Papers of John Adams, volume 16

Gentlemen Paris, 22 January 1785

I had the honor of putting before my lord the king your letter of 27 September 17841 inviting him to conclude a treaty of amity and commerce with the United States. His Majesty, having maturely examined the proposals and offers that it contains, has authorized me to assure you that nothing would please him more, as he gives all his attention to increasing the trade of his kingdom, internal as well as external. It is with this same view that his majesty recently opened and established a free port at Messina in Sicily by which all nations are invited to profit, the more so with assurance that they will be received and welcomed there very favorably and will be certain to enjoy all sorts of privileges and immunities, as the enclosed edict will demonstrate to you.2 I ask you, gentlemen, please to examine the advantages that can result for your countrymen from frequenting this new port.

I am further charged, gentlemen, with making to you a formal declaration, in the name of His Majesty, that all merchant vessels under the flag of the United States will be received at Messina with marks of the most sincere friendship and impressions of the greatest hospitality, that they will be treated similarly in all the other ports under his dominion with all possible regard, that we will always come to their aid and furnish them with all that they might need, and that they will have liberty to trade produce of their own country as well as goods of their own manufacture and those of other nations.

Tobacco being the most essential part of American trade, as you did me the honor of observing during one of our private interviews, I must inform you, gentlemen, that this plant has now become in the dominions of my lord the king an item of free trade by the abolition of all duties to which it had previously been subject. With regard to other items of produce, you will have complete liberty not only to bring them into his dominions, and to do so in quantities as great as demand among Neapolitans will bear, but also to take merchandise from there to the rest of Italy, the Levant, and all other countries, in quantities that you, according to your own estimation, 498 judge necessary. You will enjoy the same liberties and ease in exporting from the kingdom of Sicily oil, wine, silks, and all other produce that the Sicilians can furnish to you and that you might find of use or appeal.

My lord the king did not want to delay any longer giving to you, gentlemen, the most convincing indications of his desire to have close connections with the United States and to prove to them his goodwill in entering as soon as possible into commercial relations advantageous to both nations, His Majesty reserving the right to take such decisions and resolutions as he sees fit in order to conclude with all due ceremony a treaty of commerce, as you seem to desire from your letter.

While waiting for my court to examine and weigh maturely all the objects to be settled in a treaty of this nature, I believe, gentlemen, that it would be very advantageous for Americans to begin from this moment to frequent the ports of Sicily, particularly that of Messina, in order to establish forever commercial relations, which we can afterwards stipulate more precisely in the treaty to be concluded.

Permit me, gentlemen, to observe to you as well that to establish and carry on commerce of whatever extent it may be and in whatever country it may be, it is not necessary for it to be authorized beforehand by a treaty; it is sufficient for foreigners to be greeted with friendship and protected by law and by government. The proof is that all the nations that now conduct the most extensive trade in the Sicilies, such as the English, the French, the Genoans, the Venetians, the Ragusans, the Hamburgers, have no treaty of commerce with my court. Between it and France there are only the beginnings of a treaty, but the French are not at all waiting for it to be concluded in order to conduct a most extensive and profitable trade there.

I have the honor of being with the greatest respect, gentlemen, your very humble and very obedient servant

de Pio, chargé d’affaires of the king of Naples