Papers of John Adams, volume 17

From Charles Storer, 23 November 1785 Storer, Charles Adams, John
From Charles Storer
Dear Sir, New-York. 23d. November. 1785.

’Tis my duty to write you as well as my inclination— The first point I will not urge further than to assure you I am full sensible of it, as I know you are an enemy to useless words: The latter point, Sir, let me beg to be indulged in— I wish my Correspondance could be of benefit to you, and I am willing to think it may perhaps at some time or other— Should it afford you any degree of satisfaction, the reflection that you are countenancing & instructing one just coming upon the busy stage of life I am sure will be an addition in my favor— On this sentiment I build, Sir, & feel heartily disposed to thank you in advance— Je me trouve dans la politique—1 This disposition, Sir, I have mentioned to you more than once, & I find it grows upon me. The air of my native Country has inspired me with more zeal than ever in her behalf— I long to be one of her Champions— But I am yet a weak one you’ll say— True Sir—but you must assist me & I shall be strong.—

Boston. 3d. December. 1785.

At the above period I was called away to embark for Providence; and now am happy in having it in my power to finish my from my father’s house. I need not say how willingly the doors were set open to receive us after so long an absence. Parternal Sensibility you are no Stranger to, and suffice it to say, on the other side, that the feelings of the Child perfectly accorded with those of the Parent’s— To Mrs: Adams I must refer you for the particulars of our friends; if you are curious to know them—

Shall I tell you some news, Sir? I mean what is news to me; tho’ perhaps it may not be so to you— While at NYork I was much with Mr: Geary, which I am indebted to your letter for—with Mr: King & several other Members of Congress— Mr: King has lately written you, and I desired him to continue the Correspondance; because you have often complained of being in the dark, as to what was going forward here, & as he is a man the most capable of giving you substantial information of any one I know.2 He has a great respect and esteem for you, & in his turn is in the highest estimation of any young man in America— His talents are universally acknowledged to be very great: he is deeply versed in the laws & politics of his Country, & withal is highly ambitious— He is nevertheless a staunch 596Republican— He assured me that your fears were groundless, as to their being French & Anti-french, English & Anti-English parties in Congress—that on the contrary there was no foreign influence whatever known there—but that the present Members were unanimously decided on the true interest & dignity of the U: States—and are men of perfectly independant Characters— Why your original Commission to G: B: was revoked he did not tell me; but I found there was very strong opposition made to your late one— The Southern States, who you know ever regarded the Northern with a jealous eye, cried out violently against you— Give us one, said they, whom we know—who is acquainted with us & our interest—that we may rely on him— Accordingly Mr: Chancellor Livingston & Governor Rutledge were made Competitors with you & Colo: Smith was joined to them, that, in case the Principals fell, he might be a reserve— So it happened; for as soon as you were appointed, they in a manner insisted on his being appointed, and his being strongly recommended by General Washington, who chose to have all his family provided for, facilitated the measure— From this circumstance you will know how to view the appointment.—3

I found the People of NYork highly insensed against England, for their retaining the Posts: so it is thrô out; but particularly there. Yet ’tis universally thought that this ill-natured policy will tend yet more to strengthen the union of the States— I found the Southern Members to be warm & high for Navigation-Acts & reciprocal restrictions. Colo: Greyson, fm. Maryland,4 told me his State was about adopting our Navigation Act— New-Hampshire has done it already; and Rhode-Island & New-Jersey have empowered Congress fully to regulate their Commerce— The Southern States do not incline that Congress should have the regulation of Trade & Commerce in their power— The ballc: between them & us, they say is against them, and therefore they wish to have the staff in their own hands— I hinted to Colo: Greyson that probably G: Britain, by way of Proclamation, might throw out some partial advantage to the Southern States; but he assured me that any such attempts to seperate them from us would be universally treated with contempt.— Upon the whole, Sir, I am inclined to hope that the Commerce of the U: States will soon be on a respectable footing, as I rely on our not being wanting in our usual perseverance & joint exertion. I understand that among the first resolves of Congress will be a Recommendation to the States to join in a general Navigation Act, & to encourage all necessary manufactures among ourselves; as I am told there have been 597many petitions fm. several parts to their respective Legislatures to be encouraged. Our State has granted a bounty upon Oyl—£5:4: & 3. Pds: Pr: ton on the 3. superior Qualities, which, by making a saving voyage, may tend to encourage the fishery—5 How the Contract with France goes on I do’nt know: the prices I hear do not suit, nor the being obliged to take french manufactures in return—

