A website from the Massachusetts Historical Society; founded 1791.
close

Browsing: Papers of John Adams, Volume 7


Docno: ADMS-06-07-02-0190

Author: Vernon, William Sr.
Recipient: Adams, John
Date: 1778-12-17

From William Vernon Sr.

[salute] Dear sir

The foregoing of the 22nd. of Octr. is copy of my last. Being yet without any of your favors, since you left N. England gives me Pain, for many Reasons, that are too delicate to touch upon; I hope my Son, has not forfeited your friendship, by ill conduct and mis-behaviour.
Since my last, we have lost the Brigantine Resistance that was given to Capt. Burke. She was sent out as far as Cape Cod, to look for Count de Estaings Fleet, that was expected here, after the Rhode Island expedition was given up, missing of them, he stood to the Southward, and the Third day fell in with Lord Hows Fleet, who captured him?
We have now in this Harbour, the Continental ships, Warren, Providence, Boston, Queen of France, and the Dean, the last full Man'd and ready to sail, the Others are in great forwardness and may sail in Three Weeks, if it was possible to get Men for them, which we shall never be able to accomplish, unless some method is taken to prevent desertion, and a stopage of Private ships sailing, until our ships are Man'd, their infamous practice of seduceing our Men to leave the ships, and taking them off at an out Port, with many other base methods, will make it impossible ever to get our ships, ready to sail in Force, or Fleets, or perhaps otherwise then single ships, from whom we cannot expect any great matters; indeed it hath generally proved fatal—I wish, I hope and pray for an Embargo, upon all Private ships, whether Arm'd or Merchants ships may take Place thro' the United States, until the Fleet is Man'd.2 This is the only method, that can be taken—they elude our utmost efforts at Present; and at a most enormous expence, it was truely great before you left us. But you can scarsely form an Idea of the increase and groth of the extravagancy of the People in their demands for Labour &c. Dissipation hath no bounds at present, when or where it will stop, I dare not predict.
The ship Built at Norwich is given to Capt. Harding and call'd the Confederacy, near ready to sail, she is a fine Frigate, its said exceeds the Alliance if possible?3
{ 281 }
The Trumbul remains in Connecticut River, perhaps may never be able to get out of that hole, unless Camels are built to carry her out.4
The Ranger at Portsmouth, in good forwardness. I think. Capt. Simpson will be able to get his Men for that ship very soon?
The Two ships that were sunk in the Deleware their upper Works burn't by the Enemy are now got up, and fitting at Phila.5
The Brigantine Genl. Gates and sloop Providence, are out upon a Cruise—thus you have a general state of remains of the Navy.
I have taken up much of your Time in this detail. If its any satisfaction to you, I shall have pleasure in being your most Obedt. Hble. servt.
[signed] Wm Vernon
RC (Adams Papers); docketed: “Mr. Vernon 177<9>8”; in a different hand: “October 22d.” This letter begins on the second page of the recipient's copy, being preceded by a triplicate of Vernon's letter of 22 Oct. (above).
1. JA did not receive this letter until his return to Paris in 1780 (JA to Vernon, 16 March 1780, RNHi: Vernon Papers).
2. Vernon's is an accurate account of the problems faced by the Continental Navy in its competition with privateers for seamen. Privateers offered the prospect of less discipline and more prize money because they concentrated on destroying commerce and avoided, whenever possible, battles with enemy naval vessels. Embargoes, bounties, advances on pay, and the equalization of the prize shares alloted the crewmen of privateers and naval vessels had no lasting effect. For a more detailed discussion of the issues raised by Vernon, see Charles O. Paullin, The Navy of the American Revolution, Cleveland, 1906, p. 144–149; Allen, Naval Hist. of the Amer. Revolution, p. 48–51.
3. The Confederacy was launched on 8 Nov. at Norwich, Conn., and in Dec. was at New London being outfitted for sea. It displaced 959 tons and was armed with 28 twelve-pounders and 8 six-pounders, while the Alliance was 900 tons with 28 twelve-pounders and 8 nine-pounders (Dict. Amer. Fighting Ships).
4. The Trumbull, launched in 1776 at Chatham, Conn., was not floated over the sand bar at the mouth of the Connecticut River until the summer of 1779. Then, as Vernon suggested, it was done by the use of “Camels,” large casks filled with water which were tied to the vessel's sides and pumped dry to reduce the draft (Allen, Naval Hist. of the Amer. Revolution, 2:498).
5. For the burning of the Effingham and the Washington, see Vernon's letter to JA of 20 May, and note 5 (vol. 6:143, 144). The congress resolved on 8 April 1779 to sell, rather than repair, the hulks (JCC, 13:432).

