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Browsing: Diary of John Adams, Volume 3


Docno: ADMS-01-03-02-0002-0001-0003

Author: Adams, John
Date: 1783-01-11

January 11. Saturday.

Mr. W. T. Franklin came in to talk with me, about a Subject which he said he did not often talk about, and that was himself. He produced a Commission, drawn up, for Messrs. Franklin and Jay to sign, when they only were here, before I arrived, and in fact signed by them. I took the Commission and read it. He asked me to sign it. I told him, that I considered myself as directly affronted in this Affair. That considering that I came out to Europe without any Solicitation of mine, single in the Commission for Peace, and considering that Congress had done me the Honour to place me at the head of the new Commission, I had a right to be consulted in the Appointment of a Secretary to the Commission. But that without saying or writing a Word to me, Dr. Franklin had wrote to Mr. Jay at Madrid and obtained a Promise from him. That considering the Relation to me in which Mr. Thaxter came out, and his Services and Sufferings in the Cause and the small Allowance he had received, I thought he had a better right to it. That I thought my self ill treated in this as in many other Things. That it was not from any disrespect to him, Mr. W.T.F., that I declined it. That I should not, if my Opinion had been asked, have named Mr. Thaxter but another Gentleman.1
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He told me, how his Grandfather was weary, that he had renewed his Solicitation to Congress, to be relieved. That he wanted to be with his Family at Philadelphia &c. &c. &c.
I told him I was weary too, and had written an unconditional Resignation of all my Employments in Europe.2 That an Attack had been made upon me by the C. de Vergennes, and Congress had been induced to disgrace me. That I would not bear this disgrace if I could help it. That I would wear no Livery with a Spot upon it. The Stain should be taken out or I would not wear the Coat. That Congress had placed me now in a Situation, that I could do nothing without being suspected of a sinister Motive, that of aiming at being restored to the Mission to Great Britain. The Conduct of the American Cause in Europe had been a constant Scramble for Offices and was now likely to be a new and more passionate Scaene of Factions for Places. That I would have nothing to do with it, had not been used to it.
He said that Congress would have now a Number of Places and would provide for Mr. Thaxter. That they would undoubtedly give me full Satisfaction &c.
I told him that the first Wish of my Heart was to return to my Wife and Children &c.
He shewed me, Extract of a Letter of Dr. F. to Congress concerning him, containing a studied and long Eulogium—Sagacity beyond his Years, Diligence, Activity, Fidelity, genteel Address, Facility in speaking French. Recommends him to be Secretary of some Mission, thinks he would make an excellent Minister, but does not propose him for it as yet.3
This Letter and other Circumstances convince me, that the Plan is laid between the C. de Vergennes and the Dr., to get Billy made Minister to this Court and not improbably the Dr. to London. Time will shew.
1. See entry of 27 Oct. 1782, above, and note 3 there. JA's candidate, if Thaxter was not to be chosen, was Edmund Jenings; see JA to Laurens, 15 Aug. 1782 (LbC, Adams Papers; Works, 7:611), and JA's letter in the Boston Patriot, 24 July 1811.
2. JA to Livingston, 4 Dec. 1782 (LbC, Adams Papers; Works, 8:16).
3. Franklin to Pres. Huntington, 12 March 1781; for the passage shown to JA, see Franklin Writings, ed. Smyth, 8:221–223.

Docno: ADMS-01-03-02-0002-0001-0004

Author: Adams, John
Date: 1783-01-12

January 12. Sunday.

