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Browsing: Diary of John Adams, Volume 4


Docno: ADMS-01-04-02-0001-0065

Author: Adams, John
Date: 1778-05-02

[May 2. Saturday. 1778.]

May 2. Saturday. 1778. Dined at Mr. Izzards, with Mr. Lloyd and his Lady, Mr. Francois [Francès] a French Gentleman who had served in England as Charge D'Affairs for so many Years, that the Language was become very familiar to him, which enabled him to be often usefull to the Americans in Paris. There was much other Company and after dinner We went to the French Comedy, where We saw the Brutus, a Tragedy of Voltaire, and after it the Cocher Supposée. As I was coming out of the Box, after the representation, a Gentleman seized me by the hand. I looked at him.—Governor Wentworth, Sir, said the Gentleman.—At first I was somewhat embarrassed, and knew not how to behave towards him. As my Classmate and Friend at Colledge and ever since, I could have pressed him to my Bosom, with most cordial Affection. But We now belonged to two different Nations at War with each other and consequently We were Enemies. Both the Governor and the Minister were probably watched by the Spies of the Police, and our Interview would be known the next morning at Versailles. The Governor however relieved me from my reverie by asking me questions concerning his Father and Friends in America, which I answered according to my Knowledge. He then enquired after the health of Dr. Franklin, and said he must come out to Passi and pay his Compliments to him. He should not dare to see the Marquis of Rockingham after his return, without making a Visit to Dr. Franklin. Accordingly in a day or two, he came and made Us a Morning Visit. Dr. Franklin and I received him together. But there was no conversation but upon Trifles. The Governors Motives for this Trip to Paris and visit to Passy I never knew. If they bore any resemblance to those of Mr. Hartley, his deportment and language were very different. Not an indelicate expression to Us or our Country or our Ally escaped him. His whole behaviour was that of an accomplished Gentleman. Mr. Hartley on the contrary was at least [to] me very offensive. In his conversation he seemed to consider our Treaty with France as a Nullity, that We might disregard at our pleasure and treat with England seperately, or come again under her Government at our Pleasure. This appeared to me offensive to our honor and an insult to our good faith, and although I { 86 } always endeavoured to treat him with civility, I doubt not I sometimes received it somewhat “ungraciously.”1
It is now high time to introduce some Facts, which occurred within the first Week or ten days of my residence at Passi. I have omitted them till this time because I was unable to ascertain the precise days, when they happened. I have before observed that Dr. Franklin, from my first Arrival had taken all opportunities to prejudice me against the Lees, Mr. Izzard &c, that Mr. Lee had been very silent and reserved upon the Subject of Parties &c. But within a few days after I had got settled in my Lodgings Mr. Izzard came out to Passi, and requested some private conversation with me. I accordingly attended him alone. Mr. Izzard began upon the Subject of the disagreable Situation of our Affairs in France and the miserable Conduct of them by Mr. Deane and Dr. Franklin, and their subordinate Agents, Adherents and Friends, upon the pillage that was committed upon Us, to gratify petty french Agents and Emissaries and Instruments, of whom nobody knew. Enlarged upon the Characters of Holker, Monthieu, Baumarchais and Chaumont. Represented the enormous Waste of Money by Mr. Deane, whom Dr. Franklin supported in all Things. Talked about the Money that was offered by Beaumarchais to Mr. Lee in London as a free Gift from the King, and for the Use of the United States in presence of Mr. Wilks and others: complained of foul play by intercepting dispatches, and of frauds in the qualities and Prices of Articles which had been purchased and shipped to America &c. &c. &c. He then introduced Dr. Bancroft, said he had known him in England and had there entertained an high Opinion of his Talents and had thought him an honest Man. But here, he found him a mere Tool and Dupe of Mr. Deane, Dr. Franklin and their French Satellites, and as unprincipled as any of them. Then he represented the whole Group of them as in a Conspiracy to persecute him and the two Lees and all their friends, and related to me an amazing number of Calumnies they had propagated concerning them at Court, in Paris, Passi and the Country. That they had not confined their Lies and Slanders to Americans in France, but had extended them to Mr. Richard Henry Lee in America and to Dr. Berkenhout in London &c.
As he enlarged upon the defamations and Persecutions against himself and his Friends he grew Warm. Mr. Izzard, with great honor and integrity, had irritable Nerves and very strong Passions. He either had or at least was reputed to have great pride. There was however more of the Appearance of this Vice in his external behaviour, than in his { 87 } heart. A hesitancy in his Speech and an appearance of impatience that was often occasioned by it, contributed very much to the Suspicion and imputation of hautiness. In enumerating the detractions against himself and his friends, his passions transported him beyond all bounds. He declared and with asseverations which I will not repeat but which all who knew Mr. Izard may easily imagine, that Dr. Franklin was one of the most unprincipled Men upon Earth: that he was a Man of no Veracity, no honor, no Integrity, as great a Villain as ever breathed: as much worse than Mr. Deane as he had more experience, Art, cunning and Hypocricy. Mr. Izzard dilated on many of these particulars and his harrangue was exten[d]ed to a great length.
I was thunderstruck and shuddered at the Situation I was in. By Dr. Franklins continual insinuations to me, I was convinced that the rancour in his heart was not less, though his Language had not been so explicit. I said nothing of this however to Mr. Izzard. I only observed to him, that Dr. Franklin, the two Mr. Lees and Mr. Izzard himself, all held Commissions from Congress and it was my duty to respect them all. That the conduct of Mr. Deane, I knew by his dispatches and contracts which had been read in congress before I left it, had been wild, irregular and pernicious, but that I had been desirous of imputing it to want of Judgment rather than any Thing worse. That my knowledge of Dr. Franklin personally had been only in Congress. That although I knew there had been great disputes in Pennsilvania formerly concerning his moral and political Character, as there had been in England, yet I knew at the same time that he had been in publick Life when Parties run high and that he had generally maintained an hon-ourable Character in the World. That it was impossible for me to enter into any examination of what had passed before my Arrival, because I could find no books, Letters or documents of any kind to inform or guide me. That he must be sensible my Situation was delicate, difficult and dangerous in the extream, between two fires. I was a Stranger to the Country, the Language and the manners of the French: and not much less a Stranger to the Characters of the Americans in France. In this predicament I found myself necessarily an Umpire between two bitter and inveterate Parties, for in all questions that should come before the commissioners, if Dr. Franklin and Mr. Lee should differ in Opinion my Voice must decide. That it was easy to foresee that I should make both parties my Enemies: but no choice was left me, but to examine diligently every [question without]2 favour or affection to any man or party: and this course I was determined to pursue at all { 88 } hazards. I entreated him to collect himself and by no means to allow himself to talk in the Style he had used to me to any other Person. That Dr. Franklin possessed the Confidence of the French Court and of his own Country, and held her Commission and Authority: and therefore it was the duty of all of Us, to treat him with respect.
1. The following three paragraphs were omitted by CFA in his text.
2. Conjecturally supplied for words missing in the MS.

Docno: ADMS-01-04-02-0001-0066

Author: Adams, John
Date: 1778-05-03

[May 3. 1778.]

May 3. 1778. The Business of the Commission had been delayed and neglected in a manner that gave me much uneasiness: Franklin and Lee had been reluctant to engage in it, as I suppose, knowing that they should differ in every thing and both of them as yet uncertain which Side I should take. I had now procured my blank Books, and I took the Letters which We had received into my own hands, and after making all the Enquiries into the Subjects which I could, I wrote in my blank book the following Answers. The Book is fortunately in my Possession and now before me with the Letters in my handwriting. I shall insert these Letters because they will serve among many others to shew the number of Persons who had their Eyes fixed upon our little Treasury, and under what a variety of pretences, and pretended Authorities they sett up their Claims upon Us for money. Dr. Franklin, after he found that Mr. Lee and I agreed in Opinion and were determined to sign and send them, did not choose to let them go without his name.

[Commissioners to Mr. Bersolle]

[addrLine] Monsr. Bersolle

[salute] Sir

Your Bill upon our Banker was not paid, because it was drawn, without our leave; and before you had sent Us the Accounts to shew We were your Debtors, and he could not regularly pay a Bill on our Account, which he had not our orders to pay. We are Sir your most obedient Servants.
[signed] Benjamin Franklin
[signed] Arthur Lee
[signed] John Adams.

[Commissioners to James Moylan]

[addrLine] Mr. Moylan

[salute] Sir

We received your several Letters of the 23d. and 30th. of March and the fifteenth and 17th of April.1 We are obliged to you for the care you have taken respecting the sick Men. We shall apply as you advise for the discharge of Miggins, and hope to obtain it.
We have examined Mr. Bersolle's Accounts and find them approved by Captn. Jones, his Officers, and as you have paid his draft We shall { 89 } repay you. But We wish that hereafter you would not engage Us in any considerable Expence without having received our orders, after acquainting Us with the Occasion. We are, Sir, your most obedient humble Servants.
[signed] B. Franklin
[signed] Arthur Lee
[signed] John Adams.

[Commissioners to John Ross]

[addrLine] Mr. Ross at Nantes.

[salute] Sir

In a former Letter, you wrote Us, that you would send Us, the Invoices &c. of the Goods shipped, on the public Account, if We thought it necessary. We wrote for those, which would answer for the money, We had advanced to you. The Reason given in yours of the 18th 2 for refusing it, does not appear to Us, at all sufficient. If it be unavoidable to seperate the part from the whole, We desire the whole may be sent agreable to your first proposal, which will also be of Use to Us, by shewing the nature and extent of the Supplies which have been sent. We therefore expect you will comply, without any farther delay, with what We desire, and which is indispensable.
You will be so good as to send Us a Copy of the order of the Commissioners, under which you say, the Ship Queen of France was purchased, as We find none such, here.
When you first applyed to Us for our Assistance, and represented that you had made Contracts for Goods, in pursuance of orders from the Committee of Congress, which contracts, if not fulfilled, would destroy your Credit, and, in consequence, hurt that of the Committee, it was agreed to furnish you with the Sum which you desired, and which you said would be sufficient to prevent those great inconveniences, on your promise to replace it. It is now near a Year since, and you have not performed that promise. The Disappointment has been very inconvenient to Us. Probably it was occasioned by your not receiving the Remittances you expected. However, We think you should have foreborne entering into any fresh contracts and Embarrassments; especially, as it was not required or expected of you, by the Committee, as appears by their Letter to you of Decr. 30. of which you have sent Us, an extract; nor have they ever desired it, of Us; nor did you inform Us, when you made your engagements, that you had any expectation of our Assistance, to discharge them. A little consideration will convince you, that it is impossible for Us, to regulate our own purchases and engagements, and discharge our debts with punctuality, { 90 } if other people, without our participation, allow themselves to run in debt, unnecessarily, as much as they please, and call upon Us for payment. By our complying with such unforeseen demands, We may soon, to prevent your discredit, become Bankrupts ourselves, which We think would be full as disreputable to Congress. We therefore now acquaint you, that We cannot give the permission you desire, of drawing on our Banker for the immense Sums you mention, and desire you would not have the least dependance on Aids, that We have it not in our power to grant. We are, Sir, your most obedient humble Servants.
[signed] B. Franklin,
[signed] Arthur Lee,
[signed] John Adams.
1. Those of 30 March and 17 April are in PPAmP: Franklin Papers; the others have not been found.
2. Not found.
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/