Papers of John Adams, volume 17

To Thomas Jefferson

From Thomas Jefferson

From James Grubb, 23 May 1785 Grubb, James Adams, John
From James Grubb
L’orient 23 May 1785

I beg leave to acquaint your Excellency that I Yesterday received advice that the Pilot Cutter, Commanded by Lieut. Seymor Lynn in the Service of the King of Great Britain, had Seized & detain’d the Brigantine Nancy Capt. John Limeburner, under American Colours, & expedited by me, from this Port, bound to Amsterdam— The property on board belongs to French Merchants of this Town— The Vessel having all her Papers in due form & proper Clearance from the Admiralty here, the Only Reason alledged for Seizing Same is because She was found within 4 Leagues of the Land, which even is a false Assertion: I herewith transmit to Your Excellency, the Accounts I have received of the Whole Affair & beg leave to Solicit Your protection in demanding from the Court of Great Britain that the Ship & Cargo be given up, with damages for the Detention of Same after having been Unjustly plundered from a Subject of the United States of America.1


I transmit the Papers with the present thro’ the Hands of Mr. Barclay, least Your Excellency should have left Paris. The Packet with your Son on board Saild from hence Saturday Evening last.

I have the honor to be / Your Excellence’s / Most obedient & / very humble Servant

J: Grubb2

RC (Adams Papers); internal address: “His Excellency, John Adams Esqr.”; endorsed: “Mr James Grubb of / Virginia. / L’orient. 23. May. ansd. / 7 June 1785.”


Thomas Barclay enclosed this letter with his of 26 May (Adams Papers). There he indicated that Grubb, of Virginia, was “an American Subject, and extremely worthy of any good Office You can do him.” Barclay also sent three other enclosures: James Day’s letter to Grubb dated 11 May at Cowes, Isle of Wight, England; an extract from Philippe Ludger’s letter, dated 11 May at London; and Grubb’s 23 May letter to Barclay. Day’s letter reported the capture of the brig Nancy, although, according to testimony from its captain and passengers, the vessel had been 5 1/2 leagues off the Isle of Wight and thus outside British territorial waters. Day indicated that he had begun proceedings for the Nancy’s recovery. Ludger, a passenger, confirmed the report by Day and described the Nancy’s voyage from its departure from Lorient on 29 April until its detention on 3 May. Writing to Barclay, the U.S. consul to France, Grubb requested that he send the Day and Ludger letters to JA with the expectation that JA would support his efforts to obtain the return of the Nancy and its cargo. For JA’s response to Grubb’s appeal, see his 7 June letters to Barclay and Grubb, both below.


JQA described Grubb, whom he met at Lorient while he awaited passage to America, as “very much a gentleman.” Thirty years later JQA would employ Grubb as his private secretary during his tenure as minister to Great Britain (JQA, Diary , 1:270, 271; AFC , 6:147, 148, 149).