Papers of John Adams, volume 18

From David Ramsay

To John Jay

Paul R. Randall to the American Commissioners, 14 May 1786 Randall, Paul R. American Commissioners
Paul R. Randall to the American Commissioners
Madrid May 14th. 1786 1

Since my Arrival here from Carthagena I have been in constant Expectation of a secure Opportunity for forwarding the inclosed, being nearly the Copy of a Letter I wrote to my Father shortly after my landing in Spain.2 It contains all the Observations I have been enabled to make by Reason of the Obstacles which (in my Situation at Algiers) prevented particular Enquiry. Indeed I had not the most distant Idea of remaining for so short a Time: otherwise perhaps I might have afforded greater Satisfaction in this Respect.3

I have not recieved any Letters from Mr. Lamb since his Arrival at Alicant but have lately heard that he is released from Quarantine—he may therefore be expected here every Day—as he had informed mr. Carmichael of his Intention of coming up immediately.

I shall be governed by his Orders & endeavour still to evince that nothing on my Part has been or shall be wanting to fulfill my Duty—although I must hope that Circumstances will be considered if my Services have not been equal to the Expectation formed of them.

Haste & the little Opportunity I have had to prepare my Observations as well as the Manner of writing in a Croud, I trust will plead my Apology, for delivering them in their present State—especially as my Father might have communicated in New-York the Intelligence they contain, I have therefore concieved that Alterations might be improper—as your Excellencies will distinguish what is well founded, & may be enabled to judge what Opinion may be formed on them in New-York.

The Envoys from Portugal & Naples are still at Carthagena awaiting the Completion of the Spanish Treaty.

This Court would undoubtedly have wished mr Lamb to remain in like manner—if his Instructions could have justified the Delay—before their Interference could consistent with their own Interests be employed in Favor of the United States.

The Portuguese Envoy told me at Carthagena, that he had no Expectations of succeeding—and would rather see a Confederacy 294 framed against the Barbary States—by those with whom they are at War.

He appeared much dissatisfied at being so long delayed. It would be Presumption in me to offer any News—mr. Carmichael being so much better enabled to afford Information—& will write by the present Occasion.4

I am with proper Respect / your Excellencies / most obedient & humble servt.

P R Randall (An exact & literal Copy. Test: W short)

FC in William Short’s hand and enclosures (PCC, No. 87, I, f. 385–421); internal address: “Their Excellencies John Adams & / Thomas Jefferson Esqrs: Ministers / Plenipoteniary from the United States of / America at the Courts of Great Britain & France / respectively.” For the enclosures, see notes 2 and 3.


Thomas Jefferson received Randall’s letter and its enclosures on 26 May and sent copies of them, and other documents recently received, to Congress with his 27 May letter to John Jay (Jefferson, Papers , 9:590). With his letter of 30 May, below, Jefferson apparently sent JA all of the documents enclosed with his letter to Jay. Upon receiving Jefferson’s letter, JA wrote to Jay on 6 June, below, enclosing all of the documents that he had received from Jefferson. The PCC thus contains two complete sets of these documents, for which see note 1 to Jefferson’s 30 May letter to JA , below.


The copy of the extract from Randall’s letter to his father that Jefferson sent to JA is in Randall’s hand. This is probably because of the time William Short already had spent in copying the extract as enclosed by Jefferson in his 27 May letter to Jay and which is printed in same, 9:526–536.

Written on 2 and 3 April, while at the “House of Quarantine Alicant,” the first portion of the letter contains a detailed account of the information gleaned by Randall during the five days that he spent in Algiers. He described John Lamb’s fruitless efforts to open negotiations and the dey of Algiers’ refusal to negotiate owing to the United States’ lack of a treaty with the Ottoman Empire, of which Algiers was nominally a part. He commented on Algiers’ relations with European nations, emphasizing the high cost of negotiations due to the gifts required by the dey and the sums needed to redeem enslaved sailors. In the second part of the letter written on 3 April, Randall, likely using information obtained from Spanish officers who were quarantined with him, described the Algerian government and the composition and strength of its navy. For the effect of Randall’s commentary, see Jefferson’s second letter of 30 May (Jefferson, Papers , 9:595) and JA’s 6 June reply, below.


The second enclosure, in Short’s hand, was a declaration signed by Lamb that Randall’s departure from Algiers and return to Spain was owing to Lamb’s “particular Desire” (Jefferson, Papers , 9:536).


William Carmichael wrote to Jefferson on 16 May, enclosing Randall’s letter as well as one from the Conde d’Expilly, in which the Spanish negotiator referred to the Dey of Algiers’ refusal to treat. Carmichael indicated his willingness to go to Constantinople to open negotiations with the Ottomans (same, 9:538–540).