Papers of John Adams, volume 17

From John Jay

From William Stephens Smith

298 To Thomas Jefferson, 4 August 1785 Adams, John Jefferson, Thomas
To Thomas Jefferson
My dear Sir Grosvenor Square Augt. 4. 1785

Yesterday our Friend Mr Short arrived. Mr Dumas had never any Commission from Congress, and therefore can have no Title under the United States. He never had any other Authorization than a Letter from Dr Franklin and another from the Committee of Secret Correspondence, in the year 1775.1 I wish he had a regular Commission. I direct my Letters to Monsieur C. W. F. Dumas a la Haye, only. I Should advise you to allow Mr Short a Guinea a day except Sundays, which will amount to Something near your Ideas.

Houdons Life may be insured for five Per Cent. two for the Life and three for the Voyage. I mentioned it at Table with Several Merchants; they all agreed that it would not be done for less. But Dr Price, who was present undertook to enquire and inform me. His answer is, that it may be done at an Office in Hackney for five Per Cent. He cannot yet Say for less, but will endeavour to reduce it a little. You may write to the Dr to get it done, and he will reduce it, if possible. I will let you know by Mr Short, how far I have ventured in conformity to the Propositions you inclose, knowing your sentiments before, but I think We had better wait sometime before We propose them any where else.

Mr Samuel Watson a Citizen of the U. States, & settled at Charlestown S. C. as a Merchant, Sailed from thence about two Years ago, for the Havannah, and has not been heard of Since till lately a Gentleman from the Havannah has reported that a Mr Watson from Charlestown was taken in the Bay of Mexico & carried into Carthagena, from thence Sent to the Castle of St Juan, de Ullua la Vera Cruz and afterwards Sent to Trascala, where it is Supposed he is at present. His Father and numerous Relations are very anxious for his Fate, and earnestly beg that you would interest yourself with the Comte D’Aranda and Mr Charmichael for his Release, but if that cannot be had in full that you would endeavour to procure his removal to Old Spain, that his Friends may hear from him, and gain Intelligence respecting the Property he may have left in Carolina. I have written to Charmichael,2 and intend to Speak to Don Del Campo.

Pray Send me the Arrêt against English Manufactures and every other new Arrêt, which may any Way affect the United States. it is confidently given out here that our Vessells are not admitted into 299the French W. Indias. has there been any new Arret, Since that of August 1784?3 Can you discover the Cause, of the great Ballance of Exchange in favour of England, from France, Spain, Holland, &c as well as America? and whether this Appearance of Prosperity will continue? I think that at the Peace, the British Merchants sent their Factors abroad with immense quantities of their Manufactures, the whole Stock they had on hand. These Factors have sold as they could, and bought Remittances especially Bills of Exchange as they could, i.e very dear. So that the loss, on the Exchange is that of the British Merchant. and consequently that this appearance is not so much in favour of England.— Spain I expect will follow the Example of France in prohibiting Brit. Manufactures, at least if Del Campo does not make a commercial Treaty with Woodward who is appointed to treat with him. But the Diplomaticks are of opinion nothing will be done with him, nor with Crawford. The two Years expire in January.— if Crawford is likely to do any Thing be so good as to let me know, it.

The Words “Ship and Sailor,” Still turn the Heads of this People. They grudge to every other People, a Single Ship and a Single Seaman.— The Consequence of this Envy, in the End, will be the loss of all their own.— They Seem at present to dread American Ships and Seamen more than any other. Their Jealousy of our Navigation is so Strong, that it is odds if it does not Stimulate them to hazard their own Revenue.

I am, my dear sir, with Sincere Esteem / your Freind

John Adams

RC (DLC:Jefferson Papers); internal address: “His Excellency Mr Jefferson.” LbC (Adams Papers); APM Reel 111.


In JA’s absence, since mid-1784, C. W. F. Dumas had acted as the American chargé d’affaires at The Hague. But without a commission from Congress, he lacked official status; hence Jefferson’s exchange with Dumas over how to address correspondence to him (from Jefferson, 28 July 1785, note 3, above). The 1775 letter referred to by JA was Benjamin Franklin’s of 9 Dec. 1775, wherein he requested that Dumas use his presence at The Hague to discover “the disposition of the several courts with respect to such assistance or alliance, if we should apply for the one, or propose the other.” Dumas was authorized to use the letter, written at the request of the committee of secret correspond ence, as his credentials in any discussions with foreign diplomats. John Dickinson and John Jay signed the letter, below Franklin’s signature, on behalf of the committee. Although never formally commissioned, Dumas acceded to Franklin’s request and provided Congress, the several joint commissions, and particularly JA with important services and intelligence (Franklin, Papers , 22:287–291; JA, D&A , 3:9–10).


JA’s letter to William Carmichael was of 29 July 1785, above. For Carmichael’s brief reply of 18 Aug. (Adams Papers), see note 2 to the 29 July letter; for a more detailed reply, see Carmichael’s 2 Sept. letter, below.


The French arrêts of 10 and 17 July 300severely restricted the import of foreign manufactures, effectively banning those from Britain, the largest source of such goods. Most British textiles, as well as polished steel, crystal, and glass were affected, with French merchants forced to pay prohibitive duties. When news of the arrêts reached London in late July, it occasioned a “very general alarm” among those involved in the trade and they appealed to the Marquis of Carmarthen for help. Carmarthen reportedly described the French action as unprovoked, and he promised to pursue every avenue open to the government to obtain relief (Jefferson, Papers , 8:362; Recueil général des anciennes lois françaises, depuis l’an 420 jusqu’à la révolution de 1789, ed. A. J. L. Jourdan and others, 29 vols., Paris, 1827, 28:67; J. Holland Rose, “The Franco-British Commercial Treaty of 1786,” English Historical Review, 23:712 [Oct. 1908]; The Scots Magazine, 47:351–352 [July 1785]). Jefferson enclosed copies of the ordinances, not found, with his 10 Aug. reply, below. For the French motives in issuing the arrêts and JA’s opinion of them, see his 10 Aug. letter to Jay, below. For the 30 Aug. 1784 arrêt dealing with American trade with the French West Indies, see vol. 16:552–553.