Papers of John Adams, volume 15

From John Thaxter, 12 August 1783 Thaxter, John Adams, John
From John Thaxter
Tuesday London 12th. August 1783.

On Saturday last Mr. Wm. Smith (Son of I. Smith Esqr of Boston) arrived in Town— He left Boston 7th. July, & all friends were 219then well— He has brought several Letters for you, which I think prudent to keep, ’till a private hand offers— The Letters from Mrs. A. Mr. Cranch & Dr. T. of Weymouth, I have not opened, as I knew the hand writing—1 In opening a large packet, for you I found four News papers &, unexpectedly, a Letter from Dr. G. of Jamaica Plains—2 This I read, & you will pardon me for retaining it, as it is rather particular— I have a Letter from Dr. Tufts, (who is this year in the Senate) in which he says, “had our Friend now with you, been here at the last Election, he would have had the Suffrages of nine tenths of the People. His Weight, Experience & Wisdom are really much wished for & greatly wanted—” What follows will be communicated another time. There were several Passengers with Mr. Smith, some of whom I have seen, & I have heard much the same language from them about this Friend.—3

Mr. Cranch, as you will see by the inclosed list of Representatives, is left out this year—4 But I know from good Authority that the Majority in favor of Thayer was very small— The Petition of Mr. Thos. Brattle for re-admission into the Commonwealth divided the old House before whom it came— Many of the Members thought favorably of the Petition & Petitioner, and were disposed to grant him the liberty of returning, but were overruled by a small Majority— Mr. Cranch was in the Minority, & he with the rest of the Gentlemen, who voted that the Prayer of the Petition might be granted, lost their Elections this Year in consequence of it. Much Pains had been taken to raise Suspicions & Prejudices against the Minority, & the Success has been so complete as to exclude almost the whole of them.—5 However, the Assembly want the Assistance of Mr. C. & repent his Absence— He is still in public business, that is in settling the old Treasurer’s Account.6

The 5. pr. Cent Duty in Massachusetts answers extremely well— Much Money is collected from it, & they appropriate it to the payment of the Interst of their particular debt.—7 Many Whalemen have been fitted out, as well as a Number of Vessells for the Cod & Mackerel Fisheries— They are very busy at Boston, & their Wharves resemble antient times. They have 8. or 10. different Flags flying there, & want only the Means of Remittance for a most flourishing Trade— These however are increasing dayly.—

The celebrated Mr. Otis [is dead.] He was killed at his Door in Andover by a [stroke of?] lightening in an instant. For 2. years past he had been very rational & began to do business— He had been rather irregular a few Months before his Death, but had become 220very steady again just before this fatal Accident—8 He was once venerated, & his Memory will be ever dear to those, who knew him once to be the Man of Worth & pitied him in his decline as the Wreck of a great Character.

Congress is now held at Princetown—

There is nothing new here, that I can learn— Every thing remains in statu quo.—

I propose to leave this the latter end of this week or early the beginning of the next—

I have only a moment to add, that I / am with an invariable Respect, / Sir, / your most hble Servant


RC (Adams Papers); addressed: “His Excellency / John Adams Esqr / &ca &c &c / at the Hague.”; internal address: “His Excellency John Adams Es[qr.] / &c &c &c”; endorsed: “Mr Thaxter 12 Aug. / 1783. London.” Some loss of text where the seal was removed.


AA to JA, 30 June ( AFC , 5:188–191); Richard Cranch to JA, 26 June (same, 5:185–188); and from Cotton Tufts, 26 June, above.


From William Gordon, 28 June, above.


Cotton Tufts’ letter to John Thaxter has not been found, but the “Friend” that both mention is JA.


The enclosure has not been found.


For the controversy over the return to Massachusetts of proscribed loyalist refugee Thomas Brattle, see JA to Oliver Wendell, 14 Nov. 1779, and note 2, vol. 8:289; and AA to JA, 20 June 1783, and note 5, AFC , 5:179–184.


The “old Treasurer” was Henry Gardner, who had died in Oct. 1782 ( Sibley’s Harvard Graduates , 12:560). In Nov. 1782, the Mass. General Court resolved to compensate Richard Cranch for his service on the committee to audit and examine the accounts of the treasury, but no further reference to Cranch’s service has been found (Mass., Acts and Laws , 1782–1783, p. 350).


For the tax that was adopted on 8 Nov. 1782 and went into effect on 10 Dec., with the proceeds to be used “for the Payment of the Interest of public Securities,” see same, p. 91–105.


James Otis, who long struggled with mental illness, died on 23 May 1783 at the Andover home of Isaac Osgood, where he resided as a convalescent for most of the last two years of his life. For a few weeks in March and April 1783, Otis, seeming to have recovered his health, returned to his own home in Boston. He argued a case before the Suffolk County Court of Common Pleas, served as moderator of the Boston town meeting, and received many visitors, but his condition soon began to deteriorate again. The excitement of a dinner with Gov. John Hancock and a large company of old friends so unsettled Otis that he went back to the Osgood farm voluntarily. Six weeks later he was struck by lightning ( Sibley’s Harvard Graduates , 11:247, 254, 282–286; Boston Independent Ledger, 26 May; William Tudor, The Life of James Otis, of Massachusetts, Boston, 1823, p. 481–486; Boston, 26th Report , p. 289).

