Papers of John Adams, volume 18

To John Jay

To the Board of Treasury

296 From John Adams to the Marquis of Carmarthen, 18 May 1786 Adams, John Carmarthen, the Marquis of
To the Marquis of Carmarthen
[My] Lord Grosvenor Square May 18. 1786

I do myself the Honour of transmitting to your Lordship herewith inclosed, an Act of the United States of America in Congress assembled, the 13th. of October 1785. together with Sundry other Papers relative to the Boundary Line, between the United States, and his Majestys late Province of Nova Scotia, part of which is now called New Brunswick1

It is Still fresh in the Recollection of every Person who was concerned in the Negotiation of the late Peace, that Mitchells Map, was made use of by the British and American Plenipotentiaries; and the River St Croix, was marked out on that Map as there delineated for the Boundary: which Circumstance alone, it is hoped, will be Sufficient to determine all questions which may have been raised, concerning So recent a Transaction.

In former Controversies between the Crowns of Great Britain and France, concerning the Boundary between the late Province of Massachusetts Bay and Nova Scotia, it had been often contended by the British Ministers and Commissaries that the River St Croix, was a River Still further Eastward, than the Easternmost of those three which fall into the Bay of Passamaquaddi; but never once admitted to be a River more westerly. So that the Plenipotentiaries at the Peace, on both Sides had Reason to presume, that when they fixed on the St. Croix Surveyed by Mitchel, and laid down by him on his Map, there never could afterwards arise any Controversy concerning it. Yet it Seems, My Lo[rd] that a Number of his Majestys Subjects have crossed over this River, and Settled in the Territory of the United States, an Encroachment, in which they cannot be Supposed to be countenanced by his Majestys Government.

Difficulties of this kind, if early attended to, are easily adjusted, and I Shall be ready at all times to enter into Conferences, that every Point may be discussed and all Uneasiness prevented. but while new Maps are every day made and old ones coloured according to an erroneous Idea, a foundation may be laid, for much future Evil, both to Nations and Individuals

I am, my Lord, your Lordships / most obedient, and most humble / servant

John Adams.

RC (PRO:FO 4, State Papers, vol. 4, f. 271–273); internal address: “[Th]e Right Honourable / [Th]e Marquis of Carmarthen / His Britannic Majestys Principal / 297 [Se]cretary of State for foreign / Affairs.” LbC (Adams Papers); APM Reel 112. Text lost due to a tight binding has been supplied from the LbC.


JA was acting in accordance with Congress’ resolution of 13 Oct. 1785, requiring him “to present a proper representation of this case” ( JCC , 29:828–829). John Jay enclosed the resolution and supporting documents in his 1 Nov. letter and listed the enclosures in a postscript to that letter (vol. 17:559–561). In the LbC of this letter to Carmarthen, WSS listed the enclosures to Jay’s letter included with it: “No. 1. 3. 4. 5. 7. 9. 10. 13. 14—”

It should be noted, however, that JA received at least two letters from Jay dated 1 Nov., at the end of Dec. 1785 or early Jan. 1786 (vol. 17:561–562; second letter to Jay, 4 Jan., above). It, therefore, seems likely that he would have received Jay’s letter concerning the boundary dispute at about the same time. This raises the question of why he waited until 18 May to make his representation to Carmarthen. One reason may be that when JA received Jay’s letter he was awaiting Carmarthen’s response to his 30 Nov. 1785 memorial on the frontier posts and did not wish to press the matter. Then, once Carmarthen’s 28 Feb. 1786 response was received, above, JA may have believed that raising the boundary dispute was pointless, but ultimately, since he was required to make a representation on the matter, he sent this letter and its enclosures to Carmarthen. In any event, there is no evidence that JA informed Jay of his 18 May letter to Carmarthen nor has any response from the foreign minister been found.