Adams Papers

From John Adams to Robert R. Livingston, 23 June 1783

To Robert R. Livingston

Paris. 23d. June. 1783.1


Your favor of April. 14th. No: 16, acknowledged the receipt of mine of the 21st. & 22d. January,2 but took no notice of any letters which went by Capn: Barney: Neither Dr: Franklin, Mr: Jay, nor myself, have any answer to the Dispatches, which went by that Express, altho’ yours to me, No: 16, gave cause to expect Letters to us all, with Instructions concerning the Definitive Treaty—3 This profound silence of Congress, & the total Darkness, in which we are left, concerning their Sentiments, is very distressing to us, and very dangerous & injurious to the Public.—

I see no prospect of agreeing upon any regulation of Commerce here. The present Ministry are afraid of every Knot of Merchants: A Clamor of an interested party, more than an evil to their Country, is their dread. A few West-India Merchants, in opposition to the Sense & Interest of the West-India Planters, are endeavoring to excite an opposition to our carrying the produce of the West-India Islands, from those Islands, to Europe even to Great-Britain. There are also secret Schemes to exclude us, if they can, from the Trade of Ireland—to possess themselves of the carrying Trade of the United-States, by prohibiting any American Vessell to bring to Great-Britain any Commodity, but those of the State to which it belongs: Thus a Philadelphia Vessell can carry no Tobacco, Rice or Indigo, nor a Carolina Vessell, Wheat or Flour, nor a Boston Vessell either, unless grown in its own State. In this way a superficial party4 think they can possess themselves of the Carriage of almost all the productions of the United-States; annihilate our Navigation & nurseries of Seamen, and keep all to themselves more effectually than ever. They talk too of discouraging the people of the United-States, and encouraging those of Canada & Nova-Scotia, in such a manner as to encrease the population of those two Provinces, even by migrations from the United-States—

These are Dreams, to be sure; but the Dreamers are so many as to intimidate the present Ministry who dare venture upon nothing, which will make a Clamour—

I have lately heard that the Merchants in America are waiting to hear of the Regulations of Trade made here.— They will wait, I don’t know how long. There is no present prospect of our agreing, at all, upon any regulation of Trade—

I have the honor to be, Sir, / Your humle: servt:

John Adams.5

RC in Charles Storer’s hand (PCC, No. 84, IV, f. 415–418); addressed: “His Excellency. / Robert. R. Livingston Esqr: / Secretary of State. / Philadelphia.”; internal address: “R. R. Livingston Esqr:”; notation: “2d.LbC (Adams Papers); APM Reel 108.

1In the Letterbook is the notation “Delivered to Mr. Mazzei same day—” It is unlikely that the copy entrusted to Philip Mazzei (PCC, No. 84, IV, f. 411–414) was the first to be received by Congress, and thus it is not the copy printed here. This is because Mazzei wrote to JA on 4 Aug. from Bordeaux (Adams Papers) offering to carry additional letters, but Congress on 12 Sept. received this letter and eighteen others written by JA between 14 April and 18 July (PCC, No. 185, III, f. 78–79).

2Livingston’s letter of 14 April actually acknowledged JA’s letters of 22 and 23 Jan., which had reached Congress on 10 April (vol. 14:201–205, 407–410; PCC, No. 185, III, f. 61). That letter was also the last that JA received from Livingston as secretary for foreign affairs.

3JA was disturbed because Livingston mentioned Congress’ ratification of the Anglo-American preliminary peace treaty carried by Capt. Joshua Barney but not the numerous letters from the commissioners as a group and as individuals, including accounts of the negotiations, also entrusted to Barney. In fact, Livingston wrote to the commissioners on 25 March and 21 April, relating in the former letter his own and Congress’ reservations about the treaty and their negotiation of it and enclosing with the latter the ratified preliminary treaty (vol. 14:361–364, 435–438). The commissioners did not receive the two letters and the ratified treaty until 2 July (to Livingston, 3 July, and note 8, below). They did not notify David Hartley of the ratification’s arrival until their letter of 17 July and did not respond to Livingston’s comments regarding the treaty until 18 July, both below.

4In the Letterbook JA wrote and then canceled “Silly Party.”

5In JA’s hand.

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