Papers of John Adams, volume 18

From Philip Mazzei

To John Jay

From John Adams to Samuel Adams, 26 January 1786 Adams, John Adams, Samuel
To Samuel Adams
Dear Sir Grosvenor Square Jan. 26. 1786

Give me Leave to introduce to you, Mr Anstey a Member of Parliament and Barrister at Law, who is Sent out by the Commissioners of American Claims to verify Facts, Such as Titles to Estates, Incumbrances upon them &c.1

The House of Commons Yesterday ordered an Account of Vessells 123 cleared out for the Importation of Flour Biscuit and Live Stock from the U States into any of the Islands of Newfoundland &c and also an Account of all Flour &c imported into any of the Islands in Newfoundland, between the 10th. Jan. 1784. and the 10. Jan. 1785.2

Whether this portends good or evil, time will discover.

The Debates in Parliament have taken an unusual Turn to foreign Policks and the relative Situation of Great Britain. if this subject Should be fully considered they will discover, that it is of some importance to know the situation of Great Britain relatively to the U. States of America.— it would not be extravagant to Say, that they may hereafter find it in the Power of Congress to turn the Ballance and decide their Fate. Congress has hitherto been studiously kept out of Sight, by the K.3 Ministry and Opposition. They are afraid of raising in American Minds Ideas of their Importance. Russia, Denmark and England would not form a Ballance to Bourbon and Holland, if Congress should be joined. indeed if the U. states should be neutral the Ballance would not be exact.— In my humble Opinion We must be neutral or join the French and Dutch.

Opinions are very Sanguine that this Country can support their Credit, without a very fair Commerce with Us. There is nothing then remaining, but foreign Politicks and the Ballance of Power, to persuade them to give Us Satisfaction. They generally consider Us, as already in the Scale of Bourbon, and it is not easy to convince them that We are not. I have endeavoured to convince them that Neutrality is in our Power, but with little Success. inded they really do not think Us of much Consequence. We have no Navy: and are Aukward in Uniting in any Thing. some of them indeed agree that We shall grow, both in Union Dignity and Power. It is really of more moment to this Country, to Secure the Neutrality of the United States, than the Alliance of Russia, and the time will come when it will be seen and felt. But the Nation is too much inflamed and imbittered, to reflect coolly upon any Thing respecting America.

Our Path is plain. We must make navigation Acts, and take care of ourselves, preserve our Neutrality as long as We can, and when We must part with it, get the best Price for it4 We can.— it is much to be desired that our Commerce with all other nations may be encreased, especially France & Holland, and lessened with England as much as possible, untill she shall put it on a more liberal Footing. The political Friendship too of France Spain and Holland Should be cultivated as much as possible without involving Us too far.

With great Esteem and Affection yours

John Adams

RC (NN:George Bancroft Coll.); internal address: “The Hon. John H Samuel Adams Esqr”; endorsed: “Letter from John Adams / dated Grovesnor Square (London) / Jany. 26 1786”; notation: “Copied & Exd.LbC (Adams Papers); APM Reel 113.


On the same day, JA wrote a similar, but shorter, letter to John Hancock introducing John Anstey (LbC, APM Reel 112).


JA refers to the members’ request for a report on the success of the Newfoundland Trade Bill, but the period to be reviewed was 10 Oct. 1784 to 10 Oct. 1785. With the act due to expire on 25 March 1786, the Committee for Trade reassessed and ultimately renewed the option to supply Nova Scotia with provisions from America in British ships. This practice continued until 1788. By then, a series of bountiful Canadian grain harvests and loyalist development of the area prompted the act’s amendment, to prohibit the importation of most American produce (vol. 17:31–32, 541–551; Journals of the House of Commons, repr. edn., London, 1803– , 41:5; Ritcheson, Aftermath of Revolution , p. 192, 194–195).


At this point in the LbC, WSS wrote, “King.”


At this point in the LbC, WSS added, “and highest bidder.”