Petition of John Lamb1
[New York, February 1–9, 1785]
To The Honorable The Representatives of the United States in Congress assembled.
The Memorial and Petition of John Lamb of the State of Connecticut humbly sheweth
That Your Memorialist believing it to be the interest of the United States to form some treaty of amity and Commerce with the States of Barbary; and inferring from the general sense of persons with whom Your Memorialist has conversed, that it is the desire of Congress to set on foot negotiations for that purpose, Your Memorialist is induced to offer his services for conducting those negotiations.
Your Memorialist can offer no other inducements to this trust than his zeal for the service of the United States and his knowlege of the Country, to which he desires to be sent, acquired by an intercourse of five years; and asks no rewards for his services, all he requires being to have the sanction of the United States and the necessary powers to treat.
Your Memorialst to this end prays that the Honorable the Congress if they think him worthy of such Confidence would be pleased to vest him with such character & power correspondent thereto as they may judge necessary & expedient. And Your Petitioner as in duty bound shall pray &c
Df, in the handwriting of H, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress.
1. John Lamb should not be confused with John Lamb of New York City, who had been one of the leaders of the Sons of Liberty in that city and had had a distinguished military career during the American Revolution. When the document printed above was written, John Lamb of New York was collector of customs in New York City for the State of New York.
John Lamb, the author of this petition, was a resident of Norwich, Connecticut, a ship’s captain, and a merchant. On January 10, 1785, Samuel Huntington wrote from Norwich to John Jay, Secretary for Foreign Affairs: “Capt. John Lamb of this Place will have the honor of delivering this Letter. He hath formed the Design of going to the Coast of Barbary where he is well acquainted, having made several Voyages to those Parts before the late War, and resided considerable Time in that Country. He is desirous to obtain some aid from Congress as a Protection, and willing to do any national Service for us in his Power. Capt. Lamb is a Gentleman of Fidelity and mercantile Knowledge, especially in the Marine Department, of an enterprising Genius and intrepid Spirit” (Burnett, Letters description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress (Washington, 1921–1938). description ends , VIII, 73). Lamb’s petition was read before Congress on February 9, 1785, and on February 15 Congress appointed him United States representative to the Barbary States (JCC description begins Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (Washington, 1904–1937; Reprinted, New York, 1968). description ends , XXVIII, 54 note, 67 note; Burnett, Letters description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress (Washington, 1921–1938). description ends , VIII, 72). Lamb was instructed to report in Europe to Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, both of whom had unwittingly named Thomas Barclay for the same position. A compromise was arranged by which Barclay was assigned the mission to Morocco and Lamb the mission to Algiers (Burnett, Letters description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress (Washington, 1921–1938). description ends , VIII, 250). Both missions were unsuccessful. Lamb arrived in Algiers on March 25, 1786, with instructions to try to ransom twenty-one Americans who had been captured by the Algerines in June, 1785. He was unable to negotiate a treaty of peace, and in September, 1786, he was ordered to return to the United States (Ray W. Irwin, The Diplomatic Relations of the United States with the Barbary Powers, 1776–1816 [Chapel Hill, 1931], 37–40). Lamb arrived in New York in April, 1788 (JCC description begins Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (Washington, 1904–1937; Reprinted, New York, 1968). description ends , XXXIV, 129).