Papers of John Adams, volume 17

From Thomas Jefferson, 17 August 1785 Jefferson, Thomas Adams, John
From Thomas Jefferson
Dear Sir Paris Aug. 17. 1785.

I received yesterday your favor of the 7th. {this was 4. days later than} mr̃ Short’s of the {same date.}1 it {had evidently been opened. so we must} therefore consider {both govm̃ts as possessed of it’s contents.} I write you a line at this moment merely to inform you that {mr̃ Barclay is willing} to {go to treat with} the {Barbary states if we desire it} & that {this will} not {take him from any employment here.} it will {only retard his voiage to America. let me know your sentiments hereon.} the number 1672. is an error in the alphabetical side of the cypher. turn to the numerical side & in the 11th. column & 72d line you will see the number it should have been & what it was meant to signify. correct your alphabetical side accordingly if it is wrong as mine was. we are told this morning that the {Cardinal Prince} of {Roan} is {confined} to {his Chamber} under {Guard} for {reflection} on the {Queen. who was present} in {Counscil herself on his examination} the first {time She} was ever {there—} & the first {instance} of so {high an eclesiastical character} under actual {force}2 Adieu / Your friend & servt.

Th: Jefferson

RC (Adams Papers); endorsed: “Mr Jefferson Aug. 17. / ansd 23. 1785”; notation by CFA: “not published.” Tr of decoded document in CFA’s hand (Adams Papers). The first section of encoded text has been supplied from Jefferson’s Dft (DLC: Jefferson Papers) and the second section, referring to the Diamond Necklace Affair, 341has been supplied from AA2 to JQA, 26 Aug.–13 Sept. 1785, for which see AFC , 6:304.


For William Short’s letter, see Jefferson, Papers , 8:358–359.


Although given here as “Roan,” Jefferson means Louis René Edouard, Cardinal de Rohan, then imprisoned in the Bastille and awaiting trial for his part in the Diamond Necklace Affair, a scandal that bolstered criticism of the court’s decadence. After Marie Antoinette refused to purchase a 2,800-carat rivière necklace, Rohan’s mistress Jeanne de La Motte connived to acquire it, supposedly on the queen’s behalf, in order to enhance her wealth and increase their influence at Versailles, and even forged a letter from Marie Antoinette to Rohan approving the sale. While Rohan made illusory promises to pay, La Motte sold the stones in and around Paris, using the money to buy a luxurious estate. By summer the scheme unraveled, and Louis XVI ordered Rohan’s arrest on 15 August. Popularly depicted as a martyr of royal absolutism, Rohan brought his private library and servants to jail, where he entertained visitors with oysters and champagne. At the resulting trial, Rohan was acquitted and La Motte was flogged, branded, and imprisoned (Schama, Citizens , p. 203–210). Jefferson wrote to AA on 4 Sept. that “there results from this two consequences not to his [Rohan’s] honour, that he is a debauchee, and a booby” ( AFC , 6:333).

To Thomas Jefferson, 18 August 1785 Adams, John Jefferson, Thomas
To Thomas Jefferson
Dear Sir Grosvenor Square August 18. 1785

I have received your Favour of the 6. Aug. with the Notes and Project inclosed.

How can We send another Person? We have not in our Full Power authority to Substitute. Will not the Emperor and the Regencies feel their Dignity offended if a Person appears without a Commission from Congress? Do you mean that he Should only agree upon the Terms and transmit them to Us to be Signed? if you think this Method will do, I have no Objection to either of the Persons you mention—nor to Mr Short. Dr Bancroft is the greatest Master of the French Language. if We conclude to Send either he Should take an attested Copy at least of all our Commissions for Africa, and a Letter and Instructions from Us. if there is any Truth in any of the Reports of Captures by the Algerines, Lambes Vessell may be taken by them.

Whoever is Sent by Us Should be instructed to corresp[ond] constantly with Us, and to Send, by whatever conveyance he may find, whether thro’ Spain France, England Holland or otherwise, Copies of his Letters to Us to Congress. He should be instructed farther to make dilligent Inquiry concerning the Productions of those Countries which would answer in America, and those of the United States which might find a Market in Barbary, and to transmit all Such Information to Congress as well as to Us.

I have read over the Project with Care. The 17. Article appears to 342be carried farther than our Countrymen will at present be willing to go. I presume the three last Words of the third Line of this 17. Article must be left out; and in the fourth line, the 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. & 12th Words; and in the Sixth Line, the first, Second, third, fourth, and fifth Words.1

You have Seen by this Time our Massachusetts Navigation Act, and the Reasonings and Dispositions of all the States tend the Same Way at present; so that We must conform our Proceedings, as I Suppose, to their Views.

My Regards to Messrs Humphreys, Mazzai, Williamos, &c and believe / me ever yours

John Adams

Mr Short left Us on Tuesday. Dr Bancroft is just come in. This Letter will be delivered to you by Mr James Smith, a Gentleman of South Carolina, a Relation of Mrs Adams, whom I beg leave to introduce to You and recommend to your Civilities.2

RC (DLC:Jefferson Papers); internal address: “His Excellency Mr Jefferson.” LbC (Adams Papers); APM Reel 111. Text lost due to a tight binding has been supplied from the LbC.


Art. 17, with the passages marked that JA suggested for removal is as follows: “17. the subjects & citizens of either party may frequent the coasts & countries of the other, & reside & trade there in all sorts of produce, manufactures & merchandize, the purchase & sale of which shall be free to all persons of every description unembarrassed by monopoly, paying no greater duties than the natives of the country or the most favoured nation pay; & they shall enjoy all the rights, privileges & exemptions in navigation & commerce which native subjects or citizens, or the subjects of the most favored nation enjoy. they shall also be free to pass & repass with their merchandize within the territories of the other without being obliged to obtain passports.” Jefferson entered the second and third of JA’s suggested deletions on his retained press copy (see his letter of 6 Aug., and note 2, above) but did not mark the first. In the absence of the fair copies of the draft treaty given to Thomas Barclay and John Lamb, it is impossible to know what form the article finally took.


James Smith of South Carolina (1761–1835), AA’s third cousin once removed, then studying law at the Middle Temple, also carried AA’s 21 Aug. letter to Jefferson ( AFC , 6:292, 293; William C. Davis, Rhett: The Turbulent Life and Times of a Fire-eater, Columbia, S.C., 2001, p. 7, 8, 87).