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Browsing: Papers of John Adams, Volume 8


Search for a response to this letter.

Docno: ADMS-06-08-02-0213

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: Genet, Edmé Jacques
Date: 1780-02-18

To Edmé Jacques Genet

[salute] [Dear Sir]

Whether it is that [the Art of political Lying] is better understood in England than in [any other Country, or] whether it is more practised there than [elsewhere, or whether it] is accidental that they have more Success [in making their Fictions] gain Credit in the World, I know not.
But it is certain that every [Winter, since the] Commencement of the present War with America, [and indeed for some] Years before, they sent out large Quantities of this [Manufacture over] all Europe, and throughout all America: and [what is astonish]ing is, that they { 332 } should still find Numbers [in every Country] ready to take them off their Hands.
Since my Arrival in this City, [I find they have] been this Winter at their old Trade, and have [spread Reports here] and in Holland, and in various other parts of [Europe; and no doubt] they have found means to propagate them in America [too, tending to keep] up the Spirits of their Well wishers and to sink those of [their Opponents.] Such as, that they have made new Contracts with several [German Princes,] by which they are to obtain seven thousand Men to [serve in America.] That they have so skillfully appeased the Troubles in [Ireland, that they] shall even be able to take Advantage of the Military [Associations] there, by depending upon them for the Defence of [the Kingdom, while] they draw from thence ten thousand Regular Troops [for the Service] in America. That they have even concluded a [Treaty with Russia,] by which the Empress is to furnish them with twelve Ships [of the] Line and twenty thousand Men, as some say, and twenty [Ships] of the Line and twelve thousand Men, as others relate. [This] they say, is of the greater Moment, because of an intimate Connection (I know not of what Nature it is) between Russia [and Denmark, by which] the latter will be likely [to be drawn into the War against the] House of Bourbon and America [and Denmark they say has] forty five Ships of the Line.
I know very well that the greatest part of these [Reports is false,] and particularly, what is said of Russia is so contrary [to all that I have] heard for these twelve Months past, of the [Harmony between] Versailles and Petersbourg, that I give no Credit to [it at all: but I] find that all these Reports make Impressions [on some Minds,] and, among the rest, on some Americans.
I therefore beg the favour of You, to inform me [of the exact] Truth in all these Matters, that I may take the [earliest] Opportunity of transmitting the Intelligence to Congress, [where it] is of Importance, that it should be known.1
I was much mortified, when I was the other [day at] Versailles, that I could not have the Honour of paying [my Res]pects to You: but I was so connected with other Gentlemen, [who were] obliged to return to Dinner, that I could not; but I [shall] take the first Opportunity I can get, to wait on You, and [assure] You, that I am with great Respect, Sir, your Friend and humble Servant.
[signed] John Adams
RC in John Thaxter's hand (Justin G. Turner, Los Angeles, 1958). Dupl in Thaxter's hand (PCC, No. 84, I, f. 257–260);) docketed: “Copy Feb. 18. 1780 Letter from J Adams to Monsr. Genet recd. May 15 with an answr. { 333 } dated 20th. Feb.” Severe fire damage to the recipient's copy has resulted in the loss of a substantial number of words, which have been supplied in brackets from the duplicate.
1. Using very similar language, JA asked Lafayette for essentially the same information in a letter of this same date ( LbC , Adams Papers). Lafayette replied on the 19th (below).

Docno: ADMS-06-08-02-0214

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: Lovell, James
Date: 1780-02-19

