Adams Papers

From John Adams to Robert R. Livingston, 12 July 1783

To Robert R. Livingston

Paris July 12th. 1783.1


Reports have been spread, that the Regency of Algiers has been employed in fitting Ships to cruise for American Vessels. There are reports too, that Spain has an Armament prepared to attack their Town. How much truth there may be in either, I cannot pretend to say.

Whether Congress will take any Measures for treating with these piratical States must be submitted to them. The Custom of these Courts, as well as all those of Asia & Africa, is to recieve Presents with Ambassadors. The Grand Pensionary of Holland told me, that the Republick paid annually to the Regency of Algiers an hundred thousand Dollars. I hope a less Sum would serve for Us— But in the present State of our Finances, it would be difficult to make payment.

Mr. Montgomery, of Alicante, has ventured to write a Letter to the Emperor of Morocco; in consequence of which his Majesty was pleased to give Orders to all his Vessels to treat American Vessels with all friendship. Mr. Montgomery ventured too far however, in writing in the Name of the United States, and what will be the consequence of the deception, I know not.2

Dr. Franklin lately mentioned to Mr. Jay & me, that he was employed in preparing with the Portuguese Ambassador a Treaty between the United States and Portugal. The next Ambassador’s day at Versailles I asked him, if we could be admitted to the Brasils?— He said, No— They admitted no Nation to the Brasils. I asked, if We were admitted to the Western Islands? He said he thought Madeira was mentioned. I told him, I thought it would be of much Importance to Us to secure an Admission to all the Azores, & to have those Islands, or some of them, made a Depot for the Sugars, Coffee, Cotton, Coccoa &ca of the Brasils.3 He liked this Idea, & went immediately and spoke to the Ambassador upon it. He said the Ambassador had told him, that they could furnish us with these Articles at Lisbon 15. pr. Cent cheaper, than the English could from their West India Islands. This Treaty I suppose will be submitted to Congress, before it is signed, and I hope Congress will give a close attention to it, in order to procure an exemption from as many Duties as possible, and as much freedom & security of Trade in all their Ports of Europe & the Western Islands, as possible. If any particular Stipulations should be necessary, concerning the free admission of all the Articles of our Produce, as Rice, Wheat, Flour, Salt-Fish, or any other, the Members of Congress may readily suggest them. I could wish, that the Court of Lisbon had sent a Minister to Philadelphia, to negotiate the Treaty there. I wish that Advantages may not be lost, by this method of preparing Treaties here, by Ministers who have made no particular Study of the Objects of them— Benefits on both sides may escape attention in this way. A good Treaty with Portugal is of so much consequence to Us, that I should not wonder if Congress should think it necessary to send a Minister to Lisbon to compleat it.

I have the honor to be, with great / Respect, / Sir, your most obedient & / most humble Servant.

John Adams4

RC in John Thaxter’s hand (PCC, No. 84, IV, f. 460–462); addressed: “His Excellency / Robert R. Livingston Esqr. / Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs / at / Philadelphia”; internal address: “Hon. R. R. Livingston Esqr / Secretery of foreign Affairs.” LbC (Adams Papers); APM Reel 108.

1In the Letterbook is the notation by John Thaxter: “Deliverd to Capt. Barney by J. Thaxter at Havre de Gräce 29. July 1783.”

2For Robert Montgomery’s effort to open negotiations with Morocco and Congress’ negative reaction to it, see his letter of 27 May, and note 1, vol. 14:501–502, as well as JA’s reply of 18 June, above, and Montgomery’s further explanation of the initiative in his letter of 2 Aug., below.

3Benjamin Franklin indicated to Livingston in his 22 July letter that he had proposed a commercial treaty, similar to that with Sweden, to the longtime Portuguese ambassador to France, Vicente de Sousa Coutinho, and was awaiting the draft treaty’s return from Lisbon. Franklin enclosed the draft treaty with that letter (Wharton, Dipl. Corr. Amer. Rev. description begins The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States, ed. Francis Wharton, Washington, 1889; 6 vols. description ends , 6:583, 588–591; Repertorium description begins Ludwig Bittner and others, eds., Repertorium der diplomatischen Vertreter aller Länder seit dem Westfälischen Frieden (1648), Oldenburg, 1936–1965; 3 vols. description ends , 3:317). Article 3 of the draft permitted Americans to trade with Portuguese possessions in Europe as well as Madeira and the Azores, but not with Brazil. In fact, the exclusion did not matter because the treaty was never concluded.

4In JA’s hand.

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