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Browsing: Diary of John Adams, Volume 3

Docno: ADMS-01-03-02-0004-0003-0001

Author: Adams, John
Date: 1785-05-03

Auteuil May 3. 1785.

Tuesday. At Versailles, the C. de Vergennes said he had many Felicitations to give me upon my apointment to England. I Answered that I { 176 } did not know but it merited Compassion more than felicitation.—Ay why?—Because, as you know it is a Species of Degradation in the Eyes of Europe, after having been accredited to the King of France to be sent to any other Court.—But permit me to say, replies the Comte it is a great Thing to be the first Ambassador from your Country to the Country you sprung from. It is a Mark.—I told him that these Points would not weigh much with me. It was the difficulty of the service, &c.
I said to him, as I would not fail in any Point of Respect or Duty to the King, nor any of our Obligations to this Country, I wished to be advised, whether an Audience in particular of Congé, was indispensable. He said he would inform himself.
The Duke of Dorsett said to me, that if he could be of any Service to me by Writing either to publick or private Persons he would do it with Pleasure. I told his Grace that I should be glad of half an hours Conversation with him, in private.—I will call upon you at Auteuil says he, any Morning this Week.—I answered that any Morning and any hour, agreable to him, should be so to me.—Saturday says he at 12 O Clock.—I shall be happy to receive you, says I.—He repeated that if he could be of any Service, he would be glad. I said it may probably be in your Graces Power to do great service to me, and what was of infinitely more importance to his Country as well as mine, if he thought as I did upon certain Points, and therefore I thought it was proper We should compare Notes. He said he believed We did think alike and would call on Saturday. He said that Lord Carmaerthen was their Minister of foreign Affairs, that I must first wait upon him, and he would introduce me to his Majesty. But that I should do Business with Mr. Pitt very often. I asked him Lord Caermaerthens Age. He said 33. He said I should be stared at a good deal. I told him I trembled at the Thoughts of going there, I was afraid they would gaze with evil Eyes. He said no he believed not.
One of the foreign Ambassadors said to me, You have been often in England.—Never but once in November and December 1783.— You have Relations in England no doubt.—None at all.—None how can that be? You are of English Extraction?—Neither my Father or Mother, Grandfather or Grandmother, Great Grandfather or Great Grandmother nor any other Relation that I know of or care a farthing for have been in England these 150 Years. So that you see, I have not one drop of Blood in my Veins, but what is American.—Ay We have seen says he proofs enough of that.—This flattered me no doubt, and I was vain enough to be pleased with it.1
{ 177 }
1. In their First Report to the President of Congress, 11 Nov. 1784, the Commissioners stated that on 31 Aug. they had notified David Hartley and on 28 Oct. the Duke of Dorset (the British ambassador who had succeeded the Duke of Manchester in Paris) that they had powers for entering into a treaty of amity and commerce with Great Britain; but Hartley had been ordered to England and Dorset had replied that he could only notify his government (Jefferson, Papers, ed. Boyd, 7:494–495; see also p. 456–457). On 24 Nov. Dorset informed the Commissioners of his government's view “that the United States should send a Person properly authorized and invested with the necessary powers to London, as more suitable to the dignity of either Power, than would be the carrying on at any third Place a negotiation of so great importance” same, p. 547). Dorset's letter was transmitted to Congress in the Commissioners' Second Report, 15 Dec. (same, p. 573–574). Before this report was received, presumably, Secretary Jay submitted to Congress a draft of “Instructions for the Ministers to be sent by the United States to the Court of London,” which was read in Congress on 7 Feb., debated from time to time, and exactly a month later was adopted with some omissions and the highly significant alteration of the word “Ministers” in the title to “Minister” (JCC, 28:45–46, 123). In the meanwhile a tussle had taken place over who should be the first American minister accredited to the Court of St. James's. It turned out to be JA, who was elected on 24 Feb., but the bare result recorded in the journal (same, p. 98) conveys no idea of the length of the struggle or the views of the members who were for and against his appointment. Fortunately Elbridge Gerry, in a letter written on the day the contest ended, supplied what is wanting elsewhere. The other nominees, he told JA, were Robert R. Livingston and John Rutledge; some southern members opposed JA on the ground that he was “totally averse to the Slave Trade” and would not exert himself “to obtain Restitution of the Negroes taken and detained from them in Violation of the Treaty”; other members thought he would not be as firm as he should be on the issue of American debts; and finally some of JA's communications to Congress, notably his “Peace Journal” of 1782 (see note on entry of 2 Nov. 1782, above), were cited as evidence of his vanity, “a weak passion, to which a Minister ought never to be subject” because it would make him vulnerable to flattery by “an artful Negotiator” (Gerry to JA, 24 Feb. 1785, Adams Papers; Burnett, ed., Letters of Members, 8:39–40).
JA's commission to Great Britain is in the Adams Papers, 24 Feb.; it was brought to him, with his instructions and other papers, by Col. William Stephens Smith (subsequently JA's son-in-law and referred to in this work as WSS), whom Congress had appointed on 1 March “Secretary to our legation to his Britannic Majesty” (JCC, 28:111, 149–150). On 7 March Congress gave leave to Benjamin Franklin “to return to America as soon as convenient,” and on the 10th Thomas Jefferson “was unanimously elected” to succeed Franklin at the Court of Versailles (same, p. 122, 134). JA and Jefferson retained their joint commission to negotiate commercial treaties with European and African nations.
JA learned of these new arrangements toward the close of April, and on the 28th of that month he addressed a letter to Gerry expressing profound thanks for his confidential account of the election contest and commenting in a temperate manner on the objections Gerry had reported as having been raised against his appointment (LbC, Adams Papers). On the day before the present Diary entry was written JA wrote a second answer to Gerry which is one of the most remarkable letters he ever composed. It is an historical and analytical discourse on the “various kinds of Vanity” to which men have been subject—the dangerous kinds that JA had had to contend with, as he explained, in his adversaries and even among his colleagues, and his own kind, which he conceded was a marked trait of his character but which was innocent and harmless. Since what appears to be the copy intended for the recipient remains among the Adams Papers, since no letterbook copy was made, and since, finally, no acknowledgment { 178 } by Gerry of such a letter has been found, JA evidently decided against sending it; but happily he did not destroy it, and it will be published in its place among his papers in Series III of the present edition.
The state of Anglo-American relations on the eve of JA's mission to London is well summarized and documented in an editorial note on the Duke of Dorset's letter to the American Commissioners, 26 March 1785, in Jefferson, Papers, ed. Boyd, 8:56–59.

