Papers of John Adams, volume 18

To Samuel Adams

To Samuel Williams

From John Adams to James Bowdoin, 2 June 1786 Adams, John Bowdoin, James
To James Bowdoin
Sir. London June 2. 1786

Dr. Gordon, Yesterday called upon me, with the Letter which your Excellency did me, the Honour to write me, on the 10th. of April— I have long since transmitted to Congress, the Answer of the Board of Admiralty to the Representations relative to the Conduct of Capt. Stanhope, in which the Letters of that officers are disapproved,1

The Representations of the Encroachments on the territory of the United States, have been laid before the British Ministry:2 but I presume, they will, like many others be little attended to.— in short Sir, I must be so free as to say to you, that by every thing I have seen & heard in this Country, nothing of any material Consequence will ever be done, while there remains in force, a Law of any one State impeding the recovery of bona fide Debts contracted before the 30th. of Novr. 1782 or inconsistant with the Article of the Treaty of Peace respecting the tories—

It is very true that mitchels Map, governed the American & British Plenipotintiories, in settling the Line between the two Nations. There is upon that Map but one River, which is marked with the Name of St. Croix, and that was the object undoubtedly fixed upon.

There is no river upon that Map that I remember marked with the Name of schooduck or Megacadava next to the great river St. Johns, proceeding west ward upon that Map, is a little River inscribed Mechior R. next to that is another stream running between the 329 Words Carriage Harbour, next to that we come to a larger River, running from Kousaki L. into the Bay of Passimaquaddi and inscribed with the name of R. St. Croix next to that still proceeding Westward is Passamaquade R. But that inscribed R. St. Croix running from the sea, or what I call Passamaquaddi Bay, up to the Kousaki L. was marked with the Pencil for the Boundary— It is impossible for me to Say more— if the true St Croix cannot be discovered by these marks, there is no remedy, but by an Ulterior Agreement, or the Law of the Strongest— It is astonishing that to this hour, no man can produce a Map of all the Bay’s Harbours, Islands, & Rivers in that neighbourhood, that can be depended on, If the Ministry will meet me, in a fair discussion of the Question, or in any of the Methods pointed out to me by my superiors for a Settlement, I shall be glad, they have it under Consideration, & as soon as they give me an answer, I shall transmit it to Congress— but as they dont love pains & trouble as well as you & I do, I fear they will leave it all to sir Guy Carleton, who is no more of a friend to the United states, than any other British Knight and will be guided by the Royalists more than by Maps or Surveys. Why any of my Countrymen should choose to give to these Royalists so much Importance as they do, I know not, We should recollect that all Parties in this Country are pledged to support them, & Party faith is a stronger tye than national Faith—

The paper relative to Alexr. Gross of Truro, I must transmit to mr. Jefferson, it being in his Department. I may nevertheless, previously communicate it to the Comte D’Adhemar, & request his friendly offices in the Matter3


J. A—

LbC in WSS’s hand (Adams Papers); internal address: “James Bowdoin Esqr. / & & &.—”; APM Reel 113.


JA enclosed these documents with his 12 Dec. 1785 letter to John Jay, for which see his 9 Dec. letter to Jay, and note 1, above.


With his 10 April 1786 letter, above, Bowdoin enclosed documents pertaining to the Massachusetts–Nova Scotia (New Brunswick) boundary dispute, but it is not to those documents that JA is referring here. Rather, it is to those enclosed with Jay’s first 1 Nov. 1785 letter in accordance with Congress’ resolution of 13 Oct. (vol. 17:559–561; JCC , 29:828–829), which JA submitted with his 18 May 1786 letter to the Marquis of Carmarthen, above.

By contrast, the documents Bowdoin enclosed with his 10 April letter apparently were not presented to Carmarthen, but others concerning the boundary dispute sent with Bowdoin’s 11 July letter, below, were likely those JA submitted to Carmarthen in early October “as private Information … Not having received orders from Congress concerning the Whole of it” (to Bowdoin, 13 Oct., LbC, APM Reel 113).


JA did not refer the matter to Thomas Jefferson until 26 June, below. On 3 June, however, he wrote to Jean Balthazar, Comte 330 d’Adhémar, the French ambassador to Britain (LbC, APM Reel 113) concerning Alexander Gross’ situation, sending him an extract from Bowdoin’s 10 April letter and the enclosure relating to Gross, for which see note 5 to that letter, above. JA requested Adhémar’s assistance because Gross’ relatives were too poor to pay the ransom, and so “he must remain in Prison till he perishes, unless the Government, or the Persons interested, will consent to his Liberation.” The ambassador replied on 10 June that he would forward JA’s request and its supporting documents to the foreign ministry (Adams Papers). For the most complete account of Gross’ situation, see the enclosure to Griffin Greene’s 18 June letter, below.