A website from the Massachusetts Historical Society; founded 1791.

Browsing: Diary of John Adams, Volume 2

Docno: ADMS-01-02-02-0009-0001-0009

Author: Adams, John
Date: 1779-02-12

Feb. 12.

My Mind has been in such a State, since the Appearance of Mr. Deanes Address to the People, as it never was before. I confess it appeared to me like a Dissolution of the Constitution. It should be remembered that it first appeared from London in the English Papers—then in the Courier De L'Europe—and We had not received the Proceedings of Congress upon it. A few days after, Dr. Franklin received from Nantes, some Philadelphia Papers, in which were the Pieces signed Senex and Common Sense,1 and the Account of the Election of the New President Mr. Jay.2 When it was known that Congress had not censured Mr. Deane, for appealing to the People, it was looked upon as the most dangerous Proof that had ever appeared, of the Weakness of Government, and it was thought that the Confederation was wholly lost by some. I confess it appeared terrible to me indeed. It appeared to me that it would wholly loose us the Confidence of the French Court. I did not see how they could ever trust any of Us again—that it would have the worst Effects upon Spain, Holland and in England, besides endangering a civil War in America. In the Agony of my Heart, I expressed myself to one Gentleman Dr. Bancroft, with perhaps too much warmth.
But this Day, Dr. Winship3 arrived here, from Brest, and soon afterwards, the Aid du Camp of Le Marquis de Fayette, with Dispatches, from Congress, by which it appears that Dr. Franklin is sole Plenipotentiary, and of Consequence that I am displaced.
The greatest Relief to my Mind, that I have ever found since the Appearance of the Address. Now Business may be done by Dr. Franklin alone. Before it seemed as if nothing could be done.4
1. Articles in the Pennsylvania Packet, beginning 15 Dec. 1778, for and against Deane; reprinted in Deane Papers, 3:81 ff.
2. Henry Laurens resigned as president, 9 Dec. 1778, on the ground that Congress was not taking proper action on Deane's disrespect to Congress in his recent address to the public. Next day he was succeeded in office by John Jay, a partisan of Deane. See JCC, 12:1202–1206; Burnett, ed., Letters of Members, 3:528–529; entries of 20, 22 June, below.
3. Amos Windship, Harvard 1771, surgeon on the Alliance (Harvard Univ. Archives; Diary entries in April–May, below).
4. On 14 Sept. 1778 Congress dissolved the American Commission in France by electing Franklin sole minister plenipotentiary, but it did not get around to drawing up his instructions until 26 Oct., and these were not sent until Lafayette sailed for France in the Alliance in January (JCC, 12:908; Wharton, ed., Dipl. Corr. Amer. Rev., 2:807–809). Before JA had been in Paris six weeks he had warmly recommended that a single minister be placed in charge of American affairs in France (to Samuel Adams, 21 May 1778, NN:Bancroft Coll.; copied into JA's Autobiography under its date). On 12 Feb., within a few hours of sending off his agitated letter to Vergennes (entry { 354 } of 10–11 Feb., above), he learned of “the new Arrangement,” and in writing Vergennes again, 16 Feb. (as well as in private letters), he expressed satisfaction with what he called Congress' “masterly Measure,” which obviated any need for him to pursue with Vergennes the question of Deane's conduct and its consequences (LbC, Adams Papers; Wharton, ed., Dipl. Corr. Amer. Rev., 3:50–51). However, JA's notification by the Committee of Foreign Affairs did not recall him and gave him no instructions beyond a vague promise that something might follow, and “In the mean Time we hope you will exercise your whole extensive Abilities on the Subject of our Finances” (R. H. Lee and James Lovell to JA, 28 Oct. 1778, Adams Papers; same, 2:814–815).

Docno: ADMS-01-02-02-0009-0001-0010

Author: Adams, John
Date: 1779-02-13

Feby. 13.

There is no such Thing as human Wisdom. All is the Providence of God. Perhaps few Men have guessed more exactly than I have been allowed to do, upon several Occasions, but at this Time which is the first I declare of my whole Life I am wholly at a Loss to foresee Consequences.

