Papers of John Adams, volume 17

From Richard Cranch

To John Jay

From John Jay, 14 October 1785 Jay, John Adams, John
From John Jay
Dr: Sir New York 14th: October 1785

Since the Date of my last to you which was the 6th: September last, I have been honored with yours of the 10th: & 26th: June, and 19th: & 29th: July with the Papers mentioned to be enclosed.1 They are now before Congress, and I am persuaded that the strong Marks they bear of Industry and Attention will give them Pleasure.—

I perfectly concur with you in Sentiment respecting what ought to be the Conduct and Policy of the United States, and I am not without Hopes that they will gradually perceive and pursue their true Interests. There certainly is much Temper as well as Talents in Congress, and altho it is not in their Power to do all that should be done, yet they are willing and industrious to do whatever depends upon them. Your Letters I am sure are useful, they desseminate and inforce those fœderal Ideas which cannot be too forceably inculcated or two strongly impressed— Our fœderal Government is incompetent to its Objects, and as it is the Interest of our Country, so it is the Duty of her leading Characters to cooperate in Measures for enlarging and invigorating it. The Rage for Separations and new States is mischevious—it will unless checked scatter our Resources and in every View enfeeble the Union. Your Testimony against such licentious anarchical Proceedings would I am persuaded have great Weight.—2

Your Letters as yet are silent respecting the Evacuation of our frontier Posts— I do not mean to press you either to do or say any Thing unseasonably about it, for there are Times and Tides in human Affairs to be watched and observed— I know your Attention, and therefore rest satisfied that we shall hear from you on this interesting Subject as soon as you ought to write about it.3 During the ensuing Sessions of the Legislatures, I shall watch their Acts, and endeavour to send you such as may respect the Interests of the 511Union. I find it extremely difficult to collect them— when I first came into this Office I wrote a circular Letter to the Governors requesting them among other Things to send me from time to time printed Copies of their Acts— but whatever may have been the Cause, it has so happened that except in two or three Instances this Request has been entirely neglected.—4

With the Newspapers herewith sent, you will find the Requisition of Congress—what its Success will be cannot yet be determined.—5

The Algerines it seems have declared War against us—if we act properly I shall not be very sorry for it. In my Opinion it may lay the Foundation for a Navy, and tend to draw us more closely into a fœderal System. On that Ground only we want Strength, and could our People be brought to see it in that Light and act accordingly we should have little Reason to apprehend Danger from any Quarter.—

Mr. DeMarbois has left us and is gone to St: Domingo where he has an Intendancy— Mr. Otto succeeds him, and appears well disposed.—6

As yet your Place at the Hague is vacant—several Gentlemen are in Nomination, among whom I hear are Mr. Izard and Mr. Madison.—7

Doctr. Franklin is happy at Philadelphia—both Parties are assiduous in their Attentions to him, and it is thought more than probably that he will succeed Mr. Dickenson. I fear, in the Language of our Farmers, that a Day so remarkably fine for the Season may prove a Weather breeder—that is—that he will find it difficult to manage both Parties—for if he gives himself up to one, he must expect Hostility from the other— I wish he may be able to reconcile them, and thereby restore that State to the Degree of Strength and Respectability which from its Population, Fertility and Commerce it ought to possess.—

I congratulate you on the Issue of your Discussions with their High Mightinesses— Mr. Dumas gave us an Account of it, and we are all pleased to find that it terminated as it did.—8

With great and sincere Esteem and Regard / I am Dr: Sir / Your most obt. and very hble: Servt.

John Jay

RC (Adams Papers); internal address: “The Honorable / John Adams Esquire—”; endorsed: “Mr Jay. Oct. 14. 1785. / Ansd. Nov. 24. 1785.”


The “Papers,” enclosed with JA’s 29 July letter, were copies of his 14 and 27 July letters to the Marquis of Carmarthen, all above.


In the final portion of this paragraph concerning the powers of the government under the Confederation, Jay is responding to JA’s letter of 26 June, above, but see also his second letter to Jay of 24 Nov., below.

512 3.

See JA’s first letter to Jay of 24 Nov., below.


Jay’s circular letter, dated 29 Jan., announced his appointment as secretary for foreign affairs, indicated the functions of his office, and requested that he be sent “a copy of the Laws of your State now in force, and also copies of such as may from time to time be passed.” For the copy sent to Pennsylvania, see Penna. Archives , 1st ser., 10:401–402 (1854).


The enclosure has not been found, but Jay presumably refers to Congress’ “requisition for 1785,” which was approved on 27 Sept. and totaled $3 million, of which Massachusetts’ quota was $448,854 ( JCC , 29:765–771). For Tristram Dalton’s characterization of it and past requisitions as “waste paper,” see his letter of 18 Oct., below.


On 30 Aug., François de Barbé-Marbois, French chargé d’affaires, notified Jay and Congress of his appointment as intendant at St. Domingue and his replacement as chargé by Louis Guillaume Otto, former secretary to the Chevalier de La Luzerne. Barbé-Marbois left the United States on 28 Sept. and served as intendant until 1790 when he returned to France to resume his diplomatic career. Otto served as chargé through 1788 and again from Oct. 1789 until July 1791 ( JCC , 29:675–676; Repertorium , 3:144; Hoefer, Nouv. biog. générale ; Dipl. Corr., 1783–1789 , 1:181–182).


Ralph Izard was nominated to be minister to the Netherlands on 24 Aug. 1785, but no vote on his candidacy was apparently ever taken ( JCC , 29:655). No mention of James Madison’s candidacy has been found.


C. W. F. Dumas’ account of JA’s “Discussions” with the States General over his failure to take leave from the States before taking up his post in London apparently consisted of the June letters exchanged by Dumas and JA on the subject, above. Dumas enclosed them with his 26 June letter to the president of Congress, which was received on 3 Oct. (PCC, No. 185, III, f. 141). For a copy of that letter, the original of which, with its enclosures, has been lost, see Dumas’ letterbook, Nationaal Archief:Dumas Papers, Microfilm, Reel 2, f. 724.