Adams Papers

From John Adams to John Jay, 10 June 1785

To John Jay


Bath Hotel Westminster June 10. 1785


Yesterday the ninth of the Month, I was presented to the Queen by my Lord Aylesbury, her Lord Chamberlain, having been attended to his Lordship and introduced to him by the Master of the Ceremonies.2 The Queen was attended by her Ladies, and I made my Compliment to her Majesty in the following Words.3


Among the many Circumstances which have rendered my Mission to his Majesty, desireable to me, I have ever considered it as a principal one, that I Should have an Opportunity of making my Court to a great Queen4 whose Royal Virtues and Talents5 have ever been acknowledged and admired in America, as well as in all the Nations of Europe, as6 an Example to Princesses and the7 Glory of her Sex.

Permit me, Madam, to recommend to your Majesty’s Royal Goodness, a rising Empire, and an Infant Virgin World. Another Europe, Madam, is rising in America. To a Philosophical Mind like your Majestys, there cannot be a more pleasing Contemplation, than this Prospect of doubling the Human Species, and augmenting at the same time their Prosperity and Happiness. it will in future Ages be the Glory of these Kingdoms to have peopled8 that Country and to have Sown there, those Seeds of Science, of Liberty, of Virtue, and permit me,9 Madam to add of Piety, which alone constitute the Prosperity of Nations and the Happiness of the Human Race.

After venturing upon such high Insinuations10 to your Majesty, it seems to be descending too far, to ask as I do, your Majestys Royal Indulgence to a Person, who is indeed unqualified for Courts, and who owes his Elevation to this distinguished Honor, of Standing11 before your Majesty not to any Circumstances of illustrious Birth, Fortune or Abilities, but merely to an ardent Devotion to his native Country, and Some little Industry and Perseverance in her Service.

The Queen answered me, in these Words

I thank you, Sir, for your Civilities to me and my Family; and12 am glad to See you in this Country.

The Queen, then asked me, if I had provided myself with a House? I answered, I have agreed for one, Madam this Morning. She then made her Curtesy and I made my Reverence and retired, into the Drawing Room where the King, Queen, Princess Royal and the younger Princess her Sister,13 all spoke to me, very obligingly. I attended untill the Drawing Room was over, and then returned home.14

It has been necessary, in Order to guard against false Reports and malicious Fictions, to reduce to writing what was Said in my Audiences of the King and Queen, And it is the Custom of all Ministers, to transmit these Compliments to their Courts.— I transmit them to you in Cypher that they may be exposed to as little Criticism as possible. As the Court knew very well that the Eyes of all Nations were fixed upon these Audiences, it may be fairly concluded from them, that it is the Intention of the Royal Family and of the Ministry to treat America, that is the United States and their Ministers upon the Footing of other foreign Powers.— But our Inferences can go no farther. We cannot infer from this that they will relax their Navigation Act for Us any more than for France. We are Sure of one Thing, that a Navigation Act, is in our Power as well as in theirs. and that ours would be more hurtfull to them than theirs to Us. in Short it is Scarcely possible to calculate, to what an height of naval Power a Navigation Act, would raise the United States in a very few Years.

With great Esteem I have the Honor to be / dear Sir, your most obedient and humble / Servant

John Adams.

Dupl (private owner, 1960); internal address: “Mr Secretary Jay”; notation in Elbridge Gerry’s hand: “Dplc. of Mr / Adams Letters to Mr Jay on / the subject / of his Recept / at the British / Court / June 2d & / 10th / 1785.” RC, coded and decoded text (PCC, No. 84, V, f. 499–506). LbC’s in the hands of JA and WSS, respectively (Adams Papers); APM Reels 107, 111. Gerry’s notation refers to the enclosure in JA’s 6 July letter to him of this letter and that of 2 June to Jay describing his audience with George III, above. For JA’s drafting and dispatch of this letter to America, his reasons for sending those letters to Gerry, and the editors’ decision to take the text of both letters in this volume from the “duplicates” sent to Gerry rather than the encoded copies sent to Jay, see JA’s 2 June letter to Jay, note 2, above.

