Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from John Adams, 24 July 1785

From John Adams

Grosvenor Square July 24th. 1785

Dear Sir

I have a Letter from the Baron De Thulemeier of the 19th. and a Copy of his Letter to you of the same date. I hope now in a few Day’s to take Mr. Short by the hand in Grosvenor Square and to put my hand to the treaty. I think no time should be lost. We will join Mr. Dumas with Mr. Short in the Exchange if you please.

I applyed as you desired, and obtained the interposition of the Lords Commissioners of the treasury, and the Commissioners of the Customs for the transhipping of Dr. Franklin’s Baggage. We have heared of the Doctor’s arrival at Rouen, but no further.

The1 Britons2 Alliens Duty is a very burthensome Thing, and they may carry it hereafter as far upon Tobacco, Rice Indigo and twenty other Things, as they do now upon oil. To obviate this, I think of substituting the words “natural born Citizens of the United States,” and “natural born subjects of Great Britain,” instead of “the most favoured Nation.” You remember We first proposed to offer this to all Nations, but upon my objecting that the English would make their ships French or Sweedish or Dutch &c. to avail themselves of it, without agreeing to it, on their Part, we altered it to the footing of “Gentis Amicissimae.” But if the English will now agree to it, we shall secure ourselves against many odious Duties, and no ill Consequence can arise. It is true the French Dutch Sweeds and Prussians3 will of Course claim the Advantage, but as they must in return allow Us the same Advantage, so much the better. Let me know if any Objection occurs to you.

There is a Bill before Parliament to prevent smuggling Tobacco, in which the restrictions are very rigorous, but cannot be effected.4 Two thirds of the Tobacco consumed in this Kingdom, I am told is Smuggled. How can it be otherwise, when the impost is five times the original Value of the Commodity. If one Pound in five escapes nothing is lost. If two in five, a great profit is made.

The Duty is 16d. pr. pound and tobacco sells for three pence. Yet all applications for lowering the Duty are rejected.5 Yours most affectionately,

John Adams

RC (DLC); in W. S. Smith’s hand, signed by Adams; partly in code, with a separate leaf bearing TJ’s decoding. FC (MHi: AMT). Recorded in SJL as received 30 July 1785.

On this same day Adams acknowledged receipt of a letter from the Baron de Thulemeier and also a copy of De Thulemeier’s letter “to my Colleague Mr. Jefferson” of 19 July. “It is with great Pleasure I learn,” he wrote, “that the Articles of the Treaty between his Prussian Majesty and the United States are all agreed on to mutual Satisfaction, and I hope in a very few days to have the Honor of putting my Hand to it here. Mr. Short will bring it from Paris signed and sealed by Mr. Jefferson, and will carry it from hence to you signed and sealed by me. Mr. Dumas will be joined with Mr. Short in making the Exchange with you. Mr. Short is a very respectable Gentleman of Virginia, a late Member of their Council, and an intimate Friend of Mr. Jefferson.—Will you give me leave, sir, to inquire what are the Imposts upon our Tobacco in the Prussian Ports, and whether there is or may be any large Consumption of that Commodity in Prussia? The Principal Difficulty we have in Trade is to make Remittances, and we cannot trade to any large Amount with any Nation that cannot or will not receive the Produce of our Lands or Seas. Indigo is another Article which I wish to know, if it finds a Market in Prussia, and Oil, especially Sperma Coeti oil and candles. With what kind of oil are your Cities illuminated in the Night? The Sperma Coeti oil gives the purest Flame and the clearest Light that is known. A Lamp in a City, lighted up with this Oil, at six oClock in the Evening will burn bright, until Nine the next Morning, whereas the Oil that is now used in the Lamps of London do not feed a flame longer than Eleven or Twelve oClock, the Consequence of which is that the Rogues take advantage of the Darkness after Midnight to commit Robberies and Burglaries without Number and even many Murthers, and many People had rather Suffer all these Crimes, or even introduce a military Police, than inlighten their Streets with American Sperma Coeti oil. If Prussia and Germany would have more wisdom it would greatly promote Trade between them and America” (Adams to De Thulemeier, 24 July 1785; MHi: AMT).

1This paragraph is written in code and was decoded by TJ on a separate sheet, employing Code No. 8. The text presented here is that of FC, where the paragraph has the words “in Cypher” at its head.

2TJ decoded this word as “British.”

3TJ decoded this as “Sweden and Prussia.”

4FC reads: “effectual.”

5FC reads: “resisted.”

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