Papers of John Adams, volume 7

To the Comte de Vergennes, 16 February 1779 JA Vergennes, Charles Gravier, Comte de To the Comte de Vergennes, 16 February 1779 Adams, John Vergennes, Charles Gravier, Comte de
To the Comte de Vergennes
Sir Passy. February 16. 1779

Last Evening, I had the Honour of your Letter of the thirteenth of this Month, in answer to mine of the Eleventh.

I thank your Excellency, for the Politeness, with which you have agreed to my Proposition of a Conference upon the Subject of Mr. Deanes Address, to the People of the united States.

At the Time, when my Letter of the Eleventh, was written and Sent to your Excellency, there were three Commissioners here, Representatives of Congress, between whom it appeared to me, Mr. Deanes Address had a tendency to destroy all Confidence, as well as between your Excellency and them, for which Reason I thought it my Duty,1 to endeavour by a Conference with your Excellency, to lessen those Evils as far as should be in my Power.

But, within a few Hours, after my Letter, of the Eleventh was Sent,2 the Arrival of the Aid de Camp, of the Marquiss de la Fayette, with Dispatches from Congress to Dr. Franklin, and from their Committee of foreign Affairs, to me, informing me of the new Arrangement, by which Dr. Franklin, is constituted Minister plenipotentiary, here, and I am restored to the Character of a private Citizen; so wholly changed the Scene, and the Characters here, that I now think I have no right to do, what, if I had continued in the Character of a Commissioner here, I should have thought it my indispensible Duty to do.

This masterly Measure,3 which has my most hearty Approbation, and of the Necessity of which I was fully convinced before I had been 417two Months in Europe has taken away the Possibility of those Dissentions which I so much apprehended.

I Shall not, therefore give your Excellency, any further,4 than to take an early Opportunity of paying my Respects in order to take Leave, and to assure you, that I Shall leave this Kingdom, with the most entire Confidence in his Majestys Benevolence to the united States, and inviolable Adherence to the Treaties,5 between the two Powers; with a Similar Confidence, in the good Disposition of his Majestys Ministers of State, and of this Nation towards Us: and with an Heart impressed with gratitude, for the many Civilities6 which I have received, in the Short Space of Time that I have resided here, at Court, in the City, and in the Country, and particularly, from your Excellency. I have the Honour to be, with the highest Consideration, your Excellencys, most obedient and most humble Servant

John Adams

RC (Arch. Aff. Etr., Paris, Corr. Pol., E.-U., vol. 7); docketed: “M. de Reyneval M. Adams rep. le 21 fev. il fait part de la nomination de M. franklin en qualite de Ministre Plenipotentiaire du Congres.” LbC (Adams Papers).


The Letterbook has “indispensible” crossed out before “Duty.”


JA's letter of the 11th was sent on the morning of the 12th (see JA's letter to Vergennes of 11 Feb., descriptive note, above).


In the Letterbook “of Congress” follows “Measure.”


In the Letterbook “Trouble” follows “further.”


The Letterbook originally read “to the Faith of the Treaties.”


After “gratitude” the Letterbook reads “for that Candour and sincerity, that Politeness and Civility for the many Civilities.”

From Jonathan Williams III, 16 February 1779 Williams, Jonathan JA From Jonathan Williams III, 16 February 1779 Williams, Jonathan Adams, John
From Jonathan Williams III
Dear Sir Nantes Feby 16 Feby 1779

I arrived at Brest last Wednesday, in twenty five days Passage from Boston,1 and had the Pleasure of spending a day with Mrs. Adams the week before, at Braintree; She was then well and wrote the inclosed for my Care.2

Mrs. Adams had occasion for some solid Coin to answer some particular Purposes and I had it in my Power to afford her ten Guineas, for which She gave me the inclosed Bill;3 I know not what Apology to make for presenting this Draught; but it gives me an Oppertunity of Assuring You, that I feel a particular Gratitude for your Attention to me, and I shall be anxious Sir till I have it in my Power to make you full Compensation for your Patronage.

I have made this Voyage in part for my Health, and to enter into 418some more active Scenes of Life, I have been long confined in America, with Nervous Disorders, attented with Convulsions, but am now much recovered. I think I have received a Signal Advantage from the Voyage.

There is nothing New of public Moment that I can acquaint you with; Mr. Benjamin Andrews lost his Life two or three days before I left Boston, in a very tragical Manner, Mr. Hitchborn cleaning a Pistol by accident, in scraping with his Penknife, some Rust that had contracted near the touch hole communicated a spark of Fire, and shott the Pistol off, the Ball pierced his Temple and he died without a Struggle, in the presence of his Lady.4

I find my Father's Situation is not the better for his Attendance upon the Virtuous Ministry of Great Brittain.5

I inclose you Sir the last Gazette, and have the Honour to be with the utmost Respect Your most Obedient & much obliged Servant

Jon Williams third

RC (Adams Papers); docketed: “Mr. Jon. Williams 3d.”; by CFA: “Feby. 16. 1779.”


Jonathan Williams, JA's former law clerk and cousin of the Jonathan Williams who had served as the commercial agent at Nantes until May 1778, came to France for his health, but died soon after his return to America in 1780 (vol. 2:104; 6:153; JA, Legal Papers , 1:cxiii).


AA to JA, 2 Jan. 1779 ( Adams Family Correspondence , 3:145–147).


See AA's letter of 2 Jan. for an account of the circumstances under which the loan was made and the difficulty of obtaining hard currency. JA paid Williams 240 livres on 15 March (JA, Diary and Autobiography , 2:339).


The accidental death of Boston merchant Benjamin Andrews occurred on 9 Jan. According to the newspaper account, Benjamin Hichborn, after cleaning the pistol, handed it to Andrews who “grasp'd it in such a Manner as brought his Thumb upon the Trigger, (which happened to have no Guard) and it instantly discharged its Contents into his Head near his Temple.” Hichborn married the widow a year later (Boston Gazette, 11 Jan. 1779; Sibley-Shipton, Harvard Graduates , 17:39).


This was John Williams, former inspector general of the Customs at Boston. See his letter to JA of 27 June 1778 (vol. 6:235–236).