Papers of John Adams, volume 17

To John Jay

To Thomas Jefferson

From Thomas Jefferson, 6 August 1785 Jefferson, Thomas Adams, John
From Thomas Jefferson
Dear Sir Paris Aug. 6. 1785.

I now inclose you a draught of a treaty for the Barbary states, together with the notes Dr. Franklin left me.1 I have retained a 307presscopy of this draught, so that by referring to any article, line & word in it you can propose amendments & send them by the post without any body’s being able to make much of the main subject.2 I shall be glad to receive any alterations you may think necessary as soon as convenient that this matter may be in readiness. I inclose also a letter containing intelligence from Algiers. I know not how far it is to be relied on.3 my anxiety is extreme indeed as to these treaties. what are we to do? we know that Congress have decided ultimately to treat. we know how far they will go. but unfortunately we know also that a particular person has been charged with instructions for us, these five months who neither comes nor writes to us. what are we to do? it is my opinion that if mr̃ Lambe does not come in either of the packets (English or French) now expected, we ought to proceed. I therefore propose to you this term, as the end of our expectations of him, & that if he does not come we send some other person. Dr. Bancroft or capt Jones occur to me as the fittest. if we consider the present object only, I think the former would be most proper: but if we look forward to the very probable event of war with those pirates, an important object would be obtained by capt Jones’s becoming acquainted with their ports, force, tactics &c let me know your opinion on this. I have never mentioned it to either, but I suppose either might be induced to go. present me affectionately to the ladies & Colo. Smith & be assured of the sincerity with which I am Dr. Sir / Your friend & servt.

Th: Jefferson

RC and enclosure (Adams Papers); endorsed: “Mr Jefferson Aug. 6. / ansd. 18. 1785”; docketed by AA2: “T. Jefferson 6. Augt: 1785.”; notation by CFA: “published in his Writings / vol 1. p 267,” that is, Jefferson, Correspondence, ed. Randolph, 1:267–268. FC in Jefferson’s hand (Adams Papers), for which see note 2.


The text of the enclosed draft treaty to be concluded with the Barbary States is printed in Jefferson, Papers , 8:347–353. He composed it using a table of reference notes that Benjamin Franklin compiled from vols. 5 and 7 of Jean Dumont’s Corps universel diplomatique and gave to Jefferson before he left France in mid-July (Jefferson, Papers , 8:353). JA could follow the references to Dumont, included by Jefferson in the draft’s left margin beside each article, because he had purchased a copy of the Corps universel diplomatique in 1780 and it remains in his library at MB (vol. 9:113). Jefferson’s notes, which presumably follow those of Franklin, indicate that the articles of the draft Barbary treaty are derived from his 1784 model treaty of amity and commerce (Jefferson, Papers , 7:479–490), referred to in the notes as the “General Draught”; the Dutch-Moroccan Treaty of 1610, the Franco-Moroccan Treaty of 1682, the Dutch-Moroccan Treaty of Peace, Navigation, and Commerce of 1683, the Franco-Algerian Treaty of 1684, the Anglo-Algerian Treaty of Peace and Commerce of 1686 (Dumont, Corps universel diplomatique , vol. 5, 2d part, p. 156–60; vol. 7, 2d part, p. 18–19, 64–70, 75–77, 126–127); and Prussia’s 30 April 1781 ordinance regarding navigation and commerce governing its neutrality in the war then subsisting between Britain, France, and the Netherlands (Scott, Armed Neutralities , p. 391–396). Arts. 2 and 9 of the draft both demanded the immediate release of American captives and property 308“brought by any Barbary vessel into Marocco,” and leaned heavily on Dutch-Moroccan relations as a viable model for peaceable trade.


How Jefferson’s FC, a press copy endorsed by JA “Barbary” and containing the deletions in Art. 17 suggested by JA in his reply of 18 Aug. 1785, below, came to be in the Adams Papers requires some explanation, as Jefferson would have needed it to prepare fair copies of the draft treaty for Thomas Barclay and John Lamb to take on their missions. With one exception, Jefferson recorded on the FC the changes in Art. 17 suggested by JA in his reply of 18 Aug, below. By February 1786, American relations with the Barbary States had deteriorated further, and JA wrote to Jefferson requesting a copy and calling him to London for urgent consultation. It is likely that Jefferson delivered the FC when he met with JA on 11 March (Jefferson, Papers , 9:285–288, 295, 326).


This enclosure has not been found but was likely a letter from a “Monsieur de Soulanges” dated 14 July at Toulon and informing French authorities that according to John Paul Jones, “the Algerians have declared War against the United States.” John Bondfield at Bordeaux and Jones at Lorient enclosed copies of Soulanges’ letter in theirs to Jefferson of 14 and 31 July, respectively (Jefferson, Papers , 8:294, 334; PCC, No. 87, I, f. 87–89). Jones also enclosed a copy of Soulanges’ letter in his to John Jay of 6 Aug., for the effect of which see Jay’s first letter of 1 Nov., and note 1, below. Soulanges’ warning was soon reality when, on 25 July, Algerian corsairs seized Isaac Stephens’ ship, the Maria of Boston, and a few days later captured the Dauphin of Philadelphia, Capt. Richard O’Bryen (Frank Lambert, The Barbary Wars: American Independence in the Atlantic World, N.Y., 2005, p. 59). For the plight of the crews of the Maria and the Dauphin, see the 27 Aug. letter from O’Bryen, Stephens, and Zaccheus Coffin, and note 2, below.