Adams Papers

From John Adams to John Jay, 24 April 1785

To John Jay

Auteuil near Paris April 24. 1785


The Letter you did me the honour to write me on the 11th. of February last, containing the Ratification of my last Loan, of two million Guilders, having been properly addressed to me as Minister at the Hague, by a mistake in the Post Office at Paris was Sent to Holland, from whence it returned to me last night.1

This Loan is long Since full, as my first Loan of Five million Guilders is nearly So; I must therefore Solicit the further Instructions of Congress, whether I am to open any new Loan or not.

Your Letter to Dr Franklin Mr Jefferson and me of the 14. of January has been duely received and answered.2

If I had known a few Weeks Sooner, that Congress had resolved to Send a Minister to London, it would have saved you the Trouble of a Letter upon the Subject which you will receive by the Packet.3 it has appeared to me, for sometime to be an important and a necessary measure: and although the Gentleman who may be sent there, whoever he may be, will probably find himself entangled in a Thicket of Briars, from which he will hardly get free without tearing his flesh; yet I am perswaded that the Appearance of an American Minister at the British Court, will have good Effects upon our Affairs even in France and Spain and the nations in Alliance with them, as well as in the Courts and Nations in the opposite Scale of the Ballance but especially upon the British and American Nations. Will it be foreign to the Purpose, upon this Occasion, or improper for me to observe that the People in America and their Legislatures in the Several States, Should prepare the Way for their Minister in England to require a faithfull Execution of Treaties, by Setting the Example of a punctual Execution on their Part. if We establish the Principle that We have a Right to depart from the Treaty in one Article, because they have departed from it in another, they will certainly avail themselves of the same Principle and probably extend it as much farther, as their Sense of Justice is less and their Opinion of their own Power, however illfounded is greater. it cannot I think be too often nor too earnestly recommended to our Countrymen to consider the Treaty as Sacred and to fullfill it in all its Parts according to its real Spirit and Intention in good Conscience. in that most delicate Point of all respecting the Refugees, I even wish that the People could conquer their natural Feelings and even Suppress their just Resentments. This I am confident is the best Revenge that can be taken, and will most effectually disarm even those among them who are most distinguished for their Enmity. if We have any Thing to fear from Canada and Nova Scotia, or for our Whale Fishery, it arises and will arise from our own Severity to these People. and the same observation may be applyed to the Furr Trade and the Posts upon the Frontier.

Your desire, Sir, to hear from me frequently and to have my poor opinion on the affairs of your Department does me great Honour, and shall be complied with to the Utmost of my Power: But I Shall have much oftener occasion for your Advice in Such affairs as are entrusted to me. I think myself extreamly happy in common with our Countrymen, that I have to correspond with a Gentleman to whom our foreign Affairs are very familiar by long Experience, who knows where our Difficulties and Dangers lie, and who has proved himself upon all Occasions Superiour to them.

I am sorry to learn, that the French Chargé des affaires has demanded Mr Longchamps to be delivered up. and am the more Surprized because I had understood, from such Sources as I thought authentick that the Punishment to which he has been Sentenced, was Satisfactory at Court.4 It may not however be amiss for the French Government to keep up a Claim, which may be a standing restraint to their own Subjects in all foreign Countries. But It cannot be doubted, that the French Ministry know our Right to refuse, as well as theirs to demand, as there is no positive Stipulation between the two Powers that Criminals shall be mutually given up, and Surely it is no perfect Right by the Law of Nations. nor is it a common Practice. so far from it, that it will be difficult to shew an Example of it, where there is no Convention.

Your Packet for Mr Charmichael shall be delivered to the Spanish Ambassador to go by his Courier, as you desire.5

With the Utmost respect and Esteem / I have the Honour to be, Sir / Your most obedient and / most humble servant

John Adams

RC (PCC, No. 84, V, f. 381–385); internal address: “His Excellency John Jay Esqr / Secretary of foreign Affairs.” LbC (Adams Papers); APM Reel 107.

1For Jay’s 11 Feb. letter to JA and the enclosed 1 Feb. ratification of the second Dutch loan, see vol. 16:511–512, 518–520. JA wrote to the consortium on this date (LbC, APM, Reel 107), enclosing the ratified contract and explaining the reason for the delay in his receiving it, but did not send it off until the 28th with his letter to the consortium of that date, for which see the consortium’s letter of 21 April, note 1, above.

2For Jay’s 14 Jan. letter to the commissioners and their 18 March reply, see vol. 16:489–490, 568–570.

3Presumably JA’s letter of 13 April, above.

4For the Longchamps Affair, stemming from Charles Julian de Longchamps’ assault of François de Barbé-Marbois, see vol. 16:519– 520. The incident caused a crisis in Franco-American relations because of the French demand (later rescinded) that Longchamps be surrendered for prosecution in France, but it also raised serious issues about the law of nations’ place in the American legal system and the relationship between Congress and the states.

5JA wrote to the Spanish ambassador, the Conde de Aranda, on 25 April, enclosing Jay’s packet for William Carmichael and requesting that it be sent to Madrid by one of the ambassador’s couriers (FC, Adams Papers).

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