Adams Papers

To John Adams from William Carmichael, 15 January 1784

From William Carmichael


Madrid 15 Jany. 1784


Mr Barry delivered me some days ago your Excellencys favor of the 20th Novr. at the Same time he put into my hands Mr Ficths Note which I own surprized me greatly—1 The Warmth of Mr Barrys heart led him to exagerate the civilities I showed him which proceeded in the first instance from the manner in which your Excy recommended him to me— These are Duties which admit of no recompense, or the pleasure which we have in fulfilling them is totally destroyed— In a word I must make a return equal to the Value of the present made me— This is a circumstance far from being agreable, for it was a purchase which I should not have made. Your Excy will pardon me for taking the Liberty to request that you would endeavor to Learn the price of the Watch. The Makers name is Ths. Hawkins and the Case has the Coat of Arms and the Motto of the Hindford Family engraved on it—2

I find myself in precisely the Same Situation of which your Excy complains. I have had but two letters in 15 Months from Congress— I am determined not to remain much longer in Europe, if I have not the means of rendering my country the Services that it has a right to demand from those whom it pays— In the month of Septr I advised Congress of the Appointment of a Minister from this Court to the States & that he would not proceed thither unless one in the Character of Minister from America should be named for this place— I have no answer to my letters—3 Perhaps the Idea of the Gentlemen you mention not to have any Ministers in Europe, may have taken place— If we are to have Ministers in the Different countries with which we shall have Treaties, The expence of our department for Foreign Affairs will be heavy—

At Present they think here that in General the Americans are averse to this Nation— I beleive this opinion arises from the Advices they receive from England & by the representations of Persons who wish to inspire such Ideas— There are no complaints made against our Countrymen, for smuggling— The French and English are accused of pushing the Contraband business to a higher point than ever since the peace— This will occasion a stop to be put to all open & direct Intercourse between The Spanish French & English Islands, except with the Isle of Trinity4 to which certain previledges are accorded— The Bank established here in the course of last year has yeilded more than five pr Ct. in nine months to the Accionists—5 It will probably have the exclusive right for the extraction of Dollars— Next Month a fleet is expected from Vera Cruz with 20 million of Pesos in Specie besides the valuable produce of that part of the World— I shall esteem it as a very great favor & honor, if your Excy would have the goodness to write me a few Lines whenever you receive news from America that can be communicated with propriety in this Mode of Correspondence With the highest Sentiments of respect I have the honor to be / Your Excellencys / Most Obedt Humble Sert

Wm. Carmichael

RC (Adams Papers); endorsed: “Mr Charmichael / 15. Jan 1784. / ansd 22. of April.”

1JA had written to Carmichael, John Jay’s secretary who was then acting in the role of chargé d’affaires at Madrid in Jay’s absence, on 18 June 1783 to introduce a “Mr Barry” (LbC, APM Reel 108; DAB description begins Allen Johnson, Dumas Malone, and others, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, New York, 1928–1936; repr. New York, 1955–1980; 10 vols. plus index and supplements. description ends ). Nothing further is known about Barry.

2Thomas Hawkins was a watchmaker at the Royal Exchange in London who had been in business since 1777. Eliphalet Fitch likely sent a watch decorated with the Hyndford coat of arms because he suspected that a connection might exist between Carmichael and the family of John Carmichael, created first Earl of Hyndford in 1701. The arms of that family are described as argent, a fesse tortilé azure and gules, with a crest featuring an arm in armor, embowed, holding a broken spear, all proper. The family motto was “Toujours prest,” or “Always ready.” There is no known close connection between the titled family and Carmichael, the son of a Scottish immigrant to Maryland (Catalogue of the Museum of the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers of London, 2d edn., London, 1902, p. 56; DNB description begins Leslie Stephen and Sidney Lee, eds., The Dictionary of National Biography, New York and London, 1885–1901; repr. Oxford, 1959–1960; 21 vols. plus supplements. description ends ; DAB description begins Allen Johnson, Dumas Malone, and others, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, New York, 1928–1936; repr. New York, 1955–1980; 10 vols. plus index and supplements. description ends ; Thomas Robson, The British Herald; or, Cabinet of Armorial Bearings of the Nobility and Gentry of Great Britain and Ireland, 3 vols., Sunderland, England, 1830).

In his reply of 22 April 1784 (LbC, APM Reel 107), JA sympathized with Carmichael’s concern over the value of Fitch’s gift and his evident desire to reciprocate. He noted that Fitch, upon sailing for Jamaica, sent him “a Present of choice old Madeira Wine and Jamaica Spirit” in return for JA’s kindnesses. JA indicated that he had not considered refusing the gift and advised Carmichael to “keep the Watch untill you see Mr Fitch or give it away to a Friend. never trouble your head to send him any equivalent. rather Send him back the Watch itself. But I dont think that is worth while.”

3Within the time span indicated by Carmichael, the PCC includes letters that Robert R. Livingston had written on 28 Nov. 1782 and 7 May 1783 (Wharton, Dipl. Corr. Amer. Rev. description begins The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States, ed. Francis Wharton, Washington, 1889; 6 vols. description ends , 6:88–89, 408–409). For the same period there are twelve letters from Carmichael, but none since 30 August. No letter dated in Sept. has been found, but Carmichael’s letter of 30 Aug. gave an account of his presentation to Charles III on 23 Aug. and reported that the king had appointed a minister to the United States, the 24-year-old Marqués de Múzquiz, son of the Spanish finance minister (same, 6:663–667). But, in fact, no minister was sent. The first official Spanish diplomatic representative was Diego de Gardoqui, who arrived in May 1785 with the rank of “Plenipotentiary Chargé des Affaires” (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 , 3:445; JCC description begins Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, ed. Worthington Chauncey Ford, Gaillard Hunt, John C. Fitzpatrick, Roscoe R. Hill, and others, Washington, 1904–1937; 34 vols. description ends , 28:402).


5Charged with procuring supplies for the Spanish Army and Navy, the Bank of San Carlos was allowed a 10 percent profit on its expenditures. In his 30 Dec. 1782 letter to Livingston, Carmichael gave an account of the bank’s organizational meeting and indicated that it was to commence operations in April 1783 (same, 6:184–187). The “Accionists” were the shareholders.

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