Mr. B. Vaughan came in. I told him, I had some Facts to communicate to him in Confidence. They affected my personal Interest, Character, and Feelings so intimately, that it was impossible for me to { 104 } speak of them without being suspected of personal Resentments and sinister Motives. But that these Facts were at the same time so connected, with public Affairs, with the Interests of the House of Bourbon, and with the essential Interests of Great Britain and America and the true System of Policy, which the two last ought in future to pursue towards each other, that it was my indispensable Duty to communicate them to some English Gentleman who might put their Government upon their Guard.
The two Facts I should now mention were two Instances of the Policy of the C. de Vergennes to defeat the good Intentions of Congress, towards G. Britain. I then shewed him my two original Commissions—one as Minister Plenipotentiary for making Peace, the other as Minister Plenipotentiary to make a Treaty of Commerce with the Ambassador or Plenipotentiary of his Britannic Majesty, vested with equal Powers, and whatever shall be so agreed and concluded for Us and in our Name to sign and thereupon make a Treaty of Commerce, and to transact every Thing that may be necessary for compleating, securing and strengthening the same, in as ample Form and with the same Effect, as if We were personally present and acted therein, 29. Sept. 1779.
Mr. Vaughan said he was astonished at my Secrecy and Patience, in never communicating this before. That they never had any Idea of this in London. I told him the C. de Vergennes had required me in thename of the King not to communicate it.
I then shew him the Resolution of Congress of 12 July 1781, by which the Commission and Instructions for negotiating a Treaty of Commerce between the U. States and G. Britain given me on the 29. day of Sept. 1779, were revoked.1
I then read to him the following Part of my Instructions of the 16. Oct. 1779, vizt. That the common Right of Fishing shall in no Case be given up. That it is essential to the Welfare of all these United States, that the Inhabitants there of, at the Expiration of the War should continue to enjoy the free and undisturbed Exercise of their common Right to fish on the banks of Newfoundland and the other fishing Banks and Seas of North America. That our Faith be pledged to the Several States, that without their unanimous Consent no Treaty of Commerce shall be entered into nor any Trade or Commerce whatever carried on with G. Britain without the Explicit Stipulation herein after mentioned. You are therefore not to consent to any Treaty of Commerce with G. Britain, without an explicit Stipulation on her Part not to molest or disturb the Inhabitants of the United States of { 105 } America in taking fish on the Banks of Newfoundland and other Fisheries in the American Seas &c—Here I stopped.
You see here says I Mr. Vaughan, a proof of a great Confidence in me. And what was the Cause of it? No other than this, My Sentiments were known in Congress, to be unalterable for Independence, our Alliance, Fisheries and Boundaries. But it was known also to be a fixed Principle with me, to hurt G. Britain no farther than should be necessary to secure our Independence, Alliance and other Rights.
The C. de Vergennes knew my Character, both from his Intelligences in America and from my Conversation and Correspondence with him. He knew me to be a Man who would not yield to some of the designs he had in View. He accordingly sets his Confidential Friend Mr. Marbois, to negotiating very artfully with Congress. They could not get me removed or recalled, and the next Scheme was to get the Power of the Commission for Peace into the hands of Dr. Franklin.
To this End the Choice was made to fall upon him, and four other Gentlemen who could not attend.2 They have been however mistaken, and no Wrestler was ever so compleatly thrown upon his Back as the C. de Vergennes.
But their Policy did not stop here. I had still a Parchment, to make a Treaty of Commerce with G. Britain, and an Instruction annexed to it, which would be a powerfull Motive with G.B. to acknowledge our Right to the Fisheries. This Commission and these Instructions were to be and were revoked.
Mr. Vaughan said this was very important Information and entirely new. That he was much enlightened and had Sentiments upon the Occasion. That he would write it to the E. of Shelburne, and his Lordship would make great Use of it, without naming me, &c.
1. This resolution, which JA long considered the most humiliating stroke he had sustained in the course of his puhlic life, was entered on the Secret Journal of Congress in the following terse form: “A motion was made by Mr. [James] Madison, seconded by Mr. [John] Mathews, That the commission and instructions for negotiating a treaty of commerce between these United States and Great Britain, given to the honourable John Adams on the 29 day of September, 1779, be and they are hereby revoked” JCC, 20:746). JA expressed his long pent-up feelings concerning this action in a letter he addressed to Robert R. Livingston on 5 Feb. 1783 (LbC, Adams Papers; JA, Works, 8:33–34). In his Diary for 30 April 1783 he attributed it to the baleful influence of Vergennes. Still later James Madison, who had moved the resolution of 12 July 1781, alluded to the circumstances of both the grant and the withdrawal of JA's commission, but he failed to give an explanation of either of them that is at all helpful to students of JA's career (Madison to Jefferson, 16 March 1784; Jefferson, Papers, ed. Boyd, 7:34)
2. Insert after the word “who” in this sentence a parenthetical phrase, “it was supposed,” or some equivalent. Of the five appointees only Thomas Jefferson, as things turned out, “could not attend.”
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.
http://www.masshist.org/apde2/