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Browsing: Papers of John Adams, Volume 8


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Docno: ADMS-06-08-02-0077

Author: Warren, Mercy Otis
Recipient: Adams, John
Date: 1779-07-29

From Mercy Otis Warren

[salute] Sir

This Morning your Vigalent and invariable Friend wrote you a long letter which makes it unnecessary for me to take up my pen nor should I have done it by this opportunity but in Compliance with the Wishes of Him who is so partial as to think it in my power to Contribute to the Entertainment of a Gentleman who (from Interest, from Vanity and from more Noble principles)1 has such a Multitude of Correspondents. There is such Variety of Genius occasionally Exerted in this way that were it not for the adverse Circumstances which prevents a safe passage you would have little Cause to Complain that you was Forgotten on this side the Atlantic. Your Head would be Replete with Inteligence and your Cabinet Crouded with Epistolary Lumber, among which if you had Leasure to Retrospect you would find several unanswered from a Lady who makes no Claim to a Reply but from your politeness and Friendship.2 Neither of which will I suspect or Censure till assured in some Future paragraph that you have not time to answer letters but when the Interest of the public or the Indispensable Duties of private Life Require it.
Certain I am did all political, Military, and Gubenatorial observations which are Designed for your perusal, Reach the Gardens of Passy, You would be willing to unbend a little, by indulging to the Familiar style of Female Compotition.
But as most of them have been lost Through Fear, Misfortune, Accident or Treachery, I imagine the Avidity is still kept up, and that you { 102 } open Every paquet with Expectation and desire to Investigate the Plans of statsmen, and survey the Martial Opperations of the Heros of a Country, whose Honour and Happiness you have so much at Heart.3
And though no one is better qualifyed to penetrate the Arcana of American politics than yourself, yet I think you must be surprized at the inconsistency of Character which appears in some, And at a Loss (if not for the stimulus that provoked, yet)4 for the Influance which Carryed into Execution Certain Resolves which have been painful to the best, and a Rich Repast to the Worst Men that Disgrace your Native land.5
How much longer shall we be Embarassed and Distressed by the selfish insiduous arts of Gamblers Courtiers And stock Jobbers among ourselves, while a Mercyless Foe is laying waste our Borders, Burning our Defenceless Cities, and Murdering the Innocent of all ages and Ranks.
The spirit of party has Entered into all our Departments. The Deanites, that is to say the Voteries of pleasure, or the Men of Taste and Refinement make no inconsiderable Figure. Some Deify the phantom Fashion: whether she appears in a French, or British, or American Dress; while others Worship only at the shrine of Plutus.6 Yet the old Republicans, (a solitary few) with Decent solemnity and Confidence: still persevere. Their Hands unstained by Bribes: Though poverty stares them in the Face. Their Hearts unshaken by the Levity, the Luxery, the Caprice or Whim, the Folly or ingratitude, of the times. When we survey the picture we Cannot but sigh with a late Celebrated writer. “Alas! for poor Human Nature.”7
On my way from Boston I lodged a week since, at the Foot of Pens Hill. The Family There are well, and as Happy as possible in the absence of a Tender Husband, And a kind Father. More perticular accounts you will doubtless have by this Conveyance from the Mistress of the Mansion. There I had the pleasure of seing your signature to several short letters8 which lead us to hope our Calamities will be shortned, or Rather not increased.
As from a long Friendship with Him, and a perticular Intimacy with His lady, I feel myself sensibly touched by the Death of Dr. Winthrop. I Cannot but mingle a simpathetic tear on this occasion with you, and His philosopic Friend at Passy. Both of whom, so highly Esteemed, and were so intimetely acquainted with His Virtues, in His literary, patriotic, and Christian Character.
I fear it will be long before Harvard sees a successor that will fill the Chair of the professor with Equal Honour and Ability.
{ 103 }
Let me assure you sir, when I began this I designed but one page but you are so well acquainted with the loquacity of the sex that you will Easily beleive I Check my own inclinations when at the Bottom of the Third I subscribe the Name of your sincere Friend and Humble servant
[signed] Marcia Warren
RC (Adams Papers); docketed in an unknown hand: “Mrs Warren”; by CFA : “July 29th 1779.” Tr (MHi: Mercy Warren Letterbook). For a description of the Letterbook, see Mercy Otis Warren to JA , 15 Oct. 1778, descriptive note (above).
1. Closing parenthesis supplied.
2. The editors know of only two letters from Mercy Warren since JA left for Europe, those of 15 Oct. and 15 Dec. 1778 (above). JA answered the first on 18 Dec. 1778 (above), but no reply to the second has been found, although he apparently wrote one; see JA to Mercy Warren, [post 3 Aug. 1779] (below).
3. In the transcript “a Country” is changed to “your Country” and the final clause is omitted. This omission may be significant in light of the later hard feelings that developed between Mercy Warren and JA .
4. Closing parenthesis supplied.
5. In the transcript the paragraph that immediately follows was placed after “Alas! for poor Human Nature,” forming the last sentence of the second paragraph below. The first two sentences of that paragraph were attached to the end of this one.
6. The Greek and Roman god of riches.
7. In the transcript, after this paragraph as revised (see note 5), there is the following passage: “Dark and inscrutable are the ways of providence: yet only so to us short sighted mortals. I forbear to draw aside the curtain, or indulge a wish to look forward to the blood stained field, to the revolutions of goverment, the convulsions of nature, and the mighty shocks both in the moral, political, and natural world, that are yet to take place, and which are but a combination of incidents to compleat the peice, which for ought we know may be the admiration and astonishment of wondering worlds, that revolve around this little ball, and may be taught by the example of man, to avoid every deviation from the centre of perfection.” Despite the fact that this paragraph does not appear in the recipient's copy, the similarity of its style to Mercy Warren's may indicate that it was part of a draft not extant. In any case, in the transcript it was followed by two paragraphs, the first commenting on the death of Professor Winthrop and the second recounting Mercy's visit to AA , a reversal of the order in the recipient's copy.
8. Probably JA 's letters of 30 Dec. 1778, 1 Jan., and 9 Feb., which AA only received in late July. She received no later letters from JA before his return in August ( Adams Family Correspondence , 3:214–216 3:214–215, 216 ).

