Papers of John Adams, volume 17

To Samuel Adams, 15 August 1785 Adams, John Adams, Samuel
To Samuel Adams
Dear Sir, Grosvenor Square. Westminster. 15th. August. 1785.

I recd. your letter by Monsr: de le Tombe yesterday:1 Every line from your hand gives me pleasure. The Embarassments thrown in the way of our trade will at least have one good effect: they will break a few deceitfull bubbles. They ought to do greater good by curing the People at large of a dangerous distemper brought upon them by the war—the itch of extravagance.— It is melancholy that no invention can be hit upon to guard mankind from the contagion of luxury— Such is the ardent disposition to it that nothing but necessity ever did restrain them. My friends the Dutch have been restrained from only in a degree, and that only by their eternal enemy the Sea, and by the neighborhood of three devouring Monsters France, England & Austria, which threaten alternately to swallow them up— It is a great number of years that I have been fixed in the belief that our Countrymen have in them a more ungovernable passion for Luxury than any People upon earth. The Causes of this would be curious to examine. The fact is indisputable, and you may live to see the day when the ravages of this fury may convince you that you have labored in vain. I am not so sanguine, as my friend Dr: Price, in my expectations of the vast improvement & reformation of Mankind from the American Revolution:2 Yet I hope it will be many years before the progress of Luxury shall have wrought in America so general a destrustion of principle as it has in England—


The measures which all the States must take to counteract the British Policy, by opposing Navigation-Acts to Navigation-Acts, will give a long & severe check to prodigality— In this point of view British jealousy and ill will may befriend us.—

I am, Sir, with great esteem, / Yrs: &c: &c

LbC in Charles Storer’s hand (Adams Papers); internal address: “Honble: Saml: Adams Esqr:”; APM Reel 111.


Of 2 July, above.


A reference to Richard Price’s Observations on the Importance of the American Revolution, London, 1784.

To Thomas Cushing, 15 August 1785 Adams, John Cushing, Thomas
To Thomas Cushing
Sir, Grosvenor-Square. Westminster. 15th. August. 1785.

Last evening Monsr: de le Tombe called upon me with your letter of 3d. July, inclosing the Massachusetts’ Act of Navigation. As you do me the honor to ask my Sentiments of this law, you shall have them without disguise. If the legislature passed it from a sanguine expectation that it will soon force or intimidate the British Ministry into such a treaty of Commerce as we desire, or can agree to, they will be disappointed. If it was adopted upon mature deliberation, as the beginning of a great System, which must be long & steadily pursued in order to produce its effect, I think it is a wise & manly regulation, which by the impolicy of Great-Britain & France had become necessary. I hope it will be followed by similar laws in all the other States. It may be adopted by every State from New-Hampshire to Pensylvania inclusively without inconvenience; but Maryland, Virginia, the Carolinas, & Georgia, for want of ships at first for their exportations, might meet with a temporary difficulty: It would not however be long, I think, before the other States would build Ships enough for their purposes. Such measures are not probably calculated to make my residence here very delightfull to me; but, as I did not come here upon a party of pleasure, this consideration weighs very little in my scales. As the prejudices of this nation, in favor of their Navigation-Act appear to be so strong, that the Ministry would not have dared to relax it further in our favor, an American Navigation-Act is the only thing wh: will ever stimulate them, or indeed which can ennable them to make a reasonable Adjustment with us— Let us not be too sanguine that even this will do it soon. Our states must unite in it to make it sensibly felt. This will be a work of time 338& a trial of patience, & it may take a turn to hostility. We should be prepared in our own minds for whatever may happen— Our Countrymen have too light ideas of their foreign Affairs.—

I am, Sir, with great esteem, / Yrs: &c: &c

LbC in Charles Storer’s hand (Adams Papers); internal address: “His Honor / Lt: Governor Cushing.”; APM Reel 111.