Papers of John Adams, volume 17

To William Paca, 9 September 1785 Adams, John Paca, William
To William Paca
Sir, Grosvr: Square. 9th. Septemr: 1785.

I recd. soon after my arrival in London the letter you did me the honor to write me on the 29th. of April, with the enclosed copy of a letter from Mr: Chace to the Minister—1 Your Excellency & the Council may depend upon every assistance I can give to the Cause. The Agent & Solicitor of Maryland have been with me several times, & the last time to request that I would speak to the Minister that the Attorney Genl: might be pressed to give into Chancery his answer, for which the Cause waited— I waited on Lord Carmarthen accordingly, who expressed himself, as he had done before to me, much in favr: of Maryland.2 But, according to appearances, the Cabinet are not yet prepared in any thing respecting America. It is hitherto impossible to get any answer to any Question— The Cabinet are taking time probably to digest their whole system, & will give answers to all things at once. So plain a matter as this could never be perplexed but upon a principle which this Court will not easily admit, vizt: that all Contracts & Debts were extinguished or suspended, betwn: American Citizens & British Subjects, by the late Revolution. Even upon this principle the right of Maryland was restored by the Treaty as much as any other bonâ fide debt— I 418conjecture that the delay has been studied with some view to the general question concerning debts—

I had hopes of having something more satisfactory to write to your Excellency concerning this Subject before this time; but, as it is still uncertain when any thing will be done, I ought not longer to delay my acknowledgement of your letter.

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

LbC in Charles Storer’s hand (Adams Papers); internal address: “His Excellency / Wm: Paca Esqr: / Govr: of Maryland—”; APM Reel 111.


For the letter from Maryland agent Samuel Chase to William Pitt concerning the state’s effort to retrieve its stock in the Bank of England, see Paca’s 29 April letter, and note 1, above.


For JA’s account of his exchange with the Marquis of Carmarthen over Maryland’s claim at a meeting on 17 June, a copy of which was sent to Paca by John Jay, see JA’s letter to Jay of 17 June, and note 6, above.

To Cotton Tufts, 9 September 1785 Adams, John Tufts, Cotton
To Cotton Tufts
Dear Sir Grosvenor Square Westminster Septr. 9. 1785.

It gives me great Pleasure to see that good Men are so much in Fashion in the Massachusetts. Mr Bowdoin in the Chair, and Dr Tufts with such a Superabundant Majority of Votes in the Senate and Mr Cranch too; it looks as if Sterling would get the better of Tinsel. it is high time.

Our Merchants I believe are wholly occupied with their Entertainments, their Variety of Wheel Carriages their Country Seats, and their Assemblies. otherwise I cannot account for their having no where discovered a Markett for their Oil and Ships. or is it Still a pious Affection to Mother Britain?

Every Nation which can be called maritime or aquatic, is now studying and labouring to increase their Ships. it is strange if they will not buy ours. Every City almost in Europe burns oil in their Lamps, an Oil which congeals or at least Stiffens with the Cold, gives but a dim Light, and goes out before morning, and what is decisive costs very dear. Our Sperma Cæti Oil preserves its fluidity in the cold, gives a bright, clear and glorious flame; burns till nine O Clock in the Morning and is cheaper. Yet our Oil cannot get a Markett in Europe, because Mr Pitt had rather that Robberies and Murders should be committed in the dark streets or introduce a Military Police, into London than buy our Oil.

It has been an Opinion in America, that our Oil was used chiefly 419in the Manufactures of this Kingdom. This is a Mistake—it was burnt in the Lamps in the Streets and might be in every City of Europe: but our Merchants are too lazy to look out for a Markett any where but in London: or are they afraid of provoking their English Creditors? The Debtor is slave to the Creditor. But I hope there are some Merchants who are not Debtors: if not I hope there will be.

I wish Congress would Send a Consul to sweeden to Prussia, to wherever they have Treaties, and give those Consuls Instructions to look out for Marketts and explore Channells of Trade. I Suppose young Merchants or old ones might be found who would gladly go without Salaries upon permission to trade, but if not We must not be so timid about Spending a shilling abroad.— Mr Danas Treaty with Russia would have been worth an hundred Thousand Pounds to Us, I fully believe; Yet We must not have it, because it must cost five Thousands.1

It is my clear Opinion, that the system of V. and F. in Europe2 and Stinginess in America, have brought upon you all the Evils you feel at present. I have foreseen it, these seven Years and done my Utmost to prevent it, at the hazard of all even my Life, as well as at the Expence of my Reputation. Now, in my Opinion, all depends upon what you do in America. You must make the Navigation Act and encouragement of Manufactures universal, and you must force commercial Connections with France as it was intended you should, and with the rest of Europe. The People have been made the Dupes in America, and they must suffer for it, for a time. it will be the better for them in the End, for what I know.

This Letter is too free, for any sight but yours in Confidence, and such who have as much discretion as You, if such there be.3 my Regards to your Family / and all our Friends

John Adams

RC (Adams Papers); internal address: “Hon. Cotton Tufts Esqr”; endorsed: “John Adams Esq / London Sept. 9. 1785 / Recd Nov— / On the Whale Oil / Fishery &c.” LbC (Adams Papers); APM Reel 111.


In the RC, this sentence is set off by an “x” at the beginning and end, the purpose of which is unknown. For the failure of Francis Dana’s mission to St. Petersburg to obtain Russian recognition of the United States and a Russo-American commercial treaty, see Dana’s letter to JA of 29 July 1783, and notes 1–9, vol. 15:179–182. Both men attributed the mission’s failure (as JA does again here) to the influence of the Comte de Vergennes and Benjamin Franklin, exercised through Robert R. Livingston, secretary for foreign affairs, and the penury of Congress.


That is, the policies of Vergennes and Franklin. In the RC, “V” and “F” are partially erased, but the LbC refers only to “the system of V in Europe.”


Tufts replied to this letter on 20 Dec. 1785 (Adams Papers) but did not indicate if he had shared it with anyone.