Papers of John Adams, volume 17

From Charles Storer

To C. W. F. Dumas

The American Commissioners to the Duke of Dorset, 16 May 1785 American Commissioners Dorset, the Duke of
The American Commissioners to the Duke of Dorset
My Lord Duke Passy near Paris May 16th 1785

We received in due time the letter which your Grace did us the honour to write us on the 26th day of March last, and have delayed the acknowledgment of it in expectation of the arrival of the packets, by which we hoped for further Instructions from Congress.

We have now the honor to inform your Grace that Congress on the 24th day of Feby last, appointed a Minister Plenipotentiary to reside at the court of His Britannic Majesty who proposes to proceed to London in the course of two or three weeks, which makes a more particular answer to your letter unnecessary1

With great respect / We have the honor to be / Your Grace’s Most obedient and / Most humble Servants

John Adams B. Franklin T. Jefferson

FC in David Humphreys’ hand (PCC, No. 116, f. 402–403); internal address: “His Grace the Duke of Dorset Ambassador / from His Britannic Majesty to the court / of Versailles.”


This letter is the commissioners’ official notification to Dorset that Congress had appointed a minister to Great Britain and indicates that they believed JA’s appointment rendered moot Dorset’s queries in his letter of 26 March about the commissioners’ powers to negotiate and the ability of Congress to compel the states to observe the provisions of any Anglo-American treaty that might be negotiated (vol. 16:577–578). Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson enclosed this copy in their 18 June letter to John Jay, and Dorset sent a copy to the Marquis of Carmarthen on 2 June (Jefferson, Papers , 8:153, 235–236; PRO:FO 27, 16:597). The commissioners’ belief was not, however, shared by the British government, which continued to harbor doubts about the powers of both JA as minister and Congress as a sovereign entity, leading JA to reopen the issue in a 26 Sept. letter to Carmarthen, below, that he presented to the foreign minister at a meeting on 20 October.