4. Lovell here touches in a very gingerly way on recent actions of Congress that were to have a profound effect on JA's diplomatic career and to embitter him permanently toward those who, in the course of a brief but intense struggle in Congress, had brought them about.
These were, of course, the alterations in his instructions of 1779 as sole minister for peace, whereby he was now empowered to accept a truce under the proffered mediation of Russia and Austria; was ordered “ultimately to govern” himself in everything by the “advice and opinion” of the French court: and, to top off these (to JA at least) degrading instructions, was deprived of his exclusive powers as peace minister by being joined in a commission with four others, namely Jay, Franklin, Laurens, and Jefferson. These and sundry other modifications of the 1779 instructions debated and voted in the first half of June 1781 were the product of a diplomatic strategem that had been initiated months earlier in the French foreign office and was effected by La Luzerne in Philadelphia through his influence with certain members of Congress who, for varying reasons, held pro-French views and/or distrusted JA's independent views and conduct (his “Stiffness and Tenaciousness of Temper,” as John Witherspoon phrased it; Burnett, Letters of Members
, 7:116). Among them were John Sullivan, James Madison, and John Witherspoon. The circumstances of this maneuver and its sequels are repeatedly touched on in JA's Diary and Autobiography
; see text and notes in that work at 3:3–4
; see also above, vol. 3:231–232
. The long series of motions and votes in Congress, as recorded in its Secret Journal, 6–15 June, are given in convenient sequence in Wharton, ed., Dipl. Corr. Amer. Rev.
, 4:471–481; the drafts and notes of Madison relating to these proceedings are printed in his
Papers, ed. Hutchinson
, 3:133–134, 147–155, with valuable editorial commentary. John Witherspoon's remarkable speech in Congress on 11 (or possibly 9) June should also be consulted (Burnett, ed., Letters of Members
, 6:115–118); it appears unexceptionably fair-minded toward all the parties in question or contention, including JA. However, later statements by Witherspoon throw a different and possibly sinister light on his and his supporters' motives. William C. Stinchcombe in The American Revolution and the French Alliance
, Syracuse, 1969, p. 166–168, has discussed this difficult question acutely. Irving Brant, in his Madison
, vol. 2, ch. 10 (“Clipping Diplomatic Wings”) has furnished a lucid and detailed narrative account of what happened in Congress respecting peace policy at this time. But he proceeds on the assumption that nothing Madison did could be wrong, and Stinchcombe's point of view throughout his chapter dealing with this subject is more objective. Another recent account, based on French as well as American sources, is in Morris, Peacemakers
, p. 210–217. Morris observes that the “stakes” of Vergennes' moves at this time “were nothing less than the control of America's foreign policy.... Lacking all the facts and relying upon the assurances of La Luzerne, the innocent and the corrupted together marched meekly to the slaughter” (p. 210, 213). See also below, Lovell to AA, 13 July
, and note 7