Papers of John Adams, volume 18

To Samuel Adams

From the Comte de Sarsfield

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

Give me Leave to introduce to you John Anstey Esq Barrister at Law and a Member of Parliament, who goes out by Authority to verify the Claims of the Loyalists, as they call themselves.— I believe it to be the Design of Mr Pitt to pay their Demands which shall be found to be Supported, and withdraw their Pensions and then leave them to Seek their Fortunes. in Such a Case if our States repeal their Laws against them, they will generally return, to their old homes, or to some other Part of the United States, where they must become good Citizens or be compleatly insignificant.

By Mr Anstey, I Send you, the Kings Speech and the Debates upon it. The most remarkable Thing in them, is, that the King and every Member of each House, has entirely forgotten that there is any Such Place upon Earth as the United States of America.— We appear to be considered as of no consequence at all, in the Scale of the World. The next Thing observable is, that Administration and Opposition are agreed in turning their Thoughts to a Confederation with Russia and Denmark, in which they wish to get the Emperor to join, as a Ballance to the Confederation, between the House of Bourbon and Holland, to which they Suppose Sweeden attached.1

They are agreed also in the Fact that there is a Surplus of Revenue in the Treasury, and therefore that the Resources of the Country are inexhaustible. You may perhaps Smile at this Inference but they are very grave.

I dont know whether We ought not to wish that they may Succeed, in their Project of Connections with Russia and Denmark and 125 the Emperor too: because, when one Part of Europe shall become thus formally pitted against the other, probably both sides may begin to recollect that there is Such a Power as the United States of America, and that she has some Influence. Congress may in Such a Case take more time to deliberate whether it is necessary for them to engage at all. and if it should appear inevitable, they may make better Terms.

In the meantime it is much to be wished, that a friendly Settlement could be made with Spain, and that a Minister might be sent to Holland, whose Inhabitants are the most cordial Friends We have in Europe.

I have had an opportunity this Week of Conversation with the Marquis of Lansdown and Lord Abbington his Friend and Admirer. They appear to me, to be as far from having adopted any decisive system relative to Us, as Mr Pitt or Mr Fox. This Conversation has removed every Expectation that there will be any Party or even any Individual in Parliament in favour of a liberal Commerce with Us.2

The United States therefore have no Choice left. They must Support their own navigation, or have none.

With great and sincere Esteem, I / have the honour to be, Sir, your / most obedient and most humble / Servant

John Adams.

RC (PCC, No. 84, VI, f. 79–82); internal address: “His Excellency John Jay / Secretary of State for / foreign Affairs.” LbC (Adams Papers); APM Reel 112.


JA accurately summarizes George III’s 24 Jan. speech to open Parliament and the ensuing debates on it. In two days of debate on the speech, the sole mention of America came from William Pitt’s rival Charles James Fox, who detected a Franco-Dutch-American “confederacy” of naval power rising against Britain. Members of both houses expressed greater concern at the king’s omission of Irish and Indian affairs ( Parliamentary Hist. , 25:985–1028).


The Earl of Shelburne and his ally Willoughby Bertie, 4th Earl of Abingdon, generally supported Pitt’s trade initiatives, including his propositions for Anglo-Irish trade and the Anglo-French commercial treaty project, throughout JA’s ministerial tenure in London ( DNB ).