Papers of John Adams, volume 17

To John Jay

To Wilhem & Jan Willink and Nicolaas & Jacob van Staphorst

To Thomas Jefferson, 4 November 1785 Adams, John Jefferson, Thomas
To Thomas Jefferson
Dear sir Grosvenor Square Nov. 4. 1785

Mr Preston has at last found and Sent me, your Letter.1 Dr Bancroft Spoke to me, about Commodore Jones’s Demand upon Denmark: but upon looking into the Papers We found that the Commodore is recommended by Congress wholly to the Minister at the 567Court of Versailles, so that We were apprehensive our Powers would be disputed. The Danish Minister however was not here; I offered to go with Dr Bancroft to the Charge D’Affairs, and Speak to him upon the Subject, but the Dr thought it would be Safest to follow the Intentions of Congress, and write to Jones to request you to Speak to the Chargé D’Affairs of Denmark at Paris. I know nothing of the Subject more than you. The offer of 10,000£ was made to Dr Franklin alone.— all that you or I can do is to Speak or write to the Minister or Chargé D’affairs and receive his Answer. The Surrender of the Prizes to the English was an Injury to Jones and his People and to the U. States and ought to be repaired.—2

Will you be so good as to Send me the Ordonnance du Roi of 18 sept, establishing Bounties upon Salt Fish of the French Fisheries and Imposts upon foreign Fish in the Marketts of the French Islands and in Spain Portugal and Italy?—

The Portuguese Minister told me Yesterday that his Court did not choose to treat in France, but I have learned from another Quarter that he had written for and expects full Power to treat here. this you will keep to yourself. as soon as any Proposals are made to me, I will send them to you. But I am every day more and more sensible, We must confine our Exports to our own ships, and therefore Shall be afraid to let any more foreign ships into our Ports, without a rich equivalent for it.— We must encourage Our Manufactures too. All foreign nations are taking an ungenerous Advantage of our Symplicity and philosophical Liberality. We must take heed.—

I dont doubt that all the Courts of Europe would join my Friends the Abbes, in their Prayer that We may be perpetually poor, not indeed like them with a desire that We may be perpetually virtuous, but that Europeans may have all the Profit of American Labour.— Our Country[men] I fancy, have more Wit, if they have not so much Wisdom as Philosophers wish them or so much [Patience] under insidious Policy, as Courtiers would be glad to find in them.

With the most cordial Esteem, your / Friend & sert

John Adams

RC (DLC:Jefferson Papers); addressed: “His Excellency / Thomas Jefferson Esqr / Ambassador of the United States / of America at the Court of / Versailles / Paris”; internal address: “Mr Jefferson.” LbC (Adams Papers); APM Reel 111. Text lost where the seal was removed has been supplied from the LbC.


This is Jefferson’s letter of 11 Oct., above. For Sir Robert Preston and his delay in delivering Jefferson’s letters to JA and AA, see JA’s 24 Oct. letter to Jefferson, and note 1, above.


For the Danish-American dispute over prizes taken during the 1779 Bonhomme Richard expedition, see Jefferson’s 11 Oct. 1785 568 letter and note 3, above. JA’s reluctance to become involved—even at Jefferson’s behest— was that, irrespective of the 29 Oct. 1783 instruction to the peace commissioners on the matter (vol. 15:331–332), it had been Benjamin Franklin, acting in his role as minister to France, who had worked to resolve the issue. Thus, at least in JA’s mind, responsibility for any new initiatives devolved onto Jefferson as Franklin’s replacement as minister, but see Jefferson’s response in his 19 Nov. 1785 letter, below.