Papers of John Adams, volume 18

To the Board of Treasury

To Benjamin Franklin

From John Adams to the Marquis of Carmarthen, 27 January 1787 Adams, John Carmarthen, the Marquis of
To the Marquis of Carmarthen
My Lord Grosvenor Square Jan. 27. 1787

Last night, I received the Card your Lordship did me the Honour to write me Yesterday, inclosing a Petition, to the Right Honourable 562 the Lords Commissioners of his Majestys Treasury, from John Hales, relative to Sixteen Chinese Seamen who are alledged to have informed Mr. Hales that they came from India in the Hyder or Hydrea Captain Clark belonging to the United States of America, to Ostend where they were discharged and caused to take Passage to London in hopes of obtaining a Passage to their own Country.1

All these Allegations my Lord are very Surprizing to me, having no Knowledge of any Such Ships as the Hyder or Hydrea, or of any Such Person as Captain Clark.

Humanity, My lord requires that the unhappy Men Should not be left to Suffer, but as I have no Knowledge, Information or Instructions concerning them, I have no Authority to do any Thing for their Relief.

There is Reason to apprehend, My Lord that there is some Mystery in this Business, which it will be for the Interest and Honour of both Countries, to clear up: for which Reason, I shall do my self the Honour to transmit Your Lordships Note and the Memorial to Congress, that the Truth of the Facts may be Searched to the Bottom and such Measures taken as the Interests of Humanity, as well as the Honour and Interest of both Countries require.

With great Respect I have the Honour / to be, my Lord, Your Lordships most / obedient and most humble servant

John Adams

RC (PRO:FO 4, State Papers, vol. 5, f. 51–52); internal address: “The Right Honourable / The Marquis of Carmarthen &c &c &c.” LbC (Adams Papers); APM Reel 112.


JA accurately summarizes Carmarthen’s 26 Jan. letter and, in part, its enclosed 13 Jan. petition from John Hales to the Lords Commissioners of the Treasury (both Adams Papers). In addition, Hales, a victualler, indicated that he had previously lodged East India seamen for the East India Company and had requested assistance from the company in this case but had been denied. He also wrote that he had solicited JA for assistance but that too had been denied, presumably for the reasons given in this letter. In his 27 Jan. letter to John Jay enclosing copies of Carmarthen’s letter and Hales’ petition ( Dipl. Corr., 1783–1789 , 2:732–733), JA mentioned reports that British merchants were seeking American merchants so as “to metamorphose a British into an American bottom, to trade to the East Indies.” This information likely came from Hales, for in a 2 Feb. letter (same, 2:736), he indicated that he was responding to JA’s request and identified the metamorphosed ship as the Hydra owned by a Charles Champlin of Rhode Island. In his 31 July report on JA’s letter and its enclosures, Jay indicated that while the cases of the Chinese seamen and the fraudulent use of American ships in the East India trade were of concern, Congress could do little, if anything, in either case ( JCC , 33:444–445).