Papers of John Adams, volume 18

To John Jay

From the Comte de Sarsfield

89 To John Adams from John Paul Jones, 7 January 1786 Jones, John Paul Adams, John
From John Paul Jones
Sir, Paris Jany. 7th. 1786.

On the 8th. of October last Mr. Jefferson wrote me a Letter approving of a proposition I had made to him that I should deputize Dr. Bancroft to sollicit the Court of Denmark, through the Danish Minister at London, for the Compensation due for the Prizes made by the Squadron I commanded in Europe and given up to the British by the Danish Government, in the year 1779 in the Port of Bergen in Norway. Mr. Jefferson was also so obliging as to undertake to write to you on the subject, and to pray you to support Dr. Bancroft’s application.1

In consequence of this arrangement I wrote to Dr. Bancroft the 11th. of October, and inclosed the Papers that I thought necessary to give effect to the Application, all which he has of course communicated to you.

I had two Reasons for proposing the application in this manner. 1st. I intend to return myself to America in the Spring, to render an account of the Business I have concluded with the Court of Versailles. And 2dly. there is no Danish Minister here nor expected here, ’till the Summer. I shall esteem myself personally and particularly obliged by the kind support you are pleased to give Dr. Bancroft’s application.2

I am, with sentiments of great esteem & respect, / Sir / your most obedient / and most humble Servant


RC (Adams Papers); internal address: “His Excellency / John Adams Esqr. Minister Plenipo. of the United-States at the Court of London.”


For an account of Denmark’s 1779 return of the frigate Alliance’s prizes to Britain and Congress’ instructions on obtaining restitution, see vol. 15:331–332, 333–334. In his 8 Oct. 1785 letter to Thomas Jefferson, Jones indicated that since he had been unable to raise the issue of the Alliance’s prizes with Danish diplomats in Paris, he intended to deputize Dr. Edward Bancroft in London to undertake negotiations on the matter with the Danish minister there and asked Jefferson to write JA concerning it (Jefferson, Papers , 8:597). On 11 Oct. Jefferson wrote JA, requesting him to assist Bancroft by opening negotiations with the Danish minister. In his 4 Nov. reply, JA indicated that Congress’ instructions placed responsibility for resolving the issue “wholly” in the hands of the American minister to France, so he and Bancroft thought it best for Jefferson to initiate discussions with the Danish chargé d’affaires at Paris (vol. 17:504, 566–568).


Jones’ 11 Oct. letter to Bancroft (Adams Papers) authorized Bancroft to act in his place with regard to the Alliance’s prizes. With it were enclosed Congress’ 1 Nov. 1783 resolution appointing Jones its agent, under the direction of the U.S. minister at Paris, for the recovery of the prize money ( JCC , 25:787–788); Robert Morris’ 6 Nov. 1783 certificate that Jones had executed bonds for his mission (Morris, Papers , 8:741); Benjamin 90 Franklin’s 17 Dec. 1783 authorization of Jones to act with regard to the prizes (Franklin, Papers , 41:298); and a copy of Franklin’s 21 July 1785 letter to Jones describing his negotiations with Denmark and rejection of the Danish offer of £10,000 as a settlement (PCC, No. 168, II, f. 385).

JA wrote to Jones on 21 Jan. 1786 that he would support Bancroft’s representations to the Danish minister at London but thought it would be best to apply to the Baron von Walterstorff, the chamberlain to the king of Denmark who had been at Paris and in 1783 negotiated with Franklin concerning a commercial treaty with Denmark. JA indicated that he would write to Walterstorff immediately and did so on 21 Jan. 1786 (vol. 15:225–226; both LbC’s, APM Reel 113). In his 7 Feb. reply (Adams Papers) Jones indicated that the London option remained the best solution because Walterstorff was no longer available, having been appointed governor of the Danish West Indies. See also Jones’ 10 July letter, below.