Papers of John Adams, volume 18

From Stephen Higginson

From John Jay

82 To John Adams from Charles Storer, 30 December 1785 Storer, Charles Adams, John
From Charles Storer
Dear Sir, Boston. 30th. December. 1785.

I made a mistake in my other letter respecting the Medical Society— ’Twas you who settled the Correspondance between the Society of Medicine at Paris & our Medical Society here— I well remember the notes that passed on the occasion between you & Monsr: Vicq d’Azir, perpetual Secretary— Our medical Society were extremely pleased at what you had done for them, & wrote them, (immediately on your forwarding the letters that had passed between you & Monsr: Vicq d’Azir.) through you—1 But as they have never heard from the Society at Paris, whether they received those letters; nor from you whether they ever reached your hands, Dr: Appleton has desired me to write you on the subject, that the Society may know why the Correspondance has been interrupted— Any information, Sir, you may please to transmit thro’ me, I shall be happy to communicate.—

I find at last that Mr: Lambe is arrived in Europe; but am sorry to see by the Papers that he has been appointed in Mr: Barclay’s stead—2 From every thing that I can learn, he is a man noways fit to be entrusted with such an office— I have heard that he was not commissioned by Congress—but that he carried dispatches only to you, & was recommended to be appointed by the Ministers in Europe— This I think cannot be true— I wish sincerely he may do well—for a very great deal depends on his negotiation—

Do you remember some Queries that were put to you in the English Papers of last June, signed Mercator—and the Answers to them, signed by a Bostonian? I think you wished to know the Author of these last, & since my return I find him to be Mr: Jona: Williams— They are now reprinting here— He has made an addition to them, which is to be sent to England to be printed— This peice of intelligence I have from a friend of mine, who is Brother-in-law to him.—3

I have a peice of information to give you, which I am sure will give you pain; yet I cannot forbear it— ’Tis respecting our worthy friend Mr: Jay— He has been lately challenged by the Mr: Littlepage, who was with him in Spain— It seems Mr: Jay had advanced him, while in Europe, about £300. stg. which Mr: Littlepage promised to repay on his arrival in America—and on meeting Mr: Jay lately in New-York it was mentioned to him but the young Gent: wished to 83 put him off with saying his Guardian would pay it & that he was on the point of embarking for Europe.— Mr: Jay was not satisfied, & Mr: Littlepage was affronted— The next day Mr: Jay had him arrested: the Consequence of which was that a Challenge was sent— Mr: Jay refused to accept it—& Mr: Littlepage has not only posted him; but has made public all the domestic occurrences that fell under his observation while with Mr: Jay—even some political matters—and this I understand is to be printed— It is said that Mr: Jay too has condescended to abuse— If I can get the pamphlet will send it to you—tho’ I hope it will not be suffered to spread—4

I forgot to mention that I did not see either of the Mr: Lee’s. at NYork, as they were in Virginia— I forwarded your letters to them— One to Mr: R. H. Lee was public, as President of Congress; but not being marked so on the outside, I was obliged to send them both on to him—5

I am, Sir, with great respect & esteem, / Yr: oblig’d, humle: servt:

Chas: Storer.

RC (Adams Papers); addressed: “His Excellency / John Adams Esquire— / Grosvenor-Square. / London.”; internal address: “John Adams Esquire.”; endorsed: “Mr Storer 30 Decr. 1785.”


Charles Storer and Cotton Tufts had written to JA on 23 and 24 Nov. (vol. 17:595–598, 604–605), respectively, regarding JA’s efforts in 1782 and 1783 to facilitate a correspondence between the Massachusetts Medical Society and the Société royale de médecine at Paris, for which see vol. 14:index. Félix Vicq d’Azyr, an anatomist and epidemiologist, was the secretary of the Société royale with whom JA corresponded (vol. 14:xii, 233). For the resolution of the issue raised by Storer here and in his earlier letter, see JA’s 11 March 1786 letter to Tufts ( AFC , 7:87–88) and that of 3 April to Edward Augustus Holyoke, below.


The source of Storer’s information about John Lamb has not been identified. But, for the commissioners’ initial appointment of Thomas Barclay to negotiate with Algiers, Morocco, Tripoli, and Tunis, and then, upon Lamb’s much belated arrival at Paris, their decision to send Barclay to Morocco and Lamb to Algiers, see vol. 17:432–434.


Not mentioned by JA at the time, the exchange between Mercator and “A Bostonian” appeared in the London Public Advertiser of 7, 9, 14, 19, and 25 July 1785 and was reprinted in the Boston American Herald of 26 Dec. 1785, 2 and 9 Jan. 1786. There were originally three letters by Mercator and two by “A Bostonian,” but the reprinting includes a reply by “A Bostonian” to Mercator’s 25 July 1785 letter that did not appear in the Public Advertiser, perhaps the “addition” referred to by Storer. Mercator, whose attitude toward the United States was little different from other critics writing in London newspapers at the time, opened with a series of questions directed to the “person who is said to be the Representative of the New States.” There, and in his succeeding pieces, Mercator questioned the legitimacy of Congress as a government and of JA as minister while condemning the failure to compensate loyalists for their confiscated property, American pretensions to trade with the East and West Indies, its failure to pay prewar debts, and its demand to be compensated for the removal of slaves. “A Bostonian” defended the legitimacy of Congress and JA, emphasized that American independence was not the gift of Britain in the peace treaty, and argued that the problems in Anglo-American relations were owing to British arrogance rather than 84 American hostility to Britain. Of particular interest in the exchange was Mercator’s condemnation of the institution of slavery in the United States and the rejoinder by “A Bostonian” that it was British merchants that controlled and profited from the slave trade.

It has been impossible to verify Storer’s identification of Jonathan Williams Jr., Benjamin Franklin’s grandnephew, as the author. However, “A Bostonian” appeared again in the 3 and 10 Aug. 1786 issues of the Boston Independent Chronicle as the author of a piece entitled “A View of the Federal Government of America.” There he strongly advocated that the central government be strengthened, particularly with regard to the conduct of foreign relations. In the course of his argument he wrote that “letters from Mr. A—— himself have been publicly shown in our capital cities, and we have there read, that the Americans, in the estimation of Englishmen, are sunk into the lowest pit of contempt.” The piece was later reprinted in the London Public Advertiser of 19 and 29 Jan. 1787, suggesting that the same author wrote both the 1785 and the 1786 pieces.


For the dispute between John Jay and Lewis Littlepage that resulted in an acrimonious exchange of pamphlets, and which Storer accurately describes, see Jay’s 2 Feb. letter, and note 1, below.


Storer refers to JA’s 6 Sept. 1785 letter to Arthur Lee and letters of 26 Aug. and 6 Sept. to Richard Henry Lee. Both letters to the latter were designated as private (vol. 17:365–367, 410–411, 412–413).