Papers of John Adams, volume 17

To Isaac Smith Sr., 2 September 1785 Adams, John Smith, Isaac Sr.
To Isaac Smith Sr.
Sir Grosvenor Square Septr. 2. 1785

I Yesterday made a Visit to your old Friend Mr Boylston, and his Nephew at their Sugar House on Pauls Wharf, Upper Thames Street.1 They have a pretty Situation, and a good Room with a Bow Window, which shews them the whole Scæne of the River, upwards to Blackfryars Bridge and downwards a great Way. We are to have a View from this Window of the Lord Mayors Show.2

These gentlemen represent to me, a mighty Bustle about the Whale Fishery here, and the great Number of Ships employed in it, this Year. But Mr Boylston thinks it will not answer, to any Profit upon the whole, tho many Persons are now adventuring in it.


I wish you would inform me, sir whether our Massachusetts Merchants have found any Markett for their Oil, and where and upon what Terms? All the Cities of Europe might use it to advantage in their Lamps. The English will worm Us out of the Supply even of France, if We dont exert ourselves.

I wish that, instead of banishing our own Whaling Captains and Men as Tories, Absentees &c, our Governor or Legislature, would take off all Difficulties in the Way of their returning home issue a Proclamation commanding their Return or give some bounty, or do whatever may be more prudent, for the Purpose. it is a Shame that We should Suffer ourselves to be outgeneralled in the Whale Trade, which is our Glory. Let not my Countrymen depend upon any Assistance from me in this Business at this Court. I have seen enough to make me wholly dispair of it, untill you shall have found other Marketts, and taken other Measures. The Irish discover an Inclination to trade with Us, without knowing how, or in what.— I wish you would inform me in what Way Commerce may be cultivated to Advantage with that Country.

There is like to be a long negotiation between Great Britain and Ireland. The twenty Resolutions having failed, it is probable that in another session of Parliament there may be Proposals of Commissaries to treat, or of an Union of the two Kingdoms or both. What will be the Event I know not. but nothing I think will be soon Settled. Meantime, I think America should be attentive to this Transaction and consider how she is interested in it.

I am sir with great regard, Your / most obedient servant

John Adams

RC (MHi:Smith-Carter Family Papers); addressed by Charles Storer: “Isaac Smith Esqr: / Merchant / Boston.”; internal address: “Isaac Smith Esqr”; endorsed: “London 2 Sep. 85 / J. Adams”; notation: “speak abt the Rigg.” LbC (Adams Papers); APM Reel 111.


These are Thomas Boylston (1721–1798), cousin of JA’s mother, and Ward Nicholas Boylston (1747–1828), JA’s second cousin. Thomas, formerly a successful Boston merchant, went to London in 1779, apparently for economic rather than political reasons, and there resumed his commercial career ( AFC , 4:342–343). By Nov. 1785 he was at Paris attempting to sell a cargo of whale oil and seeking contracts for the importation and sale of additional oil, for which see letters from Boylston and Thomas Jefferson of 9 and 19 Nov., respectively, both below. Ward Nicholas, the son of Benjamin Hallowell and Thomas’ sister Mary, changed his name to Boylston in 1770 in anticipation of a large inheritance from Thomas. A merchant, loyalist, and later benefactor of Harvard, he had been in England since 1773 (JA, D&A , 1:295; AFC , 4:342).


Dating from 1215, the “Lord Mayor’s Show” was held to mark the annual election of the lord mayor of London. In JA’s time it consisted of a procession of ornate barges down the Thames to Westminster (Ben Weinreb and others, The London Encyclopaedia, 3d 389edn., London, 2008). For an account of the 1785 “Show,” which was held on 9 Nov., see The Citizen’s Pocket Chronicle, London, 1828, p. 361–362.

From William Carmichael, 2 September 1785 Carmichael, William Adams, John
From William Carmichael
Sir St. Ildefonso 2d. Septr 1785

Since I had the honor to address you the 18th. Ulto. I have received an Answer from his Excy. the Ct. de Florida Blanca to the application I made in favor of Mr Watson.1 That Minister writes me “that it being necessary to have precise information of the nature of the Case The proper orders are given for this purpose by the Kings direction who is disposed to manifest on this occasion all the condescension which circumstances may admit.” I seize the earliest opportunity of advising your Excellency in order that the Friends of Mr Watson may be persuaded that no endeavour will be wanting on my part to procure his release which I flatter myself I shall be able to effect. I am sorry to inform you that the Algeriens have commenced hostilities against the States. I have vague entelligence of the Capture of five of our Vessels, two of which have Arrived at Algiers, where the prizes Cargoes and Prisoners were immediately Advertized for Sale— Nine Portuguese had also been carried into that Port, These Captures & the prospect of others had so greatly incouraged these Pirates That they are arming a number of Cruizers, many of which are actually or will be soon at Sea. I make no doubt that their Example will be followed By Tunis &c &c Two Algeriens are now here on the business of the Peace between Spain and their Regency. I shall probably have an opportunity of conversing with them But not being authorized & indeed not knowing what effect these hostilities may have in America, any insinuations which thus Situated I may be able to make, will have very little Weight. Mr Jefferson informs me that he will communicate to your Excy. a safer manner of corresponding. the one of which I am Constrained to avail Myself doth not permit me to enter into details2

With Great & sincere respect / I have the honor to be / Your Excellencys / Most Obedt. Hble. Sert.

Wm. Carmichael

RC (Adams Papers); internal address: “His Excy. / John Adams Minister / Plenipotentiary of the United States / at the Court of St. James—”; endorsed: “Mr Carmichael / 2. septr. 1785.”


For Carmichael’s letter of 18 Aug. (Adams Papers), see JA’s of 29 July, note 2, above.


On this date Carmichael wrote a much longer letter to Thomas Jefferson in which he attributed the problems with Algiers to “an illtimed attention to Parsimony and a misguided Jealousy of granting funds to our National Council” and went into considerable detail 390about Spanish-American relations. There, as he does here, Carmichael lamented his inability “to explain personally many things which I dare not comit to paper without a cypher” (Jefferson, Papers , 8:464–467).