Readings in English History Drawn from the Original Sources: Intended to Illustrate a Short History of England

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Letter of John Adams to John Jay from Westminster, June 2, 1785, in JOHN ADAMS, Works, Vol. VIII, pp. 255–258. Boston, 1853. World History

388.

Presentation of the First American Minister to the King of England (May 30, 1785)

At one on Wednesday the master of ceremonies called at my house, and went with me to the secretary of state’s office, in Cleveland Row, where the marquis of Carmarthen received me and introduced me to his undersecretary, Mr. Fraser, who has been, as his lordship told me, uninterruptedly in that office, through all the changes in administration, for thirty years, having first been appointed by the earl of Holderness. After a short conversation upon the subject of importing my effects from Holland and France free of duty, which Mr. Fraser himself introduced, Lord Carmarthen invited me to go with him in his coach to court. When we arrived in the antechamber, the œil de bœuf of St. James’, the master of ceremonies met me and attended me, while the secretary of state went to take the commands of the king.

While I stood in this place, where it seems all ministers stand on such occasions, always attended by the master of ceremonies, the room very full of ministers of state, lords, and bishops, and all sorts of courtiers, as well as the next room, which is the king’s bedchamber, you may well suppose I was the focus of all eyes. I was relieved, however, from the embarrassment of it by the Swedish and Dutch ministers, who came to me and entertained me in a very agreeable conversation during the whole time. Some other gentlemen whom I had seen before came to make their compliments, too, until the marquis of Carmarthen returned and desired me to go with him to his Majesty.

I went with his lordship through the levée room into the king’s closet. The door was shut, and I was left with his Majesty and the secretary of state alone. I made the three reverences, — one at the door, another about halfway, and a third before the presence, — according to the usage established at this and all the northern courts of Europe, and then addressed myself to his Majesty in the following words:

"Sir:

Address of the minister to the king

"The United States of America have appointed me their minister plenipotentiary to your Majesty, and have directed me to deliver to your Majesty this letter which contains the evidence of it. It is in obedience to their express commands that I have the honor to assure your Majesty of their unanimous disposition and desire to cultivate the most friendly and liberal intercourse between your Majesty’s subjects and their citizens, and of their best wishes for your Majesty’s health and happiness and for that of your royal family. The appointment of a minister from the United States to your Majesty’s court will form an epoch in the history of England and of America. I think myself more fortunate than all my fellow-citizens in having the distinguished honor to be the first to stand in your Majesty’s royal presence in a diplomatic character; and I shall esteem myself the happiest of men if I can be instrumental in recommending my country more and more to your Majesty’s royal benevolence, and of restoring an entire esteem, confidence, and affection, or, in better words, the old good nature and the old good humor between people, who, though separated by an ocean, and under different governments, have the same language, a similar religion, and kindred blood.

"I beg your Majesty’s permission to add that, although I have some time before been intrusted by my country, it was never in my whole life in a manner more agreeable to myself."

The king listened to every word I said with dignity but with an apparent emotion. Whether it was the nature of the interview, or whether it was my visible agitation, for I felt more than I did or could express, that touched him, I cannot say. But he was much affected, and answered me with more tremor than I had spoken with, and said:

"Sir:

The king’s gentle reply

"The circumstances of this audience are so extraordinary, the language you have now held is so extremely proper, and the feelings you have discovered so justly adapted to the occasion, that I must say that I not only receive with pleasure the assurance of the friendly dispositions of the United States, but that I am very glad the choice has fallen upon you to be their minister. I wish you, sir, to believe, and that it may be understood in America, that I have done nothing in the late contest but what I thought myself indispensably bound to do, by the duty which I owed to my people.

"I will be very frank with you. I was the last to consent to the separation; but the separation having been made, and having become inevitable, I have always said, as I say now, that I would be the first to meet the friendship of the United States as an independent power. The moment I see such sentiments and language as yours prevail, and a disposition to give to this country the preference, that moment I shall say, let the circumstances of language, religion, and blood have their natural and full effect."

I dare not say that these were the king’s precise words, and it is even possible that I may have in some particular mistaken his meaning; for although his pronunciation is as distinct as I ever heard, he hesitated some time between his periods, and between the members of the same period. He was indeed much affected, and I confess I was not less so, and therefore I cannot be certain that I was so cool and attentive, heard so clearly, and understood so perfectly, as to be confident of all his words or sense; and I think that all which he said to me should at present be kept secret in America, unless his Majesty or his secretary of state, who alone was present, should judge proper to report it. This I do say, that the foregoing is his Majesty’s meaning, as I then understood it, and his own words, as nearly as I can recollect them.

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Chicago: "Presentation of the First American Minister to the King of England (May 30, 1785)," Readings in English History Drawn from the Original Sources: Intended to Illustrate a Short History of England in Readings in English History Drawn from the Original Sources: Intended to Illustrate a Short History of England, ed. Edward Potts Cheyney (1861-1947) (Boston: Ginn, 1935, 1922), 637–640. Original Sources, accessed December 9, 2019, http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=8FG19TTAVP9NT8P.

MLA: . "Presentation of the First American Minister to the King of England (May 30, 1785)." Readings in English History Drawn from the Original Sources: Intended to Illustrate a Short History of England, in Readings in English History Drawn from the Original Sources: Intended to Illustrate a Short History of England, edited by Edward Potts Cheyney (1861-1947), Boston, Ginn, 1935, 1922, pp. 637–640. Original Sources. 9 Dec. 2019. originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=8FG19TTAVP9NT8P.

Harvard: , 'Presentation of the First American Minister to the King of England (May 30, 1785)' in Readings in English History Drawn from the Original Sources: Intended to Illustrate a Short History of England. cited in 1922, Readings in English History Drawn from the Original Sources: Intended to Illustrate a Short History of England, ed. , Ginn, 1935, Boston, pp.637–640. Original Sources, retrieved 9 December 2019, from http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=8FG19TTAVP9NT8P.