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From John Adams to John Paul Jones, 17 July 1786

To John Paul Jones

July 17. 1786—


I have received the Letter you did me the honour to write me, on the 10th. of this month, and embrace the oppertunity by Colonel Trumbull to answer it, The Comte de Reventlow, complaisantly enough, inclosed my Letter to the Baron De. Waltersdorf, in his dispatch to the Danish Ministry, and informed him that it related to a public affair so that there is no room to doubt, that the Letter went safe, and that that Court are acquainted with its contents— But no answer has been received—1

I am told that the Baron De. Waltersdorf has been at Paris and the Hague, long since the Date of my Letter to him, and I was told he was coming to London where I should see him— But he has not yet been here As there is a Danish Minister now in Paris, I should advise you to apply to him: for the foreign Ministers in general at the Court of Versailles, have less timdity upon their Spirits, in all things relating to America, than those at London,2 Cash I fancy, is not an abundant Article in Denmark, and Your Claim has probably delayed and suspended all negotiations with Mr. Jefferson, and me respecting a Commercial Treaty, for which 3 Years ago, there was no3 little Zeal,4 This however is only Conjecture in Confidence.—

J. A—

LbC in WSS’s hand (Adams Papers description begins Manuscripts and other materials, 1639–1889, in the Adams Manuscript Trust collection given to the Massachusetts Historical Society in 1956 and enlarged by a few additions of family papers since then. Citations in the present edition are simply by date of the original document if the original is in the main chronological series of the Papers and therefore readily found in the microfilm edition of the Adams Papers (APM). description ends ); internal address: “Commodore Jones—”; APM Reel 113.

1No letter from JA to the Baron von Walterstorff has been found, but for the reason JA received no response from Walterstorff, see Jones’ 7 Jan. letter, note 2, above.

2Jones received this letter on or about 9 Aug., the day on which he wrote to Thomas Jefferson (Jefferson, Papers description begins The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, ed. Julian P. Boyd, Charles T. Cullen, John Catanzariti, Barbara B. Oberg, and others, Princeton, N.J., 1950– . description ends , 10:208–210). With his letter to Jefferson, Jones enclosed the RC of JA’s letter from which William Short made a copy (DLC:Jefferson Papers). Jones noted JA’s advice to begin negotiations with the Danish representative at Paris and asked for Jefferson’s “advice and assistance” in the undertaking. He also enclosed extracts of letters received from Benjamin Franklin regarding his negotiations with Denmark over the Alliance’s prizes. No reply by Jefferson to Jones’ letter has been found, but on 18 Aug. Jefferson wrote to the Baron Otto von Blome, Danish envoy extraordinary at Paris. Jefferson summarized the negotiations between Franklin and Walterstorff over the Alliance’s prizes and indicated that Jones was now authorized to resume and complete the negotiations (Jefferson, Papers description begins The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, ed. Julian P. Boyd, Charles T. Cullen, John Catanzariti, Barbara B. Oberg, and others, Princeton, N.J., 1950– . description ends , 10:270–271).

3In the copy made by Short this word appears to be “so,” but it is clearly “no” in WSS’s LbC.

4Walterstorff approached Franklin in April 1783 with a proposal for a Danish-American commercial treaty and in June offered a draft agreement. After some changes, the draft was sent to Congress, but no action was taken on it. Since Franklin failed to inform his fellow commissioners, JA and John Jay, of his negotiations with the baron, JA considered the entire business as another example of Franklin’s assumption of powers that he did not have, accomplished at the expense of his colleagues and to the detriment of the United States (vols. 15:223–226, 280; 16:426).

When, in May 1784, Congress created the third joint commission to negotiate commercial treaties with the nations of Europe and North Africa, it included a commission to negotiate a treaty with Denmark, and Jefferson’s model treaty of 1784 was designed to serve as its basis. At a meeting with Walterstorff in Nov. 1784, the commissioners notified him of their new powers, but no negotiations ensued, and a Danish-American Convention of Friendship, Commerce, and Navigation was not concluded until 1826 (vol. 16:374, 421–422, 590; Miller, Treaties description begins Treaties and Other International Acts of the United States of America, ed. Hunter Miller, Washington, D.C., 1931–1948; 8 vols. description ends , 3:239–248).

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