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Browsing: Papers of John Adams, Volume 8


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Docno: ADMS-06-08-02-0048

Author: Franklin, Benjamin
Recipient: Adams, John
Date: 1779-05-10

From Benjamin Franklin

[salute] Sir

I received the honour of yours of the 29th. past from Nantes. I hope you are before this time safely arrived at L'Orient. M. De la Luzerne is making diligent Preparation for his Departure, and you will soon see him. He and the Secretary of the Embassy1 are both very agreable and sensible Men, in whose Conversation you will have a great deal of Pleasure in your Passage. What Port the Ship will be ordered to I have not yet learnt, I suppose that it may be partly left to the Captain's Discretion, as the Winds may happen to serve. It must certainly be most agreable to you to be landed in Boston; as that will give you an earlier Sight of your Family; but as you propose going immediately to Congress, being landed at Philadelphia will have some little Advantage,2 as it saves half your Journey. I shall take care to procure the Order to the Captain from Mr. De Sartine, which you desire; tho' I should suppose showing the Original Letter of that Minister, which you have, would be sufficient. No publick Dispatches are arrived here since you left us. I see by the Virginia Papers that the 6th. of February, being the Anniversary of the signing of the Treaty, was observed with great Festivity by the Congress &c. at Philadelphia.3 From Holland I have just received the Resolution of the States General, of the 26th. past, to Convoy their Trade, notwithstanding Sir Joseph York's Memorial, and to fit out directly 32 Ships of War for that purpose;4 which is good News and may have consequences.

[salute] I have the honour to be, with great Regard, Sir, Your most obedient & most humble Servant.

[signed] B Franklin
RC (Adams Papers); docketed: “Dr Franklin May 10. ansd 17th. 1779.”
1. François Barbé-Marbois had acted as La Luzerne's secretary during his service at the Court of Bavaria between 1775 and 1778 (Stinchcombe, Amer. Rev. and the French Alliance , p. 77). With his arrival in America, Barbé-Marbois began a long association with American affairs that culminated in the sale of Louisiana in 1804 (see E. Wilson Lyon, The Man Who Sold Louisiana ..., Norman, Okla., 1942). In the course of JA 's passage to America on La Sensible in company with La Luzerne and Barbé-Marbois, JA and the latter engaged in extensive conversa• { 59 } tions on American affairs and formed a close and cordial relationship (JA, Diary and Autobiography , 2:383–384, 386–394 386, 386–389, 389–390, 390–392, 392–395 , 396–397. For JA 's sketch of Barbé-Marbois, see his letter to the president of the congress of 3 Aug. (below).
2. Franklin was mistaken about JA 's intentions; see JA 's reply of 17 May (below).
3. Franklin is probably referring to the Virginia Gazette (Dixon and Nicolson) of 5 March, which reported that “the cheerfulness which existed in the company upon the happy occasion of their being assembled, was not to be exceeded; and a thousand brilliances alluding to the alliance were uttered.”
4. The memorial of 9 April was a protest against the Dutch failure to contest effectively the French order of January that denied all privileges previously granted to Dutch ships in French ports until measures were taken to protect Dutch trade, particularly in ships timbers and other naval stores, from British warships and privateers. The removal of Amsterdam and Haarlem from the effects of the order, following their protests against the States General's refusal to undertake convoys, led Yorke to warn that continued indifference to French interference in Dutch internal affairs would bring British retaliation. Yorke saw the French order as a ploy to provoke an Anglo-Dutch war by forcing the Netherlands to provide unlimited convoys to protect its French trade in the midst of an Anglo-French naval war, while at the same time demanding that the provisions of the Anglo-Dutch treaties of 1674 establishing naval stores as noncontraband be strictly observed. This was unacceptable to the British because compliance would permit the Dutch, under the guise of neutrality, to supply France with the naval stores that its own merchant fleet was incapable of carrying and that would be otherwise unobtainable. Yorke's memorial was too late, for protests by other cities against the favored treatment of Amsterdam and Haarlem, as well as the absence of action by the States General that would restore all the Dutch cities to an equal footing, led to the secret resolution of 26 April to outfit 32 ships (Miller, Sir Joseph Yorke , p. 76; Edler, Dutch Republic and the American Revolution , p. 125–126; for the text of Yorke's memorial, see vol. 2 of John Almon's Remembrancer for 1778, p. 358–359; or the Annual Register for 1779, p. 425–427; for the French order concerning Dutch ships, see Dumas' letters to the Commissioners of 16 and 19 Jan., above).
Franklin received the news from C. W. F. Dumas in a letter of 3 May ( Cal. Franklin Papers, A.P.S. , 2:72). Dumas presented a more detailed account of the resolution, including the number of ships that each city was to outfit, in a letter to the Committee for Foreign Affairs of 15 May (French text, PCC, No. 93, I, f. 276–279; translation, Wharton, ed., Dipl. Corr. Amer. Rev. , 3:166–168). There Dumas intimated that the resolution might be less significant than it seemed, for by failing specifically to state that naval stores were to be protected by the convoys, it was unlikely that the resolution would be accepted by France as justification for lifting its restrictions.

