Papers of John Adams, volume 18

From John Adams to Elbridge Gerry, 19 March 1786 Adams, John Gerry, Elbridge
To Elbridge Gerry
Dear Sir Grosvenor Square March 19. 1786 1

Before the Arrival of your kind Letter by Wingrove2 I had heard, from various quarters, of your Marriage and had received the most agreable Accounts of the Character of the Lady. give me leave to congratulate you, on this happy Event. Nothing can be more pleasing than the Transition from the Turbulence of War and Politicks to the Tranquility of domestick Life, in the Arms of a Lady of so much Merit. You know I always spoke respectfully of the State of Matrimony. You have already found I dare say, that I had reason, and you will be more and more convinced of it. Will you introduce me to Mrs Gerry and make her my Friend?


We expect Soon to hear from Barclay at Morocco and Lamb at Algiers, but We despair of any better News than that the Money limited is ten times too little.3

We shall not probably, be able to obtain a Treaty of Peace with Tripoli Tunis and Morocco under Five and thirty thousand Guineas each. and Algiers may demand an hundred Thousands.— If Congress will go to this Expence and can borrow the Money in holland, We may have Peace.— after the delay of a Year or two it may cost Us a Million.—

In England there is no Appearance of a Change of System towards America.

T. Boylstone carried a Cargo of Oil to France and sold it well.— he laid out the Money in raw Sugars which he sent to Boston? This is an Idea, that I Suggested to Congress in some Letters three Years ago.4

Raw Sugars may be purchased in France & Portugal, in any Quantities, of the best quality and at a cheaper Price, than you can have them in the British West India Islands. Vessells going to our States from Europe frequently want freight, because our Exports are more voluminous than our Imports. from these Premises draw your Conclusion and judge whether, our Sugar houses cannot be made very usefull to Us.—?

I am my dear sir, with the best Respects / of my Family to your Lady, your / affectionate

John Adams

RC (MHi:Hoar Autograph Coll.); addressed: “The Honourable / Elbridge Gerry Esqr / Marblehead”; internal address: “The Hon. Mr Gerry.”; endorsed: “Grosvenor square / Letter His Excy / Mr Adams / March 19 1786”; notation by Isaac Smith Sr.: “Boston May 16. Recd. under cover by Yr. h Servt / Isaac Smith.” LbC (Adams Papers); APM Reel 113.


From Isaac Smith Sr.’s notation it would appear that this letter was sent under cover of JA’s 12 March letter to Smith, above, which also dealt with the Barbary negotiations, or under a covering letter to Smith that has not been found.

In any case, no reply by Gerry to this letter has been found.


John Wingrove carried Gerry’s letter of 2 Feb. (Adams Papers), for which see Rufus King’s 1 Feb. letter, and note 3, above.


For the progress of Thomas Barclay’s journey to Morocco, see his 27 March letter, below. In letters of 7 and 8 March, John Lamb indicated from Barcelona that he was awaiting the “first fair Weather” to sail for Algiers and that he had charged £500 in expenses (both Adams Papers).


Here, and in a 20 March letter to Richard Cranch ( AFC , 7:99–100), JA refers to a series of letters that he wrote from The Hague in the summer of 1783 to Robert R. Livingston, then secretary for foreign affairs. There JA outlined the state of the West Indian sugar trade and urged American involvement in it (vol. 15:165–167, 174–175, 176–177, 182–186, 194–195, 215, 224–225). In his 24 March 1786 letter to Massachusetts governor James Bowdoin, below, JA included a comprehensive summary of his thoughts on the sugar trade and enclosed extracts of the 1783 correspondence with Livingston.