Docno: ADMS-06-07-02-0191

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: Warren, Mercy Otis
Date: 1778-12-18

To Mercy Otis Warren

[salute] Madam

A few days ago I had the Pleasure of your obliging letter of the 15 of October. It came by the Post, and single, not a line from any other Person, so that I know not by what means it reach'd L'orient. It was not, however the less welcome to me, its intrinsic Excellence, would have recommended it, whoever had written it. The Merit of the writer would have made it dear to me if the Letter itself had been indifferent, a supposition not very easy to make in this case.
{ 282 }
I am sorry very sorry for our Common Country that the unshaken Patriot you mention should think of retiring but I cannot blame him because my own thoughts are constantly running the same way and I am determined with submission to do the same thing.
I hope however Madam that there is not so total a change of Manners, as some appearances may indicate, paper Currency fluctuating in its Value will ever produce appearances in the Political, commercial, and even the Moral World, that are very shooking1 at first sight, but upon Examination they will not be found to proceed from a total Want of Principal but for the most part from Necessity.
Who will take the helm Madam, and indeed who will build the ship I know not but of one thing I am well convinced that a great part of the Evils you mention arise from the neglect to model the constitution and fix the Government. These things must be finished, and the dispute who shall be the head, is much less important than whether we shall have any. I am happy Madam to learn that so many of the most respectable strangers have had an opportunity to visit you. I am pleased with this because it has given you an opportunity of speculating upon those illustrious characters, and because it has given them an opportunity of observing that their new Ally can boast of Female Characters equal to any in Europe.
I have not the honor to know Mrs. Holker, she lives at Rouen at a distance however I have gratified Mr. H's father with a sight of his sons Portrait drawn by a Lady, which he could not read without the tears gushing from both his eyes.
As to Portraits Madam I dare not try my hand as yet. But my Design is to retire, like my Freind, and spend all my leisure hours in writing a history of this revolution. And with an Hand2 as severe as Tacitus, I wish to god it was as eloquent, draw the Portrait of every character that has figured in the business. But when it is done I will dig a Vault, and bury the Manuscript, with a positive injunction, that it shall not be opened till a hundred years after My Death.
What shall I say, Madam, to your Question whether I am as much in the good graces of the Ladies as my venerable Colleague. Ah No! Alas, Alas No.
The Ladies of this Country Madam have an unaccountable passion for old Age, whereas our Country women you know Madam have rather a Complaisance3 for youth if I remember right. This is rather unlucky for me for I have nothing to do but wish that I was seventy years old and when I get back I shall be obliged to wish myself back again to 25.
{ 283 } { 284 }
I will take the Liberty to mention an anecdote or two amongst a multitude to shew you how unfortunate I am in being so young. A Gentleman introduced me the other day to a Lady. Voila, Madame, says he, Monsieur Adams, notre Ami, Le Colleague de Monsieur Franklin! Je suis enchante de voir Monsieur Adams. Answer'd the Lady. Embrassez le, donc. Reply'd [the Gentleman]. Ah No, Monsieur, says the Lady, il est trop jeune.4
So that you see. I must wait patiently, full 30 years longer before I can be so great a favorite.
Madam I can give you no news. The Lords and Commons have refused to <Comply> censure5 the Manifests6 of the Comissionners. That unhappy Nation are going on in their Frenzy, but there is an awfull Gloom and Melancholy among them and with reason. I am Madam with every sentiment of Respect your affectionate Freind and humble servant
[signed] John Adams
Mrs. Warren will pardon my sending her a Letter, in another Hand Writing when she knows, that a little Friend of hers is the Clerk, who desires to send his profound Respects.
RC in JQA's hand (MHi: Warren-Adams Coll.); docketed: “J Adams Esqr Decr 18th 1778 Passy.” LbC (Adams Papers). This letter was copied by JQA from the Letterbook and is, with another of the same date to AA (Adams Family Correspondence, 3:138–139), the first known instance in which JQA acted as his father's secretary. The emendations indicated below, the signature, and the postscript are by JA.
1. JQA's misreading of “shocking.”
2. The preceding four words were interlined by JA to correct an omission by JQA from the Letterbook.
3. JQA misread this word as “Complisance.” JA interlined the missing “a.”
4. Although JA corrected most of JQA's misreadings and omissions, he unaccountably did nothing about JQA's revisions in punctuation. Such changes as JQA made have little, if any, effect on the reading of this letter, except in regard to this anecdote, which is almost impossible to understand without reference to the Letterbook copy. As a result, the punctuation and the bracketed words, beginning at “Voila,” are supplied from the Letterbook.
5. In the Letterbook the word is “censure.” JA interlined his correction of JQA's misreading.
6. “Manifesto” in the Letterbook.
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/