Papers of John Adams, volume 8

From Arthur Lee, 4 December 1779 Lee, Arthur JA From Arthur Lee, 4 December 1779 Lee, Arthur Adams, John
From Arthur Lee
Dear Sir Paris Decr. 4. 1779

You had an opportunity of seeing the commencement of this business of Jones and the Alliance, of which I enclose you the suite.1 Capt. 291Landais has been orderd from Amsterdam to Passy by Dr. Franklin where the Doctor, M. Chaumont2 and Dr. Bancroft have held a Court of Enquiry upon his conduct,3 and their report, I am told, is to be transmitted to Congress. In the mean time Jones has taken possession of the Alliance, and it is much if she ever sees America more. I make no remark upon the whole of this business. Woud to God such proceedings coud be prevented rather than punished! The Pallas belongs to a company at Nantes. The Bon Homme Richard was also private property. They both had Privateers Commissions. Yet a Ship of war of the United States was put in partnership with these Privateers and her Captain subjected to the orders of the Captain of Chaumonts Privateers.4 All this was done with the disagreement between the Captains notorious, and in spight of repeated applications from Mr. Izard, Commodore Gillon, and myself, to let her go as convoy to the supplies and Merchandise for America, and assist in protecting our Coast and Commerce from the depredations of the Enemy. The first excuse was, that she was not mannd, and this after you had written that she had a good Crew;5 the last was that the Squadron was not under his, Dr. Franklin's, direction.(a)6 These excuses are under his hand.

The fleets and Armies on both sides have retird into winter quarters. Not a word of or from D'Estaing on whose success our weal or woe so much depends. I am waiting here in great anxiety and impatience for instructions from Congress. I cannot too strongly recommend the utmost vigilance and fortitude to save our Country from the calamities with which she is threatend from a continuance of the war with the rage of open enemies on the one hand and the wickedness of pretended friends on the other.

With very great regard, I am Dear Sir Your most Obedient & very Humble Servant

(a)His words were—“Capt. Jones's Squadron is not under my direction; I only lent them the Alliance, in consequence of a request which I coud not well refuse.” Probably this request will turn out to be from the same person that requested Jones of us.7 Independent of Dr. Franklin's knowing this request to be a mere contrivance, to cover the job; it was so unjust as well as so unworthy that he coud and ought to have refusd it. He has read the Bible, and can quote it when it suits his purpose; and Nathan8 woud have furnished him with a proper answer to such a request.

They write me from Amsterdam that M. Chaumont has dissmissd Jones from the command of the Privateers, who has taken command of the Alliance, where, I am confident, he will soon raise a mutiny.


RC in Ludwell Lee's hand to the complimentary close, thereafter by Arthur Lee (Adams Papers); docketed: “Letter from A. Lee.”; in another hand: “Decr 4th 1779.” The letter was probably sent to America, since Lee could not have known of JA's return on this date.


Enclosure not found.


Leray de Chaumont, acting for the French government, served as paymaster for the specially assembled squadron commanded by Jones (Morison, John Paul Jones , p. 192).


On Pierre Landais, see Landais to JA, 9 March, note 2 (above). When he failed to support John Paul Jones during the battle with the Serapis, Jones brought charges which led to the court of inquiry. Franklin reported to the president of the congress in a letter of 4 March 1780, in which he enclosed the minutes of the court. He wrote: “I have not presumed to condemn or acquit him, doubting as well my Judgment and my Authority” (PCC, No. 82, 1, f. 201). Minutes of the inquiry are in the Franklin Papers ( Cal. Franklin Papers, A.P.S. , 4:496).


Lee's view that the Pallas and the Bonhomme Richard, under Jones' command, were nothing but privateers ignores the fact that the French navy outfitted and maintained the ships. See Franklin to JA, 24 April, note 1 (above).


Lee is referring to Franklin's letter of 3 May, in reply to his letter of the 2d (Wharton, ed., Dipl. Corr. Amer. Rev. , 3:153–154; Cal. Franklin Papers, A.P.S. , 2:71). JA had written to Franklin on 29 April that “the Alliance has now a very good Crew” (above), a letter that Franklin probably did not receive before writing to Lee on 3 May.


