Papers of John Adams, volume 17

From Samuel Adams

To Thomas Jefferson

From Thomas Jefferson, 17 August 1785 Jefferson, Thomas Adams, John
From Thomas Jefferson
Dear Sir Paris Aug. 17. 1785.

I received yesterday your favor of the 7th. {this was 4. days later than} mr̃ Short’s of the {same date.}1 it {had evidently been opened. so we must} therefore consider {both govm̃ts as possessed of it’s contents.} I write you a line at this moment merely to inform you that {mr̃ Barclay is willing} to {go to treat with} the {Barbary states if we desire it} & that {this will} not {take him from any employment here.} it will {only retard his voiage to America. let me know your sentiments hereon.} the number 1672. is an error in the alphabetical side of the cypher. turn to the numerical side & in the 11th. column & 72d line you will see the number it should have been & what it was meant to signify. correct your alphabetical side accordingly if it is wrong as mine was. we are told this morning that the {Cardinal Prince} of {Roan} is {confined} to {his Chamber} under {Guard} for {reflection} on the {Queen. who was present} in {Counscil herself on his examination} the first {time She} was ever {there—} & the first {instance} of so {high an eclesiastical character} under actual {force}2 Adieu / Your friend & servt.

Th: Jefferson

RC (Adams Papers); endorsed: “Mr Jefferson Aug. 17. / ansd 23. 1785”; notation by CFA: “not published.” Tr of decoded document in CFA’s hand (Adams Papers). The first section of encoded text has been supplied from Jefferson’s Dft (DLC: Jefferson Papers) and the second section, referring to the Diamond Necklace Affair, 341has been supplied from AA2 to JQA, 26 Aug.–13 Sept. 1785, for which see AFC , 6:304.


For William Short’s letter, see Jefferson, Papers , 8:358–359.


Although given here as “Roan,” Jefferson means Louis René Edouard, Cardinal de Rohan, then imprisoned in the Bastille and awaiting trial for his part in the Diamond Necklace Affair, a scandal that bolstered criticism of the court’s decadence. After Marie Antoinette refused to purchase a 2,800-carat rivière necklace, Rohan’s mistress Jeanne de La Motte connived to acquire it, supposedly on the queen’s behalf, in order to enhance her wealth and increase their influence at Versailles, and even forged a letter from Marie Antoinette to Rohan approving the sale. While Rohan made illusory promises to pay, La Motte sold the stones in and around Paris, using the money to buy a luxurious estate. By summer the scheme unraveled, and Louis XVI ordered Rohan’s arrest on 15 August. Popularly depicted as a martyr of royal absolutism, Rohan brought his private library and servants to jail, where he entertained visitors with oysters and champagne. At the resulting trial, Rohan was acquitted and La Motte was flogged, branded, and imprisoned (Schama, Citizens , p. 203–210). Jefferson wrote to AA on 4 Sept. that “there results from this two consequences not to his [Rohan’s] honour, that he is a debauchee, and a booby” ( AFC , 6:333).