Papers of John Adams, volume 17

From Thomas Cushing

To Elbridge Gerry

From Joseph and Isaac Saportas, 5 July 1785 Saportas, Joseph Saportas, Isaac Adams, John
From Joseph and Isaac Saportas
Sir London 5th. July 1785

We are Sorry we happend to be from home when your Excellency entended us the honour of a visit, and hope we may flatter ourselves with that Satisfaction, on future Opportunities Which may Call your Excellency in our part of the Town,

finding that your Excellency had Received previous information Concerning the detention of An American vessel at Mogadore, we think it needless to trouble your Excellency with a repetion of the particulars, but apprehending the Captain Still Continues under Some difficulties, we Are desirous of Contributing our Mite towards his Relieve, which may be Accomplished by Recommending the matter to Some of our particular friends, residents there tho’ not directly in Situation able to interfere officialy in his behalf, in the intrem beg Leave to trouble your Excellency with the inclosed 3 Letters—from the Said Captain to be forwarded thro’ your Excellency’s means as the Safest Conveyance,—1

Our Brother Samuel of Amsterdam desires to assure your Excellency of his best Respects and Joins in repeating our offers of humble Service to your Excellency on all occasions, we have the honour to Remain with every Sentiment of attachment & high Regard, / Sir / Your Excellencies Most / Devoted Humble Servants

Joseph & Isaac Saportas2

RC (Adams Papers); internal address: “His Excellency John Adams Esqr.”; endorsed: “Jos. & Is. Saportas / 5. July. 1785.”


These letters cannot be identified, but they were written by Capt. James Erwin of the American brig Betsy. The Betsy was captured in Oct. 1784, at the order of Sultan Sidi Muhammad ibn Abdallah, to express his frustration over American delays in concluding a commercial agreement with Morocco. With the aid of Spanish diplomatic intervention, 219the Betsy’s crew was released in March 1785 (Robert J. Allison, The Crescent Obscured: The United States and the Muslim World, 1776–1815, N.Y., 1995, p. 4–5). See also Erwin’s earlier letter to JA, dated 17 Jan. at Mogador (now Essaouira), Morocco, vol. 16:490–491.


Joseph and Isaac Saportas of No. 5, Great Crescent Minories, had called on JA earlier to present a letter of introduction, dated 17 June, from their brother, the Amsterdam broker Samuel Saportas (Adams Papers; JA, D&A , 3:179). JA had consulted with Samuel, in April 1782, regarding his participation in a Dutch-American loan (vol. 12:446).