Docno: ADMS-01-03-02-0004-0003-0002

Author: Adams, John
Date: 1785-05-09
Date: 1785-05-16

Auteuil May [9 or 16] 1785.

Monday. The Posts within the Limits of the United States, not yet surrendered by the English, are
Oswegatchy in the River St. Lawrence
Oswego Lake Ontario
Niagara and its dependencies
Presqu'Isle East Side of Lake Erie.
Sandusky Ditto.
St. Mary's. South Side of the Streight between Lakes Superiour
and Huron.
Bottom of the Bay des Puantz
St. Joseph. bottom of Lake Michigan.
1. This memorandum, the last entry in D/JA/43 and the last written by JA in his Diary for a period of more than ten months, must have been made on either 9 or 16 May, since it was written at Auteuil on a Monday and follows an entry dated there on 3 May, and since on 20 May JA set out with his wife and daughter for London (JA to Jefferson, 22 May, NNP; Jefferson, Papers, ed. Boyd, 8:159–160). Congress' instructions of 7 March required JA to “insist, that the United States be put without further delay in possession of all the posts and territories within their limits which are now held by British Garrisons” (JCC, 28:123). On 1 May JA had a conversation with Daniel Hailes, secretary of the British embassy in Paris, and he had another with Dorset on the same subject, apparently on 10 May (AA to Cotton Tufts, 2 May, Adams Papers; JA to Jay, 13 May, LbC, Adams Papers, printed in Dipl. Corr., 1783–1789, 1: 495–498). He was to make the question of British occupation of posts on the northern lakes the first and indeed a standing order of business during his London mission, but, for reasons that were hinted at by David Hartley two years earlier and that have been very fully set forth by Mr. Bemis, the British did not evacuate them for a decade; see entry of 3 May 1783, above, and Samuel F. Bemis, Jay's Treaty, N.Y., 1923, ch. 1.

