Papers of John Adams
GREGG L. LINT, ASSOCIATE EDITOR
ROBERT J. TAYLOR, EDITOR
CELESTE WALKER, ASSISTANT EDITOR
Volume 6 • March–August 1778
THE BELKNAP PRESS OF HARVARD UNIVERSITY PRESS
CAMBRIDGE, MASSACHUSETTS, AND LONDON, ENGLAND
Copyright © 1983 by the Massachusetts Historical Society · All rights reserved
Printed in the United States of America
Funds for editing The Adams Papers were originally furnished by Time, Inc., on behalf of Life, to the Massachusetts Historical Society, under whose supervision the editorial work is being done. Further funds were provided by a grant from the Ford Foundation to the National Archives Trust Fund Board in support of this and four other major documentary publications. In common with these and many other enterprises like them, The Adams Papers has continued to benefit from the guidance and cooperation of the National Historical Publications and Records Commission, chaired by the Archivist of the United States, which from 1975 to 1982 also provided this enterprise with its major financial support. Important additional funds were supplied by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and The J. Howard Pew Freedom Trust through the Founding Fathers Papers, Inc.
Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data (Revised)
Adams, John, Pres. U.S., 1735–1826.
Papers of John Adams.
(The Adams papers: Series III, General correspondence and other papers of the Adams statesmen)
Vols. 3– edited by R. J. Taylor, G. L. Lint, and C. Walker.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
1. United States—Politics and government—Colonial period, ca. 1600–1775—Sources. 2. Massachusetts—Politics and government—Colonial period, ca. 1600–1775—Sources. 3. United States—Politics and government—Revolution, 1775–1783—Sources. 4. United States—Politics and government—1783–1809—Sources. 5. Presidents—United States—Correspondence. 6. Adams, John, Pres. U.S., 1735–1826. I. Taylor, Robert Joseph, 1917–. II. Title. III. Series: Adams papers: Series III, General correspondence and other papers of the Adams statesmen.
E302.A26 1977 973.4'4 77–4707.
ISBN 0-674-65441-2 (v. 1–2)
ISBN 0-674-65442-0 (v. 3–4)
ISBN 0-674-65443-9 (v. 5–6)
Descriptive List of Illustrations
Benjamin Franklin and Arthur Lee to Vergennes, 10 April 1778 26
Written two days after John Adams arrived in Paris, this letter was the first notification to the French government of his arrival. On the 11th, together with Franklin and Lee, Adams went to Versailles, where he was received politely by Vergennes. On 8 May, Adams was presented to Louis XVI (
Diary and Autobiography
; see also the Commission dated 27 November 1777
Courtesy of the Ministère des Relations Extérieures, Paris.
Pages from Arthur Lee's Journal, 1778 152
These pages are from a fragment, covering the period 25 May to 4 July, of the journal kept by Arthur Lee during his service as one of the Commissioners in France. Under the date of 25 May, Lee recounts a conversation with John Adams in which Adams revealed that he had been offered a share in the Vandalia Company by Dr. Edward Bancroft, a British spy, shareholder in the company, and a close associate of Benjamin Franklin. Adams does not mention the incident in either his Diary or Autobiography, but it was likely part of Franklin's effort, which is chronicled there, to gain Adams' support in his ongoing conflict with Arthur Lee. Such a conclusion gains added weight from two considerations: Bancroft would hardly have acted without the knowledge and even approval of Franklin, a leading figure in the Vandalia Company; and had Adams accepted the offer, his new interest, it might have been hoped, would put him in opposition to Lee, who with his brothers was involved in the rival Mississippi Company (from Silas Deane, 8 April 1778, note 3
Courtesy of the Houghton Library, Harvard University.
Antoine Raymond Jean Gualbert Gabriel De Sartine, Engraving by Chevillet, after a Portrait by Louis Vigée, ca. 1759–1767 181
This portrait by Vigée (1727–1767) was done during Sartine's tenure as lieutenant general of police at Paris, an office he held from 1759 to 1774 and to which was added that of councillor of state in 1767. In 1774 Sartine (1729–1801) was named Minister of Marine, the office for which he is most noted, and in which he served until
1780. In that capacity he was largely responsible for rebuilding the French navy in the years before the outbreak of war with England in 1778 (Hoefer, Nouv. biog. générale
). The Commissioners corresponded frequently with Sartine because of the need for convoys to protect American ships trading with France and the difficulties American ships faced in bringing their prizes into French ports. During the first five months of John Adams' mission to France, 25 letters were exchanged, 19 of which are printed in volume 6.
Courtesy of the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris.
