Adams Papers

Elbridge Gerry to Abigail Adams, 18 May 1784

Elbridge Gerry to Abigail Adams

Annapolis 18th. May 1784


By Mr. Bourne,1 who was here last Week, I informed You that our commercial Affairs were arranged, that Mr. Adams Mr. Franklin and Mr. Jefferson were to carry on the Negotiations, that three2 Years would probably be requisite to compleat the Business, and that you may embark for Europe, without Delay, as there is not a possibility of any Departure from the Measures adopted by Congress. Mr. Jefferson proposed when he left Annapolis, to spend about a fortnight at Philadelphia, and afterwards to proceed to Boston: and it is probable, that Colo. Humphreys, formerly an Aid to General Washington will go with him, and that both will take passage from Boston,3 in which Case You will have very agreable Companions.

I have only Time Madam to bid You adeiu, sincerely wishing You and such of your Family as may accompany You, a pleasant Passage, and happy Interveiw with our mutual Friend, and assuring You that I am on every Occasion your Friend and most obt servt

E Gerry

RC (Adams Papers). addressed: “His Excellency John Adams Esqr.”; notation: “to be forwarded by Isaac Smith Esqr of Boston, without Delay to Mrs Adams at Braintree”; further marked: “E Gerry”; franked: “free.” All notations in Gerry’s hand. Gerry may have addressed this letter to JA so that the postmaster would not protest the free franking.

1Shearjashub Bourne, who was in Annapolis to present a memorial to Congress relating to prize money due to him and other Massachusetts naval officers for whom he was acting. This memorial arose out of a legal contest between Massachusetts and New Hampshire over the brig Lusanna that had continued for years, and in which JA had been briefly involved in Dec. 1777. See Burnett, ed., Letters of Members description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress, Washington, 1921–1936; 8 vols. description ends , 7:516; JA, Legal Papers description begins Legal Papers of John Adams, ed. L. Kinvin Wroth and Hiller B. Zobel, Cambridge, 1965; 3 vols. description ends , 2:352–395; and JCC description begins Worthington C. Ford and others, eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, Washington, 1904–1937; 34 vols. description ends , 16:17–21, 38–41, 174–175.

2In his letter to AA of 7 May (Adams Papers), Gerry wrote two years (see Gerry to AA, 16 April, note 1, above).

3Jefferson left Annapolis on 11 May, spent the remainder of the month in Philadelphia, and then traveled slowly up the coast, visiting important figures in each city and town, before reaching Boston on 18 June. Too late to arrange a passage on the same ship with AA, who sailed on 20 June, Jefferson continued on to Salem, and then to Portsmouth, N.H., in order to complete his survey of the government and commerce of the northern states, preparatory to assuming his new duties as a commissioner to negotiate commercial treaties. He returned to Boston on 25 June, sailed for Europe on 5 July, and reached Paris on 6 Aug. (Jefferson, Papers description begins The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, ed. Julian P. Boyd, Charles T. Cullen (from vol. 21), John Catanzariti (from vol. 24), and others, Princeton, 1950-. description ends , 7:2, 312, 323–349, 364).

Congress named Lt. Col. David Humphreys of Connecticut as secretary to the commissioners on 12 May, and thus began his diplomatic career. Gerry later reported to JA that Benjamin Franklin had wanted William Temple Franklin named secretary to the commissioners, but Congress objected to this nepotism, and felt, too, that the young Franklin might make secret reports on JA to his grandfather (Gerry to JA, 16 June, Adams Papers). Humphreys was warmly recommended to JA by John Trumbull, poet and former law student of JA’s (to JA, 14 June, Adams Papers), and as a poet he was later included among the Connecticut Wits. In the 1790s Humphreys served as a secret intelligence agent in London, Lisbon, and Madrid, then as commissioner to Algiers, and finally as minister to Spain (DAB description begins Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, New York, 1928–1936; 20 vols. plus index and supplements. description ends ). In 1784 Humphreys accompanied Jefferson from Philadelphia as far as New Haven, but then returned to New York to take the packet boat for France in July, ten days after Jefferson’s departure from Boston (Jefferson, Papers description begins The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, ed. Julian P. Boyd, Charles T. Cullen (from vol. 21), John Catanzariti (from vol. 24), and others, Princeton, 1950-. description ends , 7:252, 279, 363–364).

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