Papers of John Adams, volume 17

From John Jay, 1 November 1785 Jay, John Adams, John
From John Jay
Dear Sir New York 1st: November 1785

I have the Honor of transmitting to you herewith enclosed an Act of Congress of the 13th: Ult: respecting british Claims and Encroachments on our Eastern Boundaries, and instructing and authorising you to take proper Measures for amicably settling the Disputes thence arising. You will also find herewith enclosed the 560several Papers & Documents referred to in that Act, and of which a List is hereto subjoined.—1

It also apears to me expedient to send you Copies of two Reports which I have made to Congress respecting these Matters, not for your Direction, but that you may thereby be fully informed of my Sentiments on this interesting Subject.—2

With great and sincere Regard I am / Dear Sir / Your most obt. & very hble: Servt.

John Jay—

List of Papers herewith enclosed.—

No. 1. Resolution of Congress 13th. Octor. 1785

No. 2. Copy of a Report of the Secretary for foreign Affairs 21st. April 1785.

No. 3. Copy of a Resolve of the Legislature of Massachusetts 6th: & 7th: July 1784.

No. 4. Copy of the Report of Genls. Lincoln & Knox 19th. October 1784.

No. 5. Copy of the Deposition of John Mitchel 9th. Octor. 1784.—

No. 6. Extract of a Letter from John Adams Esqr: to Govr. Cushing 25th: Octor. 1784.—

No. 7. Copy of a Letter from Govr. Hancock to Govr. Parr of 12th Novr and Govr. Parr’s answer of 7th. Decemr. 1784.—

No. 8. Copy of a Letter from Rufus Putnam Esqr: to the Committee of Massachusetts 24th. Decemr. 1784.—

No. 9. Copy of the deposition of Nathan Jones 17th March 1785.—

No. 10. Copy of a Letter from Govr. Carleton to Govr. Hancock 21st: June 1785.—

No. 11. Copy of a Report of the Secretary for for: Affairs 22d. Sepr. 1785.

No. 12. Copy of a Letter from James Avery Esqr: to the Governor of Massachusetts 23d. August 1785.—

No. 13. Copy of an Act of the Council of Massachusetts 9th. Sept. 1785

No. 14. Copy of a Letter from the Governor of Massachusetts to the Governor of New Brunswick 9th. Septemr. 1785.—

RC and enclosures (Adams Papers); internal address: “The Honorable John Adams Esqr. / Minister Plenipotentiary of the / Ud. Ss. at the Court of London.—”; endorsed: “[Se]cretary of States Letter / 1 Nov. 1785. / [Re]specting the Eastern Boundary.” Some loss of text due to a torn manuscript.


Congress’ resolution of 13 Oct. did more than require JA to make representations to the British government regarding the Massachusetts–Nova Scotia boundary dispute and enclose documents (all printed with this letter in Dipl. Corr., 1783–1789 , 2:431–454) 561to support his efforts. It empowered him, should his representations fail, to agree to the formation of an Anglo-American boundary commission to settle the dispute, and it vested him “with full powers on behalf of the United States of America” ( JCC , 28:287–290; 29:828–829).

The boundary question turned on precisely which river was the “St. Croix River” mentioned in Art. 2 of the Anglo-American definitive peace treaty (vol. 15:246–247). The enclosed documents, with the exception of the resolution and Jay’s two reports, stemmed directly from Massachusetts’ efforts to resolve that question in negotiations with the governments of Nova Scotia and then New Brunswick, following its creation in Aug. 1784, and two of them stand out. The first is the extract from JA’s 25 Oct. 1784 letter to Thomas Cushing wherein he indicated that the St. Croix River mentioned in the peace treaty was based solely on its designation as such in “Mitchell’s Map.” In a portion of the letter not included in the excerpt, JA indicated that “the line between Massachusetts and Nova Scotia gave me much Uneasiness at the Time . . . and Still continues to distress me” and noted that a number of rivers had been called at one time or another the St. Croix (vol. 16:347–348). The second is the deposition of John Mitchell, the surveyor who created the map primarily used in the negotiations. There he attested that the river on his map designated as the St. Croix was, in fact, based on the best information that he could obtain in 1764. It is not known when JA received this letter and its enclosures, but in his 2 June 1786 letter to James Bowdoin (LbC, APM Reel 113), he indicated that he had made representations to the British government regarding the boundary but presumed they would have little effect. JA was correct, and no settlement was reached during his tenure as minister. The issue was taken up again in the 1794 Jay Treaty and the 1814 Treaty of Ghent, but it was not finally settled until the Webster-Ashburton Treaty of 1842 (Miller, Treaties , 2:249, 577–578; 4:364–365).


