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Browsing: Papers of John Adams, Volume 7


Docno: ADMS-06-07-02-0187

Author: Warren, Mercy Otis
Recipient: Adams, John
Date: 1778-12-15

From Mercy Otis Warren

[salute] Sir

I Cannot but think myself a sufferer by the Many Captures on American Navigation, for as you are undoubtedly a Gentleman of the strictest Veracity, I must suppose the Watery Damsels that Attend the ouzy Board of the Grey Headed Neptune, are much more Fortunate than the Woodland Dames of America. Otherways, Notwithstanding the Bussy and important scenes in which You are ingaged a folio from the Court of France Must have Reached Braintree, and one Octavo sheet at least would have found Its way to Plimouth before this.
But if by thus Frequently Leting Down the Most Weighty secrets of state, as well as the sociel Communications of the Friendly Heart, the Dark Counsels of the Deities Below do not Gain an influance sufficient to Embarass your Negotiations, we Can better forgive this pecu• { 275 } lation of the Nereides, as we may suppose the Females Beneath, have some Curiosity as well as Those who walk upon the surface of a World, where knowledge is Circumscribed within such Narrow Limits, and the sex too often Forbidden to taste the Goldden Fruit.
But perhaps You May have forgot Through the Multiplicity of your Avocations, And the Magnitude of the objects, And say surely I Never promissed to write to more than one Lady, on the Western side the Atlantic. But that Lady has Furnished me with it written testimony signed by yourself,1 that the first safe Conveyance should Forward some observations, and Remarks, to Mrs. W——n, which if Collected by Mr. Adams must surely be a treasure.
And I have still a Further Demand upon you. You May Recollect six years ago, at a Certain Fire side, where many Political plans were Laid, Discussed, and Digested, you said2 it was your Opinion, the Contest Between Britain and America would not be setled till your sons, and my sons, were able to Visit, and Negotiate at the Different Courts of Europe. A Lady Replied (Though perhaps not from prescience, presentiment, or anything but presumption,) that you Must do this Work yourselves. And that she Expected from you, a pleasing Naration of the Different Customs Manners, Genius, and Taste of Nations with whom we were little acquainted.3
You have been absent almost a year, and None are yet arrived. You Must Remember sir, that when we are Descending a precipice, the Velocity is much more Rapid than when we Mount: Though Expectation points us to the summit, and hope spreads her Wings to accelerate our Motion.4
And if you postpone your Communications by the year, I Cannot Expect to Receive many, for if no premature stroke precipitates the Moment, the sun will not Revolve Many times round this Inconsiderable Globe, before I hope to tread the starry pavement, And Look Down with pity, on the Regalia of princes, the Empires of a Day, the pomp of Royalty, and Even the pride of Republican or Aristocratic Grandeur.
I Wrote you a long Letter Dated October 15th. which went in a packet Forwared by the Count De Estaign. It was Void of poetick Imagery, or any Flights of Fancy, but Contained many solemn Truths, which if that packet arrived safe, were doubtless Corroborated by better Hands.
I write this in a solitary Hour. Mr. Warren yet at the Navy Board, Exerting all the powers of a Good Head and an Excellent Heart, to put the affairs of the American Marine on a Respectable Footing: as far as { 276 } falls within His Department. We have hitherto been unfortunate by sea, the Causes shall leave for others to Investigate.
Mrs. Adams will Doubtless write you by this Conveyance.5 She has latly made me an agreable Visit, and I often see her on my way to the Capital: whither I Repair when I Can leave my little Family, which now Consists of only my two younger sons in the parlour, the three Elder being at an age that makes it proper they should leave the parental Roof. Probably you do not Remember any of them, but I shall in a few days have a young person with me, whom you will Never forget, one Miss Naby Adams, who I Expect will spend the Winter at Plimouth.6
There are Certain Moments in the lives of the Greatest philosophers, and polititians, when the Mind is Relieved, and Gathers fresh Vigour, from some trivial interruption accidentally Thrown in the way.
This Reflection quiets the Bussy Monitor within, who sometimes Wispers, why do you Break in (by Recounting the uninteresting occurrances that fall in your way) on the important Moments of a Gentleman whose time is not his own.
And I wish the same Reflection would have an influance on Him so far as to unbend his Mind Enough to write a person very Avaritious of the Notices of the Worthy, and of Every Attainable Means of improvement in this scanty portion of Existence.
This Gos by Capt. Landais of the Alliance with whom I have a son.7 I took up my pen Intending only a few lines to let you know Notwithstanding the Convulsions of Nations, the Fluctuation of Events, And the Vicissitudes of time, there are yet a few, a very few, of Your acquaintance whom you most Esteemed in the Days of Tranquility who Remain Invariably the same. Nor Can I lay it down, till I have told you that both you, and your Country have lost a Friend in the Death of Coll. Otis: who after long and patiently waiting to be Called from his; post, Bid Adieu to Mortality, the 9th of Nov. 1778.
When He paid this last Debts to Nature, both public and private Virtue Might justly Mourn the Deseased patron, while a large tribute of Gratitude Mingle'd with tears, is Due to the Memory of an Excellent Father, from your unfeigned Friend and Humble servant
[signed] Marcia Warren
RC (Adams Papers); docketed: “Mrs Warren. December 15th 1778.” Tr (MHi: Mercy Warren Letterbook). For the nature of the transcript, see Mercy Warren's letter to JA of 15 Oct., descriptive note (above).
1. Mercy Warren's reference is to JA's letter to AA of 25 April (Adams Family Correspondence, 3:17).
2. In the transcript, to this point, this { 277 } sentence was altered to read: “I claim it as my right, doubtless you will accede to the validity of the claim, when you recollect that six years ago, by the Plymouth fire side, where many plans originated, and were discussed and digested, you observed in a moment of dispondency that.”
3. In the transcript an additional sentence was added: “You assented a compliance, if the prediction took place.” Compare Mercy Warren's remarks in this paragraph with those made in the next to last paragraph of her letter to JA of 10 March 1776, as well as with the passage added to that paragraph in the transcript of that letter (vol. 4:49–52, and note 4).
4. In the transcript, “Thus time in advance is beheld with rapture by youth, while age looks back with regret on the past” was added.
5. This was AA's letter to JA of 13 Dec. (Adams Family Correspondence, 3:135–136).
6. AA2 visited the Warrens in Plymouth from about 20 Dec. 1778 to 9 April 1779 (see Adams Family Correspondence, 4:index).
7. James Warren Jr. was about to sail as a 1st lieutenant of marines on board the Continental frigate Alliance (Charles R. Smith, Marines in the Revolution, Washington, 1975, p. 475).

