Adams Papers

To John Adams from Lewis R. Morris, 6 July 1782

From Lewis R. Morris

No: 1

Office of foreign Affairs 6th. July 1782


The same opportunity which carries this to Europe, also conveys Bills to Doctor Franklin, for the amount of the Salaries due our foreign Ministers, from the first day of January to the first day of April 1782.

Your Salary for that time is £650 stg reduced to Dollars at 4/6 sterg. is 2.777 68/90 Doles. Exchange at 6/3 Curreny for 5. Livres is. 14.583 lt Livres, You will draw on Doctor Franklin for this sum.1

I am sorry it is out of my power to include in this account, the allowance you make your private Secretary, and the contingent Expences of your Office, but not possest of any rule to estimate either of these Charges, they must necessarily remain unsettled, till we are informed of their amount, you will be pleased to advise Mr Livingston on this subject as soon as possible, with the state of your account, that it may be settled, and the arrears if any, remitted to you.

I have the honor to be your Excellency’s most obedient humble Servant.

L R Morris

RC and enclosure (MHi: John Adams, Embassy MSS); addressed: “His Excellency John Adams Hague”; endorsed: “L. R. Morris 6. July 1782 relative to Salary.” This letter was written on a sheet folded to make four pages. On the third page is a duplicate of Lewis Morris’ letter of 9 Aug. (Adams Papers) concerning JA’s salary from 1 April to 1 July, and enclosed is a bill signed by Robert Morris and drawn on the Grands at Paris for JA’s salary for that period. For other copies of this letter, see note 1, below.

1The figures given by Morris in this letter are confusing. The first problem is that he entered the wrong sum for JA’s salary. In 1779, Congress set the yearly salary of a minister at £2,500 sterling per year or, as in this letter, £625 per quarter (JCC description begins Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, ed. Worthington C. Ford and others, Washington, D.C., 1904–1937; 34 vols. description ends , 15:1145). In fact, Morris used that figure when he computed the sum in dollars, but the dollar amount should be 2,777 70/90 at an exchange rate of 4s. 6d. per dollar. In the second conversion to French livres tournois, Morris refers to the exchange rate between Pennsylvania currency and livres tournois. At par value, £166.67 Pennsylvania currency was worth £100 sterling. Therefore, £625 sterling equaled £1,041.67 Pennsylvania currency, which, at 6s. 3d. Pennsylvania currency per 5 , equaled 16,666 13s., rather than the 14,583 that Morris gives in this letter. However, Morris’ figure is the same as that produced by using the exchange rate Congress adopted on 7 March 1783 and applied retroactively to salaries due on 1 Jan. 1783 (JCC description begins Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, ed. Worthington C. Ford and others, Washington, D.C., 1904–1937; 34 vols. description ends , 24:175–176). For the effect this had on ministerial salaries, see Laurens, Papers description begins The Papers of Henry Laurens, ed. Philip M. Hamer, George C. Rogers Jr., David R. Chesnutt, C. James Taylor, and others, Columbia, S.C., 1968–2003; 16 vols. description ends , 16:257.

There are two other extant copies of Morris’ letter, both in the Adams Papers. One is virtually identical to this letter as printed, containing the same figures and a copy of Morris’ letter of 9 Aug. on the third page. The other, designated as a quadruplicate, does not give JA’s salary in pounds sterling, only the dollar amount, and gives the amount in livres tournois, converted from Pennsylvania currency, correctly as 16,666 13s. The reason for the discrepancy is unknown, since all of the copies are in Morris’ hand. It should be noted, however, that when JA received his salary from the Grands, the exchange rate was 24 per pound sterling, or 15,000 for the quarter (Foreign Ledgers, Public Agents in Europe, 1776–1787, DNA: RG 39 [Microfilm], f. 190).

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