Papers of John Adams, volume 16

The American Commissioners to the President of Congress, 9 February 1785 American Commissioners Adams, John Franklin, Benjamin Jefferson, Thomas President of Congress
The American Commissioners to the President of Congress
Sir Paris [9] Febry. 1785

In our last of Decr. 15 we had the honour of communicating to Congress our letter to the Ambassador of Portugal which accompanied the draught of the treaty of Amity & Commerce proposed on our part. Since that date he addressed to us the letter No. 1. acknowledging the receipt of ours & informing us that he had forwarded it to his court.1

The Baron de Thulemeier also, the Prussian Minister at the Hague has given us similar information in his letter No. 2. herewith enclosed: he therein also desires as he had done in his letter of Octr. 8 that we would make choice of some port within the dominions of His Sovereign at which the commerce between the two countries might be carried on. We supposed that we had answered this by proposing in our draught of the treaty that all places in the dominions of either party should be open to the subjects or citizens of the other for the purposes of commerce. As he thought proper however to repeat the desire of the King that we would make choice of some place, we wrote him an answer of which No. 3. is a copy, and have now to ask of Congress their instructions as to the choice of a place for the purposes proposed.2

The Baron de Walterstorff who had been formerly appointed by the court of Denmark to negotiate a treaty with the United States of America, & to whom we had notified our full powers for that purpose, called on us separately a few days ago & informed us that he had obtained permission from his court to make a visit to Copenhagen where his private affairs required his presence, and that the Minister had at the same time instructed him to ask from us our propositions that they might be considered during his stay at Copenhagen, and the sentiments of his court thereon be fully made known to him. This he afterwards communicated more particularly in the letter No. 4. to which an answer was returned of which No. 5. 518 is a copy, inclosing a draught of a treaty similar to the one we had the honour to communicate to you in our letter of Decr. 15.3

We have also since our last received an answer from the court of Naples through their chargé des Affaires & from that of Turin through their Ambassador at this court: (the answer of Naples is accompanied by a printed ordinance establishing the privileges of Messina as a free port) which we now enclose, distinguished by the Nos. 6. &. 7. to these we do not propose to make any reply unless future overtures from them or other circumstances should render it necessary or proper.4

With great respect / We have the honour to be / Your Excellencys / Most obedient & / Most humble servants

John Adams B. Franklin T. Jefferson

FC in David Humphreys’ hand (PCC, No. 116, f. 160–163); internal address: “His Excellency / The President of Congress / at the seat of / Congress.”; notation: “3d Report to Congress.”


The commissioners had written to the Conde de Sousa Coutinho on 30 Nov. 1784, above, and enclosed a draft treaty. Enclosure No. 1 was the ambassador’s brief reply of 22 Dec. (Jefferson, Papers , 7:580).


Nos. 2 and 3 were the Baron von Thulemeier’s letter to the commissioners of 10 Dec., for which see the Negotiation of the 10 September 1785 Prussian-American Treaty of Amity and Commerce, 10 Nov. 1784 – 14 March 1785, No. IV, and the commissioners’ reply of 21 Jan. 1785, both above.


Nos. 4 and 5 were the Baron von Walterstorff’s 1 Feb. 1785 letter to Thomas Jefferson and Jefferson’s reply of the 3d, with which he enclosed a draft treaty similar to those the commissioners had previously proposed to Prussia and Portugal (Jefferson, Papers , 7:631–632, 633).


Nos. 6 and 7 were a 22 Jan. letter from Luigi Pio and a 2 Feb. one from the Conte Ponte di Scarnafigi, both above.

John Jay to John Adams, 11 February 1785 Jay, John Adams, John
From John Jay
Sir Office for foreign Affairs New York 11th: Feby: 1785

I have now the Honor of transmitting to you herewith enclosed a Ratification made 1st Feby: instant of the contract or Engagement which you entered into as Minister Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to their High Mightinesses the Lords, the States General of the United Netherlands, in Behalf of the said States, with Messrs. Wilhelm & Jan Willink & others for a Loan of two Millions of Guilders the 9th of March 1784.1

As the Letters received from you, between my Predecessors Resignation and my acceptance of this Office, are yet in the Hands of a Committee of Congress, I am not in Capacity to say any thing of their Dates or Contents.