The Commissioners, 1778 229
The Peace Commission sent to America in 1778 headed by Lord Carlisle was to include William Eden, George Johnstone, and Lord Richard Howe and Sir William Howe. The latter two, however, refused to serve. The Commission resulted from a reconciliation effort announced by Lord North in a speech on 17 February after he learned of the French recognition of American independence. Conciliatory bills adopted on 9 March created the Commission and repealed the Massachusetts Government Act. Although the Commissioners were to negotiate with the Americans over their grievances, they could not recognize American independence, a restriction that doomed the Commission to failure before it left England. In addition, the Commission's arrival on 5 June, just as the British were about to evacuate Philadelphia and after the Franco-American treaties had been ratified, made any negotiations with the congress impossible.
This engraving, printed both in color and in black and white, was published by Matthew Darly of London on 1 April 1778. Like most such satires of this period, it was favorable to the American cause. It is also clearly anticipatory, for the first two kneeling figures are labeled Lord Howe and Sir William Howe. An Indian maiden representing America looks away from the Commissioners to a kind of scepter, a liberty cap on a pole. Above her head floats a crown of laurel forming a halo. Around her, to signify the British loss of the American trade, are boxes, barrels, and bales marked for direct export to various countries in defiance of the old Navigation Acts. The Commissioners, their swords laid aside, kneel and speak. Lord Howe in naval uniform says, “We have block'd up your ports, obstructed your trade, with the hope of starving ye, & contrary to the Law of Nations compelld your sons to war against their Bretheren.” Gen. Sir William Howe in his army uniform and wearing the red ribbon of the Bath says, “We have ravaged your Lands, burnt your Towns, and caus'd your captive Heroes to perish, by Cold, pestilence & famine.” Lord Carlisle, foppishly dressed, wearing the green ribbon of the Thistle, and staring at his snuffbox, says, “We have profaned your places of Divine worship, derided your virtue and piety, and scoff'd at that spirit which has brought us thus on our knees before ye.” Fourth is William Eden, a pen behind his ear, who says, “We have Ravish'd, Scalp'd, and murder'd your People, even from Tender infancy to decrepid age, although Sup•
plicating for Mercy.” Finally, Como. George Johnstone in a naval uniform says, “For all which material services, we the Commissioners from the most pious & best of sovereigns, doubt not your cordial duty & affection towards us, or willingness to submit yourselves again to receive the same, whenever we have power to bestow it on ye” (Mary Dorothy George, ed., British Museum Catalogue of Political and Personal Satires
, [London], 1935, 5:No. 5473; from James Lovell, 29 April 1778
, and note 3
Courtesy of the Trustees of the British Museum.
First Letter by John Adams Printed in Affaires de l'Angleterre et de l'Amérique, 17 July 1778 297
Affaires de l'Angleterre et de l'Amérique
was a clandestine publication of the French Foreign Ministry that appeared irregularly from early 1776 through late 1779. Divided into two series, “Journals” for the history of the Revolution's origins and “Lettres” for current news, it was a pro-American publication edited by Edmé Jacques Genet, the head of the Foreign Ministry's translators bureau. Although John Adams earlier had sent to Genet letters by various people for publication (see letters to Adams from William Heath, 14 May 1778, note 3
, and James Lovell, 29 April 1778, descriptive note
, both below), this French translation was his first appearance in Affaires.
Courtesy of the Massachusetts Historical Society.
British View of the Battle off Ushant, 27 July 1778 335
The battle between the British fleet under Adm. Augustus Keppel and the French fleet under Comte d'Orvilliers off Ushant on 27 July was the first Anglo-French fleet action of the war. Both sides claimed victory, but the battle was indecisive because the French fleet was able to return intact to Brest despite the slight advantage the British had won.
The major consequence of the battle was political. In the months that followed charges exchanged between Keppel and his chief lieutenant, Capt. Sir Hugh Palliser, over the outcome of the battle resulted in Keppel's court martial in January 1779. The assumption that the charges against Keppel were the work of Lord Sandwich, First Lord of the Admiralty, and the public demonstrations in support of Keppel that accompanied his trial and acquittal underlined both the opposition to and weakness of the North ministry (Piers Mackesy, War for America, Cambridge, 1965, p. 210–211, 239–243).
This cartoon depicts the battle as a British victory. A British seaman chases a French sailor, clad in a jacket covered by fleur-de-lis and wearing a ship for a hat, into the jaws of a dragon labeled “Grand Monarque.” The British sailor lashes out with a cat-o'-nine-tails at the Frenchman's bared derrière, from which a cannon puffs smoke in a vain effort to hold off the onrushing British. In the background the entire French fleet fires on a single British ship,
which returns the fire and holds it off, representing the prevailing British view of the superiority of a British ship against any number of the enemy's. This cartoon was published by W. Richardson of London, ca. August 1778 (Mary Dorothy George, ed., British Museum Catalogue of Political and Personal Satires
, [London], 1935, 5:No. 5484;
Courtesy of the Trustees of the British Museum.