Papers of John Adams, volume 18

From Isaac Stephens

From François Soulés

From John Adams to David Humphreys, 8 February 1786 Adams, John Humphreys, David
To David Humphreys
Dear Sir Grosvenor Square Feb. 8. 1786

I received with Pleasure, your kind Letter of Yesterday, and although I cannot absolutely disapprove of your proposed Return to America in the Spring for the Reasons you Suggested in Conversation, yet I feel a sensible Reluctance at the Thought of loosing your Assistance, and Still wish you may find it convenient to Stay at least till the Expiration of your Commission.1 I believe, and I hope, that Congress have further Services for you in Europe, where, it is but Justice to Say, you have done honour, to yourself and your Country.

The Harmony which you observe prevails, among the Servants of the Publick, in Europe, is much to their honour and the publick Advantage. While Persons born and liberally educated in America, who have acquired the Confidence of their Countrymen by their Behaviour and Services under their Eyes, are employed in Europe and are Supported by their Constituents, in the faithfull discharge of their Duty, against insidious Schemes, this Harmony will continue.

Your whole Conduct Sir, has been highly Satisfactory to me: and I am particularly happy in your Society in London, where from a more familiar and personal Intimacy, I have conceived an Affection and Friendship for you, which will not easily be diminished. If you return to America, I hope for your Correspondence. I know it will give you Pleasure if I add here, that I have found in your Friend and former Colleague Coll Smith, all those amiable qualities which you led me to expect in him, before I knew him. and I think it is doing Service to the Publick to Say, that you have both acquired much Respect in Europe, and given Proofs of Talents and Address, which would become any higher Station in the Diplomatic Order.

With great Esteem and Affection, I have / the Honour to be, dear sir, your / Friend and most humble / Servant

John Adams.

RC (NjP:De Coppet Coll.); internal address: “Coll Humphreys Secretary / to the Commissions for Treaties / of Commerce.”; endorsed: “London Feby 8. 1786 / from / Mr. Adams—” LbC (Adams Papers); APM Reel 113.


Preparing to return to the United States upon the expiration of his two-year commission in May, Humphreys wrote to JA on 7 Feb., requesting a letter of recommendation to Congress regarding his service as secretary to the American commissioners in Europe 154 (Adams Papers). JA responded with a 9 Feb. letter to John Jay in which he expressed his “entire satisfaction” with Humphreys’ conduct. Of Humphreys, and WSS, JA wrote: “This gentleman and another whom Congress have employed in Europe from General Washington’s family, have accomplishments which do honor to their appointments and to the great model under whom they were formed to the service of their country” ( Dipl. Corr., 1783–1789 , 2:563–564). Thomas Jefferson also praised Humphreys in a 5 March letter to Jay, noting the secretary’s “ready, able, and faithful discharge” of his duties (Jefferson, Papers , 9:316–317). The commissioners’ commendations were read before Congress on 22 May ( JCC , 30:298).

Humphreys sailed from London on or about 15 April and reached America in mid-May. Shortly thereafter he took up residence at Washington’s Mount Vernon estate ( AFC , 7:146; Jefferson, Papers , 9:608; ANB ).