Papers of John Adams, volume 17

VII. The American Commissioners’ Instructions to Thomas Barclay for Negotiations with Morocco, 1–11 October 1785 Adams, John American Commissioners Morocco, Thomas Barclay for Negotiations with
VII. The American Commissioners’ Instructions to Thomas Barclay for Negotiations with Morocco
Instructions to Thomas Barclay Esqr. [ 1–11 October 1785 ]1

Congress having been pleased to invest us with full powers for entering into treaty of Amity and Alliance with the Emperor of Morocco, and it being impracticable for us to attend his court in person & equally impracticable on account of our seperate stations to receive a Minister from him, we have concluded to effect our object by the intervention of a confidential person. We concur in wishing to avail the United States of your talents in the execution of this business, & therefore furnish you with a letter to the Emperor of Morocco to give a due credit to your transactions with him.

We advise you to proceed by the way of Madrid, where you will have opportunities of deriving many lights from Mr Carmichael,2 through whom many communications with the court of Morocco have already passed. From thence you will proceed by such rout as you shall think best to the court of the Emperor.


You will present to him our letter with the copy of our full powers, with which you are furnished; at such time or times, and in such manner as you shall think best.

As the negotiation & conclusion of a treaty may be a work of time you will endeavour in the first place to procure an immediate suspension of hositilities.3 You will proceed to negotiate with his Minister the terms of a treaty of Amity & Commerce as nearly as possible conformed to the draught we give you: where alterations, which in your opinion shall not be of great importance, shall be urged by the other party, you are at liberty to agree to them: where they shall be of great importance, and such as you think should be rejected, you will reject them: but where they are of great importance, & you think they may be accepted, you will ask time to take our advice; & you will advise with us accordingly by letter or by courier as you shall think best. When the articles shall all be agreed you will4 sign them in a preliminary form & send them to us by some proper person for5 definitive execution.—

The whole expences of this treaty, including as well the expences of all persons employed about it as the presents to the Emperor & his servants, must not exceed 20000 Dollars & we urge you to use your best endeavours to bring them as much below that sum as you possibly can,6—and to this end, we leave it to your discretion to represent to His Majesty or to his Ministers, if it may be done with safety, the particular circumstances of the United States just emerging from a long & distressing war with one of the most powerful nations of Europe, which we hope may be an apology if our presents should not be so splendid as those of older & abler nations. As custom may have rendered some presents necessary in the beginning or progress of this business; & before it is concluded or even in a way to be concluded, we authorize you to conform to the custom; confiding in your descretion to hazard as little as possible before a certainty of the event,7 & to provide that your engagements shall become binding only on the definitive execution of the treaty. We trust to you also to procure the best information in what form & to what persons these presents should be made, & to make them accordingly.

The difference between the customs of that & other courts, the difficulty of obtaining a knowledge of those customs but on the spot & our great confidence in your discretion, induce us to leave to that all other circumstances relative to the object of your mission It will be necessary for you to take a Secretary well skilled in the French language to aid you in your business, & to take charge of your 445papers in case of any accident to yourself, we think you may allow him 1508 guineas a year, besides his expences for traveling & subsistence. We engage to furnish your own expences according to the respectability of the character with which you are invested; but, as to the allowance for your troubles, we wish to leave it to Congress

We annex hereto sundry heads of enquiry which we wish you to make, & to give us thereon the best information you shall be able to obtain. We desire you to correspond with us by every opportunity which you think should be trusted; giving us from time to time an account of your proceedings & prospects by the way of Holland under cover to Mr Dumas at the Hague or Messrs Willincks of Amsterdam;9 by the way of England to Uriah Forrest Esqr., by way of France to Mr Grand Paris, & to Mr Carmichael by way of Spain.10

We wish you a pleasant journey & happy succeess, being with great esteem &c. &c. &c. 11

FC in David Humphreys’ hand (PCC, No. 87, I, f. 139–142). LbC (Adams Papers); APM Reel 111. First Dft in Thomas Jefferson’s hand, with additions by JA (Adams Papers); filmed at 4 Sept. with Jefferson’s letter of that date. Second Dft in the hands of Charles Storer and JA, with additions by Jefferson (PCC, No. 91, I, f. 51–55).


The FC made by David Humphreys is undated, but according to an auction catalog the RC of John Lamb’s instructions (see note 2), not found, was dated by JA and Thomas Jefferson on 1 and 11 Oct., respectively (The Collector, Nov. 1950, p. 237–238). It is likely that the RC of Barclay’s instructions, also not found, bore the same dates. Both the first Dft and the LbC are undated, but the second Dft, which was intended as a fair copy to be signed by Jefferson and given to Barclay, is dated by JA “London Septr. 15. 1785.”


At this point in the FC, an asterisk points to Humphreys’ notation at the end of the letter: “N.B The Instructions to Mr. Lamb are the same, except in the style of the const. the passage page 1st ‘through whom &c’ in lieu of which is substituted—‘and from the Minister from Algiers to the court of Madrid & the Cte d’Expilly lately arrived there from Algiers who doubtless are persons of credit & information with that Government’— and in page 2d.—instead of ‘20000 Dollars’ is inserted ‘40000 Dollars’—” In his notation Humphreys refers to the Conde de Expilly, who was given plenipotentiary powers by Spain and charged with a special mission to Algiers, serving from Aug. 1785 to March 1787 ( Repertorium , 3:428).


In the second Dft, this sentence was interlined by Jefferson.


