A website from the Massachusetts Historical Society; founded 1791.

Browsing: Papers of John Adams, Volume 7

Docno: ADMS-06-07-02-0265

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: Lee, Richard Henry
Date: 1779-02-13

To Richard Henry Lee

[salute] My dear Sir

I am much obliged to you for your kind Congratulations on my Arrival, and agreable Accommodation at Paris. I assure you, Sir, I have no Objection to the “Splendid Gayety of a magnificent Court,”1 in a Country, where2 Manners, Habits and the Constitution of the <Country> Government make it necessary, which I hope however, will never be the Case in America.
He must be of a Strange Disposition, indeed, who cannot be happy at Paris, where he may have his Choice, of all the Pleasures, Amusements and Studies,3 which human Life affords.
You hint that I may be Soon desired to visit Holland, and that you imagine this would be more agreable to me. In this you are mistaken. Either would be agreable to me, if I were able to do any good in it: but there are others, who are able to do more. I hope, and I fancy I shall not be desired to make this Visit, because I think it is time for me to go home, if I can get there. The Character I sustain, at present, that of a private Citizen, best becomes me, and is most agreable to me.
Congress have done wisely, in my poor Opinion, in confiding, their political affairs, at this Court to one.4 But then I think it will be necessary to appoint Consuls or other Persons to manage maritime and commercial Affaires which I presume, they mean to do. The Care of these Things is inconsistent with your Ministers Character, and the Burthen of them is too weighty for his Forces.
I feel myself honoured, by your Assurance, that my sentiments in my Letter to our Friend are conformable to yours, and that they prevail.5 And in the Sincerity of my Heart I assure you, that no Intelligence I ever heard relieved my Mind from a greater Burthen, than that which informed me I was a private Citizen.6
Keppell is acquitted,7 amidst the greatest Rejoicings, ever known. The Mob have at last become violent and pulled to Pieces Sandwichs and Palisser's Houses. Edinborough also is in Tumults about the Roman Catholics. In short the English Government seems to be in a fair Way, instead of burning your Houses and massacring your Children to be obliged to call home her Troops to save their own from the Mob.
{ 408 }
What shall I say to you, my Friend concerning a certain vicious and illiberal Address to the virtuous and free? Is it possible it should have made an Impression? Is that vain Man capable of thinking himself a Match for his Antagonist? And of weighing his Parts, his Learning, his services in the scale against the other? What Bounds can be set to the Presumption of the human Heart? But I must hasten to subscribe myself your Friend & servant
[signed] John Adams
RC (Mrs. Stephen Keiley, Massachusetts, 1976). LbC (Adams Papers).
1. Closing quotation marks have been supplied. The quotation is from Lee's letter of 29 Oct. 1778 (above).
2. In the Letterbook this word is followed by <Time.>
3. In the Letterbook this sentence originally ended <that can render human Life agreable>.
4. In the Letterbook this word is followed by <Gentleman.>
5. In the Letterbook this paragraph reads, to this point, as follows: <“It may be imagined by some that I must be in an awkward situation, and that I may be thought to be disgraced. They are mistaken. I feel no Disgrace, on the contrary I must be destitute of the sentiment of Glory, if I did not feel myself> honoured, when you tell me that my sentiments, in my Letter to <Mr. Adams,> our Friend are perfectly conformable to your own, and when our common Friend Mr. Lovell tells me that my Ideas, of distributing the Gentlemen abroad, were the prevalent Ideas at Philadelphia, and will be carried into Effect.” JA is referring to his letter of 21 May to Samuel Adams (vol. 6:144–145, calendar entry; JA, Diary and Autobiography, 4:106–108) and that from James Lovell of 24 Oct. 1778 (above).
6. The paragraph reflects JA's public pronouncements on being superseded as a Commissioner. While he may have been relieved at his release from the burdens of the office, he expressed the unhappiness he felt at his situation two weeks later in a letter to AA: “The Scaffold is cutt away, and I am left kicking and sprawling in the Mire, I think. It is hardly a state of Disgrace that I am in but rather of total Neglect and Contempt” (Adams Family Correspondence, 3:181).
7. The reference here to Keppel's acquittal and later to the Edinburgh riots indicate that this and the following paragraph were composed sometime after the rest of the letter, probably around 20 Feb. (see the last paragraph of JA to Samuel Adams, 14 Feb., below). This is indicated by a canceled closing before the paragraphs in the Letterbook and, more significantly, by the fact that JA could hardly have known of Keppel's acquittal and its accompanying disorders or of the Edinburgh riots as early as the 13th. The court-martial did not end until 11 Feb., and the riots in Edinburgh against repealing the penal laws against Catholics, which began on 2 Feb., were not reported in the London papers until about 9 Feb. (JA to Francis Dana, 25 Dec. 1778, and note 4, above; London Chronicle, 6–9, 11–13 Feb.).

Docno: ADMS-06-07-02-0266

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: Lovell, James
Date: 1779-02-13

To James Lovell

[salute] My dear Sir

Yours of the 24 Oct. is before me. I have received several Letters from you <every one of> which I have answered, and written you many more. But so many Vessells have been taken, that I fear many have miscarried.
{ 409 }
We have been totally in the dark about every Thing at Philadelphia, for a very long Space of Time, yet private Persons learnt all—untill <the Address of Mr. Deane to the People,> a certain Address appeared in the English News papers and in the Courier de L'Europe.2 You must imagine, for I cant describe the Situation that this threw Us into. But on the Arrival of the Dispatches by the Alliance, We have much Relief, and I hope the sensation, will wear off, without any lasting ill Consequence. But for three or four days, I confess, I felt more fears for the Public than I ever felt before.3
As to Finances, I am quite unequal, at this Distance to form any Opinion. Dr. Price most politely declines, on Account of Age, and Connections.4 As to loaning so much as you mention, I cant see the End of it—it is too vast an Object for me. Cannot much be done in the Way of Œconomy, to lessen Expences. Cannot Taxes be raised to help along? You say I am against Debts abroad. You heard my sentiments in Congress upon that Head, but I assure you, I have not presumed, to Act in Conformity to those sentiments in opposition to those of Congress, I have done all in my Power, to accomplish their Views. But the state of our Currency it appears to me, and what they hear in Europe from all Parts of America of the Course of Exchange, discourages and will discourage. They cant see through our System, and altho very well disposed towards Us, are afraid to risque their Interest. I am now accountable only to myself for my opinions, being a private Citizen, and therefore I tell you plainly you must recommend Depreciation and Appreciation Laws, or our Currency will be good for nothing. And you must tax to the quick.5
The States of Europe, seemed, not long since to be universally friendly to Us, and England without the Hope of an Ally. I hope no late Intelligence, has altered or will alter this Disposition. The English are so artful in framing and industrious in propagating Suspicions, that It may be necessary to say to you, that I am fully perswaded, of the firmness of this Court, in our Support. Their Preparations by sea, are very great, and already in my opinion considering the state of ships and Number of Seamen Superiour to the English altho the Number of Ships is not so great.6 We expect News from the C. D'Estaing, every Hour. I am with great Affection your Friend
LbC (Adams Papers); notation: “sent.”
1. No extant letters by James Lovell mention receiving a letter of 13 Feb. He does indicate in his letter to JA of 20 Aug. (below), however, that he had received one of 19 Feb., for which no Letterbook or recipient's copy has been found. JA may not have copied this letter from his Letterbook until 19 Feb., not an { 410 } unusual practice, but it is quite possible that the letter was never received. See Lovell's letter of 20 Aug., and note 1, and that from Elbridge Gerry of 24 Aