Papers of John Adams, volume 15

To Robert R. Livingston, 7 July 1783 Adams, John Livingston, Robert R.
To Robert R. Livingston
Sir, Paris. 7th. July. 1783.1

We cannot as yet obtain from Mr: Hartley or his Principals an explicit consent to any one proposition whatever: Yet England & France, & England & Spain are probably agreed, and Holland I suppose must comply. Our last resource must be to say we are ready to sign the Provisional Treaty, totidem verbis, as the Definitive Treaty. I think it is plain that the British Ministry do not intend to sign any Treaty till Parliament rises. There are such dissentions in the Cabinet, that they apprehend a Treaty laid before Parliament, if it did not obtain advantages, of which they have no hopes, would furnish materials to overthrow them. A new Administration is talked of under Lord Temple.—2

The West-India Commerce is now the Object wh: interests us the most nearly. At dinner with the Duc de la Vauguyon, on Saturday last, he told me, that he believed the Commerce between the French West-India Islands & the United-States, wd. be confined to Ships built in France & navigated by French Seamen. So then, Monsieur le duc, said I laughing, you have adopted the ideas of the British Navigation Act. But what if the United-States shd. adopt them too, and make a law, that no Commerce shd. be carrd. on with any West-India Islands, French, English, Spanish, Dutch, or Danish, but in Ships built in America & navigated with American 86Seamen? We can import Sugar from Europe . . . But give me leave to tell you, that this Trade can never be carrd. on by the French: Their vessells are all large and navigated by a great number of Seamen, & your navigators are too slow. The Trade itself was only proffitable to us as a System—and little vessells, with a few hands, run away, at any season of the year, from any Creek or River, with a multitude of little Articles collected in haste.— Your Merchants & Mariners have neither the patience to content themselves with much & long labor, & dangerous voyages for small proffit—nor have they the œconomy, nor can they navigate vessells with so few hands.— “Aye, but we think,” says the Duke, “if we don’t try, we shall never learn to do these things as well & as cheap as you.” The Duke told me, some days before, that he had had a great deal of Conversation with the Comte de Vergennes, & he found he had a great many good ideas of Commerce. The Comte himself told me a few weeks ago, “in our regulations of the Commerce, between our Islands & you, we must have regard to our Shipping & our nurseries of Seamen for our Marine, for, smiling politely enough, without a Marine,” says he, “we cannot go to your Succour”— In short, France begins to grow, for a moment, avaritious of Navigation & Seamen: But it is certain, that neither the form of Government, nor the national Character, can possibly admit of great Success in it . . . Navigation is so dangerous a business & requires so much patience, & produces so little proffit, (among nations who understand it best, & have the best advantages for it, where Property is most secure, Lawsuits soonest & cheapest ended, & by fixed certain laws,) that the French can never interfere much, with the Dutch or Americans, in Ship-building or Carrying-Trade. If any French Merchants ever begin to carry on this Commerce, between America & the Islands, they will break to peices very soon, and then some new plan must be adopted . . . The English, for aught I know, will make a similar law, that the Communication, between us & their Islands, shall be carried on in British-built Ships, or Ships built in Canada & Nova-Scotia, & navigated by British Seamen. In this case we must try what we can do with the Dutch & Danes— But the French & English will endeavor to persuade them to the same policy, for the Duc de la Vauguyon told me, he tho’t it a common Tie, (Lien commun.) In this they will not succeed, & we must make the most we can of the Dutch friendship, for luckily the Merchants and Regency of Amsterdam had too much wit to exclude us from their Islands by the Treaty. Happily Congress will have a Dutch Minister, with whom they may consult upon this 87matter, as well as any others—but I should think it would not be convenient to invite an English or a French Minister to be present at the Consultation.—

I am at a loss, Sir, to guess what propositions, made to us, Congress have been informed of, which they had not learned from us. None have been made to us. The Dutch Ambassadors did once propose a meeting to us, & had it at my house. Dr: Franklin came, but Mr. Jay did not, and Mr: Laurens was absent. The Ambassadors desired to know, whether we had power to enter into any engagements, provided France, Spain, & Holland should agree to any, in support of the Armed-Neutrality.3 We shewed them the Resolution of Congress of the 5th: October 1780. and told them that Mr: Dana had been since vested with a particular Commission to the same effect. We never heard any thing further about it. Not seeing, at the time, any probability that any thing would come of this, nor intending to do any thing of any Consequence in it, if we should hear further of it, without the further orders of Congress, we did not think it necessary to write any thing about it, at least till it should put on a more serious appearance.— If the Comte de Mercy’s dinner, to which we are to be invited with the Comte de Vergennes, should produce any Insinuations on this Subject, (which I do not however expect,) we shall inform you, & request the orders of Congress.—4

With great respect, I have the honor to be, Sir, / Your Most Obedient / huml: Servt:

John Adams.5

RC in Charles Storer’s hand (PCC, No. 84, IV, f. 444–447); internal address: “Robert. R. Livingston Esqr: / Secretary of State for Foreign-Affairs.” LbC (Adams Papers); APM Reel 108.


In the Letterbook is the notation by John Thaxter: “July 11th. delivered to Capt. Barney.”


George Nugent Temple Grenville, the 2d Earl Temple, recently had served as lord lieutenant of Ireland and would play a significant role in the downfall of the Fox-North coalition in December ( DNB ; to the president of Congress, 14 Dec., note 4, below). However, neither the source nor the nature of the rumors that JA mentions has been found.


JA refers to Livingston’s 31 May letter to the commissioners. There Livingston wrote that he had learned “that important Propositions have been made you from Holland.” The proposal was that to advance Anglo-Dutch peace negotiations the United States should accede to the Armed Neutrality and sign either a quadrilateral treaty supporting neutral rights with France, Spain, and the Netherlands or, alternatively, a bilateral agreement with the Netherlands. JA was mystified by Livingston’s reference to the proposal, which had originated with Engelbert François van Berckel, because neither the Dutch request nor a subsequent meeting with the Dutch peace negotiators regarding it had been mentioned in any letter from JA or his colleagues. In fact, Livingston had learned of the Dutch initiative from extracts of letters written by C. W. F. Dumas to a number of correspondents, including JA, that Dumas sent to Livingston in March. For the initial proposal, the commissioners’ response to it, and Congress’ decision on 12 June to revoke the power of its ministers in Europe to accede to the Armed Neutrality, 88see vol. 14:208–211, 217–219, 512–514. In a letter written to Livingston on 27 July, Benjamin Franklin, John Jay, and Henry Laurens said essentially the same thing about the Dutch proposals that JA does here (Wharton, Dipl. Corr. Amer. Rev. , 6:600).


For the dinner meeting on 9 Aug., attended by neither the American commissioners nor the Dutch peace negotiators, see JA’s letters to Livingston of 3 July, and note 10, above, and his first letter of 13 Aug., below.


In JA’s hand.

From Wilhem & Jan Willink, Nicolaas & Jacob van Staphorst, and De la Lande & Fynje, 7 July 1783 Staphorst, Nicolaas & Jacob van (business) Willink, Wilhem & Jan (business) La Lande & Fynje, de (business) Adams, John
From Wilhem & Jan Willink, Nicolaas & Jacob van Staphorst, and De la Lande & Fynje
Sir Amsterdam 7 July 1783

We received at three ô clock the honour of your Excellencies Esteemed favour of 5 inst, in consequence of whch. we assure Mr. Grand to provide him in a Month time with one Million and a half Livres on acct. of the United States in consequence of the respected orders of his Excellency R. Morris Esqr Super Intendant of Finance, part of whch. will remit him the first mail the 10 inst. and we beg Leave to assure your Excellency of our uninterrupted endeavours to promote the Succes of the Loan, whch. gains daily confidence, Whch. is the chief point we aim at, and have no doubt but by acting with prudence and management, we’ll become Able to Satisfy fully your Excellencys expectation in Course of time1

We remain with respectfull regard / Sir / Your Excellency’s Most / Humle & Obedt Servants

Wilhem & Jan Willink Nichs. & Jacob van Staphorst dela Lande & fynje

Mr. Grand advice us the expedition of the Signed 2003 obligs. when received by us we inform your Excellency of it

RC (Adams Papers); internal address: “To his Excellency John Adams / Esqr Paris.”


