Papers of John Adams, volume 18

Thomas Barclay to the American Commissioners

To John Jay

From John Adams to John Jay, 27 June 1786 Adams, John Jay, John
To John Jay
Sir London June 27. 1786

The Chevalier De Pinto, the Envoy of Portugal, informed me, this Day that he had received Instructions from his Court, to inform me, “that the Queen his Mistress has Sent a Squadron to cruise in the Mouth of the Streights with Orders to protect all Vessells belonging to the United States of America equally with those of her own Subjects and that She would continue those orders as long as they Should be agreable to Congress.”1

The Reply, was, that it could not be doubted that So signal a Mark of her Majesties friendly Attention to the Interest and safety of the Citizens of America, would be very Agreable to Congress, and that the first Opportunity Should be embraced to make the Communication to them.

so much Notice will probably be taken of this by Congress, as to return the Compliment, the least is Thanks.2

If the United States Should ever think themselves able to pay Taxes, and begin a Navy, this War of the Algerines would be a good Opportunity. I have never dared however to recommend it: because, that as Negotiation and customary Presents, and Redemption of Captives, must finally terminate the War, whatever Sums are Spent 359 in it whatever time is Spent, or lives lost in it, it has ever appeared to me, that all this would be thrown Away.

It would employ Our shipwrights, and make various Branches of Business brisk, to order half a Score Frigates of thirty Six Guns to be built, and it would give Us an Ecclat; but it would cost Money.

With great Regard yours

John Adams

RC (PCC, No. 84, VI, f. 307–310); internal address: “Mr Secretary Jay.”; endorsed: “Letter 27 June 1786 / Mr Adams / Sept 29. 1786 / The injunction of Secresy / taken off— / refd. to report.” LbC (Adams Papers); APM Reel 112.


JA included the same information in his 29 June letter to Thomas Jefferson, with which he enclosed letters for John Lamb and Paul R. Randall (Jefferson, Papers , 10:79).


Although Congress received this letter and JA’s recommendation that it thank Queen Maria of Portugal for her protection of American ships on 26 Sept., it did not act until 3 Feb. 1787. Then it approved a letter of thanks and accepted Jay’s recommendation that WSS be “commissioned to carry and deliver it” in the hope that it “might among other good consequences promote the conclusion of the Treaty” ( JCC , 31:692; 32:14, 16–17).

Jay enclosed the letter to the queen in his 6 Feb. 1787 letter to JA ( Dipl. Corr., 1783–1789 , 2:680–681), which JA received in early April. In an 11 April letter to WSS, JA wrote that Congress had determined that its letter to the queen “should be transmitted to her Faithfull Majesty, by your Hands, you will therefore prepare yourself, as soon as conveniently may be, and proceed to Lisbon” (JA, Works , 8:435–437).