Papers of John Adams, volume 9

From Benjamin Pierce, 1 June 1780 Pierce, Benjamin JA From Benjamin Pierce, 1 June 1780 Pierce, Benjamin Adams, John
From Benjamin Pierce
May it pleas Your Excelence, L'Orient June 1st. 1780 1

To take into consideration the repeated pettitions of the people on board the contintall ship Alliance, that has Been sent to Dr. Franklyn,2 and never been attended to, concerning the wages and prise Money being paid in Europe, I mean for the last Cruise, which was at least 6 Months, which the men Insist upon prior to their weighing anchor, the officers allso have this day petition'd him on the same occation as allso have the men, But theirs will no arrive till a week 367after the officers. There is universall dizsattisfaction among the people and they desired me to Beg of Your Excellence to Interfear In the Matter, they allso are unwilling to depart without their commander, P. Landeis Esqr. who in their vew has done nothing that is deserving the scandall which is laid, upon him, and for my own part I am sattisfied that on the 23 of Septr. the Richard must have struck or sunk had not the Alliance left the Scarbrough and went to her Ascistance.3 On the whole it is my reall opinion had things been order'd according to his plan, that the two ships would have been taken With less damage done them and less Bloud shed, and at last the Richard have been saved, But had I been aware of haveing a strainge commander I had went home with Mesr. Addams and Hill,4 But willing to Do all in my for my native Boston, I was willing to Do all in my power at the same time to serve the continent, But matters have Been much confused, since you left us, We feell the loss of Captn. Landais in the government of the ship. Not one sermon has been suffer'd to be preach'd since he left us. The Rev. Mr. Watkin5 desires his respects to be paid to Your Excellence and wishes for liberty to perform duty as usuall, I hope this will find Your Excellence In health and am glad to hear that Mrs. Addams is well, and hope Your Excellence Will take the presant Matter In consideration and shall Remain most excellent sir your most obet. most Humble sert.

Benjan: Pierce6

N.B. pleas to Direct an answer to be left for Me with the Hon: Captn. Landais In L'orient.

Mr. Buckleys Respects.

RC (Adams Papers); endorsed: “recd June 6. and gave a Rect for it. John Adams.”


This letter was an effort to draw JA into the controversy between the officers and crew of the frigate Alliance and its appointed captain, John Paul Jones. Their dispute originally concerned wages and prize money, but by the date of this letter, owing to the machinations of Arthur Lee and Pierre Landais, it centered on the replacement of Jones by Landais. In his reply of 10 June (below), JA cited his lack of authority and refused to intervene, referring Pierce instead to Benjamin Franklin, who steadfastly upheld Jones' right to command. By the time JA's letter reached Pierce, however, Landais, in defiance of Franklin had taken control of the Alliance and would soon sail it to America (Morison, John Paul Jones , p. 274, 293–295). See also letters from Arthur Lee of 26 March, and John Bondfield of 12 April (both above); as well as Pierre Landais' letter to JA of 14 June and JA's reply of the 20th (both below).


For petitions of the officers and crew of the Alliance, variously dated from 12 April to 7 June, see Cal. Franklin Papers, A.P.S. , 4:428, 429, 430.


Accounts of the battle between the Bonhomme Richard and the Serapis generally agree that Landais and the Alliance did not come to Jones' aid, but rather sought to avoid involvement in the battle. In fact, reports indicated that the Alliance fired several broadsides into the Bonhomme Richard. Writing on 3 Oct. 1779 from Texel in the Netherlands, John Paul Jones reported to Benjamin Franklin on the Bonhomme Richard expedition and charged Landais with failure to follow orders, 368firing into the Bonhomme Richard, failure to support the Bonhomme Richard, and failure to pursue the enemy. Landais, who was called to Paris to face a court of inquiry into his conduct, replied to the charges in a letter of 30 Dec. 1779 to Benjamin Franklin (John Henry Sherburne, Life and Character of John Paul Jones, N.Y., 1851, p. 108–123; Cal. Franklin Papers, A.P.S. , 2:185; Morison, John Paul Jones , p. 235, 259). Doubting his authority to conduct such an inquiry, Benjamin Franklin made no judgment regarding Landais' conduct when he sent the minutes of the inquiry to Congress with his letter of 4 March (PCC, No. 82, I, f. 199–210). The minutes are in the Franklin Papers ( Cal. Franklin Papers, A.P.S. , 4:496).


