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Browsing: Papers of John Adams, Volume 12


Search for a response to this letter.

Docno: ADMS-06-12-02-0269

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: Franklin, Benjamin
Date: 1782-04-16

To Benjamin Franklin

[salute] Sir

Yesterday noon, Mr William Vaughan of London, came to my House, with Mr Laurens, the son of the President,1 and brought me a Line from the latter, and told me, that the President was at Harlem, and desired to see me. I went out to Haerlem and found, my old Friend at the golden Lyon.
He told me that he was come partly for his Health and the Pleasure of seeing me and partly, to converse with me and see if he had at present just Ideas and Views of Things, at least to see if We agreed in Sentiment, and having been desired by Several of the new Ministry to do so.2
{ 411 }
I asked him if he was at Liberty? He said no, that he was still under Palole but at Liberty to say what he pleased to me.
I told him that I could not communicate to him, being a Prisoner even his own Instructions, nor enter into any Consultation with him as one of our Colleagues in the Commission for Peace. That all I should Say to him would be as one private Citizen conversing with another. But that upon all such occasions I Should reserve a right to communicate whatever Should pass to our Colleagues and allies.
He Said that Lord shelburne and others of the new Ministers, were anxious to know whether, there was any authority to treat of a Seperate Peace, and whether there could be an accommodation, upon any Terms short of Independance. That he had ever answrd them, that nothing short of an express or tacit Acknowledgement of our Independence, in his opinion would ever be accepted, and that no Treaty ever would or could be made Seperate from France. He asked me if his answers had been right? I told him I was fully of that opinion.
He Said that the new Ministers had received Digges Report, but his Character was such that they did not choose to depend upon it. That a Person, by the Name of oswald I think set off for Paris to see you, about the same time, that he came away to see me.3
I desired him, between him and me to consider, without Saying any thing of it to the Ministry whether We could ever have a real Peace with Canada or Nova Scotia in the Hands of the English? and whether, We ought not to insist, at least upon a Stipulation that they should keep no standing army or regular Troops, nor erect any fortifications, upon the frontiers of either. That at present I saw no Motive that We had to be anxious for a Peace, and if this nation was not ripe for it, upon proper terms, We might wait patiently till they should be so.
I found the old Gentleman, perfectly sound in his system of Politiques. He has a very poor opinion both of the Integrity and abilities of the new Ministry as well as the old. He thinks they know not what they are about. That they are Spoiled by the same Insincerity, Duplicity Falshood, and Corruption, with the former. Ld shelburne still flatters the King with Ideas of Conciliation and seperate Peace &c. Yet the Nation and the best Men in it, are for an universal Peace and an express Acknowledgment of American Independence, and many of the best are for giving up Canada and Nova scotia.
{ 412 }
His Design seemed to be, solely, to know how far Diggs’s Report was true. After an hour or two of Conversation, I returned to Amsterdam and left him to return to London.4
These are all but Artifices to raise the Stocks, and if you think of any Method to put a stop to them, I will chearfully concur with you. They now know sufficiently, that our Commission is to treat of a general Peace, and with Persons vested with equal Powers. And if you agree to it, I will never to see another Messenger that is not a Plenipotentiary.
It is expected that the Seventh Province, Guelderland will this day Acknowledge American Independence. I think, We are in such a Situation now that We ought not, upon any Consideration to think of a Truce, or any Thing short of an express Acknowledgement of the Souvereignty of the United States. I should be glad however to know your sentiments upon this Point.

[salute] I have the Honour to be

1. Henry Laurens Jr.
2. For the origins of Henry Laurens’ mission, undertaken at the urging of Lord Shelburne, see Thomas Digges to JA , 2 April, note 1, above.
3. Laurens sailed from Margate to Ostend in company with Richard Oswald. Upon landing, Oswald proceeded to Paris to meet with Franklin (Laurens, Papers , 15:401–402, 478–479).
4. JA ’s comments on his discussion with Henry Laurens on 15 April and his meeting with Thomas Digges on 21 March are crucial to understanding his position in the spring of 1782 regarding Anglo-American peace negotiations. Compare JA ’s account of the meeting at Haarlem, with Laurens’ memorandum, [post 18 April] , below. For JA ’s conversation with Thomas Digges, see JA to Franklin, 26 March, and Digges to JA , 2 April, note 1, both above.
In the Boston Patriot of 20 April 1811, in the midst of publishing many of his letters written in the spring and summer of 1782, JA decided to include “a few miscellaneous anecdotes omitted in their order, because I cannot ascertain their precise dates.” There he wrote that
“after Diggs’ visit and Mr. Laurens’ visit, a third was sent over to me, in the person of Mr. S. Hartley, a respectable character, brother of Mr. D. Hartley. He brought me a letter from the latter couched in a mysterious kind of language with which that of the former concurred. The sense of both, as far as I could comprehend or conjecture, was to find out whether there was any hopes of obtaining a separate peace with America and whether we could be induced to wave our treaty with France. I was very explicit with Mr. Samuel Hartley and declared to him from first to last, that the United States would never be guilty of such a breach of faith and violation of honor; and that as far as my vote and voice could go, I would advise perpetual war, rather than stain our character with any such foul imputation. Mr. David Hartley’s letter I answered only in these words—‘Peace can never come but in company with Faith and Honor; when these three can unite, let Friendship join the amiable and venerable choir.’ Mr. D. Hartley wrote me in answer, ‘that the sentiments in my letter were eternal and unchangeable,’ and when I afterwards met him at Paris, he told me that he never meant that we should break our faith with France, but hoped that France would consent to wave her treaty with us, and that we should treat separately from her. This convinced me that Mr. Hartley knew little of the policy of France or America.”
JA ’s conversation with Samuel Hartley in { 413 } fact occurred in Sept. 1780, not in the wake of the visits by Digges and Laurens as JA suggests, and the discussions were centered on David Hartley’s letter of 14 Aug. 1780, which Samuel carried and to which JA responded, using almost the same words as here, on 12 Sept. (vol. 10:74, 143–144). Hartley’s reply, from which JA also quotes, is dated 19 Feb. 1782, above. Since JA presumably quoted from the Letterbook copy of his letter to Hartley and from the recipient’s copy of Hartley’s letter to him, both of which are clearly dated, it is unclear why he chose to set his meeting with Samuel Hartley in 1782.

Docno: ADMS-06-12-02-0270

Author: Digges, Thomas
Author: JW
Recipient: Adams, John
Date: 1782-04-16

From Thomas Digges

[salute] Dr Sir

Since my last there has been no material occurrence but what will be announced in the Papers save the arrival in Scotland of two vessels one from N York the 5 mar and the other from Chas Town the 24th Feby. the letters by the latter is not yet out nor is there any particular accots given out but those of the old kind that the Garrison were chearful healthy and in no fears &ca. &ca. Those letters from N York are full of complainings and uneasiness’s, such as no trade nor bills or money to remitt, constant uneasiness’s between the Civil and military Commissioners and People, the garrison much harrassd in erecting new batterys and defences, and fears of a vigorous attack in the Spring. The winter has been remarkably mild, yet there was no depradatory Expeditions or any Skermeshing between the armys. The Garrison is about 8,000 men and washingtons quarters in the jerseys abo 20 miles from N York of wch they had little information in N York as to force and no kind of intercourse.
There has been a deputation of the Principal merchts in London trading to and having Effects in N York to wait on the minister to know what was to become of their property and Effects, if an Evacuation of that place was meant, and if the ministers woud encourage their sending out more goods provisions or stores; and they got the answer wch You may expect being that their Effects would be taken as much care of as possible and that the Ministry could not advise the sending out more goods or stores.
Genl Carlton saild 4 or 5 days ago and has certainly some direct profer to make to Congress;1 similar I suppose to what is meant to be made to the Commissioners in Europe, and of which you are better informd than I can be, for communications will soon be (if not already) made thro Mr. L–ns. I am sorry to say it, but appearances do not indicate to me that the new men mean to make any { 414 } direct offer of Independence, and without it nothing can be done. A Treaty for Truce, sending Commissioners to you to treat, making profers to Holland and Ama. for seperate Peace, and at any rate getting a seperate Peace with Holland, is very much the subject of present Conversation, and the People seem mad in their expectations and quite forget the situation in which their own Country now stands. The cry still is that a seperate Peace with Holland will certainly take place; and a man who attempts to controvert the opinion from reason and observation on the political state of that Country with the other Belligerent Powers is lookd upon as a fool.
The new Rulers are popular yet, but not so much so as they were a week ago; John Bull seldom looks for a week together towards one point, and in his veerings about He is apt to go to the Extreems. There is certainly disunion among these new men as well on the score of America and what is to be offerd Her, as on the score of appointing friends to the Loaves and fishes: I know most of them and tho they formerly professd great predilection for America, its libertys, and privileges, I see so great an alteration in conversations now that I dispondingly wait to see their actions and cannot take the words or pretences of those even who speak favourably for avowd Independence to America. I wish they fully knew the situation of America and how little She cares about it.
The Prisoners are likely all to be Shippd off very Shortly. In consequence of the late Bill2 Ships are getting ready to take them away and I hope none will remain in a week or two.
The Requests and Memorials &ca. of the different Towns wch I brought are translating and will be in the Remembrancer, they would Cost too much to translate to make them servicable to a news Paper. I hope to see one from the States General soon and that the holding-out States of Groningen and Guilderland will soon acceed. I should be very glad to be instrumental in getting publishd, for the reading of this deluded People, any other memorials or Requests; but I beleive nothing will open the Eyes of some men.

[salute] I am with very great Respect Yr oblgd & ob servt

[signed] JW
RC (Adams Papers); addressed: “His Excellency John Adams Esqr Lieden” and “For Mr J.A.”; endorsed: “Diggs April 16. 1782.”
1. Sir Guy Carleton was appointed on 23 Feb. to replace Sir Henry Clinton as commander in chief in America and arrived at New York on 5 May ( DNB ). His orders were to evacuate New York, Charleston, and Savannah and to use those troops to reinforce the West Indies. Should the Americans prevent the evacuation by military action, he was authorized to arrange a capitulation so as to avoid a defense to no purpose. He was empowered to inform the Americans of his intentions and on 25 March received a joint { 415 } peace commission with Adm. Robert Digby in order to conduct negotiations for a peace treaty if that proved necessary to achieve his objectives (Mackesy, War for America , p. 474). For reaction to his arrival, see Robert R. Livingston to JA , 22 May (Wharton, ed., Dipl. Corr. Amer. Rev. , 5:433–434).
2. See Benjamin Franklin’s letter of 21 April, and note 1, below.