Papers of John Adams, volume 17

To John Hancock, 2 September 1785 Adams, John Hancock, John
To John Hancock
Sir, Grosvr: Square. 2d. septemr: 1785.

This letter will be delivered you by Mr: S.—a Gent: who has lived sometime in my family at the Hague, in Paris & in London.1 He will inform you in what manner the late Navigation-Act of the Massa: has been recd. here— Some say it is a measure taken in a passion, & not well-weighed in the scales of reason—that we are ruining ourselves—that an act of Parliament will be passed to retaliate upon us & to prohibit our vessells fm. entering the Ports of G: Britain—that the other States will not follow the example &c: &c: &c— On the contrary, I beleive that no measure was ever taken with more profound reflection—that we laying the foundation of wealth & power, and real Independance—that no act of Parliament will be passed to retaliate—& that some of the States will immediately follow the example—& all of them in time—

This Country is taking measures which will hurt us in the Whalefishery. They are encouraging their own by means wh: will give it an activity for some time. They have introduced into it a spirit of gambling, by giving a bounty of £500. to the vessell which takes the most Whales in the Season—£400. to the second &c: &c: 2 This has stimulated many adventurers— But I am persuaded that, excepting the four vessells wh: may receive the bounty, all the rest upon an average will be losers by their enterprises.—

There is such an immense Consumption of oyl in all the great 385Cities of Europe that I shd. think our Merchants might find markets for theirs. If we are indolent, this Country will get the supply of France. I wish I may be mistaken; but I have no hopes that this Court will take off the duty—at least untill the present Enthusiasm shall have subsided, and the Adventurers shall have found by experience that the trade is not profitable.

I have the honor to be, Sir, / Yrs: &c: &c:

LbC in Charles Storer’s hand (Adams Papers); internal address: “His Excelly: / John Hancock Esqr”; APM Reel 111.


This letter served as an introduction for Charles Storer. JA also wrote letters of this date to introduce Storer to Samuel Adams (NN:George Bancroft Coll.) and James Bowdoin (LbC, APM Reel 111). In the letters to Adams and Bowdoin, JA commented on the navigation act passed by Massachusetts but did not mention the whale fishery, as he does in his letter to Hancock. Storer left London on 19 Sept. and was in Boston on 21 Dec. ( AFC , 6:369, 497).


These bounties dated from 1775, with the passage of “An Act for the Encouragement of the Fisheries” (15 Geo. 3, ch. 31).

To John Jay, 2 September 1785 Adams, John Jay, John
To John Jay
Sir Grosvenor Square Westminster Septr. 2. 1785

Mr Temple is gone out as Consul General: whether he will be received or not in that Character, before a Treaty of Commerce is made, I know not. if he Should not and Should not be provided with Credentials as Minister he will probably wait for farther Instructions.

I have not made any Proposition to the Ministry, as is customary, to Send a Minister Plenipotentiary to America, and I Shall not venture upon Such a Step without the Instructions of Congress. My own private opinion is that it would be adviseable to make the Proposition, and to insist upon it, even so far as to recal me if it is not done. These Appointments familiarize the People to the Idea of the Importance of the United States, and have much Weight in Europe. But these are not the most important Considerations. a British Minister at New York would constantly transmit Intelligence, to his Court, it is true: but true Intelligence is better than false, which now circulates with too little Controul and makes Impressions at Court and in Parliament which it is not easy to remove.

If Congress, however, Should receive Mr Temple, whether they do or do not propose the Appointment of a Minister, they will no doubt appoint a Consul to reside in England—a Consul General to reside in London; with Power of Appointing Vice Consuls in England, 386Scotland and Ireland.1 Ireland is anxious to have one, and he would do great good. I am Sure I need not explain myself more fully on that Head. I have received many Applications; but as I have no Authority, and desire to have none, I have not transmitted them to you.— I have no Relations or Friends to promote: if I had I certainly should not promote or propose them merely for that Reason. indeed I should be afraid to propose them, least it should be for that reason although I might think them qualified and meretorious.

The Consuls and Vice Consuls are very usefull to Ambassadors and Ministers in many Ways that I need not explain to you. There is generally a good Understanding between them, and there always will be when proper Men are appointed to both Places.

I dont remember that I have ever proposed to Congress the Appointment of a Consul in Holland. I might have made some new Friends or obliged some old ones perhaps, by recommending them. I shall however recommend no one; but I cannot but think the Office would be usefull there, and in sweeden and Prussia too; for I Suppose the Treaty is concluded by this Time. Consuls would explore new Channells of Commerce and new Marketts for our Produce; as well as other Sources of Supply for Us, that We may become less dependent upon England, if she Should continue unreasonable. Our Tobacco and Oil might find Marketts enough where they would have less Duties to pay and procure a better Price.

I know not whether Mr Barclay would wish, or be willing to be translated to London; but a Man of his Prudence and Judgment, Vigilance and Fidelity, would be wanted here. There are many others I hope who have those Virtues, and I dont mean to recommend one Man more than another.

With great Respect I have the Honour / to be, Sir, your most obedient and / most humble Servant

John Adams

RC (PCC, No. 84, V, f. 645–648); internal address: “His Excellency John Jay Esq / Secretary of State.” LbC (Adams Papers); APM Reel 111.


Jay submitted a report to Congress on 19 Sept. wherein he proposed appointing consuls general to reside in Amsterdam, London, Paris, Madrid, and Lisbon, who would then appoint consuls to reside in the various ports and countries under their jurisdiction. On 7 Oct. Congress referred the report back to Jay with the result that on the 13th he submitted a second, more limited report. Congress considered the new report over the next two weeks, and on the 28th resolved that the American ministers in Europe or, in their absence, the chargé d’affaires, should exercise the functions of consuls general without additional salary ( JCC , 29:722–724, 810, 831–833, 855). JA learned of Congress’ action from Elbridge Gerry’s 8 Nov. letter, but see also James Warren’s of 6 Oct., both below.