Papers of John Adams
GREGG L. LINT, ROBERT J. TAYLOR, RICHARD ALAN RYERSON, CELESTE WALKER, JOANNA M. REVELAS
Volume 8 • March 1779 – February 1780
THE BELKNAP PRESS OF HARVARD UNIVERSITY PRESS
CAMBRIDGE, MASSACHUSETTS, AND LONDON, ENGLAND
Copyright © 1989 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 the present provided this enterprise with 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 for vol. 7–8)
Adams, John, 1735–1826.
Papers of John Adams.
(The Adams papers: Series III, General correspondence and other papers of the Adams statesmen)
Vols. 1–6 edited by R. J. Taylor, G. L. Lint, and C. Walker.
Vols. edited by G. L. Lint ... [et al.]
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, 1735–1826. I. Taylor, Robert Joseph, 1917– . II. Lint, Gregg L. III. Title. IV. Series: Adams papers: Series III, General correspondence and other papers of the Adams statesmen.
E302.A26 1977 973.4'4'08 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)
ISBN 0-674-65444-7 (v. 7–8)
Descriptive List of Illustrations
Le Chevalier Anne César de La Luzerne, by Charles Willson Peale, ca. 1781–1782 105
This portrait, done by Charles Willson Peale as part of his attempt to paint likenesses of the major figures of the Revolution, was part of Peale's museum collection that he moved to Independence Hall in Philadelphia in 1802 (Charles Coleman Sellers, Portraits and Miniatures by Charles Willson Peale, Philadelphia, 1952, p. 16–17, 133).
La Luzerne (1741–1791) was appointed to replace Conrad Alexandre Gérard as the French minister to the United States in April 1779. When he sailed for America in June 1779, it was on the French frigate La Sensible
, with John Adams as a fellow passenger. During the voyage Adams advised La Luzerne regarding conditions in America and the people with whom he would deal. As a result of their conversations Adams concluded that La Luzerne was “divested of all Personal and Party Attachments and Aversions” and, therefore, well suited to avoid the difficulties that had plagued the tenure of his predecessor, most notably Gérard's open alignment with factions within the congress (to the president of the congress, 3 August 1779
, below). In fact, the Chevalier was a far better diplomat than Gérard—and thus much more adept at manipulating the congress into supporting the goals of French policy. When La Luzerne left America in 1783, he was a popular and influential figure whose departure was regretted by many Americans. In 1788 he was named French ambassador to Great Britain and served in that capacity until his death (Hoefer, Nouv. biog. générale
Courtesy of the Independence National Historic Park Collection, Philadelphia.
Titlepage of the Report of a Constitution or Form of Government for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Boston, 1779 232
The most enduring monument to the political thought of John Adams is the Massachusetts Constitution of 1780. Drafted by him in September and October 1779, and altered in convention, this document, with numerous amendments, continues to serve the Commonwealth. Adams' draft of the constitution, which he submitted to the drafting committee, has not been found. Statements by him and others, however, indicate that the committee made few alterations and that the printed report submitted to the full convention was vir•
tually identical to the draft in both arrangement and content. Nor did the full convention substantially alter Adams' work. When John Adams sailed for Europe in November 1779 the convention had not completed its labors, so he took copies of the committee report with him to distribute to interested individuals and for republication in European newspapers, as well as in pamphlet form. The copy whose titlepage is reproduced here was signed by John Tyng, a delegate to the state's constitutional convention from the town of Dunstable. See also the Massachusetts Constitution, 28–31 Oct. 1779
, Editorial Note (below).
Courtesy of the Massachusetts Historical Society.
Chart of the Port of El Ferrol, Spain, 1764 293
The “Plan du Port de Ferrol” is reproduced from plate no. 51 in the fourth volume (l'Europe) of J. N. Bellin's Le petit atlas maritime
, 5 vols., Paris, 1764. For an illustration of a chart of the harbor and bay of La Coruña from the same source, see
Adams Family Correspondence
, 3:following p. 116
Located in the northwest corner of Spain, the port and town of El Ferrol are almost due north and approximately fifteen miles by water from La Coruña. El Ferrol was a major Spanish naval base and, according to John Adams' Diary, there was “nothing to be seen, excepting two Churches and the Arsenals, dry docks, Fortifications and Ships of War.” The harbor's narrow entrance made it an excellent refuge for French and Spanish warships, but it also meant that it was impossible to enter when the wind blew from the southeast.
John Adams and his party unexpectedly arrived at El Ferrol on 8 December 1779 after a severe leak on the French frigate La Sensible
made it necessary for the vessel to enter the first available port. The Americans remained at El Ferrol until 15 December, when, despairing of sailing for France within a reasonable time, they set off by boat and mule for La Coruña, there to make preparations for the long overland journey to Paris. John Adams' letters to his family, as well as his and his son's diaries, describe the town and port in great detail (
Adams Family Correspondence
; JA, Diary and Autobiography
; JQA, Diary
Courtesy of the Massachusetts Historical Society.
Rodney's Triumph, 1780 319
On 16 January 1780 Adm. Sir George Rodney decisively defeated a Spanish squadron under the command of Don Juan de Langara near Cape St. Vincent, Portugal. In the course of the battle Langara was captured and seven of the eleven ships of the line under his command were either taken or destroyed. The victory enabled Rodney to resupply the besieged fortress of Gibraltar. In letters written in February 1780, John Adams noted that Rodney's victory, coming as it did after a long series of British defeats on land and sea, would encourage those in England who wished to continue and even intensify the war effort (from Robert Montgomery, 5 Feb. 1780, note 1
; to the president of the congress of 19
and 20 Feb.
, and to Samuel Cooper of 23 Feb. 1780
, all below).
This rather crude cartoon, published by William Humphrey on 10 March 1780, celebrates the victory and indicates a new British confidence in the ability of the navy to defeat the combined forces of France and Spain. Rodney, whose depiction here is at odds with the usual description of his appearance as elegant, declares “My Name is Sir G. Rodney / Bibbate Bobody Binn O / Did I not Drub you well at Sea / With my little Club of Oak. O.” The Spaniard in the center laments, “O I am very Sick This Damd Rodney will doo for me.” Finally, the Frenchman complains “Begar me never feel a my knees go so Nicky Naky Nicky Nacky in a la my Life before as a me do at pre sant.” Beneath the cartoon is the verse: “To fight against Britons the task is in vain, / For Triumphant we ride still Lord of the Main, / Success to Brave Rodney whose Valor renown / Now Frightens the French and Sicken the Don” (British Museum, Catalogue of Political and Personal Satires, comp. Mary Dorothy George, [London], 1935, 5:No. 5648).
Courtesy of the Trustees of the British Museum, London.