Papers of John Adams, volume 18

Thomas Barclay to the American Commissioners

From Isaac Stephens

From John Adams to John Paul Jones, 17 July 1786 Adams, John Jones, John Paul
To John Paul Jones
Sir. July 17. 1786

I have received the Letter you did me the honour to write me, on the 10th. of this month, and embrace the oppertunity by Colonel Trumbull to answer it, The Comte de Reventlow, complaisantly enough, inclosed my Letter to the Baron De. Waltersdorf, in his dispatch to the Danish Ministry, and informed him that it related to a public affair so that there is no room to doubt, that the Letter went safe, and that that Court are acquainted with its contents— But no answer has been received—1

I am told that the Baron De. Waltersdorf has been at Paris and the Hague, long since the Date of my Letter to him, and I was told he was coming to London where I should see him— But he has not yet been here As there is a Danish Minister now in Paris, I should advise you to apply to him: for the foreign Ministers in general at the Court of Versailles, have less timdity upon their Spirits, in all things relating to America, than those at London,2 Cash I fancy, is not an abundant Article in Denmark, and Your Claim has probably delayed and suspended all negotiations with Mr. Jefferson, and me respecting a Commercial Treaty, for which 3 Years ago, there was no3 little Zeal,4 This however is only Conjecture in Confidence.—

J. A—

LbC in WSS’s hand (Adams Papers); internal address: “Commodore Jones—”; APM Reel 113.


No letter from JA to the Baron von Walterstorff has been found, but for the reason JA received no response from Walterstorff, see Jones’ 7 Jan. letter, note 2, above.


Jones received this letter on or about 9 Aug., the day on which he wrote to Thomas Jefferson (Jefferson, Papers , 10:208–210). With his letter to Jefferson, Jones enclosed the RC of JA’s letter from which William Short made a copy (DLC:Jefferson Papers). Jones noted JA’s advice to begin negotiations with the Danish representative at Paris and asked for Jefferson’s “advice and assistance” in the undertaking. He also enclosed extracts of letters received from Benjamin Franklin regarding his negotiations with Denmark over the Alliance’s prizes. No reply by Jefferson to Jones’ letter has been found, but on 18 Aug. Jefferson wrote to the Baron Otto von Blome, Danish envoy extraordinary at Paris. Jefferson summarized the negotiations between Franklin and Walterstorff over the Alliance’s prizes and indicated that Jones was now authorized to resume and complete the negotiations (Jefferson, Papers , 10:270–271).


In the copy made by Short this word appears to be “so,” but it is clearly “no” in WSS’s LbC.

397 4.

Walterstorff approached Franklin in April 1783 with a proposal for a Danish-American commercial treaty and in June offered a draft agreement. After some changes, the draft was sent to Congress, but no action was taken on it. Since Franklin failed to inform his fellow commissioners, JA and John Jay, of his negotiations with the baron, JA considered the entire business as another example of Franklin’s assumption of powers that he did not have, accomplished at the expense of his colleagues and to the detriment of the United States (vols. 15:223–226, 280; 16:426).

When, in May 1784, Congress created the third joint commission to negotiate commercial treaties with the nations of Europe and North Africa, it included a commission to negotiate a treaty with Denmark, and Jefferson’s model treaty of 1784 was designed to serve as its basis. At a meeting with Walterstorff in Nov. 1784, the commissioners notified him of their new powers, but no negotiations ensued, and a Danish-American Convention of Friendship, Commerce, and Navigation was not concluded until 1826 (vol. 16:374, 421–422, 590; Miller, Treaties , 3:239–248).