Lee inserted the (a) to refer the reader to the postscript, but despite the quotation marks, the first of which have been supplied, no letter from Franklin to Lee containing the passage alleged by Lee to be “his Franklin's words” has been found. The passage may be a paraphrase of one in a letter from Franklin to Alexander Gillon of 5 July, which Gillon may have shown Lee. In that letter Franklin stated that “the little squadron which you suppose to be in my disposition is not, as you seem to imagine, fitted out at the expense of the United States, nor have I any authority to direct its operations. It was from the beginning destined by the concerned for a particular purpose. I have only, upon a request that I could not refuse, lent the Alliance to it, hoping the enterprise may be more advantageous to the common cause than her cruise could be alone” (Wharton, ed., Dipl. Corr. Amer. Rev. , 3:239–240).


That is, Sartine. See Sartine to the Commissioners, 5 July 1778, vol. 6:265; and Franklin to JA, 24 April 1779 (above).


Nathan was sent by God to reprove David for his wickedness (2 Samuel, 12:1–12).

To Benjamin Franklin, 8 December 1779 JA Franklin, Benjamin To Benjamin Franklin, 8 December 1779 Adams, John Franklin, Benjamin
To Benjamin Franklin
Sir Ferrol Decr. 8. 1779

I have the Honour to inform your Excellency, that Congress having judged it proper to appoint me to a new Mission in Europe I embarked on the thirteenth of November,1 at the Instance of The Chevalier de La Luzerne and Mr. Gerard, on Board the same Frigate that carried me to America. Soon after We got to sea a formidable Leake in the ship discovered itself so as to oblige Us to keep two Pumps, constantly going by Night and Day, which induced the Captain to think it necessary to put into this Place, where We have just now cast Anchor.

Whether I shall go to Paris by Land or wait for the Frigate is uncertain; I believe the former, as the latter might detain me, four or five

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Weeks. I have dispatches for your Excellency from Congress, which I shall carry with me, and News papers. These latter contain little remarkable save the Evacuation of Rhode Island by the Enemy, and the Compte D'Estaings Progress in Georgia, in Cooperation with General Lincoln, which was in a fair Course of success.2

I hope the Confederacy, which sailed from Philadelphia, three or four Weeks before Us, with Mr. Gerard and Mr. Jay, who is appointed Minister plenipotentiary for Spain, has happily arrived,3 and made it unnecessary for me to enlarge upon the general state of Affairs in America, which were upon the whole in a favourable Train. I hope to have the Honour of saluting you at Passy in a few Weeks, and am with4 sir, your most obedient servt

John Adams

RC (PPAmP: Franklin Papers.); addressed: “A Son Excellence Monsieur Monsieur Franklin Ministre Plenipotentiaire des Etats Unis de L'Amerique, a Passy pres Paris”; docketed: “J. Adams Decr. 10. 79.” LbC in John Thaxter's hand (Adams Papers).


The date on which JA boarded La Sensible; the vessel left Boston Harbor on 15 Nov. His voyage is recounted in JA, Diary and Autobiography , 2:402–404 (entry for 24 Nov. and following), 4:191–194 (entry for 5 Nov. and following); JQA, Diary , 1:3–10 (entry for 15 Nov. and following); and Adams Family Correspondence , 3:235–239 (JA to AA, 15 and 20 Nov.; JQA to AA, 20 Nov.).


On 28 Oct. the Independent Chronicle reported that the British evacuation of Newport had been completed on the 25th. The Boston Gazette on 1 Nov. listed Estaing's alleged victories in Georgia.


John Jay sailed on 20 Oct. 1779 in the Continental frigate Confederacy, but storm damage forced the vessel into St. Pierre, Martinique, in mid-December. There Jay transferred to the French frigate Aurora, which arrived at Cadiz on 22 Jan., making a total voyage of 95 days (Morris, Peacemakers , p. 1–7). This was in sharp contrast to JA's 24-day passage.


A blank space appears here; the Letterbook copy has “great Respect.”