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Docno: ADMS-06-08-02-0178

Author: Lee, Arthur
Recipient: Adams, John
Date: 1779-12-04

From Arthur Lee

[salute] Dear Sir

You had an opportunity of seeing the commencement of this business of Jones and the Alliance, of which I enclose you the suite.1 Capt. { 291 } Landais has been orderd from Amsterdam to Passy by Dr. Franklin where the Doctor, M. Chaumont2 and Dr. Bancroft have held a Court of Enquiry upon his conduct,3 and their report, I am told, is to be transmitted to Congress. In the mean time Jones has taken possession of the Alliance, and it is much if she ever sees America more. I make no remark upon the whole of this business. Woud to God such proceedings coud be prevented rather than punished! The Pallas belongs to a company at Nantes. The Bon Homme Richard was also private property. They both had Privateers Commissions. Yet a Ship of war of the United States was put in partnership with these Privateers and her Captain subjected to the orders of the Captain of Chaumonts Privateers.4 All this was done with the disagreement between the Captains notorious, and in spight of repeated applications from Mr. Izard, Commodore Gillon, and myself, to let her go as convoy to the supplies and Merchandise for America, and assist in protecting our Coast and Commerce from the depredations of the Enemy. The first excuse was, that she was not mannd, and this after you had written that she had a good Crew;5 the last was that the Squadron was not under his, Dr. Franklin's, direction.(a)6 These excuses are under his hand.
The fleets and Armies on both sides have retird into winter quarters. Not a word of or from D'Estaing on whose success our weal or woe so much depends. I am waiting here in great anxiety and impatience for instructions from Congress. I cannot too strongly recommend the utmost vigilance and fortitude to save our Country from the calamities with which she is threatend from a continuance of the war with the rage of open enemies on the one hand and the wickedness of pretended friends on the other.
With very great regard, I am Dear Sir Your most Obedient & very Humble Servant
(a)His words were—“Capt. Jones's Squadron is not under my direction; I only lent them the Alliance, in consequence of a request which I coud not well refuse.” Probably this request will turn out to be from the same person that requested Jones of us.7 Independent of Dr. Franklin's knowing this request to be a mere contrivance, to cover the job; it was so unjust as well as so unworthy that he coud and ought to have refusd it. He has read the Bible, and can quote it when it suits his purpose; and Nathan8 woud have furnished him with a proper answer to such a request.
The[y] write me from Amsterdam that M. Chaumont has dissmissd Jones from the command of the Privateers, who has taken command of the Alliance, where, I am confident, he will soon raise a mutiny.
{ 292 }
RC in Ludwell Lee's hand to the complimentary close, thereafter by Arthur Lee (Adams Papers); docketed: “Letter from A. Lee.”; in another hand: “Decr 4th 1779.” The letter was probably sent to America, since Lee could not have known of JA's return on this date.
1. Enclosure not found.
2. Leray de Chaumont, acting for the French government, served as paymaster for the specially assembled squadron commanded by Jones (Morison, John Paul Jones, p. 192).
3. On Pierre Landais, see Landais to JA, 9 March, note 2 (above). When he failed to support John Paul Jones during the battle with the Serapis, Jones brought charges which led to the court of inquiry. Franklin reported to the president of the congress in a letter of 4 March 1780, in which he enclosed the minutes of the court. He wrote: “I have not presumed to condemn or acquit him, doubting as well my Judgment and my Authority” (PCC, No. 82, 1, f. 201). Minutes of the inquiry are in the Franklin Papers (Cal. Franklin Papers, A.P.S., 4:496).
4. Lee's view that the Pallas and the Bonhomme Richard, under Jones' command, were nothing but privateers ignores the fact that the French navy outfitted and maintained the ships. See Franklin to JA, 24 April, note 1 (above).
5. Lee is referring to Franklin's letter of 3 May, in reply to his letter of the 2d (Wharton, ed., Dipl. Corr. Amer. Rev., 3:153–154; Cal. Franklin Papers, A.P.S., 2:71). JA had written to Franklin on 29 April that “the Alliance has now a very good Crew” (above), a letter that Franklin probably did not receive before writing to Lee on 3 May.
6. Lee inserted the (a) to refer the reader to the postscript, but despite the quotation marks, the first of which have been supplied, no letter from Franklin to Lee containing the passage alleged by Lee to be “his [Franklin's] words” has been found. The passage may be a paraphrase of one in a letter from Franklin to Alexander Gillon of 5 July, which Gillon may have shown Lee. In that letter Franklin stated that “the little squadron which you suppose to be in my disposition is not, as you seem to imagine, fitted out at the expense of the United States, nor have I any authority to direct its operations. It was from the beginning destined by the concerned for a particular purpose. I have only, upon a request that I could not refuse, lent the Alliance to it, hoping the enterprise may be more advantageous to the common cause than her cruise could be alone” (Wharton, ed., Dipl. Corr. Amer. Rev., 3:239–240).
7. That is, Sartine. See Sartine to the Commissioners, 5 July 1778, vol. 6:265; and Franklin to JA, 24 April 1779 (above).
8. Nathan was sent by God to reprove David for his wickedness (2 Samuel, 12:1–12).
Cite web page as: Founding Families: Digital Editions of the Papers of the Winthrops and the Adamses, ed.C. James Taylor. Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 2018.