Docno: ADMS-06-08-02-0078

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: President of Congress
Date: 1779-08-03

To the President of the Congress

[salute] Sir

On the Twenty Eighth1 of February, I had the Honour of writing to Congress, informing them of my Intention of returning home, in Consequence of the new Commission which Superceded mine: on the first of March, I had again the Honour of writing Some <interesting> Information concerning the unprecedented Interest which the british Government are obliged to give for the Loan of Money, for the Service of the present Year: on the Eighth of March I took my Leave of the { 104 } American Minister and left Paris for Nantes, in Expectation of there meeting the Alliance, and Sailing in her for America, in a few Weeks: Upon my Arrival at Nantes, I learned that the Alliance was Still at Brest, and so embarrassed with near forty Prisoners who were Supposed to have been concerned in a Conspiracy to carry her to England, and with other Difficulties that it was uncertain when she would be ready. The Agent at Nantes, at this Time receiving a Letter, from his Excellency Dr. Franklin, desiring him to consult me about the Direction of the Alliance, I thought it would expedite the public Service, for me to make a Journey to Brest (about two hundred miles,) which I under took accordingly and arrived at that Port, without Loss of Time. There, after an2 Attendance of some Weeks, and much Negociation with Commandants, Intendants and Agents all Things were prepared for the Frigate to Sail for Nantes with about an hundred British Prisoners, to be there exchanged for a like Number of American Prisoners arrived there from England in a Cartel. I returned to Nantes,3 and the Alliance in a few Days arrived in the River. The Prisoners were exchanged, about Sixty inlisted in the Alliance and the rest in the Poor Richard, Captain Jones.4 After accommodating all the Difficulties, with the British Prisoners, the American Prisoners, the Officers and Crew of the Alliance, and Supplying all their necessary Wants Captain Landais having orders to Sail for America, and every Thing ready to proceed to sea in a few Days, received unexpected orders, from the Minister Plenipotentiary to proceed to L'orient, and wait there for further orders. I had the Honour of a Letter at the same Time from his Excellency,5 inclosing one from the Minister of the Marine, by which I learn'd, that the King had been graciously pleased to grant me a Passage, on Board the Frigate, which was to carry his Majestys new Minister Plenipotentiary to the united States, that the Frigate was at L'orient and that the Minister would be there in a few Days. I went in the Alliance from Nantes to L'orient, where6 after some Time the Frigate the Sensible arrived, but his Excellency the Chevalier de La Luzerne did not arrive untill the Tenth of June. On the Seventeenth of June, and not before, I had the Pleasure to be under Sail, and on the third of August arrived in Nantasket Road.7
I have entered into this Detail of Disappointments,8 to justify my self for not returning Sooner, and to shew that it was not my fault, that I was not at Home, in Eight Weeks from the first authentic Information, that I had nothing further to do in France.
There is nothing remaining for me to do, but to Settle my Accounts with Congress: but as Part of my Accounts are in Conjunction, with
{ 105 } { 106 }
my late Colleague, with whom I lived in the Same House, during my Residence, in Paris, I am not able to judge, whether Congress will choose to receive my Accounts alone, or to wait untill the other Commissioners shall exhibit theirs, So as to have the whole together under one View, in order to do equal Justice to all. I am ready, however to render all the Account in my Power, either jointly or Separately, whenever Congress shall order it, and I shall wait their Directions accordingly.
It is not in my Power, having been so long from Paris,9 to give Congress any News of Importance, except that the Brest Fleet under the Comte D'Orvilliere, was at sea the Beginning of June, that Admiral Arbuthnot was at Plymouth the thirty first of May,10 and that there was an universal Perswasion arrizing from Letters from Paris and London, that Spain had decided against the English. The Chevalier de La Luzerne, however will be able to give Congress Satisfactory Information upon this Head.
