A website from the Massachusetts Historical Society; founded 1791.
close
-
The Adams Papers Digital Edition is undergoing active maintenance while we work on improvements to the system. You may experience slow performance or the inability to access content. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause. We will endeavor to return to full capabilities as soon as possible.

Browsing: Papers of John Adams, Volume 9


Search for a response to this letter.

Docno: ADMS-06-09-02-0169

Author: Lee, Richard Henry
Recipient: Adams, John
Date: 1780-05-07

From Richard Henry Lee

[salute] My dear Sir

I should have paid my respects to you before now had I known where to have directed my letters, for at this time I have no other method than to inclose the present to our friend Mr. Lovell at Philadelphia, who I trust will know the best manner of conveying it. The enemy appear to have abated very little of their pride, however much their power may be lessened. It may be expected nevertheless that the former will shortly be compelled to yield to the very great abatement of the latter, and therefore that you will next winter have something to do in execution of your commission. It would seem by the present manoeuvres of the enemy, that they mean to possess themselves of as many strong holds in different States as they can in order to go full handed to a treaty. With this view they are now making great efforts for Charles Town in South Carolina, and our Portsmouth in this State is next threatened.1 We are now opposing them at { 284 } Charles Town with great vigor, and we shall endeavor to disappoint their views upon us—but the events of war are uncertain—from the number and spirit of our troops at Charles Town I am persuaded that they will not get the place but at a very great expence of blood—it is strongly fortified and powerfully protected. Our foes indeed have great advantage in their command of the sea, as they can with canvass wings fly swiftly from place to place with succors, whilst great delays on our part do necessarily arise from long marches thro this wide extended continent. A few Line of Battle ships would do us unspeakable good.
Should the fate of war give them Portsmouth in this State, I think that the powers of Europe that wish our independance on commercial principles will not agree that they shall continue in that possession after a peace, as it will effectually command the entrance into Chesapeake bay and controul the commerce of the two only tobacco producing states, Virginia and Maryland. The small quantity of Tobacco that grows in North Carolina, and indeed a great part of their commerce in other articles passes thro the Capes of Virginia. These states are also among the first for their export of wheat, flour, and Indian corn, exclusive of many other articles. It will therefore be indispensable to the freedom of this commerce that the British possess not Portsmouth altho the chance of war should accidentally put it into their hands. Delegates from Georgia have lately passed thro this state to Congress, from whom we learn that the enemy possess only Savannah and its environs in that State—the independant government being fully exercised in other parts of that country. There will be a general effort this summer to restore our money to its proper value, which we hope may succeed—the plan recommended by Congress is, to call in with taxes by April 1781—180 millions of dollars, which is to be destroyed and a twentieth part issued in a new kind of paper which is to be funded, redeemable in 6 years with specie; whilst the war is to be chiefly supported by specific aids from every state according to its produce and commercial ability.2 This would seem to be effectual, if we can come up to such very extensive taxation, for which I believe every nerve will be strained. Colo. Francis Lee and myself are recommencing our tour of duty in the Assembly of this our native State—it will make us happy to hear from you when ever it is convenient for you, and it will certainly delight us much to know that you are likely to succeed in your mission. I hope your efforts will not be wanting to secure us the free navigation of Mississippi—I expect much more sown from such efforts than from { 285 } any other—without this free Navigation our vast back country will be so distressed as to lay the foundation of future wars and dissention from the necessity of having an outlet to market. Our State hath already dispossessed the English of their holds on the river Illenois, we have great numbers of people settled on the Ohio, and we are now taking a post at the mouth of that river at its confluence with Mississippi—all these places being within our Charter limits.3 Remember me with much esteem to my friend Mr. Dana—I am dear Sir your most affectionate and obedient Servant
[signed] Richard Henry Lee
RC (Adams Papers); endorsed by John Thaxter: “Richard H. Lee Esqr. 7th. May 1780. recd. 19th. Septr.”
1. Clinton intended to seize Norfolk, rather than Portsmouth, the object of a British raid in 1779 (Mackesy, War for America , p. 342; J. L. Austin to JA , 7 June 1779, note 3, vol. 8:78). The capture of either town as a base of operations to support Cornwallis, however, could have had the effect envisioned by Lee. The arrival of Rochambeau's army forced the abandonment of the plan.
2. See Benjamin Rush's letter of 28 April, and note 4 (above).
3. George Rogers Clark had seized the British posts in what was then known as the Illinois country in the summer of 1778 and later that year the Virginia legislature adopted a plan for the government of the area. Fort Jefferson was the post referred to by Lee (Clarence Walworth Alvord, The Illinois Country 1673–1818, Springfield, Ill., 1920, p. 326–335, 345).

Docno: ADMS-06-09-02-0170

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: Huntington, Samuel
Recipient: President of Congress
Date: 1780-05-08

To the President of Congress, No. 59

Paris, 8 May 1780. RC (PCC, No. 84, II, f. 31–33). ( LbC in John Thaxter's hand (Adams Papers). printed: Wharton, ed., Dipl. Corr. Amer. Rev. , 3:663–664.
In this letter, read in Congress on 20 Sept., John Adams noted that “the English have a faculty of deceiving themselves,” and included a translation of an article from the Gazette de La Haye of 1 May. The author of the piece declared that, however much moderate British politicians might rationalize the intent of the Russian declaration of an armed neutrality, it was an attack on the British position vis-à-vis maritime law and an indication of Russia's intention to pursue its own interests despite any commercial ties with Britain. Adams then inserted the text of Lord Stormont's letter of 17 April to Count Walderen communicating the Order in Council suspending the Anglo-Dutch treaties. John Adams saw Stormont's note as another example of Britain's arrogance, new evidence of its confidence “that no other Nation of Europe understands its own Interest.”
RC (PCC, No. 84, II, f. 31–33). LbC in John Thaxter's hand (Adams Papers). printed : (Wharton, ed., Dipl. Corr. Amer. Rev. , 3:663–664.)

Docno: ADMS-06-09-02-0171

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: Huntington, Samuel
Recipient: President of Congress
Date: 1780-05-08

To the President of Congress, No. 60

Paris, 8 May 1780. RC (PCC, No. 84, II, f. 27–30). LbC in John Thaxter's hand (Adams Papers). printed: Wharton, ed., Dipl. Corr. Amer. Rev. , 3:660–663; extracts in various American newspapers, including the Pennsylvania Gazette of 27 Dec. 1780 and the Boston Gazette of 15 Jan. 1781.
In this letter, { 286 } read in Congress on 20 Sept., John Adams provided newspaper accounts of the Swedish admiralty's ordinance declaring its determination to provide convoys for Swedish ships; the text of the British reply to Catherine II regarding her declaration of an armed neutrality; and Maj. Gen. Sir William Fawcett's efforts to raise troops in Ansbach and Hanau (see to James Warren, 18 March, note 2; and from Edmund Jenings, 18 March, note 7, both above). The British response to Russia denied any past violations of the established law of nations and promised to adhere to its dictates in the future. John Adams noted that while the British statement was somewhat conciliatory, it did not address the fundamental issue of whether Britain intended to establish real or only paper blockades. Adams believed that, if Britain was forced to accept the Russian interpretation of a blockade, it would put “an End forever, to the naval Superiority of G. Britain.”
RC (PCC, No. 84, II, f. 27–30). LbC in John Thaxter's hand (Adams Papers). printed : (Wharton, ed., Dipl. Corr. Amer. Rev. , 3:660–663; extracts in various American newspapers, including the Pennsylvania Gazette of 27 Dec. 1780 and the Boston Gazette of 15 Jan. 1781.)