Papers of John Adams, volume 17

From Elbridge Gerry, 25 April 1785 Gerry, Elbridge Adams, John
From Elbridge Gerry
Marblehead 25th April 1785

I am favoured my dear sir by the last post with yours of the 9th of september & 12th of December, since the Date of Which some Arrangements which I communicated in my last, & which You are probably e’er this officially informed of, correspond with your Wishes—1

I feel the Force of your observations respecting the Salaries of our Ministers; but Congress in point of œconomy, are very different from what they were when You was a Member. they are I think in some Respects (I mean several of the States) more parsimonious than our House of Representatives. œconomy in public & private Life is indispensible, but there is an infinite Difference between œconomy & parsimony, & yet how often is the latter mistaken for the other? With Industry, the first has a direct Tendency to increase the Wealth & Independence of an Individual or of a Community, whilst the latter, by restricting or withholding the Means destroys prevents this Effect. but the Fact is, the Delegates of about one half the Union look more at the comparitively trifling Expence of a Minister, than at the important object of his negotiation; & too many Members of the other half are so desirous of places themselves, that they will not be very solicitous to make those easy who fill places offices— this You may think is using much Freedom with Congress; but admitting the Fact, I should be very much offended if any person who was not equally disposed with myself to support their Dignity, should follow my Example. I expect however to return to Congress in about a Month, & if there is any prospect of Success, will agitate an Increase of Ministerial Sallaries

I frequently give You Information which I am sure cannot be less painful for You to receive, than for me to transmit.2 but a Minister never can have too much Information, either respecting himself or his Department. mine is disinterested as it respects myself, friendly as it respects You, therefore there is Danger only of my mistaking Facts, not of misrepresenting them. You are to judge of their probability, & of the best Mode of counteracting plans to supplant You. such plans always have been & ever will be set on Foot against officers of an high order, whether civil, military, or ecclesiastical. You do not cannot therefore expect to be free from these Appendages of office, & your Conduct of Silence, in the Affairs of Fr——n & 46Lawrens, has I beleive been much more successful, than any other Measures You could have pursued: & with the Exertions of your Friends in this quarter has silenced opposition.— I know of no officer, (for I do not as some, do, consider those in office as servants) of the publick, except G. Washington, who has had a stronger opposition to him, than yourself: & I conceive it has alike terminated in a Minute Attention to the Conduct, & finally in a general & high approbation of both. Your political Sin, was your Refusal to be a Dupe to foreign Influence, & the Consequence was a most vigorous Exertion of that Influence, & of its Dupes Tools in America, consisting of an high aristocratical party, to dismiss You from, or to teaze You into a Relinquishment of office. this was seen thro by every intelligent Republicans, who considered the Struggle as nothing more, nor less than this, whether Republicanism or Aristocracy should prevail! they were therefore determined to storm the strong Holds of the latter Aristocratics, & the Issue has been, the Downfall in America of foreign Influence, of Cincinnati systems, & of plans to commit the purse strings of America, to a few who could not be comptrolled in their intricate Manœuvres, & instead of financing for, might would have finessed & pilferred the publick, & were in a fair Way of establishing an Influence that would have born down everything before it— I have been in hot Water since last July 1783, & but I think it begins to cool & that in a short Time Republicanism will be triumphant. God grant it may, be, & continue to be so, for I want to be out of publick Life & to enjoy domestic Felicity. there is such a Thing as this, even with Batchelors—3

another dangerous System, that of making Requisitions in Time of peace for Troops, has been successfully combatted & defeated. Recommendations are this Year, as they were the last adopted for raising 700 Men to take possession of the western posts, with this Difference the four States from Connecticut to pennsylva. inclusively, are requested to inlist the Men for three Years, unless sooner discharged.4

By Letters from NYork by the last post, Congress were considering the Reports respecting the Land Office, & Requisitions for supplying the Treasury the present Year. the Amount of the latter as reported by the Grand Committee is 3 Million Dollars one half to be paid in Facilities—5

The affairs of Commerce & Finance are in a bad Situation. the publick begin to be convulsed, & the Evils will, as it appears to me, 47cure themselves. Was I to be particular on either Head, I should say so much, that to save Trouble to both You & myself, I will say nothing more on the Subject—

I am clearly of your opinion respecting a Treaty with the Barbary powers, & hope the Appropriation of 80,000 Dollars of the Dutch Loan by Congress will enable You to proceed in the Business— I am informed by the last post, that Congress had recd your proposition for a new Loan, & some conceived it inconsistent with the Regret You expressed of there having been any foreign Loans made to draw from Amer the United States, their vital Fluid.6

I hope You will consider the Opposition made to You as not being extraordinary. A plan was laid, by some who were in the Confidence of Mr Jefferson, to send him to Spain, keep You at the Hague, & to send Mr Robt R Livingston And Governor Johnson to paris & London, but it was happily defeated, & I beleive You & Mr Jefferson are as well supported, as any two Citizens of the US. would be, in your places.—

I am sure, that my Exertions have been & will be to fix You in your present offices, & I think You will not be attacked very speedily in either of them.7 give my Regards to him as well as the Ladies of your Family & beleive me to be in every Occasion yours sincerely

E Gerry

our State politics would divert You if I had Time to relate them— Mr. H——k has ousted himself Mr B——n will probably succeed him

RC (Adams Papers); internal address: “His Excelly Mr Adams”; endorsed: “Mr Gerry. Marblehead / 25. April 1785.”


