Papers of John Adams, volume 18


From Charles Storer

To John Adams from Rufus King, 1 February 1786 King, Rufus Adams, John
From Rufus King
Dear Sir New York 1. Feb. 1786

Seven States only have been represented in congress since October, of consequence very few questions of national importance have been under the examination of this Assembly— The meetings of the Legislatures have probably detained many of the Delegates, but it is expected, that Ten States will, within a short period, be represented—There is some ground to expect that several of the Southern States will do what is right on the subject of the commercial powers of congress— I inclose a Report made by the secretary, some weeks 134 Since in pursuance of an order of congress for that purpose—1 It explains itself, and will give you true information upon several very important points.

New York & Georgia are delinquent states relative to the Revenue system— their Legislatures are both in Session, and it is greatly to be desired that they should comply with the impost plan, before they adjourn— Maryland will undoubtedly pass an act granting the impost conformable to the Recommendation of congress of the 18th. of April 1783.2

Their not having before passed such an Act, does not evidence any disinclination, because it is Known to have happened from a mistake—

I shall do myself the Honor to write to you by a private hand, who leaves this City in a few weeks for London— the conveyance being secure I can then write with more freedom— Mr. Gerry is still here, although not in congress, he returns soon to massachusetts with a most amiable Wife, whom he has married here—3

With perfect respect & esteem I have the honor to be my Dear Sir your / most obedient servant

Rufus King

RC (Adams Papers); internal address: “His Excellency / John Adams”; endorsed: “Mr King 1. Feb. 1786.”


On 2 Jan., at the behest of Rufus King and others, Congress ordered Charles Thomson to report on the states’ compliance with two congressional resolutions of 18 April 1783 and a third of 30 April 1784. Under the first the states were asked to empower Congress to levy an impost, and for a 25-year period, the states would agree to set aside funds to discharge the national debt. The second resolution called for the alteration of Art. 8 of the Articles of Confederation so as to more accurately determine the proportion of funds to be supplied by each state to Congress. The third would have granted Congress the power to regulate trade. In the report, Thomson indicated the progress toward full compliance with the resolutions, but in no case had more than eight states fully complied ( JCC , 30:6–10). Thomson sent the report to the states under cover of a 12 Jan. 1786 circular letter (Smith, Letters of Delegates , 23:89). The copy of Thomson’s report enclosed by King has not been found, but it was presumably one of the copies Congress ordered printed for its use (Evans, No. 20045). John Jay also enclosed copies of the report with his 3 Feb. letter, below.


On 15 Feb., King and others presented a committee report identifying the state legislatures yet to grant the impost, rendering it “the unquestionable Duty of the several States to adopt, without farther delay, those measures, which alone in the Judgment of the committee, can preserve the sacred faith of this Confederacy.” By late March, Georgia and Maryland granted the impost to Congress ( JCC , 30:70–76; Smith, Letters of Delegates , 23:210–211). See also the Board of Treasury’s 7 March letter, and note 2, below.


Elbridge Gerry, who married Ann Thompson on 12 Jan. in New York City, wrote to JA on 2 Feb. to announce his marriage and to inform JA that he was no longer a member of Congress. After relocating to Cambridge, Gerry wrote to JA on 21 Nov., as Shays’ Rebellion was coming to a climax, that he hoped to “have many well relished Dishes of politics with You here, the present Commotion notwithstanding” (both Adams Papers; Sibley’s Harvard Graduates , 15:246–247).