Probably Joseph Adams and Stephen Hill, who informed Benjamin Franklin of their resignations as officers of the Alliance in a letter of 8 June 1779 (same, 4:421). Hill sailed for America with JA on La Sensible later the same month (JA, Diary and Autobiography , 2:382).


In early May 1779, JA had attended a service performed by Rev. John Watkins on the deck of the Alliance (same, 2:366).


Benjamin Pierce was likely a petty officer on the Alliance, while John Buckley, mentioned in the postscript, served as the frigate's 2d lieutenant (Calendar of the John Paul Jones Papers, Washington, 1903, p. 218). JA probably met both men as he waited to return to America in 1779.

To the President of Congress, No. 77, 2 June 1780 JA President of Congress Huntington, Samuel President of Congress To the President of Congress, No. 77, 2 June 1780 Adams, John President of Congress Huntington, Samuel President of Congress
To the President of Congress, No. 77

Paris, 1 June 1780. RC (PCC, No. 84, II, f. 90–95). printed: Wharton, ed., Dipl. Corr. Amer. Rev. , 3:752–758.

This letter, read in Congress on 5 Sept., contains John Adams' analysis of Lord George Germain's speech of 5 May opposing Gen. Conway's bill to end the American war, and is virtually identical to that of 28 May to Edmé Jacques Genet (above). The only significant difference between the two letters lies in the third and fourth paragraphs from the end of the letter, corresponding to the fifth paragraph from the end of the Genet letter (see descriptive note and note 17). The text of the two paragraphs, which should be compared with the corresponding paragraph in the Genet letter, is as follows:

“His Lordship Says, that the People would return to their allegiance, if they were not restrained by the Tyranny of those, who have got the Powers of Government. These are the Assemblies, Senates, Governors and Congress. Now what Power have any of those but what the People please to allow them? By what Engine is this Tyranny expressed? Is it by the Militia? In order to judge of this let us consider the Constitution of the Militia. The Militia is in fact the whole People, for by the Laws of every State, every Man from Sixteen to Sixty years of Age, belongs to the Militia, is obliged to be armed, to train and to march upon occasion or find a substitute. The officers are chosen by the Men? Except the General officers, who are appointed by the assemblies. It is this very Militia, that forms the Body of Voters, who annually choose the Members of Assembly and the Senates and Governors? Is it possible that these men should tyrannize over Men upon whom they are so entirely dependent? As well might it be reproached to his Lordship and his Collegues in Administration that they tyrannized over their Royal Master, who can displace them at his Pleasure. The Assemblies thus annually chosen by the People or Militia, annually choose the delegates in Congress, and have Power to recall them at Pleasure. Will the militia then obey either, assemblies or Congress in the Execution of tyrannical orders or any orders that are not generally agreable to them? The thing Speaks for 369itself. Is it the continental army then, that is the Instrument of their own Servitude and that of their Country. Every officer holds his Commission at the Pleasure of Congress. But his Lordship and his Collegues often represent the continental army as So Small and feeble, as to be unable, to make Head against the British Troops, and it is true that they are constantly employed in that service. And it is true that they are nothing in Comparison of the Militia. What would become of them then, if the Militia or any considerable Number of them was to join the British Troops?

“There has never been any part of the Continental Army, in more than three or four of the thirteen States at a Time, watching the Motions of the British army, and confining them to the Protection of their Men of War. What has there been then in the remaining Nine or ten states for an Instrument of Tyranny? This is too ridiculous to need too many Words.”

With the exception of the first paragraph and the closing, John Adams' reply to Germain's speech was printed in various American newspapers, appearing first in the Pennsylvania Packet of 19 December. No satisfactory explanation has been found for the letter's publication more than three months after it was received by Congress, unless the published text was taken from a duplicate that has not been found. In a letter of 19 Dec., James Lovell sent the article from the Packet to Abigail Adams, who secured its publication in the Independent Chronicle of 11 Jan. 1781 and the Continental Journal of the same date ( Adams Family Correspondence , 4:36–37, 59, 64). Among the other newspapers in which the piece appeared were the Virginia Gazette of 30 Dec. 1780, Providence Gazette of 17 Jan. 1781, and the Salem Gazette of 23 Jan. 1781.

RC (PCC, No. 84, II, f. 90–95.) printed: (Wharton, ed., Dipl. Corr. Amer. Rev. , 3:752–758.)