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Browsing: Diary of John Adams, Volume 4


Docno: ADMS-01-04-02-0001-0034

Author: Adams, John
Date: 1778-04-02

[April 2 Thursday.]

April 2 Thursday. Walked round the Town to see the Parliament which was sitting, where We heard but understood not the Counsel, then to see the Council and chamber of Commerce. Then We went round to the Ship Yards, made many Visits, dined at the Hotel D'Angleterre, visited the Custom house, the Post Office, the Chatteau Trompette a famous Fortification of Vaubans and its Commandant. Then visited the Premier President of the Parliament of Bourdeaux. Here I met a reception that was not only polite and respectfull but really tender and seemingly affectionate. He asked Permission to embrace me A la francaise. He said he had long felt for me an Affection resembling that of a Brother. He had pitied me and trembled for me, and was cordially rejoiced to see me. He could not avoid sympathizing with every sincere friend of Liberty in the World. He knew that I had gone through many dangers and Sufferings in the cause of Liberty, and had felt for me in them All. He had reason he said to feel for the Sufferers in the Cause of Liberty, because he had suffered many Years in that cause himself. He had been banished for cooperating with Mr. Malsherbs, and the other Courts and Parliaments of the Kingdom in the time of Louis the fifteenth, for their Remonstrances against the arbitrary Conduct and pernicious Edicts of the Court &c. He envied the Count de Viralade his Son the pleasure, that he intended himself by accompanying me that Evening to the Commedy. But the Parliament was sitting and the press of Business rendered it impossible. Otherwise he should certainly attend me himself. Mr. Bondfield had to interpret all this Effusion of Compliments and I thought it never would come to an End. But it did and I concluded upon the whole there was a fund of Sincerity in it decorated and almost suffocated with French Compliments. Then We went to the Coffee House, then to the Comedie { 36 } where We saw the two Misers (Les deux Avares). After which We supped with Messieurs Reuilles [Reculès] De Basmarein and Raimbeaux. Here I expected nothing but a common Supper and a small Company; but found myself much disappointed. Among many others in a large Company of both Sexes, were the Count de Viralade, the eldest Son of the first President whom I had just visited. Le Moine, the first Commissary of the Navy, Le Moine his Son a Commissary of the Navy. Cornie a Captain in the Navy and a Knight of Saint Louis. John Baptiste Nairac, a Deputy of commerce from La Rochelle. Paul Nairac a Merchant. Elisee Nairac a Merchant. La Tour Feger a Merchant; Menoire a Merchant, Conturier1 a Merchant, and many others with their Ladies; and Mr. Bondfield and Major Fraser. The Company their dresses, Equipages, and the furniture were splendid and the Supper very sumptuous. The Conversation at and after Supper was very gay, animated, chearfull and good humoured as it appeared to my Eyes and Ears and feelings but my Understanding had no Share in it. The Language was altogether incomprehensible. The Company were more attentive to me, then I desired; for they often addressed Observations and questions to me, which I could only understand by the Interpretation of Mr. Bond [Bondfield], and the returns of civility on my part could only be communicated [to] me through the same Channel, a kind of conviviality so taedious and irksome, that I had much rather have remained in silent Observation and Reflection. One Anecdote I will relate, because among many others I heard in Bourdeaux it was Characteristic of the manners at that time.2 One of the most elegant Ladies at Table, young and handsome, tho married to a Gentleman in the Company, was pleased to Address her discourse to me. Mr. Bondfield must interpret the Speech which he did in these Words “Mr. Adams, by your Name I conclude you are descended from the first Man and Woman, and probably in your family may be preserved the tradition which may resolve a difficulty which I could never explain. I never could understand how the first Couple found out the Art of lying together?” Whether her phrase was L'Art de se coucher ensemble, or any other more energetic, I know not, but Mr. Bondfield rendered it by that I have mentioned. To me, whose Acquaintance with Women had been confined to America, where the manners of the Ladies were universally characterised at that time by { 37 } Modesty, Delicacy and Dignity, this question was surprizing and shocking: but although I believe at first I blushed, I was determined not to be disconcerted. I thought it would be as well for once to set a brazen face against a brazen face and answer a fool according to her folly, and accordingly composing my countenance into an Ironical Gravity I answered her “Madame My Family resembles the first Couple both in the name and in their frailties so much that I have no doubt We are descended from that in Paradise. But the Subject was perfectly understood by Us, whether by tradition I could not tell: I rather thought it was by Instinct, for there was a Physical quality in Us resembling the Power of Electricity or of the Magnet, by which when a Pair approached within a striking distance they flew together like the Needle to the Pole or like two Objects in electric Experiments.” When this Answer was explained to her, she replied “Well I know not how it was, but this I know it is a very happy Shock.” I should have added “in a lawfull Way” after “a striking distance,” but if I had her Ladyship and all the Company would only have thought it Pedantry and Bigottry. This is a decent Story in comparison with many which I heard in Bourdeaux, in the short time I remained there, concerning married Ladies of Fashion and reputation. The decided Advances made by married Women, which I heard related, gave rise to many reflections in my mind which may perhaps be detailed hereafter on some similar Occasions. The first was if such a[re] the manners of Women of Rank, Fashion and Reputation [in] France, they can never support a Republican Government nor be reconciled with it. We must therefore take great care not to import them into America.
In Compliment to America this Company introduced a List of Toasts in our fashion which was an entire novelty at Bourdeaux. They gave Mr. Bondfield a Copy which he translated for me into English. The Toasts were announced by thirteen Guns in honor of the thirteen States, for then We had no more. Then the King of France twenty one Guns. The Congress, thirteen. General Washington Three. Mr. De Sartine, three. General Gates three. Marshall Broglie Three. The Count De Broglie his Brother, three. The Marquis de La Fayette three. The Glory and Prosperity of the thirteen United States, Thirteen. The Prosperity of France three. Eternal Concord between the two Nations now Friends and Allies, three. The State of Massachusetts and its Representative Mr. Adams. Mr. D'Estaing Vice Admiral. The City of Bourdeaux. Mrs. Adams three. The French and American Ladies Twenty one. The Departure of Mr. Adams when he ascended his Coach, was saluted by thirteen Guns. The Garden was beautifully il• { 38 } luminated, with an Inscription God Save the Congress, Liberty and Adams.
Amidst all these dissipations I was not unmindfull of my Obligations of Gratitude for the Preservations from Dangers in the late Voyage, nor my destination and future Prospects and Employments. I began to indulge hopes possibly too sanguine, that I had been saved for some valuable End and some important purpose for my Country.
1. Diary entry of 3 April 1778 reads: “Coutourier.”
2. The following anecdote and the reflections thereon, which are not in JA's Diary, were omitted by CFA in editing his combined text of the Diary and Autobiography.

