Papers of John Adams, volume 17

To Richard Henry Lee, 26 August 1785 Adams, John Lee, Richard Henry
To Richard Henry Lee
Private Sir, Grosvenor-Square. Augst: 26th. 85.

This letter will be delivered you by Mr: C. S. of Boston, who has lived much in my family & done me much service as a private Seretary, and that without any other reward than the opinion that he was doing service to his Country.—

The time was approaching when the K. of Prussia was to make the annual review of his Army, & the month of August is so disagreable & unwholesome in London that all the world flies from it, as fm. infection. At that time I was surprised by a letter fm. Colo: Smith, requesting my Consent to make a tour to the review. I was surprised, because I had not suspected any such design; but when I reflected upon the thing I was not surprised any longer.— As the Ministers wd. probably be much out of town, & all good Company in the Country—as Colo: Smith had been attacked with a slight fever, wh: I know by horrid experience to be a dangerous thing in these great Cities in Summer—and as the object he had in view was one of the greatest that a Soldier can see, & the most worthy his ambition, I readily consented to his projected excursion; desiring him, howr:, not to forget to make all the enquiries he could concerning the resources wh: the Commerce of his Country might find, in the Countries he shd. pass thro’, in case it shd. be too much obstructed in England; particularly what markets might there be found for all the articles of our produce—more especially Rice, Tobacco & Oyl— Colo: Smith has been very active & attentive to business, & is much respected. He has as much honor & spirit as any man I ever knew. I suspect, howr:, that a dull diplomatic life, especially in a department so subordinate, will not long fulfill all the wishes of his 366generous heart— His principles are those of his Country, & his abilities are worthy of them. He has not the poetical genius of Humphreys; but has much superior talents & a more independant temper, as a Politician. In short, you could not have given me a man more to my taste.—

This Country, Sir, I fear will put us on a severe Commercial struggle with them— If we unite & are firm, it will end in the grandeur & glory of our Country. I hope the Massa: Act of navigation speaks the sense of every one of the 13. States— I suspect that this Country will not be soon moved by it: that she may do some rash thing: that she may attempt Retaliations &c: &c To be explicit, I believe she will try the experiment & fully determine the question, whether we can encrease our manufactures at home—whether we can find markets & supplies in other European nations—whether we can encrease our shipping in a short time to any great degree— She is unwise in this; because when we shall have determined these questions against her prejudices we shall find advantages, wh: we shall not be willing to give up: But this Country has long been troubled with After-wit—“Je suis convaincu, said the K. the other day to the Spanish Minister & me, as we stood together at the Levee, que le plus grand ennemi du Bien et le mieux—” & then cast his eye into mine as if he felt that I shd. apply it.1 I did apply it you may easily suppose; but I did not tell him so, nor betray to him that I did by my eye. This Country has not yet lost its appetite for the “Mieux,” and is as far as ever fm. being contented with the “Bien”—

You may well suppose that I shall not become a favorite in this Country. An American Minister here must be constantly employed in combating prejudices. He will not be very talkative at all and what he says will be decent & well thought; but wn: questions of fact are asked him he must answer, & his answers will be constantly contradictory to the prejudices & wishes of those who ask Questions— There is a strong propensity in this people to beleive that America is weary of her Independance: that she wishes to come back: that the States are in Confusion: Congress has lost its authority: the Governments of the States have no influence: no laws: no order: poverty, distress: ruin & wretchedness: that no navigation acts we can make will be obeyed: no duties we can lay on can be collected: smugglers by nature & habit: that smuggling will defeat all our prohibitions, imposts & revenues: that we have so many harbors, rivers & inletts that no laws can prevent smuggling— This they love to believe now, tho’ they wd. not hear a word of it before the 367revolution— When an American is asked, he is obliged to contradict all these fond flatteries of their self-love, wh: is not the way you know to gain the Complaisance of mankind.—

My paper is ended & I am your friend / &c: &c.

LbC in Charles Storer’s hand (Adams Papers); internal address: “Mr: President Lee.”; APM Reel 111.


I am convinced that the greatest enemy of the good is the perfect.

From Richard O’Bryen, Isaac Stephens, and Zaccheus Coffin, 27 August 1785 O’Bryen, Richard Stephens, Isaac Coffin, Zaccheus Adams, John
From Richard O’Bryen, Isaac Stephens, and Zaccheus Coffin
Honoured Sir Algir August the 27th. 17851

We The Subjects of the United States having the misfortune of Being taken by the Cruisers of Algires and has Been made Slaves of take the Liberty of Informing you of oure present Situation the Severities of which is Beyond youre Immaginition—

The Honourble Charles Logie Esqr. British Counsl. Has taken three masters of Vessells of us Out &c. keep us at his house paying to The King of This port 2 dollrs. per month for us, per—man— We were Stript & Left destitute, of Every thing Hoping you will take oure Grivances into Consideration & make Some Extra provision for us Besides what the King of Cruelties allows, otherwise my people will perish. For I assure you it is impossible The Can Live—on what the are allowed— all other nations Whose Subjects falls in the Hands of those Heathens, allows Them—two, or Three Dollars per month The Winter approachig and The Being Entirely Bare of Cloaths The will Be in A poor Missereable Situation

Hoping you will make oure Distressed Situation known to Congress and That the will Fall on Some plan for oure Speedy Redemption The Are fitting out at present and will Cruise to The Nd. of The western Islands, and in The mouth of The Channell The are well informed of oure Trade & will Spread all over the Atlantick

Ship Daupin Richd. OBryen Master Belonging to Mathew & Thomas Irwin Merchants of The City of Philadelphia— The Ship Daupin Was taken the 30th. July—from St. Ubes two days out Bound to Philadelphia, & is not yet arrivd. The Schooner Maria Isack Stepens Master Belonging To Mr. Wm. Foster & Co. of Boston, taken The 24th. Capt. Zachriah Coffin was passenger in the Ship Daupin—2 Hoping you will Be So kind as to Write to Charles Logie 368Esqr. for his picular Sivillity to us, &, to, assist, My men which is in A Misserable Situation—

We, are twenty one in Number, of Americans

We Remain youre Most Obedt. & Humble / Petitioners—

Richard OBryen Isack Stephens Zachrs. Coffin

RC (Adams Papers); addressed: “To / John Adams Esqr. / Plenipotentiary For The / United States of America / In London”; endorsed: “Letter from Algiers / from / O Brian / Stevens / Coffin.”


O’Bryen had written to JA on 16 Aug. (Adams Papers) to say he had secured a promise of support from Charles Logie, the British consul at Algiers, and that “a few Lines to him from you, would, perhaps Ese us a little.” There is no record of any correspondence between JA and Logie in the Adams Papers, but see JA’s reply to O’Bryen of 6 Oct., below.


Capt. Zaccheus (Zacharias) Coffin of Nantucket, Mass., died of consumption in late 1787, while still in captivity (Jefferson, Papers , 12:288, 549). For more on the welfare of American captives in the Barbary States, see Descriptive List of Illustrations, No. 8, above.