Adams Papers

From John Adams to John Jay, 10 April 1787

To John Jay

Grosvenor Square. April 10. 1787

Dear Sir

The Public Councils of this Country, as far as they regard America, remain So exactly the same as to afford nothing new to communicate to Congress. The Members of Parliament, have been so long irritated and tormented on that subject, that they detest to hear the Name of America mentioned, and the political System and national humour Seems to be, neither to Speak nor think of it.— a seemingly total Inattention and Silence prevails, and will prevail for sometime.

Secret Schemes however in abundance are concerted to plunder Us, in any Way they Can think of besides the regular Course of their Commerce with Us, which one would think rapacious enough. an honest Tradesman, whose Name is Carpenter an ingenious Engraver, lately came to me from the remotest Part of the City, to give me Information that an Unknown Scott, had applied to him to engrave a Plate, for Striking the Paper Bills of North & South Carolina. He laid a Plan to get a Witness, to a future Interview, but the scott conceived a suspicion and would not lay open his design. Coll Smith who attended for the Purpose desired the Engraver to publish the Fact in the Newspaper, that Merchants here may be upon their guard. Carpenter went round to all the Engravers, in Town and found another, to whom the same Person had applied.— Congress, or the Delegates from North & South Carolina, will put that State upon their Guard, for it is not at all improbable the design will be pursued, by means of some other Engraver of less honour than Carpenter.1

There is a vast sum in Circulation here of base Copper: to the amount of Several hundreds of thousands of Pounds. very lately these half Pence are refused every where: I suppose in Consequence of some Concerted Scheme. and it is supposed that they will be all purchased for a trifle and Sent to the United States where they will pass for good metal, and consequently our Simple Country men be cheated of an immense sum.2 The Board of Treasury, may be ordered with out the avowed Interposition of Congress, to give the alarm to our Citizens. and the seperate States would do well to prohibit this false Money from being paid or received.3

Coll Smith will Sett off, for Portugal in a few Days, and at Versailles Madrid or Lisbon will have an opportunity of learning more of the present Politicks of Europe, than can be known here. a profound Calm prevails through Europe at present, tho the Bulletin from Paris Speaks of Movements of the Empress against the Turks. Her own Journey however is a strong Proof that Hostilities are not soon intended.4

With great Respect to Congress, and much / affection for their secretary, I have the / Honour to be, sir, your most obedient / and most humble servant

John Adams

RC (PCC, No. 84, VI, f. 439–441); internal address: “His Excellency John Jay / Secretary of State, for the / Department of foreign affairs.” LbC (Adams Papers); APM Reel 112.

1The “Unknown Scott,” Robert Muir, approached London engraver Richard Carpenter shortly after arriving in England from Charleston, S.C. Muir was arrested after he attempted to enlist Portsmouth, England, printer Walter Mowbray in an alleged plan to counterfeit currency. But, since Muir had not yet passed any forged bills, he could not be convicted. JA recommended that Muir be released and his counterfeiting equipment destroyed (to Jay, 30 April, below; AFC description begins Adams Family Correspondence, ed. L. H. Butterfield, Marc Friedlaender, Richard Alan Ryerson, Margaret A. Hogan, Sara Martin, and others, Cambridge, 1963– . description ends , 8:23, 24). See also Descriptive List of Illustrations, No. 1, above.

2Jay laid this letter before Congress on 6 July, in an effort to stave off the “highly injurious” circulation of debased copper coinage. On 16 Oct. 1786, Congress had passed the Mint Act, which was intended “for regulating the value and alloy of Coin,” and which prohibited the use of foreign copper coins after 1 Sept. 1787. On 26 July, following a motion made by William Grayson, a Virginia member of Congress, a committee recommended that states “pass laws inflicting punishment on all coiners of money, not authorised by law, and to prohibit the importation of Copper coin from any foreign Country.” Base coppers nevertheless continued to circulate in America and abroad, leading to the “coppers panic” of 1789 (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 , 31:876–878; 32:306; 33:405, 409; Philip L. Mossman, From Crime to Punishment: Counterfeit and Debased Currencies in Colonial and Pre-Federal North America, ed. Louis E. Jordan, N.Y., 2013, p. 187–189).

3The S.C. house of representatives, upon receiving extracts of this letter of JA’s from Gov. Thomas Pinckney on 29 Jan. 1788, appointed a committee to investigate, and introduced a bill “to prohibit the Importation of Base Copper Coin into this State.” The bill was passed by the state senate on 13 Feb. (Journals of the House of Representatives of the State of South Carolina, 1787–1788, ed. Michael E. Stevens, Columbia, S.C., 1981, p. 373–374, 380, 420, 433).

4The Treaty of Kuchuk Kainardzhi, which concluded the Russo-Turkish War of 1768–1774, provided Russia with access to the Black Sea and gave Crimea limited independence. Russia then annexed it in 1783. Catherine II’s victory tour of the conquered territory in spring 1787 provoked the Ottoman Empire to declare war in August. In 1792 the Treaty of Jassy ended the conflict, with Russia consolidating control of Crimea and also annexing the region of Yedisan, a vast area north of the Black Sea (David R. Stone, A Military History of Russia: From Ivan the Terrible to the War in Chechnya, Westport, Conn., 2006, p. 81–83, 85, 88).

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