Papers of John Adams, volume 18

From Thomas Jefferson

To Richard Cranch

To John Adams from Rufus King, 10 December 1785 King, Rufus Adams, John
From Rufus King
Sir New York 10 Dec. 1785

Mr. Hancock has accepted as President of Congress and will be here in a few days; Seven States have been represented for a few days only since November commenced— Six states only are now represented, I inclose a list of the Names of the Delegates—1

A Bill passed the house of representatives of massachusetts during their autumn Session, repealing all the Laws preventing the Return or Residence of Tories or Refugees to that State, and admitting them on the Footing of Aliens— But meeting with opposition in the Senate, it was postponed until the next Session— it passed the House upon a Division of 141 for, and 18 against the Bill, the question being taken by Yeas & Nays.2

Although this measure failed, yet the Legislature passed a law relative to the Whale Fishery, which is greatly to be commended, and taken as a part of a System, is certainly wise and politick—3

The navigation act was altered so as to conform it to the commercial Treaties entered into by the United States, continuing the impositions upon all British commerce—4

I inclose a Gazette, which contains the Massachusetts Law encouraging the Whale Fishery—5

In great haste, but perfect / Respect / Your most obt. servt

Rufus King

RC (Adams Papers); internal address: “His Excellency / Mr. Adams”; endorsed: “Mr King. 10. Decr / 1785. / recd 21. ansd. 22. Jan. 1786.”


The list of delegates enclosed by King has not been found. Congress was unable to assemble a quorum until 27 Dec. ( JCC , 29: 903).


The arrival of news of the Anglo-American preliminary peace treaty in 1783 produced deep divisions in Massachusetts over the disposition of loyalist property and the return of the refugees under Art. 5 of the treaty (vols. 14:106–107; 15:55, 69). Little had changed when on 10 Nov. 1785 a committee reported to the Massachusetts house of representatives “An Act for granting permission to certain persons to come into this Commonwealth, agreeably to the fifth of the articles of the Treaty of peace, between the United States of America & Great Britain & for repealing certain clauses of an Act passed the 24th. day of March 1784.” The house passed the bill on 15 Nov. 1785 and sent it to the senate where it was rejected on 1 December. Previous to that the senate appointed a committee to meet with its counterpart from the house for the next session commencing 28 on 1 Feb. 1786. Not until 30 April 1787, however, did the Mass. General Court effectively grant amnesty to loyalists by “An Act for repealing any acts, or parts of acts heretofore passed by the legislature of this commonwealth, which may militate with, or infringe the Treaty of Peace, entered into by the United States of America, and Great Britain” (Records of the States: Mass., House Journal, A.1b, Reel 11, Unit 3, VI, p. 278, 286, 290, 294, 295–297; Mass., Senate Journal, A.1a, Reel 16, Unit 4, VI, p. 262, 264, 275, 283; Mass., Acts and Laws , 1786–1787, p. 259–260).


For Massachusetts’ bounties on whale oil, see vol. 17:598.


For Massachusetts’ revision of its navigation act to bring it into compliance with existing treaties, see vol. 17:536.


The enclosed “Gazette” has not been found, but presumably it contained the Mass. General Court’s 28 Nov. 1785 “Resolve Respecting the Whale Fishery,” which granted bounties on whale oil (vol. 17:598).