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Browsing: Papers of John Adams, Volume 9


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Docno: ADMS-06-09-02-0281

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: Wilson, James
Date: 1780-06-24

To James Wilson

[salute] Sir

I had two days ago the Pleasure of receiving a Duplicate your Letter of the 20 of April—the original is not come to Hand. You could not have given me a Commission, more agreable to my Inclinations, than that of furnishing a List of a Collection of Books—on Treaties, the Law of Nations, the Laws maritime, the Laws of France respecting Navigation and Commerce, and the History and Policy of the Kingdom. As it is a subject that has particularly engaged my attention, as much as necessary avocations would admit, it will be attended with little difficulty. Mr. Gerard is at present at his Country House. Mr. Deane is not arrived that I have heard. I will take the first opportunity of furnishing the List, that presents.1
The approbation of So able a Judge, of the Report of a Constitution for Mass. gives me great Consolation.
I never Spent Six Weeks in a manner that I shall ever reflect upon with more Pleasure than with that Society of Wise men who composed that Convention. So much Caution, Moderation, Sagacity and Integrity, has not often been together in this World.
I see the Convention have made alterations in the Plan: but these are done with so much Prudence and fortified with so much ability that I dare not Say they are not for the better. The Report of the Committee has been received in Europe with applause—it has been translated into Spanish and French and printed in the Courier de L'Europe—the London Courant and the Remembrancer.2
The Loss of Charlestown the Men the ships, the artillery and { 474 } stores, is a dreadfull Wound. Yet I dont See that the English will gain much by it. And We hope to hear Something as a Ballance. The Revolution in the Paper Currency, is very encouraging to me, yet it has made a disagreable sensation here—but I think it was chiefly because the Plan was not published all together. <I> We have had much to do to take off the Impression. But it must I think soon subside.
The System of Europe is as favourable to Us, almost as We could wish. The state of Great Britain is deplorable beyond description—Discontents which will subvert the Constitution, if this War continues, are at Work. Yet the Ministry cannot make Peace—because they know they must loose their Heads if they do. I see not but they must loose them, whether they make Peace or continue the War.
You must know more, at this moment than I do of French and Spanish Fleets and Armies in America. May they do their duty. If they do all must be well. I shall be, always glad to hear from you, sir, and, have the Honour to be, with great Esteem, your most obt.
1. No letter from JA to Wilson containing such a list has been found.
2. For the printing of the Report in the publications indicated by JA , see Thomas Digges' letter of 14 April, note 2 (above).

Docno: ADMS-06-09-02-0282-0001

Author: Franklin, Benjamin
Recipient: Adams, John
Date: 1780-06-26

From Benjamin Franklin

M. Adams, after having perused the inclosed Papers, is desired to give his Opinion on the following Questions.1
1st. Whether Captain Landais, accused as he is, of Capital Crimes, by his Senior and late Commanding Officer, after having apparently relinquished the Command of the Alliance frigate, by with drawing his Effects from the same, after having asked and received money by Order of the Minister Plenipotentiary, in order to transport himself to America, and take his Trial there, upon the said accusation, and after having for that Purpose, in writing, requested a passage to be procur'd for him, was intituled, at his pleasure, to retake the Command of the Alliance, (contrary to the positive order of the Minister Plenipotentiary, whose orders the said Landais was by the Navy Board instructed to obey),2 and to dispossess his successor, the oldest naval officer of the United States, in Europe, who had commanded the said frigate near eight months, and brought her to the Port where she now is?
{ 475 }
2dly. Whether the Conduct of Captain Landais, at L'Orient in exciting the Officers and Seamen of the Alliance, to deny the Authority of Captain Jones under whose Command they had voluntarily come, and remained there, and encouraging the said Seamen to make unlawful Demands on the Minister Plenipotentiary for the United States, and to enter into a mutinous Combination, not to put to Sea with the Alliance until the said Demands should be complied with, thereby retarding the Departure of the said frigate and of the Public Stores, on board, be not highly Culpable?
3dly. Whether after Captain Landais's late Conduct and the manner in which he has retaken the Command of the frigate Alliance, it be consistent with good order, Prudence, and the Public Service, to permit him to retain the Direction of her, and of the Public Stores intended to be sent with her, accused as he is of Capital Crimes by his late Commodore, and for which if he arive in America, he must of Course be tried?
RC (Adams Papers;) endorsed: “from Dr Franklin.”; docketed by CFA : “June 1780.”; marked in another hand: “Queries.”
1. This undated request for JA 's opinion regarding the case of Pierre Landais and the Alliance may have resulted from a conversation between JA , Francis Dana, and Benjamin Franklin reported in JA 's unfinished and unsent letter of 23 June to Arthur Lee ( LbC , Adams Papers). The documents that Franklin enclosed with this letter cannot be positively identified, but from the issues raised, particularly the first and second queries, it is likely that they included the letters exchanged by Franklin with Landais and members of the Alliance's crew. For these letters as well as the charges brought against Landais by John Paul Jones, see Benjamin Pierce's letter of 1 June, and notes 1–3; Arthur Lee's letters of 5 June, and notes 3–4, and 14 June; and Pierre Landais' letter of 14 June, and notes 1–3 (all above).
2. For Franklin's “positive order” or rather “orders,” see Landais' letter to JA of 14 June, note 2 (above). But Franklin may also refer to two documents that seemingly empowered him to command Landais and were likely among those sent to JA . The first was Landais' orders of Dec. 1778 from the Navy Board at Boston, which were derived from a letter of 27 Oct. from the Marine Committee of Congress, requiring Landais, upon reaching France, to report his arrival to Benjamin Franklin “whose orders you are to obey.” The second may have been the Marine Committee's letter to Franklin of 27 Oct. 1778, which informed Franklin that “the Captain will on his Arrival inform you thereof, and we have directed that he get his Vessel in readiness to follow any orders which you may think proper to give, which orders he is bound to obey” (PCC, No. 193, f. 607; Charles O. Paullin, ed., Outletters of the Continental Marine Committee and Board of Admiralty, 2 vols., N.Y., 1914, 2:21–23).