Papers of John Adams, volume 18

From John Adams to Samuel Williams, 3 June 1786 Adams, John Williams, Samuel
To Samuel Williams
Sir London June 3. 1786

I am much obliged to you for your Letter of the 9. of April. The Memoirs of the Accademy of Arts and Sciences, Shall be sent to sir Joseph Banks, and the other Packet to Manheim.1

I am much more at ease in my own Mind to have my sons with you, than I should be to have them here with me, or at any other University. and nothing can give me more Satisfaction than to hear, that they behave with Propriety.2

Dr Gordons Voyage to England, and his Intention of remaining here, have probably diminished the Number of Subscribers in America, and I much doubt whether he will meet that Encouragement in Europe which he expects.

Nobody thrives, no Book will sell in this Country, unless it is encouraged by the Court, and the Drs History be it what it may, will never be cherrished there. The Court and the Nation would be glad to have the whole story blotted out of Memory.— There is a general Disposition to prevent every American Work, and Character, from acquiring Celebration.— Every Thing American is so unpopular, that even Printers and Booksellers are afraid of disobliging their Customers, by having any Thing to do with it.— Nothing of the Kind will sell in Prose or Verse.— I am Sorry to Say that it appears to me the Seperation between the two Nations must and will be final and perpetual in Affection as well as in Laws. This, which is false Policy in this Country, will be ultimately it’s destruction, and make it a Signal Example to the World. It is a Pitty that because a People has been divided in halves, that the two Parts Should be destined to be forever Rivals and Ennemies at heart, and I cannot Say that our own Countrymen, have in all Things acted a rational Part. Yet I do think it has been and is in the Power of this Cabinet, to restore a real Friendship between the two Peoples. But I think now there is very little Chance of it because those very Men who acquired their 331 Fame, Popularity and Power by professing friendship to Us are now at least as bitter against Us as the others.

All this however should not prevent Us from doing our Duty, in all points. We shall find our Interest in it at last.

With great Respect and Esteem / I have the Honour to be, sir, your / most obedient and humble servant

John Adams

RC (private owner, 2011); internal address: “Dr Williams.” LbC (Adams Papers); APM Reel 113.


Sir Joseph Banks (1743–1820), a British botanist, had been president of the Royal Society since 1778 ( DNB ). He wrote on 5 June 1786 (Adams Papers) to thank JA for the “Transactions of the American Academy” and asked him to “take Charge of some Presents intended by the Royal Society to be sent to the American academy.” It is not known when JA sent these “Presents” to the Academy or the “Packet” to the Palatine Academy of the Sciences in Mannheim, Germany.


JA wrote to JQA on this date, noting that “Dr Williams writes me, handsomely of You” ( AFC , 7:212).

From John Adams to John Jay, 6 June 1786 Adams, John Jay, John
To John Jay
Dear Sir Grosvenor Square June 6. 1786

I do myself the Honour to enclose Papers, relative to affrican Affairs, altho Mr Jefferson has transmitted them before, as it is possible his Conveyance may fail.1

The Intelligence all tends to confirm what has been more than once written to you before, that two or three hundred Thousand Pounds Sterling, will be necessary to obtain a perpetual Peace.— It is very clear, that a Peace would be worth more than that Sum annually, if you compute Insurance, and the Levant, Mediterranean, Portuguese & Spanish Trade.

If Congress should be empowered to lay on Taxes upon Navigation and Commerce or any Thing else to pay the Interest of the Money borrowed in Europe You may borrow what you will.— if that is not done, The servants abroad had better be all recalled, and our Exports and Imports all Surrendered to foreign bottoms.

Inclosed is a Bill now pending.2 The System of this Country is quite settled.— It is with our States to unsettle it, by Acts of Retaliation, or to acquiesce in it, as they judge for their own Good.

With great Regard, I have the / Honour to be sir your most obedient / and most humble servant

John Adams

RC and enclosures (PCC, No. 84, VI, f. 211–297); internal address: “His Excellency / John Jay / Secretary of State.” LbC (Adams Papers); APM Reel 112.


For JA’s enclosures, see Thomas Jefferson’s 30 May letter, and note 1, above.


This enclosure has not been found, but JA may be referring to “An Act for the further 332 Increase and Encouragement of Shipping and Navigation” (26 Geo. 3, ch. 60). When debated in the House of Commons on 11 April, Charles Jenkinson, newly appointed president of the reconstituted Council for Trade and Plantations, opened the proceedings by indicating that the bill was an opportunity to define clearly what in fact was a British-built ship ( AFC , 7:75; Parliamentary Hist. , 25:1372–1375). With regard to the United States, Art. 7 of the act provided “that no Ship or Vessel built in any of the Colonies of North America now called The United States of America, during the Time that any Act or Acts of Parliament made in Great Britain, prohibiting Trade and Intercourse with those Colonies was or were in force, nor any Ship or Vessel which was owned by or belonged to the Subjects of the said United States, or of any of the said States respectively, during the Existence of those Acts, and not registered before the Commencement thereof, is or shall be entitled to be registered under this present Act” (John Raithby, comp., The Statutes Relating to the Admiralty, Navy, Shipping, and Navigation of the United Kingdom, from 9 Hen. III. to 3 Geo. IV. Inclusive, London, 1823, p. 439).