Papers of John Adams, volume 17

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.

To John Jay, 28 August 1785 Adams, John Jay, John
To John Jay
Sir Grosvenor Square Westminster Aug. 28. 1785

I do myself the Honour to inclose to Congress the Statute of 25. G. 3. c. 81. for the better securing the Duties payable on Tobacco.

and another Statute of the 25. G. 3. c. 67. to prohibit the Exportation to foreign Parts, of Tools and Utensils made Use of in the Iron and Steel Manufactures of this Kingdom: and to prevent the Seducing of Artificers or Workmen, employed in those Manufactures, to go into Parts beyond the Seas.

The prohibited Tools are all enumerated. Hand Stamps, Dog head Stamps, Pulley Stamps, Stamps of all Sorts, Hammers and Anvils for Stamps, Screws for Stamps, Iron Rods for Stamps, Presses of all Sorts, in Iron, Steel, or other Metal, which are used for giving Impressions to Metal, or any Parts of these several Articles: Presses of all Sorts called, Cutting out Presses, Beds and Punches to be used therewith; Piercing Presses of all Sorts, Beds and Punches to be used therewith, either in Parts or pieces, or fitted together; Iron or Steel Dies to be used in Stamps or Presses, either with or without Impressions on them; Rollers of Cast Iron, wrought Iron or Steel for rolling of Metals, and Frames for the Same; Flasks or Casting Moulds, and Boards used therewith; Laths of all sorts for turning, burnishing, polishing, either the whole together or Seperate Parts 369 370thereof; Lathe Strings, polishing Brushes, Scoring or shading Engines, Presses for horn Buttons, Dies for horn Buttons, Sheers for cutting of Metal, Rolled Steel, Rolled Metal with Silver thereon Parts of Buttons not filled up into Buttons, or in an unfinished State; Engines for Chacing, Stocks for casting Buckles, Buttons and Rings; cast Iron Anvils and Hammers for forging Mills for Iron and Copper; Roles, Slitters, Beds, Pillars and Frames for Slitting Mills; Die Sinking Tools of all Sorts, Engines for making Button Shanks, Laps of all Sorts, Drilling Engines, Tools for pinching of Glass, Engines for covering of Whips, polishing Brushes, Bars of Metal covered with Gold or Silver, Iron or Steel Screw Plates, Pins, and stocks for making Screws, or any other Tool or Utensil whatsoever.

I have transcribed this Catalogue, because I think it is very proper that Gentlemen should attend, a little to it. It Shews the Spirit of this Country, towards the United states, and Summarily comprehends a Volume of Politicks for Us. I Suppose these Tools may be had in France, Germany And elsewhere, if a British statute was a Bar to our Getting them in Great Britain. I think it would be worth while for our American Academies to make Collections of them for their Musæums. Such a Collection would be as great a Curiosity and more profitable to our Country than more costly Collections of Shells, Birds, Beasts or Fishes. if however Such a Collection could not be made a Work may be had in Paris entituled “Art et Metier” in which I Suppose every one of them is destribed and represented by an engraved Stamp.1 from which our Workmen may copy it.

With great Esteem your humble / sert

John Adams

RC (PCC, No. 84, V, f. 621–624); addressed by Charles Storer: “His Excellency / John Jay Esqr: / &c: &c: &c.”; internal address: “Mr Secretary Jay”; endorsed: “Adams John Augt. 28. 1785.” LbC (Adams Papers); APM Reel 111.


Denis Diderot, Encyclopédie, ou, Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, Geneva, 1778–1779. Selected volumes of Diderot’s illustrated reference work on art and trades, several containing significant annotations by JA, are in JA’s library at MB ( Catalogue of JA’s Library ).