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Browsing: Diary of John Adams, Volume 2

This note contained in document ADMS-01-02-02-0008-0011-0001
1. From D/JA/48, one of the two matching small quarto volumes bound in marbled boards probably purchased by the Navy Board in Boston and presented to JA when he sailed on his first mission to Europe; see entry of 13 Feb. 1778 and note 1 there. The present record of JA's receipts and expenditures, from the day before he sailed from Nantasket Roads until the day he returned there, occupies 24 leaves at the front of the volume. Doubtless JA left the volume home when he returned to Europe in Nov. 1779; most of its remaining leaves were used for transcripts of his early Diary when in 1829 JQA caused the earliest Diary booklets to be copied; see Introduction.
The record is valuable not only because it fills, at least in a manner, certain gaps in the Diary but also because it is a veritable guide to French currency and the exchange rate between French and British money during JA's first sojourn in Europe. In the early part of his record, JA, who was himself coping with the usual monetary problems of a traveler, gives his sums in both currencies, though it should be noted that the symbols for both (£ for pounds and livres, s. for shillings and sous [or sols], and d. for pence and deniers) were identical and were used interchangeably, each series having proportionally the same value. For a brief account of the French monetary system before and after the French Revolution, see JQA's Report on Weights and Measures, written and published as a U.S. Government document, Washington, 1821, p. 62–64. It is sufficient to say here that, as the figures in the present document show, 24 French livres equaled one British pound sterling (for which the French had an equivalent coin, called a louis d'or), and that 6 livres therefore equaled 5 shillings (for which the French had a coin called an écu or crown, as well as a half-crown piece worth 3 livres or 2s. 6d. sterling).
In printing this document the editors have omitted the totals that appear at the foot of the columns (which in the MS are on facing pages) on some pages in the MS. Since these are incomplete and were never added up to make a grand total, they would in our judgment prove more confusing than significant if set in type and dispersed here and there on the pages of the printed version.
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.