To Robert R. Livingston, 13 August 1783 Adams, John Livingston, Robert R.
To Robert R. Livingston
Sir Paris August 13 1783.

Yesterday, I went to Court with Dr: Franklin, and presented to the Comte de Vergennes, our Project of a definitive Treaty, who told us he would examine it, and give us his sentiments upon it. It was 221Ambassadors day, and I had Conversation with a Number of Ministers, of which it is proper I should give you an Account.

The Dutch Ambassador Berkenrode, told me, that last Saturday the Comte de Vergennes, went to Paris, and dined with the Imperial Ambassador the Comte de Merci in Company with the Duke of Manchester, the Comte d’Aranda, the Prince Baratinskoy and Mr: Markoff, with their Secretaries. That after Dinner the Secretaries, in the Presence of all the Ministers, read over, compared & corrected the Definitive Treaties between France, and Great Britain; and between Spain and Great-Britain, and finally agreed upon both. So that they are now ready for Signature, by the Ministers of Great-Britain, France and Spain as Principals and by those of the two Imperial Courts, as Mediators.

The Duke of Manchester told me, that Mr: Hartley’s Courier who carried our Project of a Treaty, arrived in London last Saturday, and might be expected here, on next Saturday, on his return.

In the Evening, on my Return from Versailles, Mr: Hartley called upon me, at my house, and informed me, that he had just Receiv’d a Courier from Westminster, who had brought him the Ratification, of our Provisional Treaty under the Kings own hand and under the Great Seal of the Kingdom inclosed in a Silver Box, ornamented with golden Tossells, as usual, which he was ready to exchange to morrow morning. He informed me farther that he had receiv’d very satisfactory Letters from the Duke of Portland; and Mr: Fox, and the strongest assurances that the dispositions of his Court were very good to finish immediately, and to arrange all things upon the best Footing. That he had farther receiv’d, plenary, Authority to sign the Definitive Treaty, to morrow, or to Night if we pleased. that he had receiv’d a Draught, already formed, which he would shew us. We agreed, to go together to morrow Morning, to my Colleagues, and this morning we went out in Mr: Hartley’s Carriage, exchanged the Ratifications, and he produced to us, his Project of a definitive Treaty. It is the Provisional Treaty, in so many Words, without Addition or Diminution. it is only preceded with a preamble, which makes it a definitive Treaty. And he proposed to us, that all Matters of Discussion respecting Commerce, or other Things should be left to be discussed by Ministers to be mutually appointed to reside in London & Philadelphia. We told him that it had been proposed to us that the Ministers of the two Imperial Courts, should sign the Treaty as Mediators, and that we had answered, that we had no Objection to it. He said he had unanswerable ones. first, he had no 222Authority and could not obtain any, certainly under 10. days, nor probably ever. for, 2. it would he thought give great Offence to his Court, and they never would agree to it, that any Nation should interfere between them and America. 3. for his Part he was fully against it and should write his opinion to his Court. if he was about to marry his Daughter, or set up a Son in the World, after he was of age, he would never admit any of his Neighbours to intervene, and sign any Contract he might make, as Mediators. There was no need of it.

We told him there was no need of warmth upon the Occasion, or any pretence for his Court to take Offence. That it had been proposed to us that the Imperial Ministers should sign as Mediators. our answer had been that we had no Objection: that we were willing and ready to consent to it or even to request it. His Court had a right to Consent or Dissent as it thought proper. To be sure, the Mediation could not take place without their Consent. That he might write to his Court the proposition and if he receiv’d orders to Consent or Dissent, it would be equally well in the meantime we were ready to sign the definitive Treaty, either with, or without the Mediation. whenever the other Parties were ready to sign, according to his Project just receiv’d from his Court, that is simply a repetition of the definitive Treaty.

We have agreed to this because it is plain, that all Propositions for alterations in the provisional Articles will be an endless discussion, and that we must give more than we can hope to receive. The critical state of Things in England and at the Court of Versailles, and in all the rest of Europe, are pressing Motives to get this Business finished.

Mr: Hartley told us from his Court, that they had expected an American Minister at St: James’s these three Months, and that all further Matters might be there discussed. He also announced to us the Birth of another Princess, the fifteenth Child of the Queen, upon which Event he receiv’d our Congratulations which I hope Congress will approve, and repeat by their Minister in London, for these Personal and family Compliments, are more attended to in Courts and have greater effects than may be imagined.

I lament very much that we cannot obtain an Explanation, of the Article respecting the Refugees, and that respecting Debts: but it is plain we must give more than they are worth for such Explanations: And what is of more decisive Importance, we must make a long 223Delay and put infinitely greater Things at Hazard by this Means, even to purchase an Alteration at a dear Rate.

With great Regard, I have the Honour to be, / Sir, your most obedient and most humble / Servant

John Adams1

RC in JQA’s hand (PCC, No. 84, V, f. 149–152); internal address: “R. R. Livingstone Esqr: / Secretary of foreign Affairs.” LbC (Adams Papers); APM Reel 108.


Closing and signature in JA’s hand.