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Browsing: Diary of John Adams, Volume 4

Docno: ADMS-01-04-02-0001-0052

Author: Adams, John
Date: 1778-04-19

[April 19. 1778.]

April 19. 1778. Dined at home with Mr. Grand, our Banker, his Lady, his Niece and Ward Mademoiselle L'Abhard, his Sons, Mr. Austin, Mr. Chaumont and a great deal of other Company. Mr. Ferdinand Grand was a Protestant from Switzerland, who had a House in Paris and a small Country house near Us in Passi. Himself, his Lady, Niece and Sons composed as decent, modest and regular a Family as I ever knew in France. It was however by Mr. Chaumonts Influence with the Count De Vergennes and Mr. De Sartine that he obtained the Reputation and Emoluments of being the Banker to the American Ministers. Sir George Grand his Brother, might contribute something towards this favour, because he had kept an Inn at Stockholm when the Count de Vergennes was Ambassador of France in Sweeden, and accomplished the Revolution in that Kingdom to an absolute Monarchy. This was a mere measure of Economy in the French Court, because, before, it had cost them in Bribes to the States more money than they could well afford. The Meeting of De Vergennes with the heads of the Conspiracy had been held at Mr. Grands Inn, and he was rewarded with a Cross of Saint Louis, which gave him the Title of Sir, as I suppose, having never heard that he had any English Knighthood although he had lived in England where he married his Daughter to the Major or Colonel who was afterwards General Provost. This Lady as I presume is the same who afterwards married Colonel Burr { 65 } of New York and was the Mother of Mrs. Alston of South Carolina.1Sir George was connected in Partnership with the House of Horneca Fizeaux & Co. in Amsterdam, a mercantile and Banking Company, and who had or were supposed to have the favour and Confidence of the French Ministers of State.
This Day Mr. David Hartley, a Member of the British House of Commons, with Mr. George [i.e. William] Hammond the Father of Mr. George Hammond who was afterwards Hartleys Secretary at the Negotiation of the definitive Treaty of Peace, and after that Minister Plenipotentiary to the United States, came to Visit Us, under pretence of visiting Dr. Franklin. This mysterious Visit, I did not at all admire. I soon saw that Hartley was <as great a Coxcomb> a Person of as consummate Vanity as Hammond was a plain honest Man: but I considered both as Spies, and endeavoured to be as reserved and as much on my guard as my nature would admit. Although I endeavoured to behave to both with entire civility, I suppose as I did not flatter Mr. Hartley with professions of confidence, which I did not feel, and of so much Admiration of his Great Genius and Talents as he felt himself, he conceived a disgust at me, and told Sir John Temple and others after his return to London “Your Mr. Adams that you represent as a Man of such good Sense, <I believe he may have that, but> If he has that, he is the most ungracious Man I ever saw.” I had not expressed so much astonishment at his Invention of Fire Plates, and Archimides's Mirrors, as he thought they deserved. I knew him to be intimate with Lord North by his own confession as well as by the Information of Dr. Franklin and others: and although he was numbered among the Opposition in Parliament and professed to be an Advocate for the American cause, yet I knew very well that Opposition to the Ministry was the only solid Ground, on which all the Friendship for America, that was professed in England, rested. I did not therefore think it safe, { 66 } to commit myself to a Man, who came to Us without any pretence of Authority from his Sovereign or his Ministers. I say without any pretence of Authority because he made none. But I then supposed and still believe, that he came with the secret privity if not at the express request of Lord North to sound the American Ministers, and see if there were no hopes of seducing Us from our connection with France, and making a seperate Accommodation with Us, the very idea of which as the Treaty was already made appeared to me to be an Insult to our honor and good faith.2 What were the Subjects or the Objects of his freequent private Conferences with Franklin I know not. If either or both of them ever made any minutes of them I hope they will one day appear in publick. I neither then nor ever since suspected any unfair practice in Franklin except some secret Whispers against Lee and possibly against myself, for he had by this time found that I was not to be <his Tool> sufficiently complyant with his Views. He had indeed seen enough of me in Congress, to know that [I] was not a Man to swear, in the Words of another at all times.
This Evening Mr. Chaumont took me in his Carriage to The Concert Spirituel, in the Royal <Garden> Pallace of the Tuilleries. A vast Number of Instruments were performing to an immense Crowd of Company. There were Men Singers and Women Singers. One Gentleman sung alone and then a young Lady. The Musick however did not entirely satisfy me. I had read that the French Ear was not the most delicate, and I thought the Observation verified. There was too much sound for me. The Gardens of the Tuilleries were full of Company of both Sexes walking.
1. This is garbled, but in view of the number of Prevosts who were British army officers, not surprisingly. Aaron Burr married in 1782 Theodosia (Stillwell) Bartow Prevost, whose second husband had been Col. Jacques Marc Prevost (d. 1777), brother of the Maj. Gen. Augustine Prevost (d. 1786) who commanded British forces in South Carolina during the Revolution and whose wife was Anna, daughter of Chevalier (usually called “Sir”) George Grand of Amsterdam. The Burrs' daughter, also named Theodosia, married in 1801 Joseph Alston of South Carolina. Better known than either his father (Augustine) or his uncle (Jacques Marc) was Sir George Prevost (1767–1816), who at the time JA was writing was a major general and who became governor general of British North America and an unlucky figure in the northern campaigns of the war of 1812. See DAB under both Aaron Burr and Theodosia Burr; DNB under Sir George Prevost; Samuel H. Wandell and Meade Minnigerode, Aaron Burr, N.Y. and London, 1925, 1:88–91.
2. The remainder of this paragraph was omitted by CFA in his text. Hartley's mission was unofficial, but it had the personal sanction of Lord North, who had been more or less persuaded by Hartley that Franklin held the key to reconciliation between Great Britain and America despite the new FrancoAmerican alliance. See George H. Guttridge, David Hartley, M.P., an Advocate of Conciliation, 1774–1783, Berkeley, 1926, p. 280–287.

Docno: ADMS-01-04-02-0001-0053

Author: Adams, John
Date: 1778-04-20

[April 20. Monday 1778.]

April 20. Monday 1778. My Son had been with me since Saturday. This was delicious repast for me: but I was somewhat mortified to find that this Child among the Pupills at <School> the Pension and my American Servant among the Domesticks of the Hotel, learned more french in a day than I could learn in a Week with all my Books.
Dined with the Dutchess D'Anville, at the Hotel de Rochefaucault, with the Duke de la Rochefoucault her Son, her Daughter and Grand Daughter whom the Duke afterwards married, with a dispensation from the Pope, with a large Company of Dukes, Abbes and Men of Science and Learning among whom was Mr. Condorcet, a Philosopher { 67 } with a face as pale or rather as white as a Sheet of paper, I suppose from hard Study.1 The Dutchess D'Anville and her Son, the great Friends [of] Monsieur Turgot, were said to have great Influence with the Royal Accademy of Sciences, to make members at pleasure, and the Secretary perpetuel Mr. D'Alembert, was said to have been of their Creation as was Mr. Condorcet afterwards. His Gratitude, a few Years after this, will be recorded in History. This Family was beloved in France, and had a reputation for Patriotism, that is of such Kind of Patriotism as was allowed to exist and be esteemed in that Kingdom, where no Man as Montesqueu says must esteem himself or his Country too much. Un homme capable de s'estimer beaucoup, was a dangerous Subject, in a Monarchy.
Recollecting as I did the Expedition of the Duke D'Anville against America, and the great Commotion in the Massachusetts, and the Marches of the Militia to defend Boston, when his Squadron and Army were expected to attack that Town, it appeared a very singular Thing that I should be very happy in his House at Paris at a splendid Dinner with his family. But greater Vicissitudes than this have become more familiar to me, since that time. The Lady appeared to me to possess a great Understanding and great Information.
In the Evening We visited Mr. Lloyd of Maryland, and his handsome English Lady. Here We saw Mr. Diggs.
1. M. J. A. N. de Caritat, Marquis de Condorcet (1743–1794), mathematician, early leader and eventual victim of the French Revolution, and advocate of the endless perfectibility of man and society (Hoefer, Nouv. Biog. Générale). JA owned several of Condorcet's published works and in the margins of his own copy of Condorcet's famous Outlines of an Historical View of the Progress of the Human Mind, London, 1795, wrote an angry running rebuttal. The debate between the French philosopher and the Yankee commentator is printed in extenso by Zoltán Haraszti in JA and the Prophets of Progress, Ch. 12.
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.