Adams Papers

From John Adams to Jabez Bowen, 8 September 1785

To Jabez Bowen

Grosvr: Square. 8th. Septemr: 1785.


I have this day recd. the letter you did me the honor to write me on the 27th. of July, and, as I had recd. but a few days ago an instruction from Congress, relative to some other’s of our fellow-Citizens in the same unhappy predicament with Mr: Low, I shall present to the Ministry a requisition for him & all the rest at the same, & will endeavor to make enquiries concerning the ballance of £3000. due to the State of Rhode-Island.—1

I agree entirely with you, Sir, in your opinion that we Americans must be frugal, & bend our force to promote Arts & manufactures among ourselves—and the first manufacture I would encourage should be that of Ships, by making a Navigation-Act— I would next lay on duties upon the importation of all things which we can make ourselves, which shd. give a decisive encouragement to our own manufactures, & make those, who will purchace foreign ones, especially British, pay all our public debts. But I would not stop here: We should seek a market for our oyl in every City of Europe. Sperma-Ceti Oyl, which neither freezes or stiffens with the cold, which burns so long, & gives so pure, clear, & glorious a flame, far exceeds the vegetable oils with which those Cities are illuminated in the night, & might be afforded by us cheaper than that costs them. I am sure that an advantageous market might be found for all our oyl in France. The English know it; but they depend upon our indolence & weak attachment to them— Mr: Dickason here had lately a quantity of Oyl from America, which the British Oyl-Merchants contrived to prevent his selling. He wrote to France & found an immediate market & a good price— He sent a part of his Oyl; but the moment those very Oyl-Merchants discovered it they came to him & bought up all he had, to prevent the French from getting a taste of our Oyl, & to prevent the Americans from discovering that a market was to be found in France.—

The death of my old friend Governor Hopkins was, in the course of things, to be expected; but the news of it revives in my mind that affection & veneration I conceived for him in a course of arduous service with him in trying times— I am much obliged to you for your letter, & hope to be considered, Sir, as your friend / & humle: Servt: / &c: &c.

LbC in Charles Storer’s hand (Adams Papers); internal address: “His Honour, Jabez Bowen Esqr: / Deputy Govr: of Rhode-Island.”; APM Reel 111.

1With the 27 July letter from Bowen, JA received another, dated 25 July, from Rhode Island governor William Greene, both above. JA replied to Greene’s letter on 9 Sept. (LbC, APM Reel 111), promising there, as he had to Bowen, that he would make representations to the Pitt ministry regarding Richard Low and other Americans in a similar situation. But he also, as he does here, commented on the whaling industry, specifically the need to prevent American “Whalemen, from deserting their Country, coming to England, & engaging in the British Whale fishery.” Congress’ instructions were contained in John Jay’s second letter of 3 Aug., for which see Jay’s first letter of that date, note 3, above. For JA’s effort on behalf of Low and other prisoners, see his 17 Oct. memorial to the Marquis of Carmarthen, below. There is no indication that JA actively pursued Rhode Island’s claim for compensation.

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