Papers of John Adams, volume 17

From Thomas Jefferson

To William Carmichael

To the Marquis of Carmarthen, 29 July 1785 Adams, John Carmarthen, the Marquis of
To the Marquis of Carmarthen
My Lord. Grosvenor Square July 29th. 1785.

The Course of Commerce, since the peace, between Great Britain and the United States of America, has been such as to have produced many inconveniencies to the persons concerned in it, on both sides, which become every day more and more sensible.1 The Zeal of Americans to make remittances to british merchants, has been such as to raise the Interest of Money to double its usual standard, to increase the price of Bills of exchange to eight or ten per cent. above par, and to advance the price of the produce of the Country, to almost double the usual Rate, large sums of the circulating Cash, and as much produce as could be purchased at almost any rate, have been remitted to England: but much of this produce, lies in Store here, because it will not fetch, (by reason of the Duties and restrainsts on it) the price given for it, in America2 No political Arrangements having been made, both the british and American Merchants expected that the trade, would have returned to its old Channels, and nearly under the same regulations, found by long Experience to be beneficial, but they have been disappointed— the former have made advances, and the latter contracted Debts both depending on remittances, in the usual Articles, and upon the Ancient terms, but both have found themselves mistaken and it is much to be feared, that the Consequences will be numerous failures. The Cash and Bills have been chiefly remitted, neither, Rice, Tobacco, Pitch, Tar, Turpentine, ships, Oil, nor many other Articles, the great sources of Remittance formerly, can now be sent as heretofore, because of Restrictions and Imposts, which are new in this Commerce and distructive of it— And the Trade with the british 281West India Islands, formerly a vast source of remittance, is at present obstructed.

These evils, My Lord, as far as they merely affect the Citizens of the United States, should not be offered to your Lordships consideration— They are proper Subjects for the deliberations of Congress, and the Legislatures of the several States: but as far as they affect the Merchants and Manufacturers of Great Britain and Ireland, and as far as they affect the general System of Commerce, Revenue and Policy of the british Empire—Your Lordship will undoubtedly give them their due weight.

There is a litteral impossibility, My Lord, that the Commerce between the two Countries, can continue long to the advantage of either, upon the present footing. The evils already experienced will be much increased and more severely felt if the Causes of them are permitted much longer to opperate— It is the desire of the Citizens of the United States to Cultivate the most friendly3 intercourse with the King’s Subjects, and it will be with regret4 that they should see a necessity of searching for other resources as substitutes for british Commerce, either in other Countries or in Manufactures at Home.5 Whether it is not putting at hazard, too material an interest, to risque an Alienation from these Kingdoms, of the American Commerce, or any considerable part of it for the sake of the6 advantages that can be obtained by the present restrictions on it, is a question, which must be submitted to you Lordships consideration.

In order to bring this Subject, so momentous to both Countries, under a candid discussion, I do myself the honour to inclose to Your Lordship, and to propose to the consideration of his Majesty’s ministers, a project of a fair and equitable Treaty of Commerce, between His Majesty and the United States of America prepared in conformity to the instructions of Congress, and submit it entirely to your Lordship to decide, whether the Negotiation shall be conducted with Your Lordship, or with any other Person to be invested with powers equal to mine, to be appointed for the purpose—7

With great Respect I have the / Honour to be—My Lord / Your Lordship’s / Most Obedt. Humble Serv.

John Adams, Minister Plenipotentiary from the United States of America at the Court of Great Brittain8

RC and enclosure in WSS’s hand (PRO:FO 4, State Papers, vol. 3, f. 487–507); internal address: “The Right Honble: / The Marquis of Carmarthen / secretary of 282State for foreign / Affairs—”; endorsed: “July 29th: 1785. / Mr. Adams.” LbC’s (Adams Papers); APM Reel 111. The LbC’s are dated [ante 29] July and 29 July. The first is in JA’s hand and was done sometime between 24 and 27 July as it appears between letters of those dates in the Letterbook. At the top of that copy, between the dateline and greeting, is the following notation by JA: “This Letter was not Sent but instead of it, the Letter of 29th. of July, for which turn over this and two other Leaves.” The differences between the first LbC and the RC are indicated in the notes.


In the [ante 29] July draft LbC, JA added here, “The Debts which were due before the War, and those which have been contracted Since, remain unpaid in much larger Proportions, than can consist with the Satisfaction of the Creditor or the Tranquility of the Debtor. I have already had the Honour to mention to your Lordship in Conversation various Causes the Posts and Territories, within the Limits of the United States, which are still held by British Garrisons, the Exportation of Negroes and other Property, which by the Seventh Article of the Treaty of Peace was not to be exported, the Misconstruction of the Armistice of the 20 of Janry. 1783, concerning Captures made after the Expiration of the Month, and the Delay of a Liquidation of the Charges of Prisoners of War, as various Causes which had contributed to leave American Citizens more deeply indebted to British Subjects, than is agreable to either. That this unfortunate State of Things was even more distressing to the American Citizen than to the British subject, because he thought his Reputation as a Man and his Credit as a Merchant concerned in it.”


In the draft LbC, JA added here, “That the Situation of the Merchant both in England and America, had been and continued to be very distressing.”


In the draft LbC, JA added here, “and liberal.”


In the draft LbC, JA wrote here, “Reluctance.”


In the draft LbC, JA added here, “But if a Necessity of it, should occur, nothing is more certain than that they can find vast Resources in both.”


In the draft LbC, JA added here, “Imposts and other Small.”


For the draft treaty, see the enclosure to the 8 July letter from Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, above.


In JA’s hand.