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

Author: Adams, John
DateRange: 1785-06 - 1785-07

[List of Visits Paid and Returned in London, June–July? 1785]1

Le Comte de Lusi. Minister [] of Prussia. Great Pultney Street. r
De Tribolet Hardy. Secretaire de Legation de S.M. Prussienne. r
{ 179 }
Mr. De Jeanneret de Dunilac late Chargé D'Affairs of his Prussian Majesty at the British Court. South Moulton Street Oxford Street. No. 49. r
Lord Mahon. Downing Street. r
The Earl of Abbington. r.
The Earl of Effingham. r.
Mr. Cottrell Assistant Master of the Ceremonies Berners Street. r
Mr. Grand. Great Marlborough Street No. 54. r
Mr. Horn and Tooke. r
Mr. Brand Hollis. Bruton Street Berkley Square. 1st House on the right.
Mr. Bridgen. r.
Mr. R. Penn. Queen Ann Street, West Cavendish Square. r.
Mr. Strachy. Portman Square. No. 18. r
Lt. General Melvill Brower Street No. 30. r
Mr. Nicholls Queen Ann Street West. No. 42. r.
Sir Clement Cottrell Dormer. r. Wimpole Street. r.
Le Comte de Pollon, Lincolns Inn Fields. Brother of the Chevalier. Min[ister] of Sardinia. r.
Mr. Winchcomber Hartley. Golden Square. r.
Mr. Chamberlain Palsgrave Place Strand. No. 5. r
Mr. Chew. Charles Street St. James's Square No. 23. r
Mr. Granville Penn.
Count Woronzow Envoy Extr. & M.P. from the Empress of Russia. r
Mr. Frances, at Ray's Saddler Piccadilly No. 83. r.
Mr. Martin New Street. Bishops Gate Street. r.
Mr. Middleton Bryanston Street.
General Stewart. Norfolk Street Strand No. 33
Mr. Cunningham Dto.
Mr. Lane, Nicholas lane.
<Mr. Martin. New Street. Bishopsgate Street>
Jos. & Isaac Saportas. Great Crescent Minories. No. 5.
Mr. Wallace Bedford Street.
Mr. Bordieu.
Jos. & Isaac Saportas. Great Crescent Minories No. 5.
Brigr. General Forbes, in the Service of Portugal George Street. York Buildings No. 17. r
Sir James Harris. Park Street. Westminster. r
Mr. Wallace Bedford Street.
I. Heard Garter. r
{ 180 }
Lord Hood. r
Mr. Jennings. Soho. Wrights Hotel.
1. A loose, folded sheet, without date, in JA's hand and docketed by him: “List”; filed in Adams Papers under the assigned date 1785?. This sheet was afterward used as a cover for other papers, for on its blank fourth page appears a docketing notation in the hand of WSS: “Illegal Captures & Complaints of Injuries receiv'd.”
From scattered allusions in JA's and AA's correspondence during June-July 1785 there can be little doubt that this is a list of some (though by no means all) of the visitors received by the Adamses during their first weeks in London. The calls they returned are indicated by the abbreviation “r.” Only a few of the calls recorded were of the ceremonial, diplomatic kind, the explanation of which may be that, as the Dutch minister in London, D. W. Lynden van Blitterswyck, told JA, “Here the New Minister receives the first Visit, from all the foreign Ministers, whereas in France and Holland the New Minister makes the first visit to all the foreign Ministers and notifies formally to them his reception. This saves me,” JA went on to say, “from an Embarrassment, and we shall now see who will and who will not” (to Jefferson, 27 May, LbC, Adams Papers; Jefferson, Papers, ed. Boyd, 8:167). Other visits were from persons like the Penns who had American connections (though it should be noted that there are no loyalist refugees on the list) or who were favorably disposed toward America (e.g. the Earls of Effingham and Abingdon, Lord Mahon [later 3d Earl Stanhope], John Home Tooke, Thomas Brand Hollis, and David Hartley's brother Winchcombe). Still others were old friends or former acquaintances (e.g. Edward Bridgen, Henry Strachey, Gen. Robert Melville, and Edmund Jenings). The purpose of Admiral Lord Hood's very unexpected visit is interestingly detailed in a letter JA wrote to John Jay, 26 June, a few days after it occurred (LbC, Adams Papers; Dipl. Corr., 1783–1789, 2:387).
