John Quincy Adams to Charles Adams
Helvoetsluys November 4. 1795
My dear Brother
Your Letter of September 3d. advising your having drawn the preceding day, bills on me in favour of Daniel Ludlow & Co: for ƒ 7,500. at thirty days sight, was received by our Brother Thomas at the Hague on the first of this month, and forwarded by him to me, at this place, where it reached me the next day.1 The bills though mentioned by you as accompanying the Letter, were not presented for acceptance with it. Should they be presented during my absence from the Hague, they will be accepted, and paid in my behalf by our brother.
You will find in a letter I have written you since that of May 17th: that besides the thousand Dollars of your own drawn for in these bills, and the other thousand for which you had previously drawn in favour of William Rogers, & which have been paid, I shall still remain accountable to you for one hundred dollars, being the amount of the interest paid last June upon your bonds then in my hands.2 For this sum you will perhaps not think it worth while to draw on me, and I wish you therefore to charge it to me in account. For you will in future keep a regular account open with me, and let me know the state of it from time to time.
I shall be well satisfied if you conclude upon accepting the offer which you mention as having been made you for the employment of my property in your hands. It appears to me fully to comply with both the directions contained in my letter, and you doubtless ascertained the validity of the security.
You may if you please draw on me for five thousand florins more, subject to the same employment and directions, and to the same conditions for your agency. You will then have so much of my little all committed to your discretion, that I have no doubt you will be solicitous to take the best possible care of it.
For making the draft hereby authorized, I wish you to take the advantage of a favourable exchange, and if the occasion do not offer at the receipt of this letter, to wait untill it shall. The Security of clear and valuable real estate has in my mind the preference above all other as security; and I shall be content to have the whole amount in this, as in the former case, placed upon the terms, which your letter mentions. But I am particularly attached likewise to the condition of recalling the principal at pleasure, and should wish to have it secured in fact as well as in right. For the latter a stipulation is sufficient, but the former must always depend on the ability & integrity of the borrower. You cannot be responsable for these, but a prudent attention to the principle may frequently prevent delays & vexations.
The reason upon which I am desirous to retain a real command of the money, at any time is this. It often happens in America that transient opportunities occur to employ money with as much safety, and with an infinitely greater profit, than when placed at any interest, public or private; and my intention has been and is, that you should with my property take advantage of any such occasion in my behalf. For the first placing of the money, the legal interest was all I could expect or wish; but I meant to leave it in your power at any time to improve an opportunity for doing better. You will therefore consider my authority for the employment of the money as limited principally by your own discretion. Upon all the principal for which you draw on me by authority, you will take five per cent, and also five per cent upon whatever annual income you shall remit proceeding from it, for your agency. But I shall expect no other charges whatever the securities may be, or however often changed.
The only general instruction I can give you on the subject is, that of course I do not mean any illegal risk should be incurred, nor any risk that can possibly involve me personally, or any other part of my property. For your commissions you may pay yourself as you go along, either by the advantage upon the exchange, which will perhaps alone suffise or by the interest when you shall receive it, or if you cannot conveniently wait for that, by drawing on me. You will as I formerly requested, remit to Dr: Welsh on my account, whatever interest may remain beyond the discharge of your own demands on me. If you should at any time have occasion for a power of attorney, you can either procure a substitution from Dr: Welsh, or write to me, and I will send you one.
Although I am persuaded you will give to the transaction of my affairs, all the attention, prudence & diligence that I could myself, it is not my intention to load you with a burden, that shall be altogether without benefit to yourself. If therefore at any time, your situation should become so advantageous, that my concerns would no longer on these terms be an object adequate to the trouble they may give you, I shall wait for notice from you to make such dispositions respecting them as then may be proper. In separating however the man of business from the Brother, I place the fullest confidence in the affection of the latter, as well as in the fidelity of the former.—3 With the most cordial return of that affection I remain / Your Brother
The bills were accepted by our Brother on the 2d: instt: and will be paid at the expiration of their term.4
LbC in TBA’s hand (Adams Papers); internal address: “Charles Adams Esqr:; APM Reel 128.
1. Daniel Ludlow (1750–1813), a New York merchant, had trained with the Amsterdam banking firm of Daniel Crommelin & Son, to whom he was related. In the 1770s he established his first partnership in New York, and in 1790 went into business under the name of Daniel Ludlow & Co. (John Austin Stevens Jr., Colonial New York: Sketches Biographical and Historical 1768–1784, N.Y., 1867, p. 147).
3. CA’s letter outlining his plans for JQA’s money has not been found, but see CA to JQA, 24 April 1796, below. JQA’s faith in CA’s abilities would ultimately prove misplaced. On 29 Sept. 1798 JQA wrote to CA complaining that he had had no report from CA in the previous fifteen months and was therefore turning over all of his financial affairs to TBA (FC-Pr, APM Reel 131). To AA, JQA commented concerning the situation, “My brother Charles—I know not what to think of him and his conduct.— To the most urgent sollicitations for an account from him, I can obtain no answer.— All I know is, that he has acted contrary to my most precise instructions, and omitted prescribed payments to Dr: Welsh, long before you wrote to him not to make such payments.— I have required him to account with my brother Thomas, and deliver over to him my securities.” In December of that year, AA reported to JQA that CA had confessed to her that he had used JQA’s money to cover one of WSS’s debts and save him from prison, but that CA had been unable to recover the money and was too embarrassed to inform JQA of the situation (8 Oct., 2 Dec. 1798, both Adams Papers).
4. TBA’s letter reporting this news has not been found, but on 5 Nov. 1795 JQA commented in a letter to TBA, “As the Bankers at Amsterdam have agreed to pay the bill for 7.500 florins it will not be necessary to do any thing further on that subject” (LbC, APM Reel 128).