Papers of John Adams, volume 17

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).

From Rufus King, 2 November 1785 King, Rufus Adams, John
From Rufus King
Sir, New York 2d Nov: 1785

A confidential intimacy with our common friend Mr. Gerry, with whom I have served during the last year has given me full information of the correspondence which has lately passed between you and him: and it is in consequence of a Sentence in your last letter 563to Mr. Gerry, that I take the Liberty of addressing this to you— if Mr. Gerry remained in Congress, I should suppose that the communications which I might make, would not be worth the Trouble of your perusal—but in his absence from Congress, it may be convenient that you should know the Opinions entertained by this body, relative to the Object of your Legation, and other Subjects important to America—1

If in communicating this information, I Shall have not only the honor of corresponding with a great minister, but also the satisfaction of serving my country, I cannot want motives to proceed.

The Sentiments uniformly expressed in your official Letters to the Secretary of foreign affairs, since your Residence at London, meet correspondent Opinions in all the States Eastward of Maryland— You very well understand the false commercial reasonings, and ill founded policy, of the other States: their present conduct, will hereafter be the cause of bitter regret— The navigation Act of Massachusetts you undoubtedly will have seen before this reaches You. New Hampshire has passed a similar Law, & other States probably may follow their example; yet granting that the measure will not become general still the confederation has put it in the choice of the Seven or Eight eastern States to become great commercial powers— Even admitting what is affirmed in England, that the Southern and Eastern States cannot agree in any System of commerce which will oppose to G. Britain commercial Disadvantages similar to those which she imposes upon our commerce and navigation, yet the Eight Eastern States can agree; they have common objects, are under similar embarrassments, would rest adequate powers in Congress to regulate external and internal commerce; and in case the Southern States decline, to rest similar powers in Congress, or to agree in some uniform system, the former by the Confederation are competent to form, and in the Event must form, a sub confederation remedial of all their present Embarrassments—

This is a matter that will be touched with great delicacy; the Subject is better and better understood every day in America, for it is the general conversation and examination— You sir, know your countrymen, you have witnessed their enterprize and Resolution under superior Difficulties. Will they suffer their commerce to languish and expire? will not the Spirit which dictated the nonimportation Agreement, & which once pervaded these States again appear? it still exists, and though it may have slept for a Time, it can again be roused; and if once more it becomes vigilant, and can be made 564active by the Pride of independence and the idea of national honor and Glory, the present embarrassments of Trade, and the vain Sophisms of Europeans relative thereto, will not only direct, but drive America into a System more advantageous than Treaties and alliances with all the world— A System which shall cause her to rely upon her own Ships, and her own mariners, and to exclude those of all other Nations— I will not add—be pleased to esteem this as introductory to such opinions prevailing here, as future safe opportunities may authorise me to communicate— If a Stranger can without impropriety offer his homage to a Lady of distinguished merit, I pray that you will please to make mine acceptable to Mrs. Adams; for whose happiness, together with that of Miss Adams her Companion & daughter, I entertain the warmest wishes—and have the honor to be with perfect respect, & consideration, Sir your most / obed. Servt.

Rufus King—

RC (Adams Papers); internal address: “His Exy: John Adams Esq:”; endorsed: “Mr King. 2. Nov. / ansd. 23. Decr. 1785.”


This letter marks the beginning of a substantial correspondence between King and JA that stemmed from JA’s invitation in his 26 June letter to Elbridge Gerry, for which see JA’s 6 July letter to Gerry, note 1, above.