While at NYork I was told, by a Gentleman who came fm: Falmouth in the English Packet, that Mr: Willm. Roach of Nantucket was surveying that harbor in order to establish there the fishery: that he had contracted with Government to employ a great number of Seamen & vessells and that great incouragement had been given him.6 But all this you are in the way of knowing better than I can tell you.—

No wonder, Sir, you had not heard of the arrival of Mr: Lambe anywhere in Europe; since he was seen, so lately as the middle of October, in New-London— Why he remained so long on this side the water seems unaccountable, unless we take into consideration the Character he bears, which is that of an idle, drunken, ignorant man. Pardon me, Sir, speaking so disrespectfully of one wm: Congress have appointed their Minister; but, as it appears to be a party matter & as his Conduct has been so very blameable, I feel admissible what I say.—

Thus much for general news. Our own State matters you will have fm. better hands than mine— Our Governor is much respected & the Government is pretty well established: they have been long employed during the last Cession about a Valuation, in order to know our proportion of debt, & are now adjourned to February— Trade is very dull here—& we have frequent failures— Our Navigation Act many dislike, as it has carried much of our trade to other States— It has been altered in regard to foreign vessells. We have priviledges in several European States—I mean up the Mediterranean, but by our late Act we denied them the same with us— Now we go on the footing of reciprocity.—

Do you remember, Sir, being addressed by Dr: Holyoke in the Summer 1783., as President of our Medical Society, respecting a Correspondance with the one at Paris? You established one; but lately it has been stopped; & they have not ever recd. their Journal de Medicine which was to have been sent out to them regularly. Can you give the Society any information on this head? Dr: Appleton wished me to mention this to you—7

Since my return I have waited on Mr: S: Adams— He is staunch & 598plain in his principles: is striving hard against innovations & change of manners & politics—but striving against a strong Current he labors & can but just keep his ground—

Enclosed you have an account of our Whale fishery at Nantucket & elsewhere—as also the resolve of Congress, receiving & acknowledging Mr: Temple8—so have only room to say I am, with every sentiment of esteem & respect, / Yr: much obliged, humle: servt:

C: S—

RC (Adams Papers); endorsed: “Mr Storer 23. Nov. 1785.”


I find myself involved in politics.


Storer may refer to either of the letters that JA wrote to Elbridge Gerry on 11 Sept., one of which is printed above. For the second (LbC, APM Reel 111), see note 2 to the printed letter, above. Rufus King’s letter was of 2 Nov., above.


For a similar account of the opposition to JA’s appointment as minister to Great Britain, see Gerry’s 24 Feb. letter, vol. 16:526–529. The major difference between the Gerry and Storer accounts is that Storer indicates that WSS was involved with the opposition, possibly as an alternative to JA. This does much to explain why Gerry and King deemed it necessary to meet with WSS prior to his appointment as JA’s secretary to obtain his assurance that he would do nothing “that might savour of Intrigue against the Minister of the Legation” (same, p. 544).


William Grayson was a member of Congress from Virginia, not Maryland ( Biog. Dir. Cong. ).


On 28 Nov. the Mass. General Court adopted a “Resolve Respecting the Whale Fishery.” It granted to Massachusetts whaling vessels bounties of £5 per ton of white spermaceti oil, 60 shillings per ton of brown or yellow oil, and 40 shillings per ton of “Whale Oil, (so called)” (Mass., Acts and Laws, 1784–1785, p. 795–797).