In the second Dft, Jefferson interlined the passage from this point to “send them to us,” but there the passage continued with the deleted words “for definitive execution.”


In the second Dft, Jefferson inserted the final two words of this paragraph, which originally ended “our signature.”


In the first Dft, the passage from this point to the words “abler nations” was written by JA in the right margin and marked with a cross for insertion here.


In the second Dft, the remainder of this sentence was interlined by Jefferson.


In the first Dft, the amount to be allowed Barclay’s secretary was left blank. In the second Dft, “150” was added, presumably by Jefferson.


In the first Dft, this sentence ended “by the way of England, France or Spain.” In the second Dft, the references to Uriah Forrest, Ferdinand Grand, and William Carmichael were added by Jefferson.


In the Adams Papers, filmed at [Sept. 1785], is a document in JA’s hand entitled “farther Instructions to Mr Barclay,” and endorsed: “Minute of an / Instruction to / Mr 446Barclay.” It is clear from its content that it was done at about the same time that JA made his additions to Jefferson’s Dft and before he knew of Lamb’s arrival and that Barclay would go only to Morocco. But JA did not include it in the second Dft, nor did he apparently send it separately to Jefferson. The additional instruction reads, “You will extend Your Inquiries to Algiers, Tunis Tripoli and all the other States upon the Coast, and after you shall have executed Your Business at Morocco, or sooner if you find it necessary You will proceed to Algiers and the others and enter into Similar Treaties with them, if possible, but the whole Expence, of all these Negotiations, including that with Morocco must not exceed the sum of 80,000 Dollars, including all the Expences of every Kind of all the Persons concerned in them, and We earnestly recommend it to you, to reduce these Expences as much below that Sum as possible, knowing full well what is no Secret to you, the difficulty of obtaining Funds for the indispensable Services of our Country in Europe at this time.”


In the second Dft, the closing is in JA’s hand and reads, “We wish you a pleasant Journey and happy Success, being with great Esteem your Friends and Servants.” It is followed by the dateline and JA’s signature. The closing and the signature are the only parts of the second Dft that are in JA’s hand.

VIII. John Lamb’s Supplementary Instructions for Negotiations with Algiers, 1–11 October 1785 Adams, John American Commissioners Jefferson, Thomas
VIII. John Lamb’s Supplementary Instructions for Negotiations with Algiers
Supplementary Instruction for Mr. Lamb [ 1–11 October 1785 ]

We have received information that two American vessels, the Dauphin from Philadelphia & and the Maria from Boston with their Crews & Cargoes have lately been taken by the Algerines off the coast of Portugal, & that the crews are reduced to slavery.1 Our full powers to that State being for the general purpose only of concluding a treaty of Amity & Commerce, the redemption of our citizens made captive before the conclusion of such treaty may not be thought comprehended within those powers. nevertheless as the misfortune of these our countrymen has not been produced by any fault or folly of theirs, as their situation would illy admit the delay of our asking & receiving the pleasure of Congress on their subject, & as we presume stronly that it would be the will of Congress that they should be redeemed from their present calamitous condition, we think ourselves bound, in so distant a situation, & where the emergency of the case is so great, to act according to what we think would be the desire of Congress, and to trust to their goodness & the purity of our own motives for our justification.

We therefore authorize you to treat for the emancipation of the crews of the said vessels & of any others which have been or may be taken by the same power before the cessasation of hostilities which we expect you to effect. Administering in the mean time such necessary aids as their situation may require. In negotiating this special treaty you are to consider yourself as acting for the masters of the 447vessels as well as for the United States, and you will agree to no terms which they shall not approve. You will take from them their obligations, each for his crew separately, binding themselves & their owners to indemnify the United States for the monies which shall be paid for their redemption, subsistence, transportation to their own country & other charges incurred, if the Congress shall be of opinion that such indemnification should be required, transmitting to us such special treaty for our definitive execution. You will also adopt the best measures you can for returning the citizens you shall redeem to their own country. As we require a transmission of this treaty before its definitive conclusion, it is the less necessary for us to speak of the sum which you may venture to engage. We do not expect to redeem our captives for less than 100 Dollars a head, & we should be fearful to go beyond the double of that sum—howevever we trust much in your discretion & good management for obtaining them on terms still better than these if possible.

London. Octr. 1. 1785. John Adams.
Paris. Octr. 11. 1785. Th: Jefferson2

RC in David Humphreys’ hand (private owner, 1948); endorsed: “Supplemental / Instructions / to / Mr John Lamb—”


Thomas Jefferson learned of the captures of the Maria and the Dauphin from Richard O’Bryen’s letter of 24 Aug., which he received on 22 Sept. (Jefferson, Papers , 8:440–441). He then drafted these additional instructions for Lamb, the fair copy of which he enclosed for JA’s signature with his second letter of 24 Sept., below. With that letter Jefferson also enclosed a copy, in David Humphreys’ hand, of O’Bryen’s letter of 24 Aug., which is now at its date in the Adams Papers.

For additional information about the captured American ships and the plight of their crews, see the 27 Aug. letter to JA from O’Bryen and his fellow prisoners, Isaac Stephens and Zaccheus Coffin, above. Unfortunately these instructions came to nothing, for Lamb’s mission failed, and the prisoners were not released until mid-1796, after the conclusion of the 1795 Algerian-American Treaty of Peace and Amity. The survivors did not return to America until early 1797 ( AFC , 11:553–554).


The datelines and signatures are by JA and Jefferson, respectively.