Adams Papers

To John Adams from John Jay, 2 January 1786

From John Jay

Office for foreign Affairs 2d: January 1786.


I have the Honor of transmitting to you herewith enclosed a Copy of a Letter of the 21st: December from Mr: Temple to me, which I laid before Congress. They have been pleased to direct that you communicate it to His Britannic Majesty— That you inform him, that the Complaint stated in it, being in general Terms, and unsupported by any particular Facts, or Evidence, they do not think it necessary, or proper, to take any Measures in Consequence of it. And that you assure him, that as it is their determination the Treaty of Peace shall be punctually observed by their Citizens, and that His Majesty’s Subjects shall enjoy here all the Rights which friendly and civilized Nations claim from each other; so they will always be ready to hear every Complaint which may appear to be well founded, and to Redress such of them, as, on Investigation, shall prove to be so.1

This Communication will give you an Opportunity of Remarking, that the Office of Consul General does not extend to Matters of this Kind— Neither the Rights of Commerce, nor of Navigation being in question, and therefore that it was Delicacy towards His Majesty, rather than a Sense of the propriety of such an Application from a Consul General, which induced Congress to treat it with this Mark of Attention.

It would perhaps be well to pursue the Subject, to intimate the Expediency, as well as Propriety, of sending a Minister here, and if Circumstances should so dictate, to accompany it with assurances that Congress expect a Minister and are ready to receive and treat him in a Manner consistent with the Respect due to his Sovereign.

The advantage alluded to in one of your Letters, if no other, would result from such an Appointment, viz:—That the British Court would then probably receive more accurate Representations of Affairs in this Country, than they are at present supplied with by Men, who Write and Speak more as their Wishes and Feelings, than as Truth and Knowledge dictate.—2

I have the Honor to be, with great Respect, / Sir, / Your most obedient, and / Very humble servant;

John Jay—

P. S. Your Letters of the following Dates are arrived 15. 17. 21. 25. 27 Octob. la[st]3

RC and enclosure (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: “The Honorable John Adams Esquire.” Text lost due to wear at the edge has been supplied from a Tr (PCC, No. 121, f. 165–167).

1In the enclosure, which Jay sent to Congress on 29 Dec. 1785, John Temple complained that loyalists seeking to recover property and outstanding debts had “met with great trouble and difficulty in Obtaining, and, in some instances, have been totally refused, such Office Copies from the Public Records,” including the files of Congress. In his report to Congress of 31 Dec., which Congress approved on 2 Jan. 1786, Jay included the proposed text of his 2 Jan. letter to JA (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 , 29:911, 30:2–5). For JA’s representations in response to Congress’ instructions, see his 6 Feb. letter to the Marquis of Carmarthen and the foreign minister’s response of the 28th, both below.

2Compare this passage, concerning the need for Britain to appoint a minister to the United States, with JA’s similar comments in his 2 Sept. 1785 letter to Jay (vol. 17:385–386).

3These letters centered on JA’s representations to the British government regarding the implementation of the peace treaty and Anglo-American trade, the British refusal to enter into negotiations with him, and his recommendation that the only means to resolve the situation was to empower Congress to regulate trade (vol. 17:512–514, 515–519, 524, 526–533, 541–551, 552). Jay laid the letters before Congress on 28 Dec. 1785, and on 31 Jan. 1786 he delivered a report, in which he recommended that Congress be authorized to regulate trade and be provided with a reliable source of revenue, that the country’s defenses be strengthened, and that JA’s letters be communicated to the states. With regard to the last, Congress formed a committee to draft a circular letter, but it apparently was never sent (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 , 29:909; 30:38–40, 78; PCC, No. 19, I, f. 39–43).

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