Docno: ADMS-01-04-02-0001-0035

Author: Adams, John
Date: 1778-04-03

[April 3. Fryday. 1778.]

April 3. Fryday. 1778. We Visited the Intendant, dined at Mr. Bondfields and supped at Mr. Le Texiers, a Duch Merchant from Amsterdam, long settled in Trade at Bourdeaux.1 He was an inquisitive sensible Man with some considerable Information. He professed a regard for America, but seemed to be perplexed with many doubts and difficulties. He could not see how it was possible We could contend successfully against the Power of Great Britain, so irresistable by Sea and Land, with Armies and Navies so brave, experienced and disciplined and assisted with such Alliances. I answered that The Americans had no doubt of their Abilities. Very few entertained any doubt, and I had none at all, that We could defend ourselves as long as England could maintain the Contest even without Assistance; but I had hopes We should obtain Friends and perhaps Allies as powerful as Great Britain. We had more Men than she could ever send to America with the Assistance of all her Hessian and Anspach Allies who sold her their Subjects like Cattle to [be] slaughtered in America for the humane purpose of butchering Us.
Mr. Le Texier I found had a regard for England too. He said that they in Holland had regarded England as the Bulwark of the Protestant Religion and the most important Weight in the Ballance of Power in Europe against France. I answered that I had been educated from my Cradle in the same Opinion and had read enough of the History of Europe to be still of the same Opinion. There would therefore be no difference of Opinion between Us on these Points. We in America however, were not sufficiently acquainted with this subject, to see that the failure or the Weakening of the Protestant Cause, or a revolution in the ballance of Power in Europe would be the necessary consequence of our Liberty or even of our Independence. This would depend altogether upon the Conduct of England And her friends in Europe. If they should drive Us against our inclinations into permanent and indissoluble connections with one Scale of the ballance of Power, that would be the fault of Britain and her Friends that would { 39 } be a misfortune to Us, but not our fault. Our Plan was to have no Interest, Connection or Embarassment in the Politicks or Wars of Europe, if We could avoid it. But it ought not to be expected that We should tamely suffer Great Britain to tear up from the foundations all the Governments in America, and violate thirteen solemn and sacred Compacts under which a Wilderness had been subdued and cultivated, and submit to the unlimited domination of Parliament who knew little more of Us than they did of Kamshatska and who cared not half so much for Us, as they did for their flocks and herds. The Inhumanity too, with which they conducted the War, betrayed such a Contempt of Us [as]2human Nature could not endure. Not only hiring European Mercenaries, but instigating Indians and corrupting Domesticks as if We were fit for nothing but to be cutt to Pieces by Savages and Negroes. Americans would not submit to these Things, merely from Prophecies and precarious Speculations about the Protestant Interest and the ballance of Power in Europe. This Conversation was extended into a much wider field of discussion and was maintained on both Sides with entire civility and good humour, till I took leave of Mr. Le Texier and retired to my Lodgings. Twenty months afterwards passing through Bourdeaux in my Journey from Ferrol to Paris, Mr. Le Texier called upon me again And I found was still embarrassed with the same Prejudices and Scruples. But as I had not time to enlarge I only said I was surprized to find him still think it possible that We should ever come under the Government of England again when the Affections of the People were entirely alienated from it and We had pledged our Faith to France to maintain our Independence, an Engagement that would be sacredly fullfilled.
During my Delay at Bourdeaux, Mr. McCrery informed me in Confidence, that he had lately come from Paris where he had been sorry to perceive a dryness between the American Ministers Franklin, Deane and Lee. Mr. McCrery was very cautious and prudent but he gave me fully to Understand that the animosity was very rancorous, and had divided all the Americans and all the french People connected with Americans or American Affairs into Parties very bitter against each other. This Information gave me much disquietude as it opened a prospect of perplexities to me that I supposed must be very disagreable. Mr. Lee, Mr. Izard, Dr. Bancroft and others whom Mr. McCrery named, were entire Strangers to me, but by reputation. With Dr. Franklin I had served one Year and more in Congress. Mr. Williams I had known in Boston. The French Gentlemen were altogether un• { 40 } known to me. I determined to be cautious and impartial, knowing however very well the difficulty and the danger of Acting an honest and upright Part in all such Situations.
1. The following conversation, since it is not in the Diary, must have been written by JA wholly from memory. CFA omitted it in his text.
2. MS: “and.”
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/