Docno: ADMS-06-08-02-0049

Author: Dalton, Tristram
Recipient: Adams, John
Date: 1779-05-13

From Tristram Dalton

[salute] Sir

The enclosed Packett to the Honle. Doctor Franklin, contains Papers relating to the Loss of the Brigantine Fair Play, which Vessel was sunk, last Januy., by a Battery, on the Island of Gaudaloupe.1
The Particulars of this unhappy Misfortune, whereby Eighteen Men perished, together with the Steps taken in Consequence, You'll find in these Papers, which I beg the Favor of your perusing—afterward that you'll be so kind as to seal the Packett and deliver it.
{ 60 }
I also enclose a Letter for Yourself, which our good Friend Mr. Gerry has favored me with.
Presuming not only upon the repeated Marks of Friendship which You have heretofore honor'd me with, but upon the natural Desire You have that Justice should be done in all Cases, I take the Freedom to ask your kind Assistance in the Prosecution of this Claim for Indemnification. The Loss is heavy, as You'll see by the Appraisement—but the Disappointment, in having a most promising Cruize broke up, is much greater.
I trust the Court of France will on Application, immediately feel the Propriety of making the Sufferers good.
If it is not taking too much of your Time from public, and by far more important Concerns, shall I beg the Honor of a Line from You?
In every Station of Life, You have my most sincere Wishes for Health, Prosperity, and Happiness, for I am, with the greatest Truth and Regards Sir Your affectionte. hble Servant
[signed] Tristram Dalton
RC (Adams Papers). A second recipient's copy, virtually identical with that printed here, is also in the Adams Papers, presumably because Dalton sent duplicates of this letter and the enclosed packet by another ship.
1. JA did not receive this letter or the enclosed letter of 12 May from Elbridge Gerry (Adams Papers) that Dalton mentions below until he returned to Paris in Feb. 1780. Then he acknowledged both in letters of 23 Feb. (below). Benjamin Franklin, however, did receive the “enclosed packet” of approximately 36 pages, which was accompanied by a covering letter from Dalton to Franklin of 13 May ( Cal. Franklin Papers, A.P.S. , 2:77). The packet contained depositions from the captain and crew of the Fair Play and, according to Gerry's letter to JA of 12 May, letters to Sartine from the governor of Guadeloupe and Conrad Alexandre Gèrard, and to Franklin from the Mass. delegates to the Continental Congress. These last three were probably of 15 Jan., 11 May, and 12 May respectively (same, 2:65, 76; 4:280, 287).
Benjamin Franklin first learned of the loss of the Fair Play from William Bingham's letter of 5 Jan. (PPAmP: Franklin Papers), which enclosed an undated extract of a letter to Sartine from the governor of Guadeloupe and a deposition by the Fair Play's captain, Andrew Giddings. Franklin received Bingham's letter on or about 29 April and wrote to Sartine, who replied on 26 May that the French government would compensate the owners of the vessel. Franklin informed the Committee for Foreign Affairs of this decision in a letter of the same date (Worthington C. Ford, comp., List of the Benjamin Franklin Papers in the Library of Congress, Washington, 1905, p. 67; Cal. Franklin Papers, A.P.S. , 2:84; Wharton, ed., Dipl. Corr. Amer. Rev. , 3:193–194). The French offer of compensation, which amounted to 15,000 livres, did not end the matter, for the owners believed the payment to be far too little. Correspondence on the matter continued into 1783.