On the 14th Ult. I wrote a Short Letter to you Doctr. Franklin and Mr. Jefferson.

Congress have Resolv’d to send a Minister to the Court of London, and I flatter myself with being soon enabled to write to you particularly on this Subject.2

It would give me great Pleasure to hear from you frequently, and to be favored not only with such Information as you may think interesting, but also with such Remarks and Opinions on Affairs in this Department, as may the better enable me to discharge the Duties of it.

Mr. De Marbois in pursuance of the Orders of his Court, has demanded that Mr. Longchamps be delivered up.3 I wish that matter had not been pressed— I have laid the Requisition before Congress and shall inform you of the Result of their Deliberations on the Subject. It is in Contemplation to appoint a Minister for Spain, and we are informed that an Envoy from that Court may daily be expected here.4

I have the Honor to be with great Esteem & Regard / Dear Sir / Your most obt. & very hble Servt.

John Jay

RC (Adams Papers); internal address: “The Honbe. J. Adams Esqr.”; endorsed: “Mr Jay 11. Feb. 1785. / recd 23. Ansd 24. April.” Dupl (MHi:John Adams, Embassy MSS). Tripl (Adams Papers).


The notarized, signed loan contract of [9] March 1784 and the attached 1 Feb. 1785 instrument of ratification that JA received with this letter on 23 April have not been found. JA presumably enclosed them with his 24 April letter to the consortium (LbC, APM Reel 107). But see the contract and the instrument of ratification, which were enclosed with the Dupl of this letter and are printed at their respective dates, both above.


Jay’s letters concerning JA’s election as minister to Great Britain are of 15 and 18 March, both below. The first informed JA of his appointment, and the second enclosed his commission, instructions, and letter of credence. JA received Jay’s official notification on 2 May, but he unofficially learned of his appointment as early as 26 April (to John Jay, 4 May, Dipl. Corr., 1783–1789 , 1:485–487; to Samuel Mather, 26 April, LbC, Adams Papers, APM Reel 107). JA’s election, after considerable debate and political maneuvering, occurred on 24 Feb., for which see Elbridge Gerry’s letters of 14 and 24 Feb., both below.


On 19 May 1784 Charles Julian de Longchamps assaulted François de Barbé-Marbois on the streets of Philadelphia. Barbé-Marbois, secretary to the French minister, the Chevalier de La Luzerne, earned Longchamps’ wrath by refusing to authenticate his titles, including that of chevalier. La Luzerne demanded Longchamps’ apprehension and surrender to French custody so that he could be returned to France for trial. Pennsylvania refused, arguing that its courts had sole jurisdiction. Despite Pennsylvania’s prosecution and imprisonment of Longchamps, the case dragged on until, there being no possibility that either Congress or Pennsylvania would agree to Longchamps’ extradition, Barbé-Marbois withdrew the French demand. Jay’s uneasiness over Barbé-Marbois’ effort to press the incident was owing to the issues, insoluble at the time under the Confederation, that the Longchamps Affair raised about Congress’ relationship with the states, the law of nations’ place in the American legal system, and the future of Franco-American relations (G. S. Rowe and Alexander W. Knott, “Power, 520 Justice, and Foreign Relations in the Confederation Period: The Marbois-Longchamps Affair, 1784–1786,” PMHB , 104:275–307 [July 1980]).


Congress did not appoint a minister to Spain. William Carmichael, Jay’s former secretary, was serving as chargé d’affaires but did not receive a formal appointment as such until 1790. Diego Gardoqui, Spanish plenipotentiary chargé d’affaires, presented his credentials to Congress on 2 July 1785 ( DAB ; JCC , 29:494–495).