1In WSS’s hand.

2That is, JA was introduced to the queen’s chamberlain by Sir Clement Cottrell Dormer. Dormer wrote to JA on 3 June to inform him that the queen had set 9 June for her audience with the U.S. minister, and that he would call on JA in the afternoon to speak with him about the occasion (Adams Papers).

In symbolic terms JA’s audience with Queen Charlotte was less significant than that with George III on 1 June, but it was no less important for any new minister to the Court of St. James. Clearly JA’s exchange with the queen was less emotional, at least on his part, than that with the king. The only problem, not mentioned in his account, was that he had no letter of credence from Congress to the queen, an omission that he had learned of only from the Marquis of Carmarthen’s 27 May letter, and which JA attributed in his reply of the 28th to an oversight rather than any lack of respect, both above. JA’s account of his presentation to Charlotte should be compared with AA’s detailed account of her own on 23 June in her letter to Mary Smith Cranch of 24 June (AFC description begins Adams Family Correspondence, ed. L. H. Butterfield, Marc Friedlaender, Richard Alan Ryerson, Margaret A. Hogan, and others, Cambridge, 1963–. description ends , 6:186– 190, 192–194). In that letter she quoted the queen’s reply to JA at his audience, but regarding the king’s reply to JA, she wrote that it “was much longer, but I am not at liberty to say more respecting it. than that it was civil and polite, and that his Majesty said he was glad the Choice of his Country had fallen upon him.”

3In the Adams Papers at [9 June] is a FC of JA’s address to the queen and her response that were likely copied from JA’s Letterbook. There are, however, differences among the FC, Dupl, and LbC versions, which are indicated in notes 4–12. For JA’s likely use of the FC’s, see Thomas Jefferson’s first letter of 24 Sept., and note 1, below.

4In his LbC, JA wrote, “Princess.” The references here, in note 3, and below are to the Letterbook (APM Reel 107) in which JA drafted his letter to Jay.

5In his LbC, JA wrote and then canceled, “Accomplishments.” In his FC, JA wrote, “Royal Virtues Talents and Accomplishments.”

6In his LbC, JA wrote and then canceled, “the first.”

7In his LbC, JA wrote and then canceled, “greatest.”

8In his LbC, JA wrote, “planted.”

9In his LbC, JA wrote, “permit me to add, Madam of Piety.”

10In his LbC, JA wrote, “presuming upon Such high allusions,” and in his FC wrote, “upon such Insinuations.”

11In his LbC, JA wrote, “appearing.”

12In his FC, JA wrote, “I.”

13George III and Charlotte were joined by the Princess Royal Charlotte and either Princess Augusta or Princess Elizabeth. For a portrait of the three princesses by Thomas Gainsborough, see AFC description begins Adams Family Correspondence, ed. L. H. Butterfield, Marc Friedlaender, Richard Alan Ryerson, Margaret A. Hogan, and others, Cambridge, 1963–. description ends , vol. 6:xi–xiii, 191. For portraits of George III and Charlotte, see Descriptive List of Illustrations, Nos. 2 and 3, above.

14In his LbC, this paragraph contained an additional sentence: “Here I met my Lord how and made my Compliments to him and his Lordship his to me.” JA’s handwriting here is not altogether clear, but if the reading is correct then JA’s visitor was probably Adm. Lord Richard Howe, former commander of the North American station and currently first lord of the admiralty. In Sept. 1776 JA, Benjamin Franklin, and Edward Rutledge, as members of a commission appointed by Congress, met with Howe in Staten Island regarding the restoration of peace. Nothing came of the conference since Howe had no power to negotiate with Congress. Howe later resigned his command because of his disagreement with the North ministry over its American policy (vol. 5:21; JA, D&A description begins Diary and Autobiography of John Adams, ed. L. H. Butterfield and others, Cambridge, 1961; 4 vols. description ends , 3:417– 421; 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; rev. edn., description ends ).

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