Docno: ADMS-01-02-02-0009-0002-0001

Author: Adams, John
Date: 1779-03-03

1779 March 3.

Went to Versailles, in order to take Leave of the Ministry. Had a long Conversation, with the Comte De Vergennes, in french, which I found I could talk as fast as I pleased.
I asked him what Effect the Peace of Germany would have upon our War. He said he believed none, because neither the Emperor nor King of Prussia were maritime Powers.
I asked him, whether he thought that England would be able to procure any Ally among the northern Powers. That Congress would be anxious to know this.
He said I might depend upon it and assure Congress that in his Opinion England would not be able to procure any. That on the Contrary the northern Powers were arming, not indeed to war against England, but to protect their Commerce.
Quant a L'Espagne, Monsieur?—Ah! Je ne puis pas dire.
Called on Mr. De Sartine who was not at home. Called on Mr. Genet. Mr. Genets son went with me and my son to see the Menagerie.1
1. The elder Genet was Edmé Jacques (1715–1781), publicist, chief clerk for many years of the bureau of interpreters in the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and an expert on England, where he had traveled and lived. His role at this time might be described as that of chief of the French information service (using that term in its modern meaning of propaganda). From early 1776 to late 1779 he edited the Affaires de l'Angleterre et de l'Amérique. This journal, the bibliography of which is unbelievably complex, bore an imprint “A Anvers” but was actually prepared in the French foreign office, with substantial help from Franklin and his circle and, after his arrival in France, from JA. A complete set consists of fifteen volumes bound in seventeen, though since each volume contains numerous imperfect and confusing paginations, { 355 } references must be to the eighty-two “cahiers” or numbers as originally issued at irregular intervals. Even such references may sometimes prove baffling. A very summary collation of the work was provided by Paul L. Ford in PMHB, 13:222–226 (July 1889), and in his Franklin Bibliography, Brooklyn, 1889, p. 153–154, Ford listed a number of pieces known or believed to have been contributed by Franklin to the Affaires. Ford did not know who the real editor was, but Minnigerode (see further on in this note) mentioned Genet as editor, and Gilbert Chinard supplied further information in a valuable but tantalizingly brief analysis of the Affaires in the Newberry Library Bulletin, 2d ser., No. 8 (March 1952), p. 225–236. Mr. Chinard shows that the documents selected for publication and the commentary on them reflect the mind of Vergennes and the windings of French policy respecting Great Britain and America in a most revealing way.
It is clear from extensive surviving correspondence between JA and Edmé Jacques Genet that JA became an active contributor to the Affaires de l'Angleterre et de l'Amérique during his first mission in France, 1778–1779. Some of his contributions are readily recognizable; others, drawn from letters and papers he received from America or elsewhere and then handed on to Genet, will not be identified until a very careful comparison can be made between JA's files and the contents of the Affaires.
Quite unintentionally JA threw students off the trail by remarking in a warm tribute to Genet's work in behalf of the American cause written thirty years later that Genet “conducted the Mercure de France, in which he published many little speculations for me” (JA, Corr. in the Boston Patriot, p. 347). CFA repeated this statement without the explanation or amplification it requires (JA, Works, 7:59, note). JA's contributions to the political section of the Mercure de France belong to his second, or “peace,” mission in Europe, beginning in 1780, after the Affaires had ceased publication. See note on entry of 5 Feb. 1780, below.
The younger Genet, Edmond Charles (1763–1834), precociously succeeded his father in the French foreign office and enjoyed a distinguished diplomatic career before coming to America as the first minister of the French Republic, 1793, and there achieving a great deal more notoriety than he desired.
On both Genets see a study by Meade Minnigerode with the curious title Jefferson, Friend of France: The Career of Edmond Charles Genet, N.Y. and London, 1928. This is based on family papers then still in the possession of descendants, but it says little about the elder Genet's work as a publicist.
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, 2014.