Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from John Adams, 25 September 1785

From John Adams

Grosvenor Square Sept. 25. 1785.

Dear Sir

The Bearer of this Letter Mr. Thomas Boylston, is one of the clearest and most solid Capitalists, that ever raised himself by private Commerce in North America. He seems to be desirous of assisting us, in introducing the knowledge and use of our white Sperma Cœti Oil, into France. His Judgment and Abilities to carry through whatever he undertakes may be depended on. Let me beg your Attention to him.

With great Esteem, I have the Honour to be, Sir your most obedient and most humble Servant,

John Adams

RC (DLC). FC (MHi: AMT); in Adams’ hand. Recorded in SJL as received 2 Nov. 1785.

On this same day Adams wrote letters introducing Boylston to Lafayette (“his Fortune and his Judgement is equal to any Thing he may propose relative to this Subject”), and on 28 Sep. he wrote similar introductions to Messrs. Coffin, Garvin, Grand, and Le Couteulx (MHi: AMT). In younger days Adams had called his distant kinsman “a perfect viper, a fiend, a Jew, a devil, but … orthodox in politics” (Adams, Works, ed. C. F. Adams, ii, 179). In the last he seems to have been mistaken, for Boylston leaned toward loyalism and left Boston during the Revolution. On 13 Nov. 1785 Adams gave Lafayette a further characterization of Boylston: “The commerce of New England will follow their oil, wherever it may go and therefore I think it good policy, in the Controller General to take off the duty‥‥I hope that Mr. Boylston and Mr. Barrett will be able to compleat a Contract, with Monsieur Tourtille De Sangrain for the Illumination of your Cities. Boylston’s Capital will enable him to do what he pleases, but you may depend upon it, he will do nothing but what is profitable. No man understands more intuitively, everything relating to these subjects, and no man is more attached to his Interest” (MHi: AMT). See also Adams’ candid opinion of Boylston in his to TJ, 20 Dec. 1785.

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