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Browsing: Papers of John Adams, Volume 8


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Docno: ADMS-06-08-02-0113

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: Holker, John
Date: 1779-09-21

To John Holker

[salute] Sir

A Day or two before my Embarkation at L'orient, Mr. Chaumont came to me and told me that he had shipped a Quantity of Tea, for Boston, and that he wished to lay out, the Proceeds of it, in Land, desired Permission to consign it to me and that I would, purchase Land for him with the Money.
I told him that I was not a Merchant, and should not be likely to sell his Tea to Advantage, but that As I had an extensive Acquaintance in the Massachusetts, I might possibly be of service to him in a Purchase of Land, and that I would readily do him any service, in that Way, in my Power. In Consequence of this Conversation he sent me, forth-with, an open Letter to you, desiring you to sell the Tea, and let me have the Money to buy him the Land. The enclosed is a Copy of this Letter.1
I have waited long in hopes of the Betsys Arrival, but there is now no Room to doubt that she is taken or lost.2
I shall preserve the original Letter, for the sake of clearing up, Mr. Chaumonts Character, because there are Insinuations in these Parts, that Mr. Chaumont is suspected to have written a Letter to you, an Extract of which was laid before Congress, purporting that I had not suceeded in France, very well.3 How far I have suceeded, I can appeal to your Sovereign, and his Ministers, and as long as I keep this Letter, to Mr. Chaumont himself, who I think, from this Letter and several others that I have in my Possession must be innocent of that Extract. You will oblige me exceedingly, by informing me, who the Writer was.4 At the very time, when I was employed in France, in giving Extracts to your Father of my Letters, in which your Character was mentioned with Honour, and upon all Occasions in Conversation, endeavouring to support your Interest, You, it seems, was engaged in furnishing Extracts against me. Both of Us might be very honestly employed, but which of Us was the most generously employed and the most politically for the Union and Interest of the Allies, must be judged of, by our sovereigns, unless I have other Reparation for what I deem an Injury. I have the Honour to be, with great Respect, sir your most obedient humble servant
[signed] John Adams
{ 164 }
LbC (Adams Papers); directed to: “M. Holker, Agent <General de la Marine> of the Marine of France, et Consul at Philadelphia.” A signed copy of this letter (Charles Hamilton, sale No. 33, 1969) reportedly bears a notation by JA : “My letter to Mr. Holker, not sent.” This letter's query about a letter from Chaumont commenting on JA 's success as a Commissioner is probably enough to explain why it was not sent, but the reason for its absence from the Adams Papers is unknown.
1. See Chaumont to JA , 13 June, and note 1 (above).
2. See JA to Chaumont, 5 Oct. (below).
3. See JA to James Lovell, 10 Sept., note 1 (above).
4. From this point up to the closing sentence, the text was written at the bottom of the letter, its place in the main body indicated with a mark.

Docno: ADMS-06-08-02-0114

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: Lovell, James
Date: 1779-09-21

To James Lovell

[salute] My dear Sir

In one of your late Letters, you hope that a Treaty with Spain, will Soon be made.1 I wish I knew your Intelligence, which is undoubtedly better than mine: I have suspected, for I can call it no more than suspicion, that Spain intended to wait untill the Negotiation for Peace.
In another you Say, you should be easier in your Mind, if I were in Europe, when you consider what Negotiations are likely to take Place.2 I wish you had told me, what you mean. Have you any Prospect of Negotiation with England? I am told you have been making a Plan of a Treaty of Peace.3 Is it finished? Can you communicate it to me? Have France and Spain put you upon determining the Terms on which you will make Peace, at this early Hour, and are you to be bound by these Terms three Years hence, or even next Year. Should you be obliged to spend additional Millions, to devote more thousands of lives, to expose more Towns to the Flames, are you after this to make Peace on the same Terms you would now, even although you should gain Advantages decisive in the mean Time?
Let me beg of you to send me, all the Journals as they come out. I have a great Curiosity to know what Compliments you have paid or will pay to the late Minister.4 No doubt Pains will be taken to get Compliments, Thanks, Certificates of even Impartiality or even an Address for what I know, for there is no bounds to some Peoples Modesty. Cant you certify Holkers Impartiality, too?
Pray inform me, from whom is Holkers Commission? Is it from G[érard]? I have ever understood he had none from the King. Pray from whom is Valenais Commission?5
You hope A. Lee will soon make a Treaty with Spain. Whether he does or not, if he continues in Commission to that Court, pray order { 165 } him to Spain, positively. He will do no good, at Paris believe me. I respect his past services, I know his Attachment to America, and I believe his Integrity. But I know his Prejudices, and his Passions, <his selfish>. His Countenance is disgusting, his Air, is not pleasing, his Manners are not engaging, his Temper is harsh sour and fierie, and his Judgment of Men and Things is often wrong. Virtue itself is said to be not always amiable.
Isard, is still worse—do you know an Ambassador, we once sent into Canada who negotiated every thing into total Confusion.6 Such another is this.
I believe such a Group of Characters as Lees,7 Isard and Deane, never were before selected out for Ambassadors. I declare if it was a new Thing, I never could in Conscience give my Vote for either. Three more imprudent Men I dont know. I dread the Consequence of Lee's going to Spain. He will be watched. He will be provoked, and he cannot govern himself. Yet the most perfect Reserve, the most perfect Prudence, will be necessary in that Nation, and the most profound Admiration of that Court. If there is not more Dissonance, from that Quarter I shall be happily disappointed.
I am determined not to conceal from you, any of my Apprehensions, lest more Disgrace should come upon Us, in Consequence of my silence. I have been silent perhaps too long already.
1. Lovell to JA , 24 Aug. (above).
2. Lovell to JA , 20 Aug. (above).
3. As early as 17 June the congress formally appointed a committee to prepare a commission for “the minister who may be appointed to negotiate a peace,” and on 14 Aug. the instructions for the peace commissioner, to whose duties had been added the negotiation of an Anglo-American commercial treaty, were adopted, thus ending the debate over peace ultimata that had begun in February ( JCC , 14:744, 956–966; see also Lovell to JA , 13 June, note 2, above).
4. JA may have originally intended to end his letter with this sentence, because two lines below, in the left margin, appears “<Mr. Lovell>.” The following sentence is written neatly around this deletion.
Gerard's farewell speech to the full congress was given on 17 Sept., a response being returned by the president ( JCC , 15:1065, 1072–1074). They were as complimentary as JA had imagined they would be.
5. For earlier questions about Holker's status, see the Committee for Foreign Affairs to the Commissioners, 21 June 1778 (vol. 6:227–228), and the Commissioners' reply of 17 Sept. 1778 (above). Holker's commission of 15 July 1778 to be consul for Pennsylvania as well as Joseph de Valnais' of 21 Jan. 1779 to be consul at Boston were signed by Gérard (PCC, No. 128, f. 7; No. 167, f. 367).
6. Probably Samuel Chase, who accompanied Franklin, Charles Carroll, and Father John Carroll to Canada in April 1776. JA had been a good friend of Chase until Chase, in July-Aug. 1776, made the mistake of blaming New England troops for the failure in Canada (vol. 4:26–29, 450, 451).
7. JA added an “s” to Lee to include William Lee.