William Rotch (1734–1828) sailed from Nantucket, Mass., in July to investigate the possibility of settling some of the island’s whaling families in Britain. Upon his arrival he surveyed the English Channel coast from Southampton to Falmouth, favoring the latter port for its numerous smaller harbors and available property. He then met with William Pitt in November to discuss governmental support for emigration. When his terms were not met, he proceeded to France in April 1786, where nine families eventually settled at Dunkerque (Eric Jay Dolin, Leviathan: The History of Whaling in America, N.Y., 2007, p. 173–179).


For JA’s earlier efforts to establish a correspondence between the newly formed Massachusetts Medical Society and the Société royale de médecine at Paris, undertaken at the behest of Cotton Tufts, see Tufts’ 24 Nov. 1785 letter, and note 1, below. Dr. Nathaniel Appleton was one of the founders and currently the recording secretary of the society ( DAB ).


Neither of Storer’s enclosures—the report on the whale fishery and Congress’ 2 Dec. resolution recognizing John Temple as British consul general ( JCC , 29:897–898)—has been found.

To John Jay, 24 November 1785 Adams, John Jay, John
To John Jay
Dear Sir Grosvenor Square. Nov. 24. 1785.1

I was Yesterday honoured, with your Letter of the 14th. of October, accompanied with the Gazettes and the Act of Congress of the 27. Septr.

You will learn from Mr Dumas Letter, as well as by the public Papers, that the Treaty of defensive Alliance, between France and 599Holland was Signed at Paris on the tenth of this month. The vain Exertions of the Cabinet of St. James’s, to prevent it, are so far from being a Secret, that the English or Orange Party, which is the Same, have inserted them in their own Courier du Bas Rhin.2 The offers are there Stated to have been. the Restitution of Negapatnam the renunciation of the navigation of the Moluccas, the Payment of the Millions to the Emperor, the Warranty of the new Treaty with the Emperor, and the Alteration of the navigation Act, in favour of Holland. Sir James Harris, with his Secretary of Legation and three Clerks, are Said to have been very busy night and day: but all to no Purpose. it is not att all to be wondered at, that British Ministers should be allarmed. The only wonder is that they did not foresee and prevent the danger. two Years ago, by an honest Settlement with America, and less costly Offers to holland they might have maintained their Rank among the Powers of Europe. It is now lost forever. The Loss of the Empire of the Seas, which their Ambition has long aspired to, and which their Arrogance has long claimed, would be a benefit to Mankind, and no real Evil to them: but they will now find it difficult to defend their Liberty upon the Seas, and if the United States of America should acceed to this defensive Alliance upon any reasonable Terms, think of it as they will their Navigation their Possessions in the East & the West and their Empire will be at Mercy.

I am not informed, whether Congress have any Such Measure in Contemplation: but if they have, they ought not to delay it from any Expectation of any Thing that I can do here. so far from entertaining any Sanguine hopes, I think there is Scarcely a possibility that I should do any Thing. There are divisions in the Ministry. Thurlow, Gower, Dundas & Jenkinson, are of the old Leaven, and the King will have them, or some other of the same Stamp to govern.— Pitt is but a Tool, and an Ostensible Pageant, a Nose of tender Virgin Wax.— He could not carry in Parliament nor in the Cabinet, any honest system with America if he meant to do it. but he is himself very far from being Steady, in his American Politicks, any more than Cambden or Richmond. and Sidney and Carmarthen, are ——— Cyphers. This is naked Truth, but I should be unworthy of your Confidence, if I did not expose it to you although your Prudence and that of Congress, will not proclaim it to the World. This great Event of the Dutch and French Alliance, must awaken the Feelings of this nation if they have any left.— and afords the only Opportunity which has yet presented, for offering with any Propriety a Memorial 600concerning the Evacuation of the Frontier Posts. It would have looked somewhat too emphatick, to have gone with a Memorial, the first moment of the Arrival of the News, and it would be imprudent to delay it, till the whole Impression is worn off.— as a Medium, then, I have concluded, on the Day of the next Stated Conferences of the foreign Ministers, which will be next Thursday before the Drawing Room, to wait on Lord Carmarthen with a Memorial, requiring in the Name of the United States the Evacuation of all the Posts.3

