Papers of John Adams, volume 18

To John Jay

From the Marquis de Lafayette

344 To John Adams from Thomas Jefferson, 16 June 1786 Jefferson, Thomas Adams, John
From Thomas Jefferson
Dear Sir Paris June 16. 1786.

I inclose you the copy of a letter received from mr̃ Barclay dated Cadiz May 23.1 by which you will perceive he was still on this side the Mediterranean. has mr̃ Lamb written to you? I hear nothing from him nor of him, since mr̃ Carmichael’s information of his arrival in Spain. mr̃ Randall gave reason to expect that himself would come on. yet neither himself nor any letters from him arrive. perhaps they find conveyances for reporting to you the causes of their delay. I am anxious also to receive your opinion what is best to be done.

The Swedish Ambassador asked me some time ago to give him in writing my thoughts on the best method of rendering the island of St. Bartholomew useful in the commerce between Sweden & the U.S. he afterwards pressed this on me every time I saw him till I was obliged to do it. I gave it as my opinion that to render that island most instrumental to the commerce of Sweden & the U.S. and also most useful to Sweden in every other point of view, it should be made a free port without a single restriction. as he had pressed this matter so much, I suspected his court might have instructed him to do it, and might also direct their minister at London to get your opinion on the same point. this latter possibility induced me to trouble you with information of what had passed here.2

I observe in the Leyden gazette of June 2. the extract of a letter dated Algiers Apr. 15. which says that on the 10th. of April an American vessel the Clementina captain Palmer from Philadelphia was carried in there by a cruiser. there being other circumstances mentioned in the same letter relative to our affairs which I know to be true, I am afraid this capture is also true.3

The king sets out on the 21st. inst. for Cherburg in order to animate by his notice the operations going on there. the Count d’Artois4 has lately been there. this is an astonishing effort of human industry. it is believed it will be among the best ports in the world & will contain the whole navy of France. those threats of invasion on England heretofore made, may become real in a future war, besides the bridle which this fixes in the mouth of the Thames.

Present me affectionately to mr̃s & miss Adams, assuring them of my friendly & respectful remembrance of them, & how much I 345 regret that I am not of their party in visiting the gardens this summer; and accept yourself assurances of the esteem & regard with which I have the honor to be Dear Sir / Your most obedient humble servt

Th: Jefferson5

RC (Adams Papers); internal address: “His Excellency / Mr. Adams”; endorsed: “Mr Jefferson. 16. June / ansd. 26. 1786.”; docketed by JQA: “T. Jefferson. 16. June 1786.”


That is, Thomas Barclay’s 23 May letter to the commissioners, above.


France ceded the island of St. Barthélemy to Sweden in 1784 in return for commercial privileges at the port of Gothenburg (Black, British Foreign Policy , p. 75). In pursuit of a supplementary Swedish-American treaty in Oct. 1784, the American commissioners raised the issue of American trade with the island with Per Olof von Asp, secretary to the Swedish embassy at Paris, but nothing came of it (vol. 16:339). For Jefferson’s comments regarding American access to the island in his 12 June 1786 letter to Baron Erik Magnus Staël von Holstein, the Swedish ambassador to France, see Jefferson, Papers , 9:631–634. In his 25 June reply, below, JA indicated that Baron Gustaf Adam von Nolcken, the Swedish envoy to Great Britain, had made no such overtures to him.


The extract in the Gazette de Leyde of 2 June, which was dated 15 May, indicated that two American negotiators had arrived to procure an agreement ending the depredations of Algerian corsairs on their merchant ships and thereby ensure their safe passage in the Mediterranean. However, the regency being in amity with all the world refused to negotiate, and the Americans departed. It also reported that on 10 April an Algerian frigate had captured the Philippine (not the Clementina), Capt. Palmer, bound from Philadelphia to Ostend, Belgium.


Charles Philippe, Comte d’Artois, was King Louis XVI’s youngest brother and later King Charles X.


On the same day, Jefferson also wrote to WSS to order a second portable copying press, and to report that he had “received no journals of Congress of later date than Oct. 10 nor letter from the office for foreign affairs of later date than January” (Jefferson, Papers , 9:655).