Papers of John Adams, volume 18

To Richard O’Bryen

Thomas Barclay to the American Commissioners

From John Adams to Isaac Stephens, 29 September 1786 Adams, John Stephens, Isaac
To Isaac Stephens
Sir— London september 29th. 1786

Your Letter of July 18 was brought to me Yesterday, and your Letter to Mr. Foster with its Enclosures, shall be sent to Boston by the first oppertunity,1 and any other Letters you may think proper to write, and send under cover to me shall be forwarded as early as possible—2 I sincerely wish it were in my Power to do you more material service, but it is not

If mr. Lamb has deceived the Dey, by making promises, not in his power to perform, so much the worse for him: but I hope better things, and that the report you have heared is ill founded—

You think that your “Redemption nothing concerns the Peace,” but in this I am not clear— The Relations and private friends of Persons who have had like you the misfortune to be in Captivity, have sometimes redeemed them but I believe that Government at the public expence have rarely if ever done it, but upon the Conclusion of a peace And in Your case, although I cannot pretend to say what Congress will do, yet I doubt very much whether they will think themselves justifiable, in redeeming you, untill a peace shall be made—to agree to pay at the public expence such exorbitant demands, as no other Nation, ever paid, perhaps, would be not only encouraging an extravagant avidity, upon future Occasions, but would be such an humiliation, as in my opinion Congress will never submit to—

Mr. Lamb will not go again to algiers, in all probability, nor can I at present say, when any other person will be sent, nor who it will be—

Be of good cheer Nevertheless, in hopes that your Redemption draweth nigh. Your Country is not insensible to your situation & will do all for you, that she can, consistently with Justice and Prudence—

I am sir / Your Countryman &c

J. A—

LbC in WSS’s hand (Adams Papers); internal address: “Capt. Isaac stephens / Algiers—”; APM Reel 113.


The Boston firm of William Foster & Company owned Stephens’ ship, the Maria. Foster had traveled with AA and AA2 aboard the Active to Europe in 1784 (vol. 17:215, 367).

469 2.

Capt. Zaccheus Coffin, a fellow prisoner, had also written to JA on 18 July 1786, not found. In his 29 Sept. reply (LbC, APM Reel 113), JA promised to forward the letter to Shubael Coffin enclosed by Zaccheus Coffin and expressed sentiments regarding his captivity similar to those in his letters here and of this date to Richard O’Bryen, above.