Papers of John Adams, volume 17

To John Jay, 6 August 1785 Adams, John Jay, John
To John Jay
Dear Sir Grosvenor Square Westminster August 6. 1785 1

I find the Spirit of the Times very different from that which you and I Saw, when We were here together, in the months of November and december 1783.2

Then, the Commerce of the United States had not fully returned to these Kingdoms: Then, the Nation had not digested, its System, nor determined to adhere So closely to its navigation Acts, relatively 305to the United States: Then, it was common in Conversation, to hear a respect and regard for America, professed and even boasted of.

Now, the Boast is that our Commerce has returned to its old Channells and that it can flow in no other. Now the Utmost Contempt of our Commerce is freely expressed, in Pamphlets, Gazettes Coffee houses and in common Street Talk: I wish I could not add to this, the Discourses of Cabinet Councillors, and Ministers of State, as well as Members of both Houses of Parliament.

The national Judgment and popular Voice, is so decided in favour of the Navigation Acts, that neither Administration nor Opposition, dare avow a Thought of relaxing them farther than has been already done.

This decided Cast has been given to the public Opinion and the national Councils, by two Facts, or rather Presumptions. the first is that in all Events this Country is Sure of the american Commerce. even in case of War, they think, that British Manufactures will find their Way to the United States, through France, Holland the Austrian Low Countries, Spain, Portugal, Sweeden, the French and Dutch West Indies, and even through Canada And Nova Scotia. the Second is, that the American States are not and cannot be united. The landed Interest will never join with the Commercial Interest, nor the Southern States with the northern in any Measures of Retaliation, or expressions of Resentment. These Things have been So often affirmed to this People by the Refugees, and they have So often repeated them to one another, that they now fully believe them. and I am firmly perswaded they will try the Experiment, as long as they can maintain the Credit of their Stocks. It is our Part then to try our Strength. You know, better than I do whether the States will give Congress, the Power, and whether Congress, when they have the Power, will judge it necessary or expedient to exert it, in its Plenitude.

You was present in Congress, Sir, in 1774, when many Members discussed in detail the commercial Relations, between the United States, then United Colonies, and Great Britain, Ireland the British West Indies, and all other Parts of the British Empire and Shewed to what a vast amount, the Wealth, Power and Revenue of Great Britain would be affected, by a total Cessation of Exports and Imports.3 The British Revenue is now in So critical a Situation, that it might be much sooner and more essentially affected, than it could be then. You remember however, Sir, that although the Theory was demonstrated the Practice was found very difficult.


Britain has ventured to begin commercial Hostilities. I call them Hostilities, because their direct Object, is not So much the Increase of their own Wealth, Ships or Sailors, as the Diminution of ours. a Jealousy of our naval Power, is the true Motive, the real Passion which actuates them. They consider the United States as their Rival, and the most dangerous Rival they have in the World. I See clearly they are less afraid of an Augmentation of French Ships and Sailors than American They think they foresee, that if the United States, had the same Fisheries, the Same carrying Trade, and the same Merket for ready built Ships which they had ten Years ago, they would be in so respectable a Posture and so happy in their Circumstances, that their own Seamen, Manufacturers and Merchants too would hurry over to them.

If Congress Should enter in earnest into this Commercial War, it must necessarily be a long one, before it can fully obtain the Victory, and it may excite Passions on both Sides which may break out into a military War. it is to be hoped therefore that the People and their Councils will proceed with all the Temperance and Circumspection, which Such a State of Things requires. I would not advize to this commercial Struggle if I could See a Prospect of Justice without it, but I do not. every Appearance is on the contrary. I have not indeed obtained any direct Evidence of the Intentions of the Ministry, because I have received no Answer to any of my Letters to Lord Carmarthen. and it Seems to me, to press them, at this Juncture, with any great Appearance of Anxiety, would not be good Policy. Let them hear, a little more News from Ireland, France—and perhaps Spain, as well as America, which I think will opperate in our favour.

John Adams.

RC (PCC, No. 84, V, f. 585–588). LbC (Adams Papers); APM Reel 111.


In the Letterbook is the notation: “Acknowledged by Mr Jay on the 1. Nov. 1785.” See Jay’s first letter of that date, below.


For JA’s visit to London in late 1783, when Jay also was in England, see vol. 15:index.


JA presumably refers to the debates over nonimportation and nonexportation that resulted in the Continental Association of 20 Oct. 1774 that JA and Jay signed as members of the Massachusetts and New York delegations ( JCC , 1:62–81). For JA’s views at the time and his contributions to the deliberations of the First Continental Congress, see vol. 2:144–163.

From Thomas Jefferson, 6 August 1785 Jefferson, Thomas Adams, John
From Thomas Jefferson
Dear Sir Paris Aug. 6. 1785.

