Papers of John Adams, volume 17

To Thomas Jefferson, 2 October 1785 Adams, John Jefferson, Thomas
To Thomas Jefferson
Dear Sir Grosvenor Square Octr. 2. 1785

Coll Franks arrived Yesterday afternoon, with your Favour of Septr. 24.—1 I have Signed all the Papers as you Sent them, not 486perceiving any Alteration necessary.—2 I am afraid, that our Agent to Algiers going without any military Power will not Succeed: as the Danger of having their Town bombarded, or their Vessells taken, is the Principal Argument which the Dey has to use with the People, to reconcile them to a Peace. however We must try the Experiment.— I have recd. a Letter from Mr Stephen Sayre, dated N. York 25. Aug. inclosing, another of 23. of Aug. Signed by Messrs Gerry, King, Hardy, Monroe, & Grayson recommending Strongly Mr Sayre to you and me, to be employed as Agent to Morocco, Algiers and the other Powers, and inclosing another Letter to you, probably to the Same Effect. This Letter I now inclose to you. it is but a day or two that these Letters have been recd by me.—3 Franks is gone to See if Mr Randolph4 can be prevailed on to go. if he cannot, will you join Sayre with Lamb? if you will, insert his Name in the Papers.— Mr Lamb will meet Mr Sayre at Madrid, where I Suppose he now is. But if he is not, Lamb must not wait for him a Moment. I Should very readily undertake the Trouble, of having Bills drawn upon me, both by Mr Barclay and Mr Lamb, if the good of the Service could be promoted by it. But you are Sensible there must be a Loss, in transferring Money, from Amsterdam to London: Yet the Advantage may ballance it.

You are diffident of Interpositions: but it is possible We may carry this too far. I think Mr Barclay and Mr Lamb would do well, to visit all the foreign Consulls, every one of whom will I am persuaded, Shew them Civilities, and do nothing at all to obstruct their negotiations. They will not dare to do it, without Orders, and no Cabinet in Europe I verily believe, would venture to give Such orders. it will not be from Governments, that We shall receive Opposition. Agents of Insurance Offices in London, or of Merchants trading in Fish &c in the Mediterranean, may Stimulate the Corsairs by exaggerated Representations of our Wealth and the Riches of our Prizes, but that is all. As nothing can be more hostile to the United States, than any Endeavours to embarrass, obstruct or counteract them in their Endeavours to form Treaties of Peace with the Barbary Powers, I wish you would impress it upon Mr Barclay and Mr Lamb, to be attentive to this, and obtain Proofs; and if the Consul or Agent of any foreign Power should be found and proved to do any Thing against Us, that they transmit to Us the earliest Account of it, with the Evidence; Congress would no doubt order a formal Complaint to be made against him to his Court, and in this Way he would be held up 487publicly to the Execrations of all Mankind, and probably be punished by his Master.

Oct. 5.

We have prevailed upon John Randal Esqr to go with Mr Lamb, So that Sayre I Suppose must be out of the Question, especially as We know not that he is arrived in Europe. I Should think that much time may be Saved, by Mr Lambs going directly to Marseilles, and from thence over to Algiers but if you think there will be a greater Advantage, in seeing the Algerine Envoy at Madrid, or the Comte de Spilly,5 if he negotiated the late Treaty for Spain, I shall Submit entirely to your better Judgment.

As our Commission authorizes Us, I suppose it will be construed that it requires Us to constitute the Agents by Writing under our Hands and Seals: I have accordingly made out four Commissions, which if you approve you will sign and Seal, as I have done.6

I have written Letters to Mr Barclay and Mr Lamb authorizing them to draw upon me. These Letters You will please to Sign, as the Signature of both of Us will be necessary. You will be so good as to write also to Messrs Wilhem and Jan Willink and Nicholas & Jacob Vanstaphorst of Amsterdam, giving your Approbation and Consent to their Paying the Bills to be drawn upon me by Barclay and Lamb, otherwise they may think my Authority alone, imperfect.7

I am sir your most obedient And / humble servant

John Adams

RC and enclosures (DLC:Jefferson Papers); internal address: “Mr Jefferson”; notation: “Letter to Mr Jefferson / Oct. 6. 1785.” LbC (Adams Papers); APM Reel 111. For the enclosures, see note 2.


Lt. Col. David Franks presumably arrived with Jefferson’s two 24 Sept. letters, both above, but JA is here replying to the second one.


For the papers signed by JA, see Barbary Negotiations, 12 Sept. – 11 Oct., above, and the commissioners’ letter to John Jay of [11 Oct.], below.


