Papers of John Adams, volume 8

From Jonathan Williams, 28 March 1779 Williams, Jonathan JA From Jonathan Williams, 28 March 1779 Williams, Jonathan Adams, John
From Jonathan Williams
Dear Sir Nantes March 28. 1779

I have not written to you since your Departure because I have not before had anything to communicate, and now it is probable you will have already heard what I have to say.

The last accounts from England inform us that Pondicherry and Chandanargor in the East Indies are taken by the English, after above two months Seige.1 The Papers say also that a french Man of War and a Frigate are lost on the Cape of Good Hope.2 Senegal is taken by the French,—the Garrison at Fort James was so weakened by Sickness that it fell an easy prey.3

We have had besides the above a great many Bruits, but as they seem to have been calculated only pour faire du Bruit, I shall not trouble you with any account of them.4

I shall be exceeding happy to know if I may expect the pleasure of 18seeing you here again being with great Respect Dear Sir Your most obed servant

Jon Williams J.

Remember me to Master Jack—est il content de la Comedie, a Brest aprés avoir vu la belle Salle de Nantes, celle de Brest ne doit pas lui plaire; tout le monde n'est pas de cet avis, mais il faut souvenir que notre salle a eu le Merite d'etre consacrée aux cheveaux, quoiqu'il n'y va aujourdhui que des ânes.5

RC (Adams Papers).


According to reports in the London Chronicle of 16–18 March, Pondicherry was taken by troops of the British East India Company in Oct. 1778. Chandernagore, a French settlement near Calcutta, had been taken earlier.


The London Chronicle of 18–20 March contained a report that “the Phelizburg, a French man of war of 74 guns, and the Orleans frigate, were both lost near the Cape of Good Hope, the 27th of Aug. last, in their passage from Toulon to Pondicherry.” No mention has been found, however, of any French naval vessels with those names. See, for example, Dull, French Navy and Amer. Independence , apps. B, C, and D.


See JA to Benjamin Franklin, 24 March, note 3 (above).


One example of such rumors was the report in the London Chronicle of 20–23 March that “Advice is reported to have been received from Paris, by some respectable houses here [London], that one of the American Plenipotentiaries at the Court of France, has been put under arrest for having carried on a correspondence with the English Ministry.”


Translation: Is he content with the Comedy at Brest. After having seen the fine hall at Nantes, that of Brest cannot please him; everyone is not of this opinion, but he should remember that our hall had the honor to be dedicated to horses, although only asses go there now.

From Arthur Lee, 29 March 1779 Lee, Arthur JA From Arthur Lee, 29 March 1779 Lee, Arthur Adams, John
From Arthur Lee
Dear Sir March 29th. 1779

I receivd your favor by Mr. Blodget and thank you.1 It seems uncertain where or how this will find you, therefore I shall not enclose the Cypher. When I know where a private hand may find you, I will send it so as to be secure. A person is nominated to take the place of the great man at Philada. who will leave it upon his arrival.2 You will probably get thither before him. We have no other local news. The report from England is, that Count d'Estaign is blockt up in Martinique;3 and that the Royalists have gaind a victory in Georgia. The first I am afraid is too true; the last as it comes thro N. York, it is to be hopd, is only a repetition of what we have already heard. Things look ominous—but we must hope the best. Adieu.

RC (Adams Papers).


24 March (above).


A reference to Chevalier Anne César de la Luzerne's appointment to replace Conrad Alexandre Gérard as French minister to the United States. La Luzerne, however, was apparently not officially ap-19pointed until 5 April (William Emmett O'Donnell, The Chevalier de la Luzerne, Louvain, 1938, p. 42). JA may not have known to whom Lee was referring until he received Benjamin Franklin's letter of 24 April (below). Yet Arthur Lee learned in Jan. 1779 that La Luzerne was to replace Gérard, for in a journal entry for the 24th, he wrote that “a gentleman of rank” had informed him that Luzerne had been named the new French minister, but “desired me to keep the information secret, as it was not yet known at Passy” (R. H. Lee, Arthur Lee , 1:407).

La Luzerne, who enjoyed considerable success as minister to the United States, began his career in the military, but in 1776 accepted appointment to the Bavarian Court, where he remained until mid-1778, spending his last months deeply involved in the controversy over the Bavarian succession. Taking up his duties in America in Sept. 1779, he served until June 1784. In 1788 he was appointed ambassador to Great Britain, serving there until his death in 1791 (O'Donnell, Chevalier de la Luzerne, p. 40–42; Hoefer, Nouv. biog. générale ; Repertorium der diplomatischen Vertreter aller Länder , p. 110, 144, 118). For JA's sketch of La Luzerne, see his letter to the president of the congress, 3 Aug. (below).


For such a report, see the London Chronicle, 25–27 March. After the loss of St. Lucia at the end of Dec. 1778, Estaing went to Martinique to refit and await reinforcements from France. There was little naval action in the West Indies until June, when the French launched an attack on St. Vincent, and no major fleet action until the encounter between Admirals Byron and Estaing off Grenada in July (Mahan, Navies in the War of Amer. Independence , p. 104–106).