I ought not to conclude this Letter, without expressing my Obligations to Captain Chevagne and the other Officers of the Sensible, for their Civilities in the Course of my Passage home, and the Pleasure I have had in the Conversation of his Excellency the new Minister Plenipotentiary from our August Ally, and the Secretary to the Embassy Monsieur Marbois.
The Chevalier de la Luzerne, is Knight of the order of St. John of Jerusalem, of an ancient and a noble Family connected by Blood, with many Characters of principal Name in the Kingdom; a Grandson of the celebrated Chancellor De la Moignon; a Nephew of Monsieur Malesherbes, perhaps Still more famous, as first President of the Court of Aids, and as a Minister of State; a Brother of the Comte de la Luzerne, and of the Bishop of Langres, one of the three Dukes and Peers, who had the Honour to assist in the Consecration of the King; a near Relation of the Marishall de Broglie, and the Comte his Brother, and of many other important Personages in that Country. Nor is his personal Character less respectable than his Connections. As he is possessed of much usefull Information of all kinds, and particularly of the political System of Europe, obtained in his late Embassy in Bavaria; and of the justest Sentiments of the mutual Interests of his Country and ours, and of the Utility to both of that Alliance, which so happily unites them, and at the Same Time divested of all Personal and Party Attachments and Aversions, Congress and their Constituents, I flatter myself will have much Satisfaction in his Negotiations,11 as well as in those of the Secretary to the Embassy, Monsieur Marbois who was also { 107 } Secretary to the Embassy, in Bavaria and is a Counsellor of the Parliament of Metz, a Gentleman whose Abilities, Application and Disposition12 cannot fail to make him usefull in the momentous Office he Sustains.13 I have the Honour to be with great Respect, Sir, your most obedient and most humble Servant
[signed] John Adams
RC (PCC, No. 84, I, f. 61); docketed: “Letter from J Adams Braintree Aug. 3. 1779 Read Aug 20. — Referred to the board of Treasury who are directed to take order thereon [passed?] 26h Aug. 1779.” LbC (Adams Papers).
1. An error; the letter was dated 27 Feb. (above). In an unidentified hand, the word “seventh” is underlined and written above “Eighth.” It was obviously done by someone at the congress who checked the earlier letter.
2. In the Letter-book copy JA wrote “a tedious,” then replaced it with “an.”
3. The Letterbook adds “by Land.”
4. The Letterbook has after “Jones” the following: “or <not> being officers, not inclining to inlist att all.”
5. From Benjamin Franklin; 24 April (above).
6. The Letterbook has “where <I found neither Fr[igate?] >.”
7. The Letterbook has “Boston Harbor.”
8. The Letterbook has “Embarrassements and Dissappointments.”
9. Crossed out in the Letterbook after “Paris”: “wandering from one seaport to another in a Country where little authentic Intelligence of public Affairs is to be obtained.”
10. The information about Adm. Marriot Arbuthnot is not included in the Letterbook. In July a combined fleet of French and Spanish vessels sought to capture Portsmouth and its arsenal. The attempt was a dismal failure (Dull, French Navy and Amer. Independence , p. 150–154).
11. For “much Satisfaction in his Negotiations” the Letterbook originally had “Reason to rejoice in his appointment.”
12. The Letterbook has “shining Abilities and <Activity>, <indefatigible> Application, and <amiable> Disposition.”
13. After “Sustains,” the Letterbook adds the following: “As these Gentlemen have, been employed before, in the Negotiations for the King in <several Countries of Europe> a very critical Conjuncture of Affairs in Bavaria, Congress will derive much Information from their Knowledge of the political Affairs of <that Quarter of the World> Europe.” JA may have intended to cross out this last sentence in the Letterbook, for most of its substance is given in the recipient's copy where he enumerates the qualities of La Luzerne. The reference to La Luzerne's experience in Bavaria as a source of his understanding of the European political system is interlined in the Letterbook.
For JA 's later and different opinion of both La Luzerne and Marbois, see his comments in the Boston Patriot of 21 Aug. 1811 (JA, Works , 1:671–674).