For the consortium’s remittance of 10 July, see JA’s letter to Robert Morris of that date, and note 1, below.

From Edmund Jenings, [ca. 8 July 1783] Jenings, Edmund Adams, John
From Edmund Jenings
Sir [London, ca. 8 July 1783]1

I have reciv’d your Excellencys Letters of the 16th of May2 & the 9th of June— I had written to your Excellency oftener if I had not my Doubts whether you were at Paris, imagining that when Mr Laurens left that Place, all business had been at an End, & that you had returned too.


on my Arrival here I begged the Gentleman who had caused certain writings to be published to return me the original work. He told me could not do it, the Mode of setting things for the Press requiring that it should be cut into Peices for the distribution of them into several hands at a Time. all that is not published He has returnd me, consisting of two Sheets. I sent you regularly those, which have Seen the Light3

The Treaty with Holland has been published six weeks it is subjoined to a new publication of the Constitutions the whole makes a Handsome Volume in Octo Consisting of a print of Genl Washington a Dedication Preface, American State Papers, including the Declaration of Rights non importation Agreements, Last Petition to the King Declaration of Independance articles of Confederation &c, the Constitutions of the several States Treaty of Amity & Commerce with France, Treaty of Alliance, Treaty of Amity & Commerce with the States General Convention between the States General & the United States, a Copy of the Provisional Articles signed at Paris, & a list of Presidents of Congress.4 If I can get a good Conveyance I will send it to your Excellency together with a Pamphlet published by Ld Sheffield, but supposed to be composed by a Junto formed by Dean Arnold Wentworth Skene &c &c5 and at the same time I shall enclose a Book published by Govr Pownal—entitled a Memorial to the Sovereigns of America, written in the same Manner as a former Memorial was. & containing as that did matter, that deserves attention.— it is sent by the Author to the Abbé Needham at Brussells to be translated into French for fear that &c.6

your Excellency askd me several Questions with respect to this Country & the Definitive Treaty. I have sent to Mr Ridley. a News paper which contains the Debate in Parliament last Week.7 in which I think may be seen the true Temper of this Country towards America, I shall convey several of these Papers Abroad, & our Friends will Act Accordingly

I cannot think that the Ministry will Stand as it is whether it stands or not is of little Consequence to America, there being hardly a Man in England who has any Idea of the true Manner in which this Country ought to Conduct herself towards the United States. Burkes Policy & Idea of Trade prevail throughout & the Seeds of Dissention seem to be sewn between the Father & Son. Fox will never be forgiven for the part He has Acted, He Knew He was not liked by the Father, & therefore paid his Courts to the Son.8 the chance of the Sons succeeding to the Throne may give Fox weight 90with his Colleagues & He may continue in place but will not have any Influence, unless He proposes desperate Measures, & affects to dispise the people of which He has already given such Strong Proofs that His Popularity is gone. Lord North is looked up to by all the needy people for He disposes of almost all the places & by consequence He has the chief Wieght.

How goes on Parties in America I Hope there are none yet formed, but I see much personal Invective in many Quarters. This may lead to Mischief

Talking of personal Matters I must inform Your Excellency that I have written a long Letter to Mr B in answer to an Extraordinary one of the 28th of Janry last.9 if He shews it to Mr L it will bring on an Eclaircissement.

I am with the greatest Respect / Sir / Your Excellencys / Most Obedient Humble Servant

Edm: Jenings

RC (Adams Papers); internal address: “His Excellency / John Adams Esqr”; endorsed in an unknown hand: “Mr. Jenings.”; notation: “June 1783.” Filmed at [June 1783].


This date is derived from Jenings’ letter of 22 July, below, in which he provides a brief account of the content of this letter and indicates that it was sent “about a fortnight ago.”


Vol. 14:484.


JA had asked Jenings to retrieve the manuscript copies of his “Letters from a Distinguished American” in his letter of 9 June, above. For the copies that he was able to recover, Nos. 11 and 12, see vol. 9:578–588. Both bear evidence of Jenings’ editorial efforts and provide an indication of his probable contributions to the ten letters that were published.


