Papers of John Adams, volume 17

From the Marquis de Lafayette, 8 May 1785 Lafayette, Marie-Joseph-Paul-Yves-Roch-Gilbert du Motier, marquis de Adams, John
From the Marquis de Lafayette
My dear friend Paris May the 8th 1785

Inclosed you will find what I intended to Carry this Morning— but the duke de Choiseùil’s death which Happened About twèlve o’ clock prevented my going out of town—1 The Bargain Has Been altered over and over, and I Have at last Secured the following advantages— 1stly the Vessels may be Americans 2dly the More precious part of the oil, Called Spermicity May Be left out— 3dly By the Contract it Rests with the American Society to obtain a diminution of duties which all lay at their Charge— By the Passports not only foreign but also National duties are taken off, and all the Anchorage, pilotage and other plagues of the kind which Give the Undertakers an extraordinary profit over and above the Common profits of other people who are admitted to sell their oils.


if You think the Bargain is good, Your Son might Carry the proposition to our New England friends, and take charge of the Samples of oils that will Be Ready to Morrow—in which Case, I would propose His Meeting mr̃ jefferson where a man of the police will attend at Whatever Hour in the Morning You please to Appoint— when You Send Back the Papers, I will Show them to mr̃ jefferson and know from Him if it is Convenient we Should wait upon Him, Your Son, the police man and myself about ten in the Morning.2

God Bless You.


RC (DLC:Jefferson Papers).


Until his dismissal in 1770, Étienne François, Duc de Choiseul, served Louis XV in various ministerial capacities, including that of foreign affairs (Hoefer, Nouv. biog. générale ).


According to JA, the Marquis de Lafayette’s interest in promoting the French import of American whale oil stemmed from a dinner conversation where JA indicated that the Frenchman could advance Franco-American commerce by providing information on the French market for the “White sperma Caeti Oil of New England” (to Nathaniel Barrett, 2 Dec. 1785, LbC, APM Reel 111). Lafayette’s efforts led to the contract described in this letter, which Pierre Tourtille Sangrain signed on 7 May for the supply of approximately a thousand tons of American whale oil to light the streets of Paris. JQA carried the proposal and samples of the required oil to America and on 6 Sept. delivered them to Samuel Breck Sr., Boston merchant and French maritime agent (JQA, Diary , 1:264, 313, 320; Jefferson, Papers , 8:144). Sangrain’s proposal, as Lafayette indicates, was predicated on the formation of an American company that effectively would hold a monopoly for the export of American oil. Prevailing business practices, however, and the Americans’ belief that merchants acting individually were better suited to the undertaking led them to appoint Nathaniel Barrett to renegotiate the terms of the agreement. For the merchants’ reasoning on the matter, see Barrett’s [ante 29] Nov. letter; and also Stephen Higginson’s 8 Aug. letter at note 2, both below. On 9 May JQA went to Lafayette’s and Thomas Jefferson’s residences “upon the subject, of the Importation of our whale oil, into this Country,” but when Lafayette failed to appear JQA returned to Auteuil (JQA, Diary , 1:264).

From Thomas Cushing, 9 May 1785 Cushing, Thomas Adams, John
From Thomas Cushing
Sir, Boston May 9th. 1785

The Agents appointed by the Genl. Assembly of this State to conduct & prosecute their Claims to certain Lands lying to the Westward, controverted & disputed by the State of New York, have represented to me that in order to support this Claim they should wish to be furnished with an Authenticated Copy of the Patent of King James 1st. to the Council of Plimouth given in 1620 & the original Grant of Massachusetts by the Council of Plimouth to Rosewell & others, if it can be had, if not an authenticated Copy, if to be procured, & if not, then the best evidence of it that can be obtained—1 Of the former only a Copy of a Copy can be had in America, of the 105latter even an unattested Copy cannot be procured— Chalmer in his Political Annals2 mentions the first as remaining in the Plantation Office, perhaps the other may be there too, or in the hands of the Posterity of some of the first Patentees, or some of the first Assistants under King Charles Charter while the Government continued in England— The Agents after making diligent Search cannot procure these Papers from among our records, they have therefore requested me, knowing that I had the honor to correspond with you, to write to you upon the Subject. I do not write to you in my public Capacity, neither to you as a Minister, but in my private Character & to you as a friend who I am persuaded would willingly do any thing in your Power to serve the interest of the State to which you belong— If therefore you would be so kind as to imploy some person to obtain the Paper above referred to you would do an essential service to this Commonwealth, & the Agents who are furnished with money to prosecute this business have desired me to assure you that they will cheerfully refund any expen[ce] you may be at upon this occasion. If you should be so happy as to obtain these Papers please to transmit them to me by the first opportunity—

I am, With great Esteem & Respect, / Your most Obedt. hb̃le Servt.

Thomas Cushing

The Agents to prosecute the Claim above referr’d to are

Honb̃le John Lowell James Sullivan Theophilus Parsons & Rufus King Esqrs.

RC (Adams Papers); internal addresses: “His Excellency John Adams Esqr.” and “His Excellency John Adams Esqr.” Some loss of text due to wear at the edge.


Cushing’s request is probably owing to Rufus King’s 23 Feb. letter to his colleagues John Lowell and James Sullivan (Smith, Letters of Delegates , 22:211–213). Writing from New York City where Congress was meeting, King informed them that William Samuel Johnson, the Connecticut lawyer representing Massachusetts in the boundary dispute (vol. 16:558), had indicated that the documents requested by Cushing would be useful in presenting the commonwealth’s case. JA apparently never replied to this letter from Cushing, but on 4 Jan. 1786 he wrote to King that he was enclosing a copy of one of the documents that he had procured at the cost of fifteen guineas, which should be paid to Cotton Tufts (NHi:King Papers; AFC , 7:74, 75). On 12 April 1786, King again wrote to his colleagues, this time including Theophilus Parsons, indicating that he had received from JA “an attested copy of the Letters patent of King James the 1st to the council of Plymouth” (Smith, Letters of Delegates , 23:229–230).


George Chalmers, Political Annals of the Present United Colonies, from Their Settlement to the Peace of 1763, London, 1780. A copy is in JA’s library at MB.