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Browsing: Papers of John Adams, Volume 7

Docno: ADMS-06-07-02-0116-0002

Author: Genet, Edmé Jacques
Recipient: Adams, John
Date: 1778-10-29

Edmé Jacques Genet to John Adams: A Translation

[salute] Sir

The opinion you expressed to me at Mr. Izard's, concerning the assistance that could conveniently be sent to Count d'Estaing at present, seemed to me so important for the common good of our two nations that I took it upon myself to place it before our Ministers.1 In order not to compromise you, because of your position as a commissioner from the congress, and since I did not have your permission, I did not reveal your name. I was content to say that I had found myself in Paris with several Americans and that their unanimous opinion seemed to be that France should send to America, without delay, twelve ships of the line in order to relieve the Toulon squadron.2 I made this proposal to Mr. de Sartine and intend to present it to the Count de Vergennes tomorrow. Mr. de Sartine had the kindness to hear me out very attentively. I cannot claim to say that he seized upon this idea as being the best thing to do at present, nor that he has decided to adopt it; but from the questions he asked me I think that he, at least, would not find it strange if I placed before him a memorandum tending to indicate the necessity of such an expedition, the manner in which to proceed with it, and the advantages resulting from it. It would probably be wise to mention in this memorandum that the season is not too advanced and that one need not fear being unable to find Count d'Estaing in order to join with him. It would also be appropriate to detail the facilities of all kinds that a new French squadron would be sure to find in all the American ports, as well as the losses to which the British would expose themselves if they tried to counterbalance these new forces, and finally, how little we have to fear that this diminution of forces will be prejudicial to us in Europe. If you still persist in your opinion that, as a Commissioner, you cannot take it upon yourself to make this request, for fear of going too far vis-à-vis a Court which has already made great efforts in this matter, you could develop your ideas in a memorandum which I would then present as having been sent to me by one of my American friends. Indeed, Mr. Lloyd, Mr. Pringle, Mr. Jenings,3 and others could have communicated such a suggestion and there would be no awkwardness for the congress if this were then discussed here among our Ministers, since it would not have authorized it. You know as well as I do that today the combined forces of Byron and Lord Howe face Estaing with nineteen or twenty ships of the line and six of fifty guns.4 It seems to me that this is an alarming situation that cannot be ignored. I would be most happy if I could promote some good, especially in a manner that would be agreeable to you.
I am with respect, sir, your very humble and very obedient servant
[signed] Genet
{ 175 }
P.S. Thank you for the letter5 you had the kindness to write. It will be employed as you intended.
RC (Adams Papers); docketed: “Genet”; and in CFA's hand: “Octr. 29th 1778.”
1. For JA's account of the genesis of the proposal for reinforcing the fleet, see his letter to Elbridge Gerry of 11 Sept. 1779 (below); for the proposal's formal presentation to the French government, see Commissioners to Vergennes, [ante 20] Dec. 1778[ante 9] Jan. 1779 (below).
2. Estaing's squadron had been formed at and sailed from Toulon.
3. John J. Pringle, who served as Ralph Izard's secretary; and Edmund Jenings, with whom JA later formed a close relationship; and perhaps John Lloyd of Maryland, whom JA had met at Nantes and with whom he dined several times after arriving at Passy (DAB; JA, Diary and Autobiography, 2:355–357; 4:67, 85, 90, 145).
4. Genet's figures for the combined fleet of Byron and Howe are substantially correct. Against it Estaing could muster eleven ships of the line and one of fifty guns (Dull, French Navy and Amer. Independence, p. 359, 360; Mackesy, War for America, p. 194, 198, 218). Estaing, however, never faced such a force in 1778, and, indeed, it was he who had the superior strength in his abortive efforts to engage the British at Sandy Hook in July and off Rhode Island in August (Mahan, Navies in the War of Amer. Independence, p. 66–67, 72–73).
5. Of [post 24 Oct.] (above).

Docno: ADMS-06-07-02-0117

Author: Lee, Richard Henry
Recipient: Adams, John
Date: 1778-10-29

From Richard Henry Lee

[salute] My dear Sir

I am exceedingly happy to hear of your safe arrival, and I hope agreeable accommodation at Paris. At first, I doubt not, the splendid gaity of a magnificent Court, accorded not so well with the temperate manners of a sober Republican. But use reconciles most things. It may soon happen that you be desired to visit Holland, where I believe they yet retain much of that simplicity of manners which first raised that people to greatness. Our finances want the support of a Loan in Europe. 81,500,000 of dollars with increasing demands as depreciation advances with emission, cannot be cured by the slow working of Taxes. The latter is, I believe deeply gone into by all the States.2
I have seen your letter to our common friend Mr. S. Adams,3 and do most thoroughly accord with you in sentiments. The battle of Monmouth in June last, and the subsequent arrival of Count d'Esteing has kept our enemies in pretty close quarters this Campaign at N. York. The better opinion is, that they mean shortly to abandon that City. But where they intend next we are at a loss to guess. Indeed they have such a choice of difficulties, that it is not an easy matter for themselves to determine what course they shall steer. Never did Men cut a more ridiculous figure than the British Commissioners have done here. There last effort is a formal application to each State, and to all the people in { 176 } each, by a Manifesto sent in Flags of Truce. We consider this as a prostitution of the Flag, and have recommended the seizure and imprisonment of the people, and the publication of their Manifesto.4 In some instances, the Sea has saved us the trouble by previously swallowing up these silly Missives. I shall be at all times extremely glad to hear from you, being very sincerely dear Sir your affectionate friend
[signed] Richard Henry Lee5
RC (Adams Papers); docketed: “Hon. R. H. Lee. ans Feb. 13 1779 Oct. 28. 1778 most thorougly accords with me in Sentiments in my Letter to S. Adams.”
1. For the publication of this letter in Affaires de l'Angleterre et de l'Amérique (vol. 13, “Lettres,” cahier 65, p. clxxv–clxxvii) under this date and the heading “Lettre de M. Richard Henri Lee, un des Membres, du Congres, à M.*** a P—y,” as well as JA's role in the alterations indicated in notes 2 and 5, see Samuel Adams to JA, 25 Oct., note 1 (above).
2. The preceding three sentences were omitted from the translation in Affaires.
3. That of 21 May (vol. 6:144–145, calendar entry; JA, Diary and Autobiography, 4:106–108).
4. The Carlisle Commission's Manifesto and Proclamation of 3 Oct. (Evans, No. 15832) offered the state governments the same terms for peace originally sent to congress, plus a total exemption from parliamentary taxation. The Commissioners indicated, however, that if the Americans persisted in their quest for independence and the alliance with France, they could expect Britain to do whatever was necessary to return the colonies to the empire. On 16 Oct. the congress recommended that the states arrest the agents distributing the document and on 30 Oct., in a countermanifesto, condemned Britain for its barbarous conduct of the war and promised retaliation if such practices continued (JCC, 12:1015–1016, 1080–1082).
5. The signature was omitted in Affaires.
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.