Papers of John Adams, volume 15

To William Gordon, 10 September 1783 Adams, John Gordon, William
To William Gordon
Sir Paris Sepr. 10. 1783

I have recd yours of 28 June & thank you for the information it contains— In all domestick Disputes I wish our countrymen, may moderate their passions, & manifest as much mutual forbearance as possible. I dread the course of our elections if parties prevail. Every publick Man is in a dangerous & perplexed Situation at present, & as few obstacles should be thrown in his way & as much Candour & Indulgence shewn him as possible. I have had too many Obstructions contrived for me, & although I have always got the better of them, hitherto, I have felt the smart of them too sensibly, not to wish every other well meaning man excused from them.

There will be a variety of foreign interests in our Country, & We must be upon our Guard against them all. We must all think seriously of preserving our Union, which is of indispensible Importance to Us.

I am sorry my Friend Dalton declines going to Congress. More 278depends upon good Men at that great Wheel, than our People at the Northward are aware. That is the principal Place to guard against foreign Projects, which will address themselves sometimes to aristocratical, sometimes to democratical, & sometimes to military Passions & Prejudices. Nothing will come amis to carry a Point. Is the[. . . .]r1 that shoestring stinginess even may be stimulated, to get every honest man out of Europe, & leave only [. . .] at a certain Court.— Timeo danaos2 The great Point has been & will be to chicane honest Men out o[f Europ]e. I don’t care how soon it prevails against me, but I would have the rest preserved & others sent.— I have [s]een so many of the curses of low cunning & mean Craft, that I begin to think Homer wrong in not damning to Infamy the Character of Ulisses.

I hope that private honesty will not be violated in any debt, & that as much moderation may be shewn towards the Tories as possible. The Stipulations should be sacred, & the Recommendations at least treated with decency & seriously considered. I cannot help saying I wish they could be complied with.— We could not obtain the Peace without them.— When I agreed, that Congress should recommend, I was sincere, I then wished & still wish that the Recommendations may be agreed to. This is unpopular no doubt, But Treaties are solemn Things, in which there should be no mental Reservations. When N. York & Penobscot are evacuated, the People may be cooler.— It will be an ugly Bone of Contention.— I always dreaded it, & would have avoided it, if it had been possible, but it was not.—

Congress have resolved, that your humble Servant, Dr F & Mr J make a Treaty of Commerce with England. I hope they will resolve that the same Men should make others with Denmark, Portugal & the two Empires. How long one or the other may detain me I know not.— F. is trying to get appointed alone to treat with Denmark & Portugal, & unfair means have been used to assist him. But I hope he will be disappointed. I am persuaded a bad Treaty will be made if he is not.— He is not too wise or knowing, not to stand in need of the Advice & Reflections & Information of others. When we are all here, why should We not be all employed?— Business has not been better done by him alone, than by others alone; nor by him alone, than by him in Conjunction with others. Jay & I have no Interest, our Salaries are no larger, our Care is more & our Expenses more for being in more Business. But this smuggling of Treaties is intended, to deprive Us of Advantages that We should endeavour to 279secure. The carrying Trade should be cherished by every fair means, & this will be hurt by the Treaties if they are not more attended to than they will be by Dr F. if he makes them alone.

Your Friend & Servant.

Tr (NN:Gerry-Townsend Papers). The RC of this letter has not been found, but William Gordon copied it into his 24 Dec. letter to Elbridge Gerry. The version of the letter printed here is taken from that source. Some loss of text where the seal was removed.


Approximately three words missing.


JA means that the French would seek to have Benjamin Franklin left as the only American diplomat in Europe so that they could retain their influence over American policy. See JA’s 8 Sept. letter to Elbridge Gerry, above, for his use of the full quotation from Virgil.

To James Warren, 10 September 1783 Adams, John Warren, James
To James Warren
My dear Friend, Paris Septr. 10. 1783

I received with great Pleasure yours of 24. June. The Approbation of my Countrymen is a great Pleasure and Support to me but that approbation does not extend I fancy so far as you and several others seem to imagine. if it does I am unfit for their Purposes, having neither Health nor Patience, for the arduous and trying Duties of their first Magistrate. an honour too high and a situation too delicate for me.

A Residence in the Massachusetts is the desire of my soul, and the only one where I can enjoy Life. I still hope to pass, my Evening, hastening on a pace in that Country: But Congress have tied me again to Europe by a new Commission so honourable to me, as to have really touched my heart.— Upon a very long Letter of mine they have founded this Commission and have owned it, in their Journals.1 Whoever shall compare the Letter and Commission together, will own that it does me infinite honour, and ought to silence forever every Complaint on my part for what is past. I am now indifferent who goes to England, but still think the public Good requires that some one should go.

We shall do our Utmost Endeavour to Secure to Mass. & N. Hampshire a Way to Market for their ships through the West India Islands. But N. Hampshire and Rhode Island too, should support in Congress, those Men to whom if to any body they must be indebted, for this Benefit, and not Sacrifice them to the Vanity of another, who will take little Pains about it, who is afraid to think in the day, 280for fear he should not sleep at night. whose whole Time and thoughts S[eem] to be taken up, with little clandestime Projects to gratify his private Vanity and Secure to himself, and his Name exclusive Reputation, at the Expence even of others who do real Business for the Benefit of the public and who think and act wholly for its good.

our Navigation will be materially affected, by our Treaties with Denmark and Portugal, which Dr Franklin has been secretly contriving to get the exclusive Management of, as he did that of sweeden. N.H. & R. Island shd be upon their Guard, and join others in this Business who think a little about it.—

Mr Dana will soon be with you— He can give you very entertaining and instructive Histories not of Voyages and Travels alone, but of Negotiations. His defeat, comes from the same source, very secret and cunning, but very malicious to every Man and every Project, calculated for the public Good. one Man seems to have a positive Spight against every public service, that he does not exclusively perform himself.—2 He opposes it and persecutes the Agent in it with a Malice and Rancour that is astonishing. I could have formed no Idea, that Jealousy Envy and Vanity could have gone such Lengths.

I think our Country should form Treaties with the two Empires, as well as Denmark and Portugal. to these should be added, Morocco, Algiers, Tunis & Tripoli—perhaps too the Kings of Sardinia, and Naples. one Commission, may be enough for all these Purposes, in order to save Expence. But this Commission ought not to be given to one alone at Paris when three are obliged to reside there on another Negotiation. We should be all joined in it, and When We have compleated the Business We may all go home.

My best Respects and kindest Regards to your Family. My Friend Mr Otis, Seems to have been permitted to see the Building finished which he framed, and then taken away in a manner equally happy and distinguished.— He was a favourite of Nature in his Genius and in his Death.— The History of our Country I hope will do Justice to this great Character.

With great Esteem, your Frd & sert

J. Adams

RC (MHi:Warren-Adams Coll.); internal address: “General Warren.”; endorsed: “Mr J. Adams / Lettr Sepr 10. 83.” LbC (Adams Papers); APM Reel 107. Text lost due to a torn manuscript has been supplied from the LbC.


See JA’s letters to the president of Congress of 5 Feb., and note 1, vol. 14:238–245, and of 8 Sept. (first), and note 2, above.


Both JA and Francis Dana suspected 281that Benjamin Franklin had connived with the Comte de Vergennes to shift responsibility for the negotiation of a Russo-American commercial treaty from Dana at St. Petersburg to Franklin at Paris. See JA’s letter to Dana of 24 March, vol. 14:358–359, and Dana’s letter to JA of [1 June], above.