Adams Papers

From John Adams to John Jay, 29 July 1785

To John Jay

Grosvenor Square Westminster July 29th. 1785—


I have the honour to inclose a Copy of a Letter to the Marquis of Carmarthen of the 14th. of July, another of the 27th. with a project of a Declaration concerning the construction of the Armistice, and another of this date with a project of a Treaty of Commerce— It is high time something should be done, to turn the attention of Administration to the relation between this Country and the United States, and it seemed most advisable to lay the project of a Treaty directly before the Ministry, rather than first negociate the appointment of any other Minister to treat with me, than the Marquis of Carmarthen himself— If I had first proposed the appointment of a minister, they would have procrastinated the business, for six Months and perhaps twelve, before I could have communicated any thing to them— Now they can have no excuse— The offer is made & hereafter they may repent of their error, if they do not accept it, or something nearly like it immediately. I am very sensible it will greatly embarrass Administration, because most of them I believe are sensible that some such treaty must be one day agreed to, and that it would be wise to agree to it now, but they are affraid of oppositions from many quarters— I must not however disguise my real sentiments. The present Ministry are too much under the influence of Chalmers & Smith1 and others of that Stamp & have been artfully drawn into so many manifestations of a Determination to maintain their Navigation Laws relatively to the United states, and of a Jealousy of our Naval Power—Small as it is, that I fear they have committed themselves too far to receed. Their Newfoundland Act, as well as their proclamations, and the fourth of their Irish Propositions2 are in this Style— I have no expectation that the proposed Treaty will be soon agreed to, nor that I shall have any counter project, or indeed any answer for a long time. it is very apparent, that we shall never have a satisfactory arrangement with this Country untill Congress shall be made by the States, supreme in matters of foreign Commerce, and Treaties of Commerce, and untill Congress shall have exerted that supremacy with a decent Firmness—

I am with great esteem / Your most Obedient / Humble Serv.

John Adams.—3

RC and enclosures in WSS’s hand (PCC, No. 84, V, f. 546–584); internal address: “His Excellency / John Jay / Secretary of State—” LbC (Adams Papers); APM Reel 111.

1Chalmers was probably George Chalmers (1742–1825), a noted antiquarian born in Scotland who went to Maryland in the 1760s and practiced law in Baltimore, but returned to England at the outbreak of the Revolution. Smith may have been William Smith, former chief justice of New York, who in Sept. 1785 was appointed chief justice of Quebec (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 ; 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 ).

2JA presumably refers to the fourth proposition of the twenty propositions regarding Anglo-Irish trade that were adopted by the British Parliament on 25 July (Parliamentary Hist. description begins The Parliamentary History of England, from the Earliest Period to the Year 1803, London, 1806–1820; 36 vols. description ends , 25:935). There it was stated “that it is highly important to the general interests of the British empire, that the laws for regulating trade and navigation should be the same in Great Britain and Ireland; and therefore that it is essential, towards carrying into effect the present settlement, that all laws which have been made, or shall be made, in Great Britain, for securing exclusive privileges to the ships and mariners of Great Britain, Ireland, and the British colonies and plantations, and for regulating and restraining the trade of the British colonies and plantations (such laws imposing the same restraints, and conferring the same benefits, on the subjects of both kingdoms), should be in force in Ireland, by laws to be passed in the parliament of that kingdom, for the same time, and in the same manner, as in Great Britain.”

3In JA’s hand.

Index Entries