Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from William Stephens Smith, 30 June 1787

From William Stephens Smith

Madrid June 30th. 1787.

Dear Sir

I must most pointedly express my obligation for the Letter of introduction which you forwarded for me to Mr. Carmichael. He has done every thing in his power to make my time pass agreable here. It is with pleasure I observe him perfectly well received in the first Circles of the Court, and think him fully accomplished for a political career. I have been detained here much longer than I expected in consequence of the indisposition of my servant, but he is now recovered and I shall proceed on Tuesday next for Lisbon. After complying with the wishes of Congress at that Court I shall return with all possible expedition to London. For reasons too obvious to need a particular detail, I think it more than probable I shall have the honor of paying my respects to you at Paris on my way, as hinted in my last letter from Bourdeaux. I have once more to thank you for a Lesson. It was contained in your letter from that place. You wrote as if you had not noticed the disagreable parts of my Letter. I should learn a great deal of prudence if it was possible for me to be near you for any length of time.—Mr. Carmichael will inform you that our unfortunate Countrymen were well at Algiers on the 12th. inst. tho’ the pest rages there to a great degree, it has already carryed off near 20,000 in and about the Capital. The algerines have taken 2 (certain) some say 4. Spanish vessels, condemned and sold them and sent their Crews into Slavery. The ostensible reason for this is, that they had not the proper passes. It produces no small sensation here, and its consequences are expected to be serious unless ample satisfaction is made. The Neapolitan and Portuguese Ministers are retired from Algiers without concluding a peace, and matters seem to be again getting afloat for more blows and further negotiation, but a few weeks will fully decide this point. You have such regular information and so good from Mr. Carmichael that it is superfluous for me to say any thing about the Death of Galvez the late Minister of the Indies, or the expected changes which are looked for in the administration of the affairs of that Country So. A[merica]. A packet has arrived at Corunna from New York with dispatches to Government as late as the 18th. of May. The Commercial convention were to meet on the 21st. and Congress have once more in contemplation to return to Philadelphia. Colo. Franks had arrived and the Letters which you sent me to Bath the last autumn were safely deliverd by the Gentleman to whom I entrusted them. You express a wish in your last to Mr. Carmichael that you had met me at Bourdeaux &c &c. I should have waited your arrival if my situation there had not been rendered painful by the Circumstance that took place on the day of my arrival. Mr. Short will in a few words inform you of my ostensible object at the court of Lisbon and Mr. Jay say’s 562. 163. 449. 350. 92. 213. 479. 609. 57. 189. 547. 407. 407. 642. 186. 48. 449. 186. 72. 290. 136. 92. 368. 38. 582. 518. 48. 186. 149. 327. 48. 186. 92. 547. 324. 290. 82. 518. 72. 393. 525. 371. 407. 82. 570. 189. 339. 380. With my best respects to Mr. Short and the Marquis I am Dr. Sir Your obliged Humble Servt.

W. S. Smith

RC (DLC); endorsed; partly in code. Recorded in SJL as received 14 July 1787.

The code that Smith employed here was one used by Adams and Jay to which TJ did not have access. On 31 Aug. 1787 TJ wrote Smith: “I have four cyphers, two of which it was possible you might have copies of, and two impossible. I tried both the possible and impossible; but none would explain it.” To this Smith replied on 18 Sep. 1787: “The Cypher which put you to so much trouble I copied from Mr. Jay’s Letter to Mr. Adams which I had with me and was intended to convey this Idea—that Congress expected that the polite manner in which they appear to have intended forwarding their Letter of thanks to her most faithful majesty might produce agreable effects relative to the conclusion of the pending treaty.” The letter from Jay to Adams is that of 6 Feb. 1787, but the passage in code was not taken from that letter, but from its enclosure, which was a copy of Jay’s report to Congress of 25 Jan. 1787 on Adams’ letter of 27 June 1786 expressing the thanks of Congress for the action of the Queen of Portugal in ordering her squadron in the straits to protect vessels of the United States equally with those of Portugal. In the following passage of this report the sentence in italics (supplied) represents the passage encoded by Smith: “As this communication was made by the [Portuguese] Envoy in London to Mr. Adams, your secretary thinks this letter should be transmitted to him; and that the compliment would be more delicate if his Secretary was commissioned to carry and deliver it. Perhaps, too, so striking a proof of respect might, among other consequences, promote the conclusion of the treaty” (Dipl. Corr., 1783–89 description begins The Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States of America, from the Signing of the Definitive Treaty of Peace … to the Adoption of the Constitution, Washington, Blair & Rives, 1837, 3 vol. description ends , ii, 680–1, where both Jay’s letter to Adams of 6 Feb. 1787 and its enclosure are printed). Adams instructed Smith to proceed by way of Paris and Madrid, to pay his “respects to the Ministers of the United States residing at those Courts, and to the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of those sovereigns; and endeavor to collect intelligence of any kind, commercial and political, in which the United States may be interested”; to gather information concerning the Barbary powers and the relations of Portugal and other states to them; to inform himself “particularly of the state of the commerce between the United States and Portugal, and by what means it might be extended, improved, and increased, to the mutual advantage of both nations”; and to inquire “whether the treaty which was signed last May between the American Ministers and the Chevalier del Pinto has been agreed to by his Court, and, if not, what are the objections, and whether there is a prospect of a renewal of the negotiation” (Adams to Smith, 11 Apr. 1787; same, iii, 79–81). TJ understood very well that the ostensible object at the court of Lisbon was not the real or sole purpose of Smith’s mission, but neither Adams nor Jay had kept him informed of the other objects in view and the present letter from Smith was evidently the first inkling he had of their nature. For Smith’s full report to Jay (which Adams caused him to make directly to the secretary for foreign affairs) see same, ii, 69–84. The gist of his report on the status of the proposed treaty with Portugal was that a counter-projet would be drawn up and sent to Adams, but that “a Minister on the spot would save a great deal of trouble; and on this subject … her Majesty was not much pleased that she had not been noticed by Congress in the same way that her friends and neighboring nations had been” (same, ii, 76).

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