Papers of John Adams, volume 8

From Jonathan Loring Austin, 7 June 1779 Austin, Jonathan Loring JA From Jonathan Loring Austin, 7 June 1779 Austin, Jonathan Loring Adams, John
From Jonathan Loring Austin
Honble. Sir Boston 7th June 1779

I have the Honor to acquaint you that I arrived here the 29th Ultimo via St. Eustatia, sufficiently tired with the tedious Rout I have taken since I left Paris. I was much disappointed in not embarking directly from Holland to America. All my Persuasions with the Dutch, to send out a Vessel for this Continent, proved fruitless; when I had no other Resource left but to come out by the Way of the West Indies, and had embarked, was detained fifty days in the Texel for a Wind, and then followed a passage of 45 days; my Patience was pretty well put to the Test, instead of revisiting my native Shore in two Months, as I flatter'd myself when I left Passy, triple the time had elaps'd before I set foot in Virginia; often Sir did I wish myself by your Fire side, affording you any little Assistance in your important Business, but it was then too late.

On my Arrival at 'Statia I expected to be detained several Months, on Account of Business, and therefore forwarded by a Vessel, recommended as sailing very fast, and deliver'd to the Care a Gentleman in the Continental Service who went Passenger, your Letter for Congress 77and all other Letters for Friends, enclosing them to the president of Congress.1 The Vessel was unfortunately taken and the Letters lost.

On my Arrival in Philada. I deliver'd a Memorial to Congress respecting my time and Services, in going over with Dispatches to France and my Employment while there; agreeable to the Mode I had the Honor of mentioning to you, Congress unanimously as I was informed granted the prayer of the Memorial, and referr'd the Matter to the Treasury Board for some Gratuity, who thought it best to refer it to the Council of this State, before whom it at present lays.2

You will doubtless receive from Congress and others by this Opportunity all the News worthy notice. It would have afforded me the greatest pleasure and I must confess I fully expected to see the same Virtue Firmness and Stability, which first calld forth the noble Exertions of my Countrymen in this glorious Cause still animating them not only respecting what more immediately regarded the War, but in all other political points the necessary Attendants of it; I don't mean to intimate that we have grown so sluggish and heavy, or have so far lost our first principles, or are even so tired with the War as tamely to see our Country become a prey to our Invaders, no Sir. Our Virtue is still most conspicuous in this Respect, and our Armies are formidable, not-withstanding the Depreciation of our Currency, but even if this was annihilated the determined Union that prevails in this Instance will rouse a sufficient Force to repel our Foes. The present Campaign its probable, from the first British Onset will be carried on with Vigor, they have lately sent a Party to Virginia and there got footing in Portsmouth3 from which place expect to be soon informed of Ravages commited, but we are now a little inured to such Depredations, which rather exasperate than intimidate and the Name of a Briton has here become a proverb for Cruelty. It may however shortly return on their own Heads. They also still remain in the unfavorable Climate of Georgia, and expect soon to hear they are attempting Descents in N England. What Steps Genl. Washington will take in Consequence of these Manoeuvres you will soon be acquainted with, its probable he will give a good Account of them. I must beg leave to refer your Honor to the enclosed News papers for further particulars, as I have many Letters to write by this Vessel which will sail to morrow.

You may remember Sir I alway mentiond Mr. D with Respect when I was in France, and setting aside his commercial Transactions to which I was ever a Stranger I shall always speak of him respectfully. I am sorry he has since his Arrival upon the Continent adopted such a Mode in order to vindicate his Character and to bring others before the 78public Scrutiny, herein he has acted very impolitic and has blown up a Blast which he will not easily extinguish.——4 have been greatly divided in this unfortunate Dispute, hope it will terminate in the general Good.

I shall with Permission do myself the Honor of writing you from time to time what is transacting in this part of the World and shall think myself particularly noticed to receive a Line from you now and then. Give me Leave Sir, before I finish this Letter to ask if You Dr. F. or Mr. L. are agreeably furnished with Secretarys. I am enduced to be thus free, as I am not certain but I shall take another Voyage to France, and if there is any Employment in this or any other way that you should think worthy my Acceptance, I should esteem it an Honor if you'd inform me of it, or intimate it to Congress.

I have a little Tea for Mrs. A——which I shall wait on her with and deliver her, as soon as my Baggage arrives in Town. Please to present my most respectfull Compliments to Dr. Franklin and Dr. Lee. Being with perfect Respect & Attachment Honble. Sir Your most Obedient & very humble Servant,

J. Loring Austin5

RC (Adams Papers); addressed: “Son Excellence Monsieur Adams Ministre plenipotentiare de l'Amerique a Passy pres Paris”; docketed: “J. L. Austin. 7. June 1779.”


Probably JA's letter to the president of the congress of 20 Sept. 1778 (above); see note 3 to that letter, and Austin to the Commissioners, 19 Sept. 1778 (above).


Austin's memorial was received by the congress on 10 May and reported upon on the 13th (PCC, No. 41, I, f. 39; JCC , 14:567, 581–582). On 8 June the Massachusetts Council resolved to recommend to the congress that the Commissioners in Europe be directed to discharge the advances obtained by Austin in the course of his mission (Records of the States, Microfilm, Mass. E1, Reel No. 11, Unit I, p. 406–407). The congress approved the Council's recommendation on 26 June ( JCC , 14:776).


On 10 May, 1,800 troops under Maj. Gen. Edward Mathew had landed at Portsmouth, Va., and, in the course of the next few days and without losing a man, destroyed or captured an estimated £2,000,000 worth of property and merchandise (Ward, War of the Revolution , 2:867).


Presumably the congress.


JA received this letter when he returned to Paris in 1780, but no reply has been found.

