Papers of John Adams, volume 6

From Samuel Adams, 21 June 1778 Adams, Samuel JA From Samuel Adams, 21 June 1778 Adams, Samuel Adams, John
From Samuel Adams
My dear Sir York Town June 21 1778

Although we are exceedingly pressd with publick Business at this Juncture, I cannot omit the Opportunity that now offers of writing to you. The general Scituation of Affairs, and the particular Transactions between the British Commissioners and the Congress will be transmited to you by this Conveyance, by the Committee for foreign Affairs. Since I last came to this Place from Boston, several Gentlemen have arrivd here from France viz Mr. Simeon Dean, Mr. Carmichael, Mr. Stephenson and Mr. Holker.1 Mr. Carmichael comes strongly recommend by Dr. Franklin and Mr. Silas Dean; but Dr. Lee in his Letter gives Reasons why he cannot place a Confidence in him.2 From a long Correspondence with Dr. Lee, I conceive so great an Opinion of his Candor as well as inflexible Integrity and Attachment to our Country, that I cannot entertain a Doubt that he would suffer partial Considerations to operate in his Mind to the Prejudice of any Man. Such a Difference of Sentiments concerning a Gentleman who I imagine must be of some Consequence, could not take 227Place without at least apparently good Grounds; and it may produce such Effects on this Side of the Water as may prove uncomfortable to us if not injurious to our Cause. Would it not then be doing some Service, to exercise your Prudence in endeavoring to investigate the real Grounds of it, in doing which possibly some things may open to View of Importance and at present not thought of.

Dr. Lee is a Gentleman of a fair and generous Mind. I wish therefore that you would freely converse with him upon this Subject if you think you can do it with Propriety; and let him know that I have lately receivd many Letters from him; which I have duly attended to and would have acknowledgd to him by this opportunity, if I had Leisure.

By the Last Accounts I have had from Braintree your Lady and Family were in Health, though anxiously wishing to hear of your safe Arrival.

I shall write to you as often as I can and shall esteem myself happy in receiving your Favors. I remain very affectionately your Friend


RC (Adams Papers); docketed: “Mr S. Adams ans. Aug. 7 1778”; in CFA's hand between the two lines of JA's docket entry: “Yorktown, June 21st.”


Samuel Adams took his seat in congress on 21 May ( JCC , 11:517). Simeon Deane arrived in Philadelphia on 2 May, William Stephenson on 10 June, and Jean (John) Holker the younger and William Carmichael on 18 June (Burnett, ed., Letters of Members , 3:312, note 2 [No. 374]).


The letter to which Samuel Adams refers cannot be positively identified, but see Arthur Lee's letter to Adams of 5 Jan. (R. H. Lee, Arthur Lee , 2:125–126). Carmichael's dispute with Arthur Lee was probably largely owing to his relations with Silas Deane, but more specifically to his refusal to serve, without a commission, as Arthur Lee's secretary during the 1777 mission to Berlin and Lee's belief that Carmichael was the source of false and damaging reports about him and relations between the Commissioners (Floyd B. Streeter, “The Diplomatic Career of William Carmichael,” Md. Hist. Mag. , 8:119–140 [June 1913]). For JA's opinion of Carmichael and the futility of attempting to trace the origin of the dispute with Lee, see Diary and Autobiography , 4:76–77; and JA's reply to Samuel Adams of 7 Aug. (below).

Foreign Affairs Committee to the Commissioners, 21 June 1778 Lee, Richard Henry Heyward, Thomas Jr. Lovell, James First Joint Commission at Paris JA Foreign Affairs Committee to the Commissioners, 21 June 1778 Lee, Richard Henry Heyward, Thomas Jr. Lovell, James First Joint Commission at Paris Adams, John
Foreign Affairs Committee to the Commissioners
Gentlemen York Town in Pennsylva June 21 1778

The British Commissioners have arrived and transmitted their powers and propositions to Congress, which have received the answer you will see in the Pennsylvania Gazette of the 20th. instant.1

On the 18th. of this month Gen. Clinton with the British army (now under his command) abandoned Philadelphia, and the 228City is in possession of our Troops. The enemy crossed into Jersey, but whether with design to push for So. Amboy, or to embark below Belingsport on the Delaware is yet uncertain. Gen. Washington has put his Army in motion, and is following the enemy into Jersey.

There has arrived here a Mr. Holker from France who has presented a paper to Congress declaring that he comes with a verbal message to Congress from the Minister of France touching our treating with Great Britain and some other particulars which for want of his paper we cannot at present enumerate. The Style of his paper is as from the representative of the Court, but he has no authentic voucher of his Mission for the delivery of this verbal message. We desire of you Gentlemen to give us the most exact information in your power concerning the Autenticity of Mr. Holkers Mission for this purpose.2 We are Gentlemen, with esteem and regard your most obedient and very humble servants

Richard Henry Lee Ths. Heyward Junr. James Lovell

RC, in the hand of Richard Henry Lee (PPAmP: Franklin Papers); addressed: “To Honble Commissioners from the United States of America Paris” docketed in an unknown hand: “James Lovell Esqr. Yorktown 21 June 78.”


The resolution adopted on 17 June in the form of a letter from Henry Laurens to the British Commissioners. It stated that there could be no negotiations unless Britain explicitly acknowledged the independence of the United States ( JCC , 11:614–615).


The Commissioners replied to this request for information on the status of Jean (John) Holker the younger in a letter of 17 Sept. (Wharton, ed., Dipl. Corr. Amer. Rev. , 2:722–725). On the reverse of the present letter's first page is a notation, probably taken from the Commissioners' reply, in an unknown hand: “Count Vergennes Answer respecting Mr. Holker was—that he was astonish'd that Mr. Holker had no Commission verbal or other from this Ministry; and was only desird to communicate to them his observations on the Country.” In any event, the congress' uncertainty about Holker's status was removed when it was informed by Conrad Alexandre Gérard, the French minister, on 16 July, that Holker was an “Agent of the marine of France.” A few days later Gerard sent the congress two commissions, both dated 15 July, naming Holker agent of Marine and consul for Philadelphia ( JCC , 11:696, 713; Gérard, Despatches and Instructions , p. 131; see also JA, Diary and Autobiography , 4:54).