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Browsing: Diary of John Adams, Volume 4

Docno: ADMS-01-04-02-0001-0086

Author: Adams, John
Date: 1778-05-22

[May 22 Fryday.]

May 22 Fryday. We sent the following Letter.

[Benjamin Franklin and John Adams to the Massachusetts General Court]

[addrLine] To the Honourable the Council and the Honourable the House of Representatives of the State of Massachusetts.

[salute] May it please your Honours

Mr. Joseph Parker of London has made Application to Us concerning a Claim, that he has of Property in a certain Vessell, which has been as he informs Us, in the Custody of the Public, since the Spring of the Year 1775, requesting Us to write to your honours, on the Subject.
From what some of Us know and all of Us have heard of Mr. Parker, We have reason to think him a worthy Man, who has always been a Friend and connected with the Friends of America in England, by whom he is strongly recommended: and from his representations to Us, his present Circumstances render it very necessary for him to obtain this Property from America, if it is practicable, as the longer detention or confiscation of it, will be inevitable Ruin to him and his
Family....As the Affair is represented to Us, the Ship was detained by an order of the Honourable General Court, before the tenth of September 1775....If this is the Case, it may be perhaps justly thought an hard one upon Mr. Parker, and therefore We cannot but become petitioners for Mr. Parker, that his case may be taken into consideration and determined as soon as possible; which We hope may be in his favour.
It is to be observed, that though considerable Property belonging to Americans, was in the hands of Merchants in England, and in the public Funds, before and at the time of the commencement of the War, there is no instance come to our Knowledge, that the Government have seized and confiscated such property, or made any Inquiry after it: and perhaps it may be prudent in Us not to be the first, in giving an Example of such Severity: especially as by the common practice in Europe, frequently confirmed by Treaties, so as to have become in a manner part of the Law of nations, no such Advantage is taken, but at least six months is allowed after a War commenced, for the Subjects on both Sides, to withdraw their Effects. We have the honor to be with great respect. Signed by Franklin, Lee and Adams.1
{ 111 }
Dined at home this day, with a great deal of Company. Went After dinner to see the Microscope2 of Moliere, which was followed by The Heureusement. Mr. Amiel went with me. We called at the Microcosme and at Mr. Amiels at the Pension.
1. What is apparently the recipient's copy of this letter is in MiU-C: Presidents Coll., and is remarkable for the fact that the first paragraph is in JA's hand, with improvements and additions interlined by Franklin, while the second paragraph is entirely in Franklin's hand. See illustration in this volume.
2. A mistake for “Misanthrope”; see Diary entry of this date.

Docno: ADMS-01-04-02-0001-0087

Author: Adams, John
Date: 1778-05-23

[May 23. Saturday.]

May 23. Saturday. We wrote this Letter1

[Commissioners to John Paul Jones]

[salute] Sir

A Pilot being wanted to conduct an Advice Boat to America, if you have in your Ship, a suitable Person that can be spared, the Commissioners request, that you would permit him to go on that Service. We have the honour to be, Sir your most obedient humble Servants
[signed] B. Franklin,
[signed] Arthur Lee,
[signed] John Adams
Dined at home with Company.
1. To “Capt. [John Paul] Jones,” as LbC indicates. RC (DLC: John Paul Jones Papers) is in Franklin's hand.

Docno: ADMS-01-04-02-0001-0088

Author: Adams, John
Date: 1778-05-24

[May 24. Sunday 1778.]

May 24. Sunday 1778. I was so uneasy at the difficulty of getting any Business done and at the distracted Condition of our Affairs, that I thought it my duty to write in a private Capacity to the Commercial Committee of Congress.

[To the Commerce Committee]

[salute] Sir

I find that the American Affairs, on this Side of the Atlantick, are in a State of disorder, very much resembling that, which is so much to be regretted on the other.1 Our Resources are very inadequate to the demands upon Us, which are perhaps unnecessarily increased, by several irregularities of Proceeding. We have, in some places, two or three Persons, who claim the Character of American Agents; Agents for commercial Affairs; and continental Agents, for they are called by all these different Appellations.
In one quarter, one Gentleman claims the Character from the Appointment of Mr. William Lee, Another claims it from the Appointment of the Commissioners at Passi, and a third from the Appointment of the commercial Committee of Congress. This introduces a tripple Expence and much Confusion and delay. These Evils have been accidental, I believe, and unavoidable, but they are Evils still, and ought to be removed.
{ 112 }
One Person at Bourdeaux, another at Nantes, and a third perhaps at Havre de grace or Dunkirk, would be amply sufficient for all public Purposes; and to these Persons all Orders from Congress, or the commercial Committee, or the Commissioners at Passi, ought to be addressed: To the same Persons all public Ships of War, and all other Ships belonging to the United States, and their Prizes ought to be addressed. And all Orders for Supplies of Provisions, Cloathing, Repairs of Vessells &c. as well as all orders for shipping of Merchandizes or Warlike Stores for the United States, ought to go through their hands.
We have such Abuses and irregularities, every day occurring, as are very allarming. Agents of various Sorts are drawing Bills upon Us, and the Commanders of Vessells of War are drawing upon Us, for Expences and Supplies, which We never ordered, so that our resources will soon fail, if a speedy Stop is not put to this Career. And we find it so difficult to obtain Accounts from Agents of the expenditure of Monies, and of the Goods and Merchandizes shipped by them, that We can never know either the true State of our Finances, or when and in what degree, We have executed the orders of Congress, for sending them Arms, Cloaths, Medicines or other Things.
In order to correct some of these Abuses, and to bring our Affairs into a little better order, I have constantly given my Voice, against paying for Things which We never ordered, against paying Persons who have never been authorized, and against throwing our Affairs into a multiplicity of hands in the same place: but the Consequence has been the refusal of so many demands and requests, that I expect much discontent will arise from it, and many Clamours.
Whether the Appointment by Congress of one or more Consuls for this Kingdom would remedy these inconveniences, I must submit to their Wisdom.
[signed] Signed John Adams

[addrLine] The Hon. The Commercial Committee of Congress.

1. LbC continues this sentence as follows: “and arising as I suppose from the same general Causes, the Novelty of the Scaenes, the Inexperience of the Actors, and the Rapidity with which great Events have succeeded each other.” This omission was a mere copyist's inadvertence.
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.