To Edmund Jenings, 8 June 1779 JA Jenings, Edmund To Edmund Jenings, 8 June 1779 Adams, John Jenings, Edmund
To Edmund Jenings
Dear sir L'orient June 8. 1779

Yours of the Second of this Month, was brought to me, but this Moment, and I am happy to find that I agree in so many Points with you.

The Armament that has been fitting out here, has been a Mystery, as almost every Thing else has.1 I never was informed, of the intended 79strength, the Number of ships or Troops, or who was to command— or where they were to go. I never asked any Questions. I chose to be ignorant—determined in order to do as little Mischief as possible, to be as silent as possible. For, whatever may be Said of me, I certainly do not abound with Envy, nor am I capable of endeavouring to obstruct or embarrass any public Measure, by drawing a Party after me, to make my self important. If I had there has been ample opportunities at Nantes Brest and L'orient.

There is a Phenomenon here however, that surprises me, altho I have not talked much about here, I may mention it to you. Here are two french Gentlemen very agreable ones too dressed in American Uniforms, and I have been told I know not how truly that the american Minister has given them, Commissions as Captains in the Navy. I have not dared to Speak upon this subject but to Jones and Landais, because I knew it would throw it into a Flame excite great Discontents if not throw all into a Flame, because it is contrary to a possitive Instruction of Congress.2

Am surprized to learn that the Expedition is totaly laid aside. On fait et defait — on mande et contramande — on range et derange — et c'est toujours ainsi ici,3 Said a French Gentleman to me two or three days ago. And if he had Said it, of the Management of our American affairs, in France here I would have sworn for him that every Word of it was true.

I am wearyed to death, with the oscillations of our Politicks, and I am every Hour more and more convinced that Chaumont and Bancroft will have the entire Guidance of our Affairs, unless the system is wholly altered, and I am sure I have not Faith enough in the Head of the former or the Heart of the latter, to be willing to trust them with my share in this great Interest. Some Machinery will be set on foot to procure a Letter from a Minister of State, to be an Excuse or give a Colour for schemes that nobody will be able to develope or penetrate.4

You Say I may still go home in my favourite Frigate, but you are mistaken. She is ordered on a Cruise and my Baggage is on board the Sensible, which as she is she appears to me to be a dull Sailor, and has but 28 Guns, gives me at least a fair Chance of meeti rencountering an English Frigate of superiour Force being a Witness taking a share in a sublime Battle, and being carried Captive to Hallifax or N. York, which would put it out of my Power to do Mischief good or harm, for some Years, unless as a Random shot, might do for ever. Either of these Suppositions would give Pleasure to some many People, and pain to very few. I am very confident, that neither Case 80would make me unhappier than I have been for a Year past, and therefore I am not much distressed at the Cont Presage.

Dont misunderstand this. It was not Versailles Paris, France — French Dress, Cookery, or Gallantry that made me unhappy, for I but my own Countrymen.

I have at last received, the Remembrancer, you was so kind as to send me and have read with great Pleasure “the Spirit and Resources of G. Britain considered in twelve Letters.” I shall preserve this Pamphlet and the other5 with great Care. I hope the Author will continue his Speculations for a Writer with such Talents and such a Temper cannot fail to do much service to the Public.

I had heard of the Advancement of the Bust. It deserves it—it has merited it, by zealous and successful services to that House—it, or a Noddle as little respectable in my Estimation, by imposing upon honest Men6 erected the present system, as ill digested and contrived for the public service, as it is flattering to a Pride that was otherwise and before two much flattered.7

I am not dead Mr. Johnson Jennings, nor have I lost my own Feeling or my Love to my Country. And if I can preserve my Head from Balls and Captivity that Voice And that Pen which has been heard heretofore very often and sometimes with Indulgence, shall be heard again. I will not always see the Honour and Interest of my Country, intrigued away and her most solid Characters immolated at the shrine of Moloch and be Silent.

I had the Pleasure of Some Acquaintance with Mr. Johnson, and of receiving many Civilities from him, at Nantes, and agree with you in thinking him a Sensible, worthy Man, indeed I do not know at present, where to find a Person, more Suitable, but it is a subject that deserves, what our Ld. Coke calls a great deal of Sad Consideration.

LbC (Adams Papers); notation: “not sent.”


For the “Armament,” see Benjamin Franklin to JA, 24 April, note 1 (above).


Although JA may have seen only two, there were three French officers at Lorient who had received captain's commissions in apparent violation of a resolution of 9 May 1778 directing the Commissioners not to recommend “any foreign sea officers, nor give any of them the least expectation of being employed as captains in the navy of the United States” ( JCC , 11:485). They were Brulôt de Cottineau de Kerloguen of the Pallas, Philippe Nicolas Ricot of the Vengeance, and Joseph Varage of Le Cerf. The three men, all French naval officers, and their ships had been sent to Lorient to join the squadron being formed by John Paul Jones (Morison, John Paul Jones , p. 190–191; Allen, Naval Hist. of the Amer. Revolution , 2:714).


One makes and unmakes — one orders and cancels — one sets and upsets — and it is always so here.


JA may be referring to Sartine's letter of 20 April to Benjamin Franklin asking that the Alliance be sent to Lorient (from Benjamin Franklin, 24 April, note 1, 81above), or he might be thinking of Sartine's letter of 5 July 1778 to the Commissioners, requesting that John Paul Jones be permitted to remain in Paris for consultations concerning an unspecified mission (vol. 6:265).


For the “other” pamphlet, see Edmund Jenings to JA, 10 March, note 7 (above).


The previous five words were written above the line for insertion here.


As mentioned in Jenings' letter of the 2d (above), the bust of Silas Deane. By “zealous and successful services to that House” JA may mean Deane's financial dealings with Leray de Chaumont, the owner of the Commissioners' house at Passy.