Papers of John Adams, volume 18


From John Paul Jones

To John Adams from Thomas Jefferson, 9 July 1786 Jefferson, Thomas Adams, John
From Thomas Jefferson
Dear Sir Paris July 9. 1786.

I wrote you last on the 23d. of May. your favor of that date did not come to hand till the 19th. of June. in consequence of it I wrote the next day letters to mr̃ Lamb & mr̃ Randall, copies of which I have now the honour to inclose you.1 in these you will perceive I had desired mr̃ Randall, who was supposed to be at Madrid, to return immediately to Paris & London, & to mr̃ Lambe, supposed at Alicant, I recommended the route of Marseilles & Paris, expecting that no direct passage could be had from Alicant to America, and meaning on his arrival here to advise him to proceed by the way of London, that you also might have an opportunity of deriving from him all the information he could give. on the 2d. of July mr̃ Randall arrived here and delivered me a letter from mr̃ Lambe dated May 20. of which I inclose you a copy, as well as of another of June 5. which had come to hand some time before.2 copies of these I have also sent to mr̃ Jay.3 yours of the 29th. of June by Dr. Bancroft & inclosing a draught of a joint letter to mr̃ Lambe, came to hand on the 5th. inst. I immediately signed & forwarded it, as it left him more at liberty as to his route than mine had done.4 mr̃ Randall will deliver you the present and supply the informations heretofore received. I think with you that Congress must begin by getting money. when they have this, it is a matter of calculation whether they will buy a peace, or force one, or do nothing.

I am also to acknolege the receipt of your favors of June 6. 25. & 26. the case of Grosse shall be attended to. I am not certain however 380 whether my appearing in it may not do him harm by giving the captors a hope that our government will redeem their citizen. I have therefore taken measures to find them out & sound them. if nothing can be done privately I will endeavour to interest this government.5

Have you no news yet of the treaty with Portugal? does it hang with that court? my letters from N. York of the 11th. of May inform me that there were then 11. states present & that they should ratify the Prussian treaty immediately.6 as the time for exchange of ratifications is drawing to a close, tell me what is to be done, and how this exchange is to be made. we may as well have this settled between us before the arrival of the ratification, that no time may be lost after that. I learn through the Marechal de Castries that he has information of New York’s having ceded the impost in the form desired by Congress, so as to close this business. corrections in the acts of Maryland, Pennsylvania &c will come of course. we have taken up again the affair of whale oil, that they may know in time in America what is to be done in it. I fear we shall not obtain any further abatement of duties; but the last abatement will be continued for three years. the whole duties paiable here are nearly 102 livres on the English ton, which is an atom more than four guineas according to the present exchange.

The monopoly of the purchase of tobacco for this country which had been obtained by Robert Morris had thrown the commerce of that article into agonies. he had been able to reduce the price in America from 40/ to 22/6 lawful the hundred weight, and all other merchants being deprived of that medium of remittance the commerce between America & this country, so far as it depended on that article, which was very capitally too, was absolutely ceasing. an order has been obtained obliging the farmers general to purchase from such other merchants as shall offer, 15,000 hogsheads of tobacco at 34, 36, & 38 livres the hundred according to the quality, and to grant to the sellers in other respects the same terms as they had granted to Robert Morris. as this agreement with Morris is the basis of this order I send you some copies of it which I will thank you to give to any American (not British) merchants in London who may be in that line.7 during the year this contract has subsisted, Virginia & Maryland have lost 400,000£ by the reduction of the price of their tobacco.

I am meditating what step to take to provoke a letter from mr̃s Adams, from whom my files inform me I have not received one these 381 hundred years.8 in the mean time present my affectionate respects to her and be assured of the friendship & esteem with which I have the honour to be Dear Sir / Your most obedient and most humble servt

Th: Jefferson

RC and enclosures (Adams Papers); internal address: “H. E. J. Adams.”; endorsed: “Mr Jefferson July 9. / Ansd. 16. 1786”; docketed by JQA: “T. Jefferson 9. July 1786. / 16. July Ansd:”; notation by CFA: “not published.” CFA presumably meant that the letter was not published in Jefferson, Correspondence, ed. Randolph. For the enclosures, see note 1.


An inadvertence on Jefferson’s part. Although JA’s letter was dated 23 May, Jefferson’s last letter to JA was of 23 June, both above. In his 23 May letter JA proposed that John Lamb and Paul R. Randall both return to the United States to inform Congress of their negotiations with Algiers, with Randall first going to Paris and London to report to the commissioners. The copy of the letter to Lamb is at 20 June in the Adams Papers, whereas that of the same date to Randall has not been found (Jefferson, Papers , 9:667–668).


Lamb’s 20 May letter was to the commissioners, above; that of 5 June was to Jefferson, but with Lamb’s injunction that it be sent on to JA (Jefferson, Papers , 9:610). The copy of the 20 May letter enclosed with this one has not been found, but see Jefferson’s 23 June letter, and note 1, above.


Jefferson presumably refers to his 8 July letter to John Jay (Jefferson, Papers , 10:99–101).


The commissioners’ letter to Lamb is at [7 July], above.


Jefferson apparently took no action regarding Alexander Gross’ imprisonment until 8 Aug. 1787 when he wrote to Francis Coffyn, American agent at Dunkerque, asking him to investigate the situation but without indicating Jefferson’s interest in the case. Coffyn reported on 17 Aug. that the Charlotte, the sloop for which Gross was being held hostage, had been lost with all hands, including its owner. This left no one to pay Gross’ ransom, but the owners of the privateer that had captured and then ransomed the Charlotte were paying the cost of Gross’ imprisonment “in expectation that somebody will soon or late offer to pay his expences” (Jefferson, Papers , 12:6–7, 44–45).

Jefferson next wrote, on 6 Dec. 1787, to French foreign minister Armand Marc, Comte de Montmorin de Saint Herem, enclosing a memorandum on Gross’ situation. The enclosure was similar to the accounts received by Jefferson and JA from Robert Murdoch in letters of 29 and 30 June 1786, respectively (same, 9:398–401; 10:79–80; Adams Papers), and by JA in an 18 June letter from Griffin Greene, above. Montmorin replied to Jefferson on 6 March 1788, enclosing documents indicating that a Dunkerque merchant had been paying for Gross’ imprisonment and had sent the British government a bill to recover the ransom and his costs. Since the merchant anticipated a favorable response, it would be impossible to release Gross (Jefferson, Papers , 12:646). No further mention of Gross has been found in the Adams Papers, and his fate is unknown.


Jefferson’s information on Congress’ attainment of a quorum, its imminent ratification of the Prussian-American treaty, and at least some of the information regarding the impost is taken from James Monroe’s 11 May 1786 letter (same, 9:510–512).


The printed copies of Robert Morris’ tobacco contract with the Farmers General enclosed with this letter have not been found, but for the copy enclosed with Jefferson’s first letter to Jay of 27 May, see same, 9:586–588. For the controversy over the contract and efforts by the Marquis de Lafayette and Jefferson to nullify it, see Lafayette’s 16 June letter, and note 2, above.


AA’s last letter was of 11 Feb., while her next was of 23 July ( AFC , 7:50–52, 287–289).