Stephen Sayre was a New York merchant, self-styled diplomat, and adventurer. He served as Arthur Lee’s secretary during Lee’s ill-fated mission to Berlin in 1777 and later sought to promote Russian-American trade (vol. 6:209; 10:322–323). His letter of 25 Aug. 1785 to JA indicated his interest in being appointed to negotiate with the Barbary States and also that he would soon sail for Spain, where he would await the commissioners’ decision at Madrid. He enclosed a 23 Aug. letter to JA from members of Congress representing Massachusetts—Elbridge Gerry and Rufus King—and Virginia—Samuel Hardy, James Monroe, and William Grayson—recommending him for the position (both Adams Papers). JA was enclosing the similar letters of the same dates that Sayre and the delegates had written Jefferson (Jefferson, Papers , 8:425–426, 442–443).


Here and in Jefferson’s second letter of 24 Sept., above, the name is given as Randolph, but in JA’s LbC it is rendered Randall. 488That is, Paul R. Randall, who served as John Lamb’s secretary, for which see the 5 Oct. postscript.


This is the Conde Expilly, for whom see Barbary Negotiations, No. VII, note 2, above.


For the commissions mentioned in this paragraph and the letters of credit mentioned in the next, see Barbary Negotiations, Nos. X, XI, and XII, all above.


Jefferson wrote to Nicolaas & Jacob van Staphorst on 12 Oct. (Jefferson, Papers , 8:629–630).

To Thomas Jefferson, 3 October 1785 Adams, John Jefferson, Thomas
To Thomas Jefferson
Dear Sir Grosvenor Square Octr. 3. 1785 1

You have undoubtedly hit upon, the true Word of the Riddle.— Yet there was no riddle, nor any clear meaning. it is impossible for any Country to give to another, more decided Proofs of Preference, than our thoughtless Merchants have since the Peace given to this, in matters of Commerce. He2 had seen this Preference Sufficiently prevail. This alone then could not be his Meaning.— if he meant a political Preference, an Alliance, Such as Hartley was perpetually harping upon,3 he will wait till Doomsday, and it will never come.— We ought to have no Prefferences nor Partialities. but this must be understood upon Condition, that this Country, uses Us, as well as France. if she does not, I am for giving France the Preference.— I would wait with Patience and give full Time to deliberate, but if finally this Court will not act a reasonable and equitable Part, I would enter into Still closer and Stronger Connections with France, both commercial and political. I would enter into Treaty, that certain French Manufactures Should pay in the U.S. but half or a quarter of the Duties imposed upon English. French Ships should have priviledges from which English Should be excluded, and I would enter into an Alliance, offensive and defensive. but more of this hereafter.

I went out, eight days ago, to Dr Price to get him to have the Insurance done.4

October 5.

Dr Price called upon me this morning, but had unfortunately wholly forgot the Insurance on Heudons Life. but I gave him an Extract of your Letter to me, and promised to pay the Money for the Premium at any Moment. I am afraid that Certificates of Heudons State of Health will be required, and the Noise of Algerine Captures may Startle the Insurers. The Dr However will get it done if he can, and as low as possible.

I went to Stockdale, with your Letter. He says he sent some News 489Papers by Mr short and by a Friend since, and will send by Franks. He applied to the Office, he says in Cleaveland Row but could not get them sent that Way. But he will call on the Duke of Dorsett, and get his Permission. if your Correspondent at Dover however can convey them to you free of Postage you had better agree with him. But after all your surest Way would be to apply to the Comte de Vergennes, or Mr Gennet the Premier Comis du Bureau des Interpretes. in any other Way your Papers will be liable to frequent Interruptions. I found that the only Sure Way, in the Year 1780, after many fruitless Projects and Endeavours for several months.5

Yours affectionately

John Adams

RC (DLC:Jefferson Papers); internal address: “Mr Jefferson”; notation: “Letter to / Mr Jefferson. Oct. 3. / 1785.” LbC (Adams Papers); APM Reel 111.


JA is replying to Jefferson’s first letter of 24 Sept., above.


George III.


It is not clear to what proposal by David Hartley, British peace negotiator, JA refers, but for an example of Hartley’s reasoning see his 14 June 1783 letter to the commissioners, vol. 15:28, 30–34.


JA visited Richard Price on 24 Sept. 1785 ( AFC , 6:381). For the outcome of the effort to purchase life insurance for Jean Antoine Houdon, see Price’s [22 Oct.] letter and JA’s to Jefferson of the 24th, both below.


JA refers to his friend Edmé Jacques Genet, father of Edmond Charles “Citizen” Genet. For JA’s request that the senior Genet supply him with London newspapers in late Feb. 1780, soon after he arrived at Paris on his second diplomatic mission, see vol. 8:362, 367–368, 377.