Jay’s 21 April 1785 report provided the substance for Congress’ 13 Oct. resolution, for which see note 1. In Jay’s second report, of 22 Sept., he suggested that Massachusetts be advised to garrison the disputed territory, without provoking hostilities, to discourage further incursions. He also recommended that France be apprised of the dispute, since Art. 11 of the 1778 Franco-American Treaty of Alliance contained a mutual guarantee of possessions. With this in mind Jay indicated his opinion that proper measures to bring about a settlement should be formed and pursued in concert with France ( JCC , 29:753–754; Miller, Treaties , 2:39–40).

From John Jay, 1 November 1785 Jay, John Adams, John
From John Jay
Dear Sir New York 1 Novr. 1785

The enclosed Letter from President Lee to you (of the Subject and Contents of which I am informed) will explain to you the Design of the Letters and papers which accompany this.1

The one to the archbishops of York and Canterbury are left open for your Information; and that you may the more easily determine with yourself either to deliver it in Person, or merely to forward it by a proper Conveyance.2

The attention you manifested to the episcopalian church in the affair of Denmark, has much obliged the members of it, and induced them to hope for your further good offices.

The convention are not inclined to acknowledge or have any thing to do with Mr. Seabury—his own high Church Principles and the high Church Principles of those who ordained him, do not 562quadrate either with the political Principles of our Episcopalians in general, or with those on which our Revolution and Constitutions are founded.3 They wish therefore to have a Bishop to whom no objections of that kind can be made and that is the object of their present measures.

It will be much in your power to aid them in the attainment of it, and for my own part I think your friendly Interposition will neither disserve your Country nor yourself.

To me personally Bishops are of little Importance but as our civil affairs are now circumstanced I have no objections to gratifying those who wish to have them— I confess I do not like the Principles of the nonjurors, and I think the less Patronage such opinions meet with among us the better.

with great and sincere Esteem & Regard I am Dear Sir / Your Most obt. and hble Servt.

John Jay—4

RC and enclosures (Adams Papers); internal address: “The Honble John Adams Esqr. / Minister Ply: &c.”


See Richard Henry Lee’s 24 Oct. letter, and note 1, above.


This is the letter drafted by the recently concluded convention of the American Protestant Episcopal Church that JA presented at his 3 Jan. 1786 meeting with John Moore, archbishop of Canterbury, for which see Lee’s 24 Oct. 1785 letter, note 1, above.


Samuel Seabury (1729–1796), Yale 1748, the first Episcopalian bishop in the United States, was ordained an Anglican deacon and priest in England in 1753. Returning to the colonies, he served congregations in New Jersey and New York and advocated for a bishop resident in America. His opposition to the Continental Congress and the Revolution led him to flee to New York City. Chosen bishop of Connecticut in March 1783 by a council of presbyters, he sailed for England to be consecrated, but the English bishops refused to do so because he had been selected by neither the state nor the laity of Connecticut, and because he could not swear the required oath of loyalty to George III. As a result Seabury went to Scotland in 1784 where he was consecrated by non-juring bishops on 14 Nov., and he returned to Connecticut in June 1785 ( ANB ).


With a fourth letter of this date (Adams Papers), Jay enclosed a duplicate of Congress’ 14 Oct. resolution concerning compensation for C. W. F. Dumas ( JCC , 29:835). Although he did not mention it, Jay probably also included his own letter to Dumas transmitting the resolution for JA to forward. JA did so under cover of his [5] Jan. 1786 letter to Dumas (LbC dated 4 Jan., APM Reel 113).

Jay wrote again on 2 Nov. 1785 (Adams Papers), recommending Jean Antoine Houdon, who was about to sail for Europe. Houdon reached London in mid-December ( AFC , 6:496).