William Jackson, comp., The Constitutions of the Several Independent States of America, London, 1783. For Jackson and the origins of the publication, see vol. 14:375.


John Baker Holroyd, Lord Sheffield, Observations on the Commerce of the American States with Europe and the West Indies, London, 1783. For the significance of the pamphlet, see Jenings’ letter of 3 June, and note 6, above. There is no indication that the loyalists Silas Deane, Benedict Arnold, Paul Wentworth, or Philip Skene played any part in its creation.


The pamphlet by Thomas Pownall, former governor of Massachusetts, was entitled A Memorial Addressed to the Sovereigns of America, London, 1783. As Jenings indicates, it was a follow-up to his earlier pamphlet, A Memorial, Most Humbly Addressed to the Sovereigns of Europe, on the Present State of Affairs, between the Old and New World, London, 1780. For JA’s publication of a revised version of Pownall’s first Memorial, in French and English, see vol. 9:157–221. Pownall’s first pamphlet called on the “Sovereigns of Europe,” including George III, to recognize that a new system had arisen in America and to take steps to incorporate it into the European economic and political systems. The 1783 pamphlet, on the other hand, offered advice to the “Sovereigns of America” on fulfilling the promise of its new system so as to “become a Nation to whom all Nations will come; a Power whom all the Powers of Europe will court to Civil and Commercial Alliances; a People to whom the Remnants of all ruined People will fly, whom all the oppressed and injured of every nation will seek to for refuge” (p. 138). John Turberville Needham translated the 1780 pamphlet, but there is no record of a French edition of Pownall’s later effort (vol. 12:28). For JA’s November visit to Pownall’s residence at Richmond Hill outside London, see Pownall’s letter of 30 Nov., and note 1, below.


There is no way to know to which of the debates in Parliament Jenings refers. On 24 91and 27 June the Commons considered compensation for loyalists, but the rhetoric was no more hostile to the United States than one would expect in such debates ( Parliamentary Hist. , 23:1041–1045, 1050–1058).


Jenings refers to the controversy over creating an establishment for George, Prince of Wales, who would come of age on 12 Aug. 1783. The issue did not bring down the government, but it did highlight the conflict between Charles James Fox and George III. Among the many reasons that the king despised Fox was his friendship with the Prince of Wales. He believed that his son’s profligate and dissipated lifestyle and resulting indebtedness were owing primarily to Fox’s influence. Fox, as the prince’s advocate, proposed a salary of £100,000, but George III refused any sum above £50,000, the amount ultimately provided (Cannon, Fox-North Coalition , p. 95–99). For the 23 June debate in the House of Commons over this issue, see Parliamentary Hist. , 23:1030–1041; and for a later comment by AA on the prince’s debts, see AFC , 7:180.


Edward Bridgen’s letter of 28 Jan. and Edmund Jenings’ brief reply of 4 Feb. and much longer one of 30 June comprise the final sixteen pages of Jenings’ 37-page pamphlet, The Candor of Henry Laurens, Esq.; Manifested by His Behaviour to Mr. Edmund Jenings, London, 1783 (from Jenings, 3 June, and note 2, above). Bridgen indicated in his letter that he initially thought William Lee to be the author of the anonymous letter at the center of Jenings’ dispute with Henry Laurens, a belief that he considered Jenings to have confirmed by his silence. Lee had since convinced Bridgen that he was not the author, but Bridgen’s original statements to the contrary had placed him in a bad light, and he blamed Jenings for the situation in which he found himself. More important, according to Bridgen, “it seems that you told Mr. Laurens, that it was at my request that you shewed the Anonymous Letter to Mr. A. Be pleased to refer to my letter on that subject, and you will find yourself mistaken.” In his replies Jenings denied ever having implied that Lee was the author and questioned why Bridgen would have expected Jenings not to send a copy of the anonymous letter to JA when Bridgen had already sent one to Laurens. The gist of Jenings’ replies was that he blamed Bridgen for all of the misunderstandings regarding the anonymous letter and thus for the dispute between himself and Laurens. Jenings indicated on the final page of his pamphlet that “to this Letter [that of 30 June], which was delivered to Mr. Bridgen’s servant, at his door, no answer has been given.”