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Colonial and State Records of North Carolina
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Letter from John Adams to John Jay [Extract]
Adams, John, 1735-1826
October 30, 1787
Volume 20, Pages 662-663


Grosvenor Square, 30th April, 1787.

Upon the receipt of the first enclosed Letters from Dr. Wren & McMorobray by express, I made Application to Government. Lord Sidney was absent and Lord Carmer then Sick, but Mr. Fraser, the under Secretary of State, took up the Subject with Integrity and politeness. He discovered a real Desire to do every thing the Laws would permit to crush in the beginning this villainous attempt to Counterfeit American Paper Currency, he told me that a parallel complaint had been made lately of an attempt to Counterfeit the Bank notes of Denmark and that upon consulting their most experienced Majistrate and Law Officers they were all of opinion that untill the Counterfeit was Compleated and the Names signed, it could not be a Capital Crime, though an attempt might be a misdemeanor. He advised me to advise with Sir Sampson Wright the most Considerable Majistrate in Westminister, Sir Sampson engaged in the Business with Particular attention and agreed to write to Sir John Carver, Portsmouth. Upon the whole it seemed to be Necessary that some one should go to Portsmouth & as Col. Smith set out on the 24th of this Month for——          I asked Mr. Cutting to accompany me to Portsmouth. We had the man brought out of prison to our Lodgings, his name he says is Robert Muir, born in Scotland, but lately arrived from North Carolina. He is an Artful, Shrewd fellow, but with a mean hungry desperate appearance. We wished to discover his accomplices but he would not answer. The Grand Jury found a Bill and at my desire the man is continued in Prison till next Term in July. His Types & Stamps & Implements are well Secured. In July however, he will be set at liberty for the Crime

-------------------- page 663 --------------------
could not be complete without the Signature, if it could without passing the Bill.

It is with very high pleasure that I am able to say that the Government & the Majistrate, both here & at Portsmouth, have upon this Occasion Conducted with Perfect Propriety & Politeness. The crime is said to be an offence against the Law of Nations, against commerce, against Private & Public Property, against the whole World, and all this is true; but still the Laws are so vague in this Case, and every Punishment Short of Death in such a Crime in this Country would be treated with Ridicule, it may be most prudent to dismiss the fellow in July, destroying or at least detaining his Implements. I suppose this is the same Scot who a few weeks ago applied to a Mr. Carpenter, an Engraver in London to Engrave a Plate for him, of which Carpenter had the honesty to inform me as you have been told in a former letter.