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From John Adams to Rufus King, 14 February 1786

To Rufus King

Grosvenor Square Feb. 14. 1786

Dear Sir

I have inclosed to Mr Ramsay an Address to the landed trading and funded Interests of England, which contains Some good Sense, intermixed here and there with a little Folly. Mr. Ramsay will be so good as to let you read it and in return you may let him read the inclosed Principle of the Commutation Act.1 As the Commerce of the United States begins to run to the East Indies, every Thing which may affect it in that Branch, will be interesting to you.

The Revival of the Newfoundland Act, which will, I suppose be followed by that of the American Intercourse Act, will Shew you, that the Ministry persevere in the system adopted at the Peace, Yet without any decided Resolution to avow it for Perpetuity or any long Duration. It is nevertheless, too probable that they will make it perpetual the next Year or the year after, if the Proceedings of our States do not discourage them.

It is agreed on all hands that there is a Surplus of Revenue. The Sum is not yet known. and it by no means follows that there will be a Surplus next Year. Several Causes have this Year cooperated to increase the Taxes, some of which will not exist another Year. E. G. The French Comtroller General Mr De Calonne, last Year sent seven hundred and Fifty Thousand Pounds to England chifly in Gold to pay for a Quantity of Bullion he bought in Spain and Portugal, to coin in France. This has sett many Wheels in motion, and by employing many People enabled them to live and pay Duties.— Many sums of Money too have come from America, which I presume cannot at least I hope will not be sent the next.— Yet there are great Complaints of the scarcity of Money.2

The United States have nothing to do, but go on with their navigation Acts, their Bounties and Duties. if these Measures Should not induce the British Court to do as We wish; they will bring their own reward. It is by a Sagacious Use of Bounties, Draw backs, Prohibitions and Duties that the commerce of the British Empire has become what it is. They will have the same Effects upon Ours, if imitated by Us.— Why should not Bounties be given upon Iron manufactured in the United States, and Duties laid upon all imported?3 There are innumerable other Articles, which might be thus protected by Duties laid upon Importations and by Bounties upon the Manufacture.

If the present Bounty on Oil is not sufficient, I hope it will be doubled or tripled; so as decidedly to ruin the British Fishery, Since they are for Tryals of skill. a Markett may certainly be found in France Spain and Ireland: but if it could not, I would be for increasing the Bounty untill We could clearly under Sell the English in the City of London. at the Same time some measures should be taken to draw home our own Whaling Captains and Endsmen and Oarsmen.

It is the Opinion of the Foresighted that Grain will be in Demand in Europe next Summer, because the Crops in Poland not only failed the last Harvest, but what is more important the seedtime was so wett, as to give a melancholly Prospect for the next Year.4 This I had from Mr De Bukaty the Polish Envoy a few days ago.5 I am sir / with great regard your humble / servant

John Adams.

RC (NHi:Rufus King Papers); internal address: “The Hon. Mr King.”; endorsed: “John Adams 14: Feb. 86.” LbC (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 ); APM 113.

1For the pamphlet sent to David Ramsay, see JA’s 9 Feb. letter and note 2, above. For King, JA enclosed a copy of Sir Francis Baring’s The Principle of the Commutation-Act Established by Facts, London, 1786. Baring (1740–1810), 1st baronet, merchant banker, and director of the East India Company since 1779, had joined with the Earl of Shelburne in advocating for the liberalization of trade policy with America (DNB description begins Leslie Stephen and Sidney Lee, eds., The Dictionary of National Biography, New York and London, 1885–1901; repr. Oxford, 1959–1960; 21 vols. plus supplements; rev. edn., www.oxforddnb.com. description ends ). On page 23 of his pamphlet Baring argued that William Pitt’s 1784 reduction of taxes on tea not only had deterred smugglers, but also generated the “rapid and considerable” wealth needed for British expansion in the lucrative China trade.

2As part of his broader economic reform agenda to promote the limited, voluntary use of paper currency, Charles Alexandre de Calonne, the French finance minister, initiated a gold recoinage in 1784–1785. Calonne’s plan was to realign French gold’s ratio with that of silver, and then to align it with the market and mint ratios of other countries like Spain and Portugal, suppliers of the bullion that was bought by France to mint money. Delays in the revaluation process led to a scarcity of specie and stoked popular criticism of Calonne’s policy as benefiting only Louis XVI and government elites (Wilma J. Pugh, “Calonne’s ‘New Deal,’” Journal of Modern History, 11:304–305 [Sept. 1939]).

3For British reliance on Baltic iron production, and JA’s assessment of legislation restricting the emigration of British iron workers and the exportation of tools and machinery, see vol. 17:368, 370, 374.

4Still struggling from droughts and extreme weather caused by the June 1783 eruption of Iceland’s Laki volcano, Europeans experienced blighted harvests for the next three years. Many turned to American farmers for their supply of rice, flour, and grain (vol. 17:99).

5Franciszek Bukaty (1747–1797) was currently the Polish minister resident and would be appointed minister plenipotentiary in April 1789 (Repertorium description begins Ludwig Bittner and others, eds., Repertorium der diplomatischen Vertreter aller Länder seit dem Westfälischen Frieden (1648), Oldenburg, 1936–1965; 3 vols. description ends , 3:310).

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