To James Lovell

[salute] My dear Friend

You have been so good, in sending me the Journals and above all in sending me very particular Intelligence of what has passed upon several occasions that I depend much upon the Continuance of your Favours. An early receipt of the Journals will be a great Advantage to me, and I shall not fail to make a good Use of them.
Since I have been here, I have seen Mr. I. and mentioned to him, his famous Letter and the Use that was attempted to be made of it.1 He seemed to be very much affected, declared, that it was a private Letter to his friend which he never intended nor expected nor suspected would be laid before Congress, And that it was intended only as a pleasantry between his friend and him; a merry Exultation, between Intimates upon his having judged righter than I of the sentiments of that Body.
I beg you would inform me, of the Health etc. of the Chevalier and M. M[arbois]. <how they succeed,> whether they are esteemed, and whether there are any open or secret Attacks upon them, and from what Quarter, if any. I take a great Interest in their Success, as I think them worthy Men, and Well wishers to both Countries, without partial or sinister Views.
I must earnestly Request Authority to draw upon Passy, otherwise shall be in very great distress. The sums We are impowered to draw will be but a Sprat.2 There is no doubt at all of our draughts being paid, if orderd. If Merchandise or Bills should be remitted by Congress so much the better. We shall receive no more than our due, and the Proceeds of the Merchandise or Bills will go to the Hands of Dr. F. to discharge the public demands. On the Contrary We shall be in the most awkward Situation in the World without orders to draw, if Bills and Merchandise should fail of arriving, and there will not be wanting Persons to take Advantage of it, to put Us in a ridiculous Light, whereas orders to draw will ensure Us respect from these very Persons.
I wish I could hear of the Arrival of Messrs. Laurence's father and son.3 Mr. Jay has happily arrived in Spain, and, from the great Atten• { 334 } tion and Respect that was shewn to me, I have no doubt he will soon succeed, and that Court will support as well as receive him, and I hope afford further essential Assistance to the united states, both by their Arms and their Money.
There is a difference of sentiment here respecting the Address of Congress to the People respecting their Finances,4 some People thinking that Congress have hurt their Cause by it in Europe, others that it was a wise Measure. For my own Part I think that the Measure could not be avoided, that the Evil was so great that there must be a Remedy, and that no radical Cure could be effected without laying open to the World the Inveteracy of the Distemper. Wish to know how your Plan of Taxes succeeds, or what other Methods you may fall upon. Your Friend
[signed] John Adams
1. That is, Ralph Izard's letter to Henry Laurens of 12 Sept. 1778. For an extract from that letter, see James Lovell to JA , 14 Sept. 1779 (above). Compare JA 's reporting of Izard's statement of his intentions, given below, with JA 's evaluation of Izard's intentions in JA to Elbridge Gerry, 17 Oct. 1779 (above).
2. A small amount ( OED ).
3. JA was to have a long wait before either Laurens arrived. Although appointed to negotiate a Dutch loan on 21 Oct. and to conclude a treaty of amity and commerce with the Netherlands on 1 Nov. 1779, Henry Laurens did not sail from Philadelphia until 13 Aug. 1780. Three weeks later he was captured by the British who imprisoned him in London; he did not reach Paris until Nov. 1782 ( JCC , 15:1198, 1232; DAB ). His son John had been appointed Benjamin Franklin's secretary on 29 Sept. 1779, but he had declined the office in December and at the time of this letter was serving with the army in South Carolina. Captured by the British at the fall of Charleston in May 1780, he was exchanged, and in Dec. 1780 he was appointed envoy extraordinary to France. He did not arrive in Europe until March 1781 ( JCC , 15:1128, 1366; DAE). It should be noted, however, that JA was only assuming, based on an enclosure in Lovell's letter of 1 Nov. 1779 (above; see also Adams Family Correspondence , 3:234), that Henry Laurens had been appointed to negotiate a Dutch loan. And although JA knew of John Laurens' appointment, he had no knowledge of his refusal of the secretaryship.
4. Addresses regarding the state of American finances had been adopted by the congress on 26 May and 13 Sept. 1779, but it is unclear to which of these JA is referring. For that of 26 May, see Jonathan Loring Austin to JA , 7 July, note 2 (above). The second address, in the form of a “circular letter,” informed the American people of the congress' resolution of 1 Sept. to limit emissions of paper money to $200,000,000. It sought to allay their fears about the ability or willingness of the congress to back its emissions and to rally their support for increased taxation and loans to support this currency. Without popular confidence in this currency and support for the measures taken by the congress to maintain its value, the address argued, final victory was in doubt ( JCC , 15:1051–1062).