Papers of John Adams, volume 8

To James Warren, 23 February 1780 JA Warren, James To James Warren, 23 February 1780 Adams, John Warren, James
To James Warren
Dear Sir Paris Feby. 23d. 1780

The French Court seem to be now every day more and more convinced of the good Policy, and indeed the Necessity of prosecuting the War with Vigour in the American Seas. They have been and are making great Preparations accordingly, and are determined to maintain a clear Superiority.

M. de la Motte Piquet has with him, the Hannibal, the Magnifique, the Diadem, the Dauphin Royal, the Artesien, the Reflechi, and the Vengeur, and if M. de Grace Grasse has joined him from Chesapeak Bay, the Robuste, the Fendant and the Sphinx, in all ten Ships of the Line.

M. de Guichen is gone to join him, with the Couronne, eighty Guns, the Triomphant, eighty, the Palmier, seventy four, the Victoire, the Destin, the Conquerant: the Citoyen, the Intrepide, the Hercule, the Souverain, all of seventy four—the Jason, the Actionaire, the Caton, the Julien, the Solitaire, the St. Michel, the Triton, all of sixty four. The Frigates the Medee, Courageuse, Gentille and the Charmante all of thirty two. He had above an hundred Sail of Vessels under his Convoy, and the Regiments of Touraine and Enghien, of more than thirteen hundred Men each, and the second Battalion of Royal Comtois and of Walsh of seven hundred men each—making in the whole more than four thousand Troops. Besides these, there are seven more preparing at Brest to sail.1

Messrs. Gerard, Jay and Charmichael are arrived at Cadiz in a French Frigate—the Confederacy having been dismasted and driven to Martinique. The Alliance carries this with Mr. Lee and Mr. Izard, who will no doubt be treated with all Respect at Boston.


Notwithstanding the Commotions in England and Ireland, the Success of Prevost at Savannah, and of Rodney off Gibralter, and even the silly Story of Omoa in South America, is enough to embolden the Ministry to go on with a Debt of two hundred Millions already contracted, to borrow twelve or fourteen Millions a Year in the Beginning of a War with France and Spain—each having a greater Navy than they ever had, each discovering a greater fighting Spirit than they ever did before,2 and obliging the English to purchase every Advantage at a dear Rate.

The Premiums and Bounties, that they are obliged to give to raise Men, both for the Service by Sea and Land, and the Interest of Money they borrow, are greater than were ever given in any former Wars, even in the last Year of the last War. This cannot always last, nor indeed long. Yet I dont expect to see Peace very soon.

I have sent a Trunk to the Care of the Navy Board, for my dear Mrs. A., in which is something for Mrs. W. Pray write me as often as possible, and send the News papers to me.

Your Friend and Servant John Adams

RC in John Thaxter's hand (MHi: Warren-Adams Coll.); docketed: “Mr J Adams Lettr Feby. 1780.” LbC (Adams Papers).


JA's information regarding the naval force available to the French in the West Indies, as well as the ships and troops convoyed by Guichen to Martinique, is substantially correct. With the exception of the ships of the line Hannibal, Diadem, Dauphin Royal, Reflechi, Conquerant, Jason, and Julien and the frigate Charmante, all of the vessels named participated in the battle against Rodney's fleet off Martinique on 17 April. The four ships of the line under La Motte-Piquet that were not available for the battle had left Martinique before Guichen's arrival to escort to St. Domingo merchant ships returning to France. The absence of La Motte-Piquet and his ships on the 17th may have denied Guichen a decisive victory, for their presence would have given Guichen a margin of 26 ships of the line to 20 for Rodney (W. M. James, British Navy in Adversity, London, 1926, p. 441–442; Dull, French Navy and Amer. Independence , p. 187–188).


In the Letterbook copy, a draft, JA wrote: “each discovering a fighting Spirit, which they never did before,” and then altered it to the text given here.

To Bidé de Chavagnes, 24 February 1780 JA Chavagnes, Bidé de To Bidé de Chavagnes, 24 February 1780 Adams, John Chavagnes, Bidé de
To Bidé de Chavagnes
Dear Sir Paris Hotel de Valois, Rue de Richelieu Feb. 24. 1780

I had last Evening the Honour, of your Letter from Brest, of the 16th. of this Month, and I thank you, sir for your kind Enquiries after our Health. Mr. Dana, Mr. Thaxter, the three Children and myself, are very well at present. Mr. Allen We left, in good Health at Bordeaux. We were all much incommoded with violent Colds and 361threatned with dangerous Fevers in Spain, arrising from bad Weather, much fatigue and vile Accommodations, but the Salubrious Air, the innumerable delights of France, have restored Us all to very good Health and Spirits. We are all much rejoiced to hear of your Welfare and that of your Officers, to whom We request you to present our Respects.

I feel So much Affection for the good Old Sensible, that I take a Pleasure in learning that she was able to perform the Voyage to Brest and that she is still uncondemned, but not so much as to wish that Lives of Officers and People that I so much respect should be risqued in her too long.1

I hope the Minister, to whom I have had the Pleasure of expressing my Gratitude to you and your Officers for your Goodness to me and my Suite in both Passages, both by Word of Mouth and by Letter,2 will agree to your Wishes for a short Relaxation: and you may assure Madam Chevagne of our Respect and that We have not yet ceased to drink her Health, and yours at the same time.

I thank you for your Care of our Trunks, and I hope that Mrs. Gerard de Malherbes et Allain, will transmit them to me at the Hotel De Valois Rue de Richelieu.

When I shall have Occasion to return to America I dont know, but whenever that time shall come, nothing would give me so much Pleasure, as to return with you. And it is very far from being impossible or unlikely that We I may have once more the good Luck to navigate the Atlantic with you. I have the Honour to be with much Respect and Affection, sir your very humble and obedient servant

LbC (Adams Papers).


The voyage from El Ferrol to Brest was La Sensible's last as a warship. In April it and two other frigates were ordered converted to transports (Dull, French Navy and Amer. Independence , p. 358).


See JA to Sartine, 13 Feb. (calendared above).