For JA’s 9 Sept. and 12 Dec. 1784 letters to Gerry, see vol. 16:317–318, 450–455. In his most recent letter to JA of 24 Feb. 1785, Gerry reported that Congress had that day appointed JA as first U.S. minister to Great Britain (same, p. 526–529). JA officially learned of his appointment on 2 May, when he received John Jay’s letters of 15 and 18 March (same, p. 566, 571).


Gerry’s comments here and in the remainder of the paragraph refer to his warnings to JA that he be less candid in letters that might be seen by members of Congress and probably to JA’s letter of 12 Dec. 1784. There, taking Gerry’s warnings to heart, JA wrote that he had “scorned to put my Pen to Paper in my own Vindication— I was determined to rest my Cause upon what was known to Congress, and my own Character, let the Consequence be what it would” (vol. 15:374, 449; 16:451–452, 526–529).


Gerry likely refers to his opposition to Robert Morris, whom he viewed as anti-republican. Specifically he opposed Morris’ efforts to fund the national debt by levying an impost that would provide Congress with an independent source of income and to commute the promised half pay for life to the officers of the Continental Army to a five-year allowance paid for with securities backed by the national government (vol. 15:371–373, 374). Regarding his desire “to enjoy domestic Felicity,” Gerry did not end his bachelorhood until 1786 when he married Ann Thompson of New York ( Sibley’s Harvard Graduates , 15:246).

48 4.

This refers to Gerry’s opposition to a standing army, which, in June 1784, resulted in a motion by himself and Francis Dana to effectively disband the Continental Army (vol. 16:235–236). For the military establishment adopted by Congress on 12 April 1785, see JCC , 28:247–248.


For the ordinance establishing a land office for the sale of western lands, see the 28 May letter from Richard Henry Lee, and note 2, below. Gerry’s information regarding the report of the grand committee on 31 March likely was derived from Rufus King’s second letter to him of that date ( JCC , 28:214–220; Smith, Letters of Delegates , 22:300).


For Congress’ appropriation of $80,000 as well as other measures designed to facilitate negotiations with the Barbary States, see Jay’s 11 March letter to the commissioners (vol. 16:559–563). With regard to JA’s proposition for a new Dutch loan, Gerry is referring to JA’s 10 Jan. letter to Lee. It reached Congress on or about 31 March and is described by Rufus King in his first letter to Gerry of that date (vol. 16:486–488; Smith, Letters of Delegates , 22:299).


The closing, signature, and postscript were written perpendicularly in left margin.

To Tristram Dalton, 26 April 1785 Adams, John Dalton, Tristram
To Tristram Dalton
Dear Sir. Auteuil April 26. 1785.

My Son is going home, and for his sake as well as my own, I will not let him go without a Line to you.

We are glad to find that Congress are in a Place where they may be comfortably accommodated, and are anxious to learn their Decisions. probably they may adjourn in June, but I hope they will accomplish something towards raising a Fund for the payment of the Interest of their Debts abroad and at home. without this their Credit will suffer. There is the Interest of seven millions of Guilders to pay in Holland for money borrowed under my signature, and I dont believe that I could pay it, out of my private Fortune, if it should be demanded of me. The rent of my Farm in Braintree and my House in Boston, is by no means adequate to it. and my Dutch Friends in general Love their Money so much better than me, that I don’t know what they will do to me, if the public leaves me in the Lurch.

By the last Letters from N. York there is a probability that Mr: Rutledge may be sent to London, or some other Gentleman. I hope he will succeed, for he is a very good man, and bring the English to more rational Conduct. But he must endeavour to bring Americans into good humour too. His success in England will depend in some measure on his Success at home in bringing our Citizens to a right way of thinking and acting. He that will have Equity must do Equity, and qui sentit commodum, Sentire debet et onus1 are maxims, that I learnt at the Bar, and I find the Corps Diplomatique but another kind of Bar, who drink richer Wines, and live in greater Pomp, but do not understand their Maxims so well. Our People must not touch 49the Treaty in Word or Deed if they would strengthen the Hands of their Minister in London.

Secondly. nothing would aid him more than a prompt and effectual Plan for paying the Interest of our Debt in Holland. You may think me a little Wild, but I really believe it is in the power of America to distress England, and to make it feel our Importance in this Way. If the People of America would establish certain Taxes, and Funds for the Payment of Interest in Holland, their Credit there, would be the best. American stock would be the highest upon Change, and we might even prevail with Capitalists, who have large sums in the British Stocks to sell out in order to purchase ours, an operation which would be instantly felt in the stock Exchange in London.

Thirdly, consider, whether the article of our Confederation, which authorises Congress to treat with foreign Powers, is not encumbered with Exceptions in respect to Treaties of Commerce which must be revised.

Fourthly. if any partial Laws are made in any of the States, unfavourable to British Navigation or Manufactures, which may be proper & necessary for what I know, should they not be made upon Condition, and to be void in Case a Treaty should be made with contrary stipulations in it?

Fourthly to be upon their guard against false Reports and Misrepresentations. There are many Strangers in America from Nations who do not wish to see good humour and a good understanding restored, and perhaps some Natives and even good Patriots may have contracted Friendships received Favours or conceived Sentiments, which dispose them to believe unfavourable Accounts too rashly. even Habit and long Resentments very naturally excited and justly entertained before and during the War, may now mislead.

My Paper is too short for more Politics. have you been teaching your Son, Mathematics. if you have not, you have a Pleasure to come. A few Evenings spent with mine, instead of Cards with the fashionable World, have shewn me that after thirty years Interruption a Man loves them as well as ever.


LbC in JQA’s hand (Adams Papers); internal address: “Hon: Mr: Dalton.”; APM Reel 107.


He who experiences the advantage should feel the burden as well.