I now inclose you a draught of a treaty for the Barbary states, together with the notes Dr. Franklin left me.1 I have retained a 307presscopy of this draught, so that by referring to any article, line & word in it you can propose amendments & send them by the post without any body’s being able to make much of the main subject.2 I shall be glad to receive any alterations you may think necessary as soon as convenient that this matter may be in readiness. I inclose also a letter containing intelligence from Algiers. I know not how far it is to be relied on.3 my anxiety is extreme indeed as to these treaties. what are we to do? we know that Congress have decided ultimately to treat. we know how far they will go. but unfortunately we know also that a particular person has been charged with instructions for us, these five months who neither comes nor writes to us. what are we to do? it is my opinion that if mr̃ Lambe does not come in either of the packets (English or French) now expected, we ought to proceed. I therefore propose to you this term, as the end of our expectations of him, & that if he does not come we send some other person. Dr. Bancroft or capt Jones occur to me as the fittest. if we consider the present object only, I think the former would be most proper: but if we look forward to the very probable event of war with those pirates, an important object would be obtained by capt Jones’s becoming acquainted with their ports, force, tactics &c let me know your opinion on this. I have never mentioned it to either, but I suppose either might be induced to go. present me affectionately to the ladies & Colo. Smith & be assured of the sincerity with which I am Dr. Sir / Your friend & servt.

Th: Jefferson

RC and enclosure (Adams Papers); endorsed: “Mr Jefferson Aug. 6. / ansd. 18. 1785”; docketed by AA2: “T. Jefferson 6. Augt: 1785.”; notation by CFA: “published in his Writings / vol 1. p 267,” that is, Jefferson, Correspondence, ed. Randolph, 1:267–268. FC in Jefferson’s hand (Adams Papers), for which see note 2.


The text of the enclosed draft treaty to be concluded with the Barbary States is printed in Jefferson, Papers , 8:347–353. He composed it using a table of reference notes that Benjamin Franklin compiled from vols. 5 and 7 of Jean Dumont’s Corps universel diplomatique and gave to Jefferson before he left France in mid-July (Jefferson, Papers , 8:353). JA could follow the references to Dumont, included by Jefferson in the draft’s left margin beside each article, because he had purchased a copy of the Corps universel diplomatique in 1780 and it remains in his library at MB (vol. 9:113). Jefferson’s notes, which presumably follow those of Franklin, indicate that the articles of the draft Barbary treaty are derived from his 1784 model treaty of amity and commerce (Jefferson, Papers , 7:479–490), referred to in the notes as the “General Draught”; the Dutch-Moroccan Treaty of 1610, the Franco-Moroccan Treaty of 1682, the Dutch-Moroccan Treaty of Peace, Navigation, and Commerce of 1683, the Franco-Algerian Treaty of 1684, the Anglo-Algerian Treaty of Peace and Commerce of 1686 (Dumont, Corps universel diplomatique , vol. 5, 2d part, p. 156–60; vol. 7, 2d part, p. 18–19, 64–70, 75–77, 126–127); and Prussia’s 30 April 1781 ordinance regarding navigation and commerce governing its neutrality in the war then subsisting between Britain, France, and the Netherlands (Scott, Armed Neutralities , p. 391–396). Arts. 2 and 9 of the draft both demanded the immediate release of American captives and property 308“brought by any Barbary vessel into Marocco,” and leaned heavily on Dutch-Moroccan relations as a viable model for peaceable trade.


How Jefferson’s FC, a press copy endorsed by JA “Barbary” and containing the deletions in Art. 17 suggested by JA in his reply of 18 Aug. 1785, below, came to be in the Adams Papers requires some explanation, as Jefferson would have needed it to prepare fair copies of the draft treaty for Thomas Barclay and John Lamb to take on their missions. With one exception, Jefferson recorded on the FC the changes in Art. 17 suggested by JA in his reply of 18 Aug, below. By February 1786, American relations with the Barbary States had deteriorated further, and JA wrote to Jefferson requesting a copy and calling him to London for urgent consultation. It is likely that Jefferson delivered the FC when he met with JA on 11 March (Jefferson, Papers , 9:285–288, 295, 326).


This enclosure has not been found but was likely a letter from a “Monsieur de Soulanges” dated 14 July at Toulon and informing French authorities that according to John Paul Jones, “the Algerians have declared War against the United States.” John Bondfield at Bordeaux and Jones at Lorient enclosed copies of Soulanges’ letter in theirs to Jefferson of 14 and 31 July, respectively (Jefferson, Papers , 8:294, 334; PCC, No. 87, I, f. 87–89). Jones also enclosed a copy of Soulanges’ letter in his to John Jay of 6 Aug., for the effect of which see Jay’s first letter of 1 Nov., and note 1, below. Soulanges’ warning was soon reality when, on 25 July, Algerian corsairs seized Isaac Stephens’ ship, the Maria of Boston, and a few days later captured the Dauphin of Philadelphia, Capt. Richard O’Bryen (Frank Lambert, The Barbary Wars: American Independence in the Atlantic World, N.Y., 2005, p. 59). For the plight of the crews of the Maria and the Dauphin, see the 27 Aug. letter from O’Bryen, Stephens, and Zaccheus Coffin, and note 2, below.