Papers of John Adams, volume 17

From Richard Henry Lee, 23 October 1785 Lee, Richard Henry Adams, John
From Richard Henry Lee
Dear Sir, New York October the 23d. 1785

I received the letter that you did me the honor to write me on the 15th. of July with the pleasure that always accompanies the receipt of letters from my old and much esteemed friend. I see with pleasure that your reception at the Court of London has been such as to promise you an agreeable residence there; which may be somewhat pleasant altho you should unfortunately fail in the principal objects of your mission. This last however I yet hope will not be the case, 534since you represent the majority of the Ministry as able, and thinking rightly with respect to us.

The national mind cannot sure continue long under the delusion created by the most vindictive and abominable characters in the world.— I mean the Tory Refugees, who by themselves, and by those, who for sinister purposes, have suffered themselves to be imposed on by these people, are industriously keeping up on both sides of the water, a contentious and mischievous spirit, to the great hurt of both countries. We know them here, and by this time they ought to be known in England, to which country they have caused by their misrepresentations such infinite evil. In the mind of a person acquainted with the true state of things, there can remain no doubt but that this moment is the most favorable one that will probably occur again for G. Britain to make a favorable Treaty of Commerce with these U. States. The events that took place immediately succeeding the war, and which have produced such wrong conclusions touching the British security of possessing our Commerce exclusively, cannot prevent our Trade from going, as it is fast proceeding to do, into other channels, where it is driven by the mistaken discouragements that are imposed by Britain. I have myself no doubt but that smart duties of Tonnage will be laid by all the States on the Vessels of those nations with whom we have not Commercial Treaties. And that such will be prohibited from importing into our Ports productions or manufactures not the growth or manufacture of the Country importing them. Thus these States, forced into it by the intemperance of G. Britain, and led by her example, will be forming laws to discourage a Commerce that might be so mutually beneficial; if wisdom and temper prevailed over passion and folly. The project of a Treaty proposed by you to the Court where you are, is so perfectly just, and will be so greatly beneficial to both, that I cannot help hoping it will yet be agreed to. I am greatly obliged to you Sir for your good intentions respecting Mr. Steptoe, and I entreat that you will so have him in your mind as that you may effectually promote his views whensoever an opportunity shall present. Much harmony has prevailed this year in Congress, and I hope that the same concord will continue.

The present federal year being on the point of ending I shall return to Virginia, and as I mentioned in a former letter, you may write very securely to me, under the care of Messrs: Wallace Johnson & Muir Merchants in Londo[n w]ho will safely forward your letters.


I am, wit[h the] most sincere and perfect esteem and regard, dear Sir your most obedient and very humble servant

Richard Henry Lee.

P. S. Be so kind as forward Mr. Jeffersons letter to him by the safest opportunity that you can meet with— I have since determined to send Mr. Jefferson’s letter by the French Packet—1

RC (Adams Papers); endorsed: “President Lee. 23 Oct. / ansd. 24. Decr. 1785.” Some loss of text where the seal was removed.


Possibly Lee’s letter to Thomas Jefferson of 29 Oct., which was received on 18 Jan. 1786 (Jefferson, Papers , 8:683–685).

From James Sullivan, 23 October 1785 Sullivan, James Adams, John
From James Sullivan
Dear Sir Boston 23d October 1785

I had your favour of the 16th. of August Yesterday, and am exceeding glad that it came at this time because I am frequently applied to for my Sentiments upon the propriety of the Navagation act of this State and being clear in my own opinion that it ought not to be repealed I can Say it with more confidence when my sentiments so exactly coincide with yours. but as the People here are much divided in their ideas of the Subject I can by no means expose your Letter without your licence which will not be obtained untill the matter is decided at least for the present.

Britian has yet a warm party in America who conceive that we had better be Governed by her policy than our own. our Merchants have a supreme regard to her Commerce perhaps the large Sums they owe there keeps them in Awe. those who were averse to the revolution are uniformly so against every regulation of trade, I rather Suspect from the influence this Sort of people have gained that the Act will be repealed. yesterday Toscan the Vice Consul of France prefered his memorial to the legislature agt. the Act.1 that this menœvre did not originate with him I am very clear but it will have a great Effect on the Minds of the Country members. our People have foolishly Spent all the Money borrowed by the union, and introduced by foreign Armies, for the luxuries of Europe and being distressed know not where to find a remedy. and Such is our appetite for foreign gewgaws that nothing less than placing them beyond our reach by Imposts can check our Voracious inclination. but I fear there is not firmness enough to accomplish it.

I know not your Sentiments regarding a federal Judcial power and 536the changing of our Confederation into one like a consolidated Government of the whole but I am at present against it. however the circle in favour of it grows larger and larger, Vainly Supposing that our happiness depends more on the form of a union than in frugality, the love of our Country, and attention to the Social Virtues—

I have the honor to be / with great regard and / Friendship Your Most / Obedient Humble Servt

James Sullivan

RC (Adams Papers); internal address: “The Honble. Mr Adams.”


Jean Joseph Marie Toscan was French vice-consul for both Boston and Portsmouth, N.H., having been appointed to the first in 1779 and the second in 1783 (Abraham P. Nasatir and Gary Elwyn Monell, French Consuls in the United States, Washington, D.C., 1967, p. 567–568). Toscan’s 22 Oct. 1785 petition to the Mass. General Court has not been found, but it concerned the portion of the navigation act adopted on 23 June that imposed a duty on foreign ships twice that paid by American ships. That provision violated Arts. 3 and 4 of the 1778 Franco-American Treaty of Amity and Commerce. The offending section was repealed on 29 Nov. 1785 (Mass., Acts and Laws , 1784–1785, p. 439–443, 489, 731; Miller, Treaties , 2:5–6; The Emerging Nation, ed. Mary A. Giunta, 3 vols., Washington, D.C., 1996, 2:958).