Papers of John Adams, volume 18


The American Commissioners to John Lamb

From John Adams to Thomas Jefferson, 11 September 1786 Adams, John Jefferson, Thomas
To Thomas Jefferson
Dear Sir Grosvenor Square Septr. 11. 1786

On my Return from Holland, on the Sixth instant I found your Favours of the 8. and 13. Aug.—1 on my Arrival at the Hague The Exchange of Ratifications was made on the 8 of August with The Baron De Thulemeier, and I had it Printed. it is only in French.— Copies Shall be Sent you as Soon as I can find an Opportunity.2 We were present at Utrecht at the august Ceremony of Swearing in their new Magistrates. in no Instance, of ancient or modern History, have the People ever asserted more unequivocally their own inheerent and unalienable Sovereignty.—3 But whatever Pleasure I might have in enlarging upon this Subject, I must forbear.

The Affair of Oil has taken a turn here. The Whalemen both at Greenland and the southward, have been unsuccessful and the Price of Spermacæti Oil, has risen above fifty Pounds a Ton. Boyston’s ship arrived with two or three hundred Ton, and finding he could pay the Duties and make a Profit of five and twenty Per Cent, he sold his Cargo here, instead going again to France as he intended.— This Circumstance will oblige the French Court, or the French Merchants or both to take other Measures, or they will loose this Trade. The Price of Oil will rise in Boston, so much that I am afraid Mr Barrett’s Contract must be fullfilled at an immense Loss.4

As to Mr Lambs Settlement, I still think he had better embark forthwith for New York from Spain. if he cannot he may transmit to you and me his Account, and remit to Us the Ballance in favour of U.S.

Mr Barclays Proposal, of going to Tunis and Tripoli, I Suppose appears to you as it does to me, from what We learned from the Ambassador from Tripoli in London, to be unnecessary at least till We hear farther from Congress. It Seems to me too, very unlikely that any Benefit will be had from a Journey to Algiers.— I wish to See the Treaty with Morocco, and to know the Particulars of that Affair, first.— At present I believe We are taken in, and that We shall be plagued with Demands for annual Presents. I confess, I have no 451 Faith in the Supposition that Spanish Interference has counted for Money, or at least that it will pass long for it.

If however you are clearly in favour of Sending Mr Barclay to Algiers, I will make out a Commission, and send it to you, for your Signature Signed by myself, because I would not set up my own Judgment against yours, Mr Charmichaels and Mr Barclays: but I confess, at present I cannot See any Advantage in it, but on the contrary Several Disadvantages. Mr Randal is gone to Congress, and We may expect their further orders, e’er long.

With Sincere Affection I am, dear sir, your / Friend and servant

John Adams

inclosed is a Project of an Answer to Mr Lamb, if you approve it, you will Sign and Send it.5

J. A.

RC (DLC:Jefferson Papers); internal address: “E. Mr Jefferson.”; docketed: “Adams John.” LbC (Adams Papers); APM Reel 112.


For the 8 Aug. letter (Adams Papers), see Jefferson’s of the 13th, note 1, above.


Jefferson acknowledged receiving the printed copy of the Prussian-American treaty in his 23 Oct. letter, and JA sent him additional copies with his 30 Nov. letter, both below. But the version JA had printed while in the Netherlands has not been identified. The French text of the treaty, however, was printed serially in the Gazette de Leyde of 25 and 29 Aug. and 5, 8, and 12 September.


See also AA’s more effusive account of the 29 Aug. oath-taking at Utrecht in her 10 Oct. letter to Cotton Tufts ( AFC , 7:362–363).


Although JA had not received Stephen Higginson’s letter, his comments here regarding Nathaniel Barrett’s whale oil contract mirror those of Higginson in his undated July letter, above.


JA enclosed a fair copy of the American commissioners’ [11–ca. 19 Sept.] letter to John Lamb, below.