Papers of John Adams, volume 12

From Benjamin Franklin, 12 October 1781 Franklin, Benjamin JA From Benjamin Franklin, 12 October 1781 Franklin, Benjamin Adams, John
From Benjamin Franklin
Passy, Oct. 12. 1781 Sir

I received the Letter your Excellency did me the honour of writing to me the 4th. Instant.


I have never known a Peace made, even the most advantageous, that was not censured as inadequate, and the Makers condemn’d as injudicious or corrupt. Blessed are the Peace makers, is I suppose to be understood in the other World: for in this they are more frequently cursed. Being as yet rather too much attached to this World, I had therefore no Ambition to be concerned in fabricating this Peace: and know not how I came to be put into the Commission. I esteem it however an honour to be joined with you in so important a Business; and if the Execution of it shall happen in my Time, which I hardly expect, shall endeavour to assist in discharging the Duty according to the best of my Judgment.

Immediately on receipt of the Commission and Instructions, I communicated them, as directed, to this Court. The Steps that have been taken in the Mediation were verbally communicated to me, but as yet I have had no Copies given me of the Papers. I ask’d if it was not proper to communicate to the Ministers of the Mediating Powers, the Commission of Congress impowering us to accept their Mediation; and was advised to post-pone it a little. I will endeavour on Tuesday next, to obtain for you a Copy of the Answer of the British Court which you desire, and will consult on the Propriety of mentioning our Commission in the Publick Papers.

I have heard nothing of Mr Jefferson. I imagine the Story of his being taken Prisoner is not true. From his original Unwillingness to leave America when I was sent hither, I think his Coming doubtful, unless he had been made aquainted with and consented to the appointment.

I hope your health is fully established. I doubt not but you have the Advice of skilful Physicians, otherwise I should presume to offer mine, which would be, though you find yourself well, to take a few Doses of Bark, by way of fortifying your Constitution, and preventing a Return of your Fever.

With the greatest Respect, I have the honour to be, Sir, Your Excellency’s most obedient and most humble Servant B Franklin

PS. Oct 16 1781. I have just received the Honour of yours dated the 18th.1 which I will answer per next Post. In the mean time will concert with Mr. Grand some means of Paying the Bills of which you send me a List, and take my chance for the Ability of paying other Demands upon me: in which God help me. Not finding these Bills in any of your preceding Lists made me think I had no previous advice of them. I inclose a Copy of a Letter from Capt Jackson 13 to me,2 I have a Copy of another from Mr. Searle to Mr. Jay of the same Tenour. I shall send it in my next.3

RC and enclosure (Adams Papers); endorsed: “Dr Franklin Oct. 12. 1781. ansd. 22.” For the enclosure, see note 2.


Franklin clearly is referring to JA’s letter of 10 Oct., above.


William Jackson’s letter from La Coruña, Spain, was dated 26 Sept. (Franklin, Papers , 35:529–531). According to Jackson, Alexander Gillon, “with a degree of baseness which would sully the blackest Character on Record, has violated his contract with Colonel Laurens in every instance,” and thus the bills of exchange that Gillon had “fraudulently obtained” during the South Carolina’s voyage from the Netherlands were void. Jackson inclosed a list of those bills and reported that Gillon had detained him on board the South Carolina to prevent him from going ashore and informing the merchants that the bills were invalid. For Gillon’s contract, which required him to proceed to Philadelphia via the northern route around the British Isles, see vol. 11:293–296. By the time the enclosure arrived, JA already had received a letter from Jackson, also dated 26 September. There Jackson again criticized Gillon’s conduct, but was more concerned about what he should do with CA, whose care had been entrusted to him. JA replied on 20 Oct. and left it to Jackson’s judgment as to the best means to facilitate CA’s return to America ( Adams Family Correspondence , 4:219–220, 228–229).


See Franklin’s letter of 22 Oct., note 2, below.