The new minister's family had been reduced by one before leaving Auteuil. In the preceding fall JA and AA had decided that their eldest son should return to America to take a degree at Harvard and prepare himself for the bar. JA accordingly wrote President Joseph Willard of Harvard, 8 Sept. (MH), and Willard replied on 14 Dec. enclosing a vote of the President and Fellows to admit JQA to whatever class an examination showed him qualified to enter (Adams Papers). JA's letters to Willard and to Professor Benjamin Waterhouse, dated 22 and 24 April respectively, describing the studies his son had pursued while in Europe are of the highest interest (letterbook copies, Adams Papers; the letter to Willard is printed in Col. Soc. Mass., Pubns., 13 [1910–1911]:115–116; that to Waterhouse in Ford, ed., Statesman and Friend, p. 5–8, under date of 23 April). JQA left Auteuil for Lorient on 12 May, went on board the French packet Courier de l'Amérique on the 18th (where he found seven dogs being sent by Lafayette to George Washington, which JQA was charged to see were “well fed” during the voyage), sailed on the 21st, kept a careful journal of the passage to send to his sister, and arrived in New York on 17 July (JQA to AA2, 1112 May, 25 May-17 July; JQA to JA, 18 May; Lafayette to JQA, 18 May; all in Adams Papers; see also JQA's Diary, which is very regular and full for the period concerned).
On 20 May the three remaining Adamses left Auteuil by carriage and traveled via Montreuil to Calais, where they put up again at “Dessin's,” beguiling a dusty journey by reading a copy of Jefferson's Notes on the State of Virginia presented to them by the author; they reached London on the 26th and stopped at the Bath Hotel in Piccadilly, where Charles Storer had engaged rooms for them (JA to Jefferson, 22, 23, 27 May, and AA to Jefferson, 6 June; Jefferson, Papers, ed. Boyd, 8:159–161, 167, 178–181). On the very night of his arrival JA announced his presence in London to Foreign Secretary Lord Carmarthen, who received him the following day. On 1 June he was formally received by George III; both men were deeply moved by the circumstances in which they { 181 } found themselves, and both distinguished themselves by their words and conduct (JA to Carmarthen, 26 May, LbC, Adams Papers; Carmarthen to JA, 27 May, Adams Papers; JA to Jay, 2 June, reporting verbatim what the King and he had said to each other, LbC, Adams Papers, printed in Works, 8:255–259). As a result of AA's house-hunting efforts, JA signed on 9 June a lease for a house “in the North East Angle of Grosvenor Square in the Parish of Saint George Hanover Square,” owned by the Hon. John Byron of Purbright, for the term of 21 months at an annual rental of £160 (Lease in Adams Papers; see also AA to Mrs. Cranch, [22]24–28 June, MWA, printed in AA, Letters, ed. CFA, 1848, p. 252). This, the first United States legation in London, is still standing, unoccupied in 1959, at the junction of Duke and Brook Streets, overshadowed by the immense new American Embassy building on the west side of Grosvenor Square. Into it the Adamses moved their furnishings and books, just arrived from the Hôtel des Etats Unis at The Hague, during the first day or two of July; and in a remarkable journal-letter begun on 2 July AA2 provided her brother with a chatty description of the “appartments” in the house, their furnishings, the servants, the neighbors in Grosvenor Square (one of whom was Lord North), visitors and visits, &c., &c. (to JQA, 24 July-11 Aug. 1785, Adams Papers). Subsequent installments of her journal-letters—carefully numbered, each of them running to many pages, and none of them published— furnish by far the fullest account of the Adamses' domestic and social life in London, 1785–1788, compensating in some measure for JA's near-abandonment of his Diary during this period.
On 17 June JA had begun his conferences with Secretary Carmarthen concerning the principal points to be adjusted between the United States and Great Britain; see his letter to Jay of that date (LbC, Adams Papers; Dipl. Corr., 1783–1789, 2:378–382).
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.