It will not be done however and I shall have no Answer. They have not the Courage to refuse, any more than to comply. I have no Answer to any of my Letters or Memorials to the Ministry nor do I expect any, before next Spring. perhaps not then.

There is no Resource for me, in this Nation. The People are discouraged and dispirited, from the general Profligacy and Want of Principle from the Want of Confidence in any Leaders, from the frequent Dissappointments and Impositions they have experienced in turn from all Parties.— Patriotism is no more, nor is any hypocrite Successfull enough to make himself believed to be one.

Fox and his Friends and Patrons are ruined by the endless Expences of the last Elections, and have no longer any Spirit or any Enterprize.

North and his Friends are afraid of Impeachment and Vengeance, and therefore will avoid all hazardous Experiments by which the popular Cry might be excited.

I See nothing therefore to prevent the states from compleating their Measures for the Encouragement of their own Manufactures and Navigation, or from deliberating upon a new Treaty of Commerce with France, or even a new Alliance. You might probably purchase a Market for your ready built ships and Your Oil, &c in France, and the Admission of your Flour and all other Things to their Islands, by Stipulating to lay greater Duties upon British than French ships & Goods, to lay Duties upon English West India Rum in favour of French Brandies &c. But in these Things I think We need not be in haste.—

Mr Barclay & Mr Franks are gone to Morocco and Mr Lamb & Mr Randal to Algiers as I suppose.

Russia, as well as Portugal are piqued at present with this Court, and Comte Warranzow has Several times lately asked a Friend of mine, why the United States did not make any Advances to his Mistress.— our Commissions for treating with the Powers of Europe 601expire next June, long before We shall have compleated the Business. Congress will determine, whether to renew them

I have the Honour to be, with entire Esteem, sir your / most obedient & most humble servant

John Adams

RC (PCC, No. 84, V, f. 733–736); internal address: “Mr Secretary Jay.” LbC (Adams Papers); APM Reel 111.


In the Letterbook this letter is dated 22 November.


With his letter to JA of 15 Nov. (Adams Papers), C. W. F. Dumas enclosed a letter, also dated 15 Nov., to the president of Congress. Dumas instructed JA to read the letter and then forward it to America. The RC of that letter has been lost, but JA had AA2 copy it into his Letterbook (LbC, APM Reel 111) before he sent it off. In his letter, Dumas reported that two decisive blows had been struck. The first, on 8 Nov., was the signing of the Treaty of Fontainebleau between Austria and the Netherlands. Both mediated and guaranteed by France, that treaty resolved the Austro-Dutch conflict over the Scheldt River that for months had threatened war. The second, perhaps even more important to Dumas and his friends in the pro-French Patriot Party, was the 10 Nov. signing of a Franco-Dutch defensive alliance. For accounts of the Austro-Dutch conflict over the Scheldt, France’s role in its settlement, and the significance of the Franco-Dutch treaty, see vol. 16:212–213. As JA does in this letter from reports in the Courier du Bas-Rhin, Dumas listed the incentives offered by Britain to the Netherlands to refuse the alliance with France and thereby maintain its influence in the Netherlands in support of the interests of the pro-British Orangists and the stadholder, William V, Prince of Orange. Finally, Dumas indicated the surprise of Dutch friends of America that the United States had not pressed Britain on the issue of the evacuation of the frontier posts.


See JA’s memorial on the frontier posts of [30 Nov.], below.