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Browsing: Adams Family Correspondence, Volume 5


This foot note contained in document ADMS-04-05-02-0157
13. No JA letter of any date accusing Gov. John Hancock, the Rev. Samuel Cooper, or the prominent attorney and former superior court judge James Sullivan of being in the pay of France has been identified, and it seems as unlikely to the editors as it did to AA that JA would ever have made such a charge.
Yet the Rev. Cooper, who died on 29 Dec., had in fact, in Jan. 1779, accepted the offer of an annual stipend of £200 sterling from Joseph de Valnais, the French consul in Boston, to promote the French alliance through his speeches and newspaper writings. This stipend was approved by Conrad Alexandre Gérard, the French minister to the United States, and then by the Comte de Vergennes, who continued it until Cooper's death. Cooper later informed the French of the contents of letters written by Arthur Lee and JA to Cooper's good friend, Samuel Adams (William C. Stinchcombe, The American Revolution and the French Alliance, Syracuse, 1969, p. 124). According to his biographer, Charles Akers, Rev. Cooper sincerely believed that the alliance and French leadership were in the best interests of the United States.
As AA suggests here, John Temple, the son-in-law of James Bowdoin, had become suspicious of Cooper's strong pro-French sympathies, and either Temple or his friends began attacking Cooper in Boston's newspapers in Jan. 1782 for being too political a clergyman. By the spring of that year, James Sullivan emerged as a defender of both Cooper and James Bowdoin's political rival, Gov. Han• { 290 } cock, against Temple.
Once the question of whether the American Commissioners would observe Congress' instructions that they follow the French lead in the peace negotiations with Great Britain became a public issue, the acceptance of a stipend from the French crown would have seemed to many Americans to be disloyalty to the interests of the United States. Because JA as Commissioner refused to observe these instructions, he and those holding like views would certainly have been dismayed to learn that Cooper was taking French money. Apparently without any such suspicion on JA 's part, but after warnings from William Gordon to JA in Sept. 1782, that Cooper had become “Franklified & Frenchified” (Stinchcombe, p. 124), the old warm relationship between JA and Dr. Cooper was cooling by 1783. Neither man, however, would acknowledge this alteration.
Dr. Cooper died without the knowledge of his pension being revealed to his countrymen. No evidence has been produced that either John Hancock or James Sullivan was ever a French pensioner. Cooper, however, so strongly supported Hancock that he was dubbed the governor's “Prime Minister” in the early 1780s. And James Sullivan, one of Cooper's stoutest defenders, wrote a laudatory obituary of the pastor for the Boston newspapers. See Charles W. Akers, The Divine Politician, Boston, 1982, p. 278–281, 290, and chaps. 21–22; Stinchcombe, p. 67, 113, and chap. 9.