Recipient: Vergennes, Charles Gravier, Comte de
[To the Comte de Vergennes]
[dateline] Paris, Hotel de Valois, Rue de Richlieu Feb. 12. 1780
Having obtained Permission from your Excellency, Yesterday when I did myself the honour to wait on you at Versailles, to write on the Subject of my Mission, I have now the honour to acquaint you, that on the twenty ninth day of September last, The Congress of the United States of America did me the honour to elect me their Minister Plenipotentiary, to negotiate a Peace with Great Britain, and also to negotiate a Treaty of Commerce with that Kingdom, and the Honourable Francis Dana Esqr. a Member of Congress, and of the Council of Massachusetts Bay, Secretary to both Commissions.
As I was not at Congress, when this Transaction took place, I am not able to inform your Excellency, very particularly of the Rise and Progress of it. But from Conversation with Gentlemen at Boston, who
were Members of Congress and from private Letters I learned in general, that it was not the Result of any sudden deliberation, or the Effect of any particular Event of War, prosperous or adverse: but a Measure that had been more than a Year under consideration, and finally adopted, upon this principle, that as it was uncertain at what time the belligerent Powers might be disposed to treat of Peace, which could not be concluded, without a Minister from the United States, it would save a great deal of time, for this Power to have a Minister in Europe, fully authorized to treat, and in concert with Ministers from the other Powers at War, to conclude a Peace with Great Britain, and a Treaty of Commerce consistent with that already made with his Most Christian Majesty, and such others as might be made with other Powers.
I am persuaded, it is the Intention of my Constituents and of all America, and I am sure it is my own determination, to take no Steps of Consequence in pursuance of my Commissions, without consulting his Majestys Ministers. And as various Conjectures have been and may be made concerning the nature of my Appointment and Powers, and as it may be expected by some that I should take some measures for announcing these to the Public, or at least to the Court of London, I beg the favour of your Excellencys Opinion and Advice upon these questions.
1.Whether, in the present Circumstances of Things, it is prudent, for me to acquaint the British Ministry, that I am arrived here, and have such Commissions, and that I shall be ready to treat, whenever the belligerent Powers shall be inclined to treat.
2.Whether it is prudent for me to publish, in any manner, more than the Journals of Congress may have already done, the Nature of my Mission?
3.Or whether, to remain, upon the Reserve, as I have hitherto done, since my Arrival in Europe?
If any Propositions should be made to me, directly or indirectly, from the British Ministry, I shall not fail to communicate them, without Loss of Time, to your Excellency: and I beg the favour of your Excellency, as I am the only Person in Europe, who has Authority to treat of Peace, that if any Propositions on the Part of Great Britain, should be made to his Majestys Ministers, that they may be communicated to me, at least as far as they may relate to the Interests of the United States.
Although I am not confined by my Commissions, nor Instructions, nor by any intimation from Congress, to reside in one place in Europe
[ running head ] Adams & Vergennes, February 1780
rather than another; Yet my own Inclinations, as well as those of the Public, would be most gratified, and the public Service most promoted by my residing here. I must therefore request his Majestys Protection and permission to reside in this Kingdom for some time, either with or without assuming any Public Character, as your Excellency may think most adviseable. I have the Honour to be &c.
[signed] John Adams
[addrLine] His Excellency The Comte De Vergennes.6