Papers of John Adams, volume 16

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).

Elbridge Gerry to John Adams, 14 February 1785 Gerry, Elbridge Adams, John
From Elbridge Gerry
My dear sir New York 14th Feby 1785

This will be delivered by Mr Jarvis lately of Boston, but formerly of this City, Son in Law to Mr Broom, whom You probably know.1

I have but two of your Letters unanswered; one of the 27th of June last, the Objects of which have I think been fully complied with, & the other of Novr 4, in which I find no Mention of a Letter I wrote You from philadelphia in July last.

Congress met in November at Trenton, but the Legislature of New Jersey being there at the same Time, & the Members of Congress badly accomodated, the Struggle was renewed respecting an adjournment to Philadelphia, & finally terminated in an Ordnance to appoint Commissioners, Vizt General Schuyler Mr R Morris & General Dickinson, to purchase a District of two Miles square on the Banks of the Delaware not more than eight Miles above or below Trenton, for a fœderal Town, & to erect Buildings for the Use of Congress & their Executive officers: & New York is to be the temporary place, or rathar the place of temporary Residence for Congress, till the Buildings are erected— each State, it is supposed will provide Buildings for its Delegates—2

the Controversy between Massachusetts & New York respecting their western Claims, is to be determined by a fœderal Court, which is to hold it’s Session at Williamsburg, & by Agreement of the Agents to consist of Judge Smith & Mr patterson Attorney General of N Jersey, Mr Reed of Delaware, the late Governor Johnson, And Mr Harrison cheif Justice of Maryland, Mr Wythe, Colonel Grayson & Colo Monroe of Virginia & Mr John Rutledge of So Carolina— June is the appointed Time for holding the Court—3

Mr Jay has taken the Oaths of Secretary of foreign Affairs, & Mr osgood of Massachusetts Mr Walter Levingston of this City & Mr Gervais of Charlestown So Carolina are elected Commissioners of the Treasury. & General Knox or Colo pickering will probably be at the Head of the War Department—4

With Respect to foreign Affairs, a Report is before Congress, for 521 accepting agreable to his repeated Request, Doctor Franklins Resignation. Mr Jefferson will I think be his Successor, You & Governor Rutledge are in Nomination for the Court of London, & I presume the prospect is not in Favour of the Election of the latter.5 Who will be sent to Madrid I know not, possibly Mr Rutledge.— the last Loan of Holland is ratified & I presume You will receive by this Conveyance official Information thereof— how far it it possible to seperate foreign from domestic Debts so as to give a preference to the paymt— of the Interest of the former, I know not, but an Attempt of the Kind would produce a great Clamor. the States to the Southard of Delaware would gladly adopt the Measure & perhaps would then avoid Contributions to pay the domestic Interest, because they have very little in the fœderal Funds; but the Citizens of the other States would probably be so dissatisfied as to withhold Taxes or apply them to the payment of the Interest due to themselves— We are greatly embarrassed with the Conduct of Spain & Great Britain but our Ministers to those Courts, with the Instructions of Congress on the interesting Subjects of their respective Measures will I hope disperse the Clouds which at present surround Us— I am not of your Opinion respecting either the policy or Necessity of having Ministers perpetually at any of the Courts of Europe. I cannot be of that Opinion because, the Reason of it is not within my perception. I never Wish to see Congress surrounded by foreign Ministers. I never shall I hope see the vicious policy of foreign Courts introduced to ours, nor the latter, distracted in their Councils & Duped by the artful Representatives of foreign powers, instead of being the wise & united Representatives of united States. the Subject is copious, I wish not, in a Letter to my Friend, to discuss a Matter that I find is disagreable to him, & therefore shall let it rest for the present—

The question respecting Salaries was agitated in Congress upon a Remonstranc from Massachusetts, respecting their Keep, & they were reduced on the principle that Articles of Subsistence, since the peace were also reduced. how far the proportion is just I cannot determine, but think it would not be easy to enhance them at present.

Pray give my Regards to Mr Jefferson & inform him that I wrote him a Letter from Boston in July last by the Way of London—

Governor Hancock has resigned, Thanks be to —

our Friend Mr Reed late Governor of Penñ is dangerously ill—6

My Respects to the Ladies & be assured I / am on every occasion your Friend / sincerely

E Gerry

RC (Adams Papers); internal address: “Hon Excellency / Mr Adams—”; endorsed: “Mr Gerry. 14. Feb. 1785 / ansd. 25. Ap. 1785.”


James Jarvis, the son-in-law of Samuel Broome, a merchant of New York and New Haven, reached Paris on or about 22 April. He carried this letter and a packet from John Jay (vol. 14:73; JQA, Diary , 1:254).


For the ordinance of 23 Dec. 1784, see Jay’s letter to the commissioners of 14 Jan. 1785, and note 1, above. Gen. Philip Schuyler was elected one of the commissioners on 10 Feb., and Robert Morris and Gen. Philemon Dickinson were elected on the following day ( JCC , 28:55, 58).


The commissioners to sit as a court to resolve the Massachusetts-New York boundary dispute were named in a 24 Dec. 1784 joint letter to Congress from the agents appointed by Massachusetts and New York (same, 27:709–710).


Samuel Osgood, John Lewis Gervais, and Walter Livingston were elected treasury commissioners on 25 Jan. 1785 (same, 28:18). For an earlier election of commissioners, none of whom agreed to serve, see Gerry’s letter of 16 June 1784, and note 3, above. Henry Knox was elected secretary at war on 8 March 1785 (same, 28:129).


Thomas Jefferson was appointed to replace Benjamin Franklin as minister to France on 10 March (same, 28:134), but see also JA’s 31 Jan. letter to Gerry, and note 1, above. For JA’s appointment as minister to Great Britain, see Gerry’s letter of 24 Feb., below.


Joseph Reed of Pennsylvania died on 5 March ( DAB ).