Papers of John Adams, volume 18

To John Jay

From Matthew Robinson-Morris

From John Adams to John Jay, 27 February 1786 Adams, John Jay, John
To John Jay
Sir Grosvenor Square Feb. 27. 1786

At the last Conferences, as they call here what is understood in Paris by Ambassadors Days the Marquis of Carmarthen was pleased to make an Apology for not having yet answered the Memorial requiring the Evacuation of the Posts.1 “It would Sound oddly to Say that he had delayed his Answer, to prevent Delays, but it was true. He had drawn up his answer, but as he was obliged to Say Something, concerning the old Debts, he had been obliged to wait for a little further Information, that he might State in one View all the Acts of the Assemblies which had interposed Impediments.”— As this is some kind of Respect to the Memorial, it ought to be communicated to Congress as no doubt it was intended And expected, that it should be.

The publick Prints will inform you, that the Newfoundland Bill and the American Intercourse Bill is revived. it would be sufficient to convince every American what the system is, to say that Mr Jenkinson was the Member of Administration and the House of Commons, Selected to conduct this Business. comparing his well known Character with what he Said, You will believe that the same Men and the same Principles which have governed this Nation in their Conduct towards America these twenty Years, prevail to this hour as far as the Circumstances will admit; and that Mr Pitt is either a convert to their sentiments, or is only an Ostensible Minister.2

It remains with the States to determine what Measures they will take to discourage a Commerce the most impoverishing and ruinous, that can be imagined, to promote a more beneficial Intercourse with the rest of Europe, and to support their own Manufactures and 187 navigation, for on Such Measures alone can they have any Dependence, in future.

With Sincere Esteem I have the Honor / to be, sir your most obedient / and most humble servant

John Adams.

RC (PCC, No. 84, VI, f. 142–144); internal address: “His Excellency John Jay / Secretary of State for the / Department of foreign Affairs.” LbC (Adams Papers); APM Reel 112.


For JA’s [30 Nov. 1785] memorial to the Marquis of Carmarthen on the frontier posts, see vol. 17:624–625. Carmarthen’s reply was of 28 Feb. 1786, below.


For British renewal of the Newfoundland Trade Bill, see JA’s 26 Jan. letter to Samuel Adams, and note 2, above.

Although JA refers to it as the American Intercourse Bill in 1783, in fact it was the 1783 American Manifest Act that was renewed for another year. The Fox-North coalition proposed the American Intercourse Bill in 1783 to liberalize Anglo-American trade, but it was unable to obtain parliamentary approval and replaced the bill with the American Manifest Act, which ceded to the Privy Council regulation of trade with the United States (vols. 14:333; 15:33–34).

In his speech of 17 Feb. 1786, Charles Jenkinson, newly appointed president of the reconstituted Council for Trade and Plantations, criticized the “most uncertain state” and “very strange and doubtful restrictions” of American trade. Jenkinson was presumably upset because the Manifest Act effectively gutted the powers of the Council. Nevertheless, he advised prudence until Britain “saw that the United States brought forth some steady system with regard to our commerce” (London Morning Post and Daily Advertiser, 18 Feb.).