Adams Papers

John Adams to the president of Congress, 10 January 1785

To the President of Congress

Auteuil near Paris January 10. 1785.1


I have the Satisfaction, to inform Congress that by Letters from our Bankers, in Amsterdam, I am informed, they have in Hand, near a Million of Gilders, and consequently, that the two Loans I have opened, amounting in the whole to Seven Millions of Guilders are almost full.2 This is full proof of the amelioration of our Credit, since January 1784, when I was obliged in a very tender State of Convalescence, and an uncommonly rigorous Season, to undergo, the hardships and Dangers of a Voyage and Journey in Packet Boats, Ice boats and Boors waggons, to obtain money, to save Mr: Morris’s Bills from being protested. This is a very fortunate Circumstance for us, at this time, both as it furnishes us the means of treating with the Barbary Powers, if Congress should authorise us to make the necessary Presents, upon which Point we wait their Instructions;3 and as it will enable Congress to pay the Interest of their Debt to France. Four Letters upon the Subject of this Interest, have been communicated to his colleagues, by Dr: Franklin, one from the Comte de Vergennes, and three from Mr: Grand, and no doubt transmitted to Congress.4 Dr: Franklin has sounded me, several Times to know if I was willing to pay the Salaries of the Ministers, and Mr: Carmichaels Salary, Mr: Dumas’s Salary, and Coll: Humphreys’s. in short, there is no Money in Europe, at present, but what has been obtained in Holland by my signature, and is supposed, to be under my Inspection: I shall there fore be very soon embarass’d as there will be many Applications to me for Money, and I shall not dare, to advance it without Orders. I therefore pray for the explicit Instructions of Congress upon this Subject. your Ministers in Europe must not starve on the one hand, and I must not on the other, presume to appropriate Money unappropriated by Congress, without necessity. it it should be the Pleasure, of Congress, that I should draw for necessary Monies, upon the Certificate of their Ministers here, or that they should draw upon my Bankers in Amsterdam this would relieve me from a great Anxiety. at all Events, it is absolutely necessary that Congress should communicate to me their Commands.

I wish also to know, whether it is the Expectation of Congress, that I should open a new Loan, as one of the old ones is full, and the other very near it. I confess it grieves me, to put my Hand, to an Obligation, as it always brings home to my heart the Reflection, that I am burthening the Industry and labour of my fellow Citizens and Countrymen, with an heavy Load: and when Demands are laid before me, for Millions of Livres for Interest already due, I cannot help wishing that I might never have Occasion to sign another Obligation. it will nevertheless be absolutely necessary as I believe, to borrow somewhat more, but it behoves the People to consider the necessity they are under of exerting themselves in Season, to provide for the Payment of their foreign Debt, and especially to avoid as much as possible the Necessity of increasing it. They will find it very impoverishing to send annually out of their Country such large Sums for the payment of Interest. an enormous Bulk of the Produce of the Country must go to make these Sums, and we shall find the drain very exhausting to our Patience if not to our strength.

With great Respect &c—

LbC in JQA’s hand (Adams Papers); internal address: “His Excellency, / the President of Congress.”; APM Reel 107.

1The RC of this letter, since lost, reached Congress on 31 March and immediately was referred to John Jay. He reported on 5 April, indicating in his covering letter and the report itself that the matters raised by JA belonged more properly to the Treasury Board rather than his own department. But regarding JA’s comments on the payment of salaries at the end of the first paragraph of this letter, Jay declared that since “the Justice as well as the Dignity of the United States requires that their Ministers & Servants should be punctually supplied, without the Intervention of personal Credit and such like expedients; Your Secretary is of Opinion, that Mr. Adams should be authorised until the further Order of Congress to cause the Salaries of your Ministers and Secretaries in Europe to be regularly paid out of the Monies in Holland.” Despite Jay’s proposal, JA received no such authorization (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, D.C., 1904–1937; 34 vols. description ends 28:222, 226, 234; PCC, No. 80, I, f. 129–130; No. 81, I, 183–186; No. 185, III, f. 118).

2Presumably JA refers to the consortium’s letters of 20 and 30 Dec. 1784, both above, for which see JA’s 10 Jan. [1785] letter to the Amsterdam bankers, below.

3For Congress’ resolutions authorizing negotiations with the Barbary States and the expenditure of funds thereon, see Jay’s 11 March letter to the commissioners, below.

4Two of the letters were likely those from the Comte de Vergennes of 30 Aug. 1784 and from Ferdinand Grand of 28 Aug., both of which were addressed to Benjamin Franklin and enclosed with the commissioners’ 11 Nov. letter to the president of Congress, above. Grand’s two other letters to Franklin have not been found, but they may have been those of 29 Dec. 1784 and 5 Jan. 1785, to which Franklin replied on 9 Jan. (PCC, No. 82, III, f. 313–316). Franklin indicated in his reply that he had communicated both letters to JA, who maintained that he had “no Power to draw on or dispose of that fund [the proceeds from the loan in the Netherlands] without orders from Congress.” Franklin noted that JA had shown him the consortium’s letters indicating how much money was available, but that when Franklin communicated Grand’s 5 Jan. letter, JA seemed “rather displeas’d with my Importunity So that I can carry it no farther.”

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