Adams Papers

From John Adams to Thomas Barclay, 17 September 1785

To Thomas Barclay

Grosvenor Square 17 Spr:

Dear Sir

I allowed Mr. Thaxter only 4 years Salary vizt. from 13 Novr. 1779 to 13 Novr. 1783, three of which I paid him at £100 the other year is charged to the Public at £300— He did not reach home ’till after that Period vizt. Decr. 1783 or Jany. 1784. But that must be left to Congress—1 I really pitty that faithful Youth for 4 years, indefatigable Server, he has never received more than would cloath him—

You have not allowed me too much for Postage— I had sometimes Quintuplicates of voluminous dispatches, both as Minister for the Peace, as Minister in Holland, and as Agent for the Loan, besides all that all Mr. Danas dispatches to & from Congress while he was in Russia went through my hands for more than a Year, & sometimes huge Packets of News Papers came to me through France by the Post—

You will see in my Account several draughts of Mrs. Adams, these were for the Expences of her Voyage and Expences in London, before I came to her. But I dare not propose that this should be allowed to me. I shall think myself well off if I am allowed House Rent & Stationary.2

I have Sent you my Accounts up to the first of August of this Year, because it was the first of August last year that our reduced Salarys began—3 settle the whole as you please & Congress will Strike off from your settlement what they please, But I shall never envy hereafter an itinerant Embassador, such a rolling Stone can gather no Moss— fix’d to one station I could have kept regular Accots & have saved many hundreds which now are lost—

I have charged a Coach. My Carriage at the Hague which would have been sufficient, has been useless & I must now give it away or if I sell it will fetch me little or nothing; strike off this Article however if you think proper or any other, But every journey ruins a pair of wheels & wrecks the Carriage so that it costs you half its value to repair it & put it in order— Let me pray you to Settle my Accts: however & send me a Copy of it before you go off for Madrid— with great Esteem sir / Your humble svt.4

LbC in David Franks’ hand (Adams Papers); internal address: “Mr Barclay”; APM Reel 111.

1JA’s references here concerning John Thaxter’s salary and those later in the letter referring to items in his accounts are in response to Barclay’s letter of 3 Sept. (Adams Papers), and more specifically to its enclosure, which has not been found but was likely a preliminary settlement of JA’s accounts sent for JA’s approval. Barclay remarked that he already had settled Benjamin Franklin’s accounts, subject to Congress’ approval, and that Franklin “Charged his Salary at the Rate of Two thousand five Hundred pounds Sterling per annum, supposing Congress intended that persons appointed after the Resolution for the Reduction of the Salaries took place, Cou’d only be affected by that Resolution, and his House Rent, and the Expences of his Bureau are Charged to the Public.” Barclay “thought it Not Improper to say so much on this subject, as it may in some Manner Gov ern Your Mode of settlement.”

In his 1 Oct. letter (Adams Papers), Barclay indicated that he would enclose the completed account in a letter by the next post. In fact, he enclosed the accounts with his letter of 13 Oct., but neither the letter nor the accounts, settled through 1 Aug., have been found (to Barclay, 26 Oct., below). However, for the details of JA’s accounts as approved by Barclay, see Foreign Ledgers, Public Agents in Europe, 1776–1787, DNA:RG 39, Microfilm, Reel 1, f. 266–267. There Thaxter is credited for the three years mentioned for a total payment of £300, or 7,200; for the remaining period, stated in the ledger as from 1 Sept. 1783 to 12 May 1785, Thaxter is credited for one year and nine months’ service for which he received £175, or 4,200. It should be noted that in the accounts the amounts are given in pounds sterling, dollars, and livres tournois, with the exchange rate used by Barclay being 24 per pound sterling and 5.5 per dollar.

2According to the Foreign Ledgers, JA was credited with 42,790.14 to pay for rent at The Hague, Auteuil, and London, as well as for the cost of travel, postage, resettlement of his family, and the coach and carriage mentioned later in the letter.

3On 4 May 1784 Congress reduced its ministers’ annual salaries from $11,111 to $9,000 (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 , 26:354). JA did not follow Franklin’s example and sought only $9,000, or 47,250 (DNA:RG 39, Microfilm, Reel 1, f. 267).

4In a second letter of this date (LbC, APM Reel 111), JA informed Barclay that the previous day he had drawn an order on Richard & Charles Puller for 75 guineas in favor of David Franks to pay for Barclay’s expenses preparatory to his departure for Morocco. He also replied to Barclay’s letter of 12 Sept. 1785 (Adams Papers) reporting the capture of five American vessels by Algiers and enclosing a copy of Barclay’s 12 Sept. letter to John Jay concerning the bankruptcy of De la Lande & Fynje, written at the behest of the loan consortium. Barclay indicated to Jay that Congress faced the possible loss of approximately £11,000 and recommended that De la Lande & Fynje’s property held by Duncan Ingraham Jr. of Philadelphia be attached. JA responded that he had written a similar letter to the Board of Treasury (of 2 July, above) and mentioned, in addition to the property held by Ingraham, properties held by Shaler & Sebor of New York and William Foster of Boston.

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