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Browsing: Papers of John Adams, Volume 8

This note contained in document ADMS-06-08-02-0035
1. The letter, dated 20 April, informed Franklin that since a frigate was being prepared to carry La Luzerne to America, there was no need for the Alliance to go. It was to be sent to Lorient, where it could attend to whatever instructions Franklin might give. JA and his suite would be accorded, with pleasure, passage on the French warship (Adams Papers; JA, Works, 7:94).
In accordance with the letter, Franklin ordered Pierre Landais, captain of the Alliance, to proceed to Lorient to join the squadron forming under the command of John Paul Jones. This force, composed of the Alliance, Bonhomme Richard, Pallas, Vengeance, and Le Cerf—the latter three vessels supplied by the French government and under French commanders with American commissions—was to enter the Irish Sea and undertake landings, using French troops under Lafayette's command, at various points on the coasts of England and Ireland. By mid-May, with the failure of the Spanish mediation and the imminent entry of Spain into the war, the troops and ships intended for the expedition were needed for the much larger effort by France and Spain to effect an invasion of southern England. The squadron was not wasted, however, for after doing escort duty in June and July, it departed Lorient on 14 Aug. to begin the celebrated cruise around the British Isles that ended in the battle between the Bonhomme Richard and the Serapis on 23 Sept. (Wharton, ed., Dipl. Corr. Amer. Rev., 3:187, 145–146; Louis Gottschalk, Lafayette and the Close of the American Revolution, Chicago, 1942, p. 9–16; Morison, John Paul Jones, p. 186–199).
Lafayette was the principal advocate of the plan for the landings and the addition of the Alliance to the Bonhomme Richard squadron. Benjamin Franklin, responding to Lafayette's proposal, wrote him on 22 March that while it promised great benefits, there were also great dangers and he had “not enough of Knowledge in such matters to presume upon Advising it.” By the following day Lafayette had persuaded Franklin to raise the issue with Vergennes, but while Franklin now approved the plan, he was reluctant to attach the Alliance because of the resulting delay in JA's departure. To overcome this obstacle, Lafayette wrote Sartine on [16–20? April], requesting that a letter be sent to Franklin that could be used after the expedition had departed to justify his attachment of the Alliance to that squadron, for without such a letter Franklin would not give his approval (Lafayette in the Age of the American Revolution: Selected Letters and Papers, 1776–1790, ed. Stanley Idzerda and others, 5 vols., Ithaca, N.Y., 1977–1983, 2:243–247, 255). From this request came Sartine's letter of 20 April. The fortunate coincidence of the departure of La Sensible permitted the offer of passage on that vessel and allowed Franklin to send the letter to JA upon its arrival, rather than after Lafayette's expedition had departed. Despite this, the delay was a bitter blow to JA. On the day Franklin's letter was received, JA wrote in his Diary that “this is a cruel disappointment.—To exchange May for July, and the Alliance for another Frigate, is too much” (Diary and Autobiography, 2:363).
JA made no further entries until 7 May, and then on the 12th, he wrote of his suspicions as to the real reason for the delay. He believed it was an effort to collect a force over which John Paul Jones could act as commodore or, at the least, was owing to Franklin's desire to keep JA in France. JA asked whether “the old Conjurer dread[ed] my Voice in Congress? He has some Reason for he has often heard it there, a Terror to evil doers.” He added, “I may be mistaken in these Conjectures, they may be injurious to J. and to F. and therefore I shall not talk about them, but I am determined to put down my Thoughts and see which turns out” (same, 2:369).
JA's suspicion that Franklin had some nefarious motive for transferring the Alliance and thus delaying his return to America was groundless; but the unex• { 43 } plained naval preparations and their sudden cancellation did encourage suspicions in other minds. See letters from Jenings and Arthur Lee of 2 June (below).
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.