Docno: ADMS-06-07-02-0188

Author: Lee, William
Recipient: Franklin, Benjamin
Recipient: Lee, Arthur
Recipient: Adams, John
Recipient: First Joint Commission at Paris
Date: 1778-12-15

William Lee to the Commissioners

[salute] Gentlemen

I had the Honour of writing to you the 9th instant and then mention'd the Congress that it is generally beleived will take place this Winter between Ministers from the Courts of Versailles and Petersburg to accommodate the difference between the Emperor and King of Prussia; and that I was inform'd G. Britain had prevail'd on the Court of Petersburg to endeavour at the same time to mediate a Peace between France and G. Britain, and from farther information I have reason to beleive that G. B. has certainly such a plan in agitation. Reflecting on this business it occurr'd to me that it wou'd be serviceable for America to have an Agent at this Congress, who might counteract the schemes of G. B. and if it was not in his power to bring Russia entirely over to our interests, her attachment to our Enemies might be renderd less forceable.
For this purpose I conceive in the present State of things, a Stranger might be able to render us more service, than an American, and therefore I have sounded a Gentleman on the Subject, who is now in the King of Prussias Service, and has been formerly employed by his Majesty in some negotiations with the Court of Petersburg. His reply is as follows, “Dans ce cas la il falloit m'employer sous Mains, ou publiquement. Si je dois le faire publiquement, il seroit necessaire de quitter le service du Roi. Si je puis le faire avec avantage je ne hesiterois pas; alors il falloit me marquer les conditions pour lesquelles je devois sacrifier mon Poste. Je crois de puvoir etre utile au Congrès dans ses differentes negociations avec les Cours du Nord, connoissant les affaires, le façon de trailer, et meme presque la plupart des Ministres. Si { 278 } je devois agir sous mains, je serai prêt d'observer l'interet des Americains à le Congrès qu'aura lieu pour terminer les differences entre les puissances de l'Europe. Aussi dans ce cas la il falloit des conditions acceptable. Je ne pourrai pas aller et demeurer qu'aux frais de Congres Americain et outre cela les Etats Unies pourroient me gratifier à mesure de mes services et de leurs effets. Si je travail sous main sans pouvoir venir au bout sans me declarer comme chargé d'affaire il me sera permis de me decharger dabord de ma Commission pour ne pas perdre mon tems et causer des depenses inutilement. Ou si on veut que je me déclare du moins clandestinement au Roi, comme Commissaire des Etats-Unis, et que cela ne pourroit pas subsister avec le service du Roi, il faudroit me garantir un dedommagement avec avantage pour pouvoir prendre ma demission et me sacrifier uniquement au Service du Congrès.”1
Thus you have the Gentlemans propositions and if you are of opinion with me, that the measure is in itself adviseable, I would beg leave to offer as my Idea, that he should be engaged to attend the Congress and act, as an unauthorized individual, under such instructions as you may think proper to give him with a reasonable allowance for his expences, and a promise that if his negotiation is succesful he will be fully recommended to Congress for an adequate reward. I shall not proceed farther in this business without your concurrence and therefore beg your answer as soon as is convenient.
That you may not be surprized at my not mentioning the Gentlemans Name, 'tis necessary to say, that it is at his desire, his Name is concealed until your determination is known; but I can assure you that he is a Gentleman of reputation, a Man of Literature and an author of approved Fame.2
I have the Honour to be with great Regard Gentlemen your most Obedient & most Hble Servt.
[signed] W: Lee
RC (PPAmP: Franklin Papers); docketed: “Hon. Wm. Lee. ans Jay 13. 1779.”
1. Translation: In this case I should be used either under cover or publicly. If I am to do the work publicly, I would have to leave the service of the King. If I can do so to advantage, I will not hesitate, in which case the reasons why I should give up my present position should be indicated. I think I could be very useful to [the American] Congress in its various negotiations with the Northern Courts, since I know their concerns, their manner of negotiating, and even most of their ministers. If I were to act secretly, I would be prepared to look after the interests of the Americans at the Congress which will meet to end the differences between the European powers. In this case, too, the conditions would have to be acceptable. I could not go and remain except at the expense of the American Congress and, in addition, the United States would have to compensate me proportionately for my services and their effects. If I work secretly, unable to iden• { 279 } tify myself as a chargé d'affaires, I should first be permitted to discharge my present commission in order that I not waste time and money. Or, if I was to declare myself, at least in a clandestine fashion, to the King as Commissioner of the United States, and this function could not coexist with being in the King's service, then I should be guaranteed advantageous compensation to enable me to tender my resignation and dedicate myself solely to the service of [the American] Congress.
2. The agent proposed by Lee remains unidentified.
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/