Thomas Jefferson Papers

American Commissioners to John Jay, 18 March 1785

American Commissioners to John Jay

Paris March 18th. 1785.


We received by the last Packet the favor of your letter of Janry. 14. in which we have the agreeable information of your having accepted the appointment of Secretary for foreign Affairs. Besides the general interest we feel in this event as members of the Union which is to [be] availed of your services, we are particularly happy that a channel of communication is opened for us with Congress in whose justice and abilities we so perfectly confide.

In our letter by the Febry. Packet which we addressed to His Excellency the President of Congress, we had the honor of transmitting a state of our transactions intervening between the date of that and of our preceding letter. We now beg leave through you to inform them of our progress since the last period.

No. 1. is a letter from the Popes Nuncio at this court, which tho’ dated at this place as the 15th. of December 1784 was not delivered to us till late in February. We consider it as definitive of our commission to the Holy See unless new instructions or circumstances should render a further proceeding under it proper.

No. 2. from the Chargé des Affaires of Tuscany here came also to hand after the closing of our letter by the last Packet.

From Baron de Thulemeier Prussian Minister at the Hague we have received the enclosed letter No. 3. covering a French translation of the Draught of a treaty which we had proposed through him to the court of Berlin as formerly reported to Congress, with observations on the several parts of it. This paper is numbered 4. and has been answered by our letter of which No. 5. is a copy.

We have also received from the Baron de Thulemeier the letters No. 6. and 7. in answer to ours (formerly communicated to Congress) on the subjects of free ports within the territories of his Sovereign.

In consequence of a letter written by Mr. Adams to Mr. Dumas praying his enquiries and information as to the presents, whether periodical or occasional, made by the United Netherlands to the several pyratical States, he has favored us with the enclosed authentic information marked No. 8. We learn from public papers that the Republic of Venice pays annually to Tripoli a tribute of 3500 Sequins. From a comparison of the strength of this with that of the other pyratical States some grounds are furnished for conjecturing what is paid by them to the others when in Peace with them. We have promises of some further information on the subject of these tributes, which the envy or pride of nations endeavours to cover under mystery, the sum of them will serve to form a judgment of the contributions which will be required from us. With great respect We have the honor to be Sir Your most obedient & Most humble Servants,

john adams

b. franklin

t. jefferson

FC (DNA: PCC, No. 116); in David Humphreys’ hand; at head of text: “4th. Report to Congress addressed to Mr. Jay Secry. for Foreign Affairs.” Enclosures (all of which are printed above under their respective dates, except for No. 8): No. 1: The Papal Nuncio to Commissioners, 15 Dec. 1784. No. 2: Favi to Commissioners, 10 Feb. 1785. Nos. 3 and 4: De Thulemeier to Commissioners, 24 Jan. 1785, and its enclosure. No. 5: Commissioners’ reply to De Thulemeier, 14 Mch. 1785. Nos. 6 and 7: De Thulemeier to Commissioners, 11 Feb. and 4 Mch. 1785. No. 8: a copy of T. C. Van der Hoop to C. W. F. Dumas, 19 Feb. 1785, with a copy attested by Dumas, 22 Feb. 1785, of questions and Van der Hoop’s answers respecting the presents given by the Netherlands to the Barbary powers (Tr in DNA: PCC, No. 116; in Humphreys’ hand).

In consequence of a letter written by Mr. Adams to Mr. Dumas: On 22 Dec. 1784 Adams wrote Dumas stating that the capture of one or two vessels by the Barbary states had made it necessary for the Commissioners to think seriously of treating with them; that he had been informed that “Mr. Bisdom and Mr. Van der Hope, were perfectly acquainted with the subject”; and that he wished Dumas to obtain information from them (John Adams to C. W. F. Dumas, 22 Dec. 1784, MHi: AMT). Dumas transmitted the Commissioners’ inquiry on 31 Dec. to Van der Hoop, fiscal consular at the College of the Admiralty at Amsterdam, who conferred with Bisdom. The queries and responses, dated at The Hague, 19 Feb. 1785, over the signature of J. C. Van der Hoop, were copied by Dumas in French and transmitted to Adams with the following endorsement: “Copied and collated with the originals, which are in my hands, by me. At the Hague 22 February 1785. C. W. F. Dumas” (Dumas to Adams, 25 Feb. 1785, with queries and answers as described, MHi: AMT). The queries and Van der Hoop’s answers thereto are as follows: “1. Quels présens L.H.P. donnérent l’hiver dernier à l’Empereur de Maroc, et à son Ambassadeur? … L.H.P. ont donné à cette occasion, tout l’equippement pour deux Frégattes de guerre; dix Pieces de cannon de bronze, de 24 Livres de balle, et dix de 18 Livres, et ont en outre fait remettre à l’Ambassadeur de Sa Maj. Impe. deux montres, quelques pieces de drap de differentes couleurs, de la Mousseline, du Thé, du sucre, de la porcelaine, et a la disposition de M. l’Ambassadeur; pour avoir de quoi se rendre plus agréable à son retour auprès de l’Empereur. 2. Qu’ont Elles été dans l’usage de donner? … L.H.P. ont envoyé de temps en autre une Montre richement montée. Il y a quelque temps qu’Elles ont fait remettre un présent d’un Poignard, enrichi de diamants, de la valeur de 45,000 florins; et en dernier lieu deux-mille fusils, qui avoient coûté environ 18,000 florins. 3. Quelles sont les sommes que la Republique donne annuellement à Alger, à Maroc, à Tunis, à Tripoli, à Tout autre Etat pareil? … Il n’y a rien fixé à cet égard par rapport au Maroc, à Tunis, à Tripoli, et d’autres Etats pareils. On y envoie de temps en temps quelques presents pour les obliger.—Quant a Alger, L.H.P. sont dans l’usage d’y envoyer chaque année pour la valeur de cinquante à soixante mille florins en Agrets et en Poudre à canon.—C’est ce qu’on appelle les Presents ordinaire. Les presents extraordinaire s’y envoient outre cela tous les deux et consistent en étoffes, draps, porcelaines, sucre et montent chaque fois a environ 17,000 florins d’Hollande. 4. Quelle est la manier de traiter avec ces Etats-la? … Toutes les Négociations avec les Etats susdits se font par les Consuls que la République envoie à ces differentes Puissances, et que y résident constamment: ou bien aussi par les dits Consuls assistés par quelque Capitaine de vaisseau de la Republique: ou bien aussi, en cas de guerre et d’absence des Consuls, par le Commandant d’Escadre ou de vaisseau, qui sont toujours munis dans ce cas-là de Lettres de L.H.P.”

For a comparable and detailed list of presents, both ordinary and extraordinary, given by the States General to the Emperor of Morocco in 1784, see Dipl. Corr., 1783–1789, i, 635–7. The following comment by John Adams on the subject of treating with the Barbary powers may reflect something of his discussions with TJ: “Some Americans say, that our Mediterranean Trade is not worth the Expense of treating with the Barbary Powers. Others say we had better send Frigates and fight them. I am afraid we shall make a great mistake in regard to these pyratical States. I detest these barbarians as much as any Body, and my Indignation against their Piracies is as hot as that of any Body. But how can we help ourselves? … As to fighting of them, what can we do? The Contest is unequal. We have a rich Trade for them to prey upon” (Adams to Gerry, 12 Dec. 1784; MHi: AMT).

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