions thereon.

We have the honour to be / With great consideration / And esteem / Your Excellencys / Most obedient and / Most humble Servants

John Adams B Franklin T Jefferson

FC in David Humphreys’ hand (PCC, No. 116, f. 145–147); internal address: “His Excellency / The Baron de Thulemeier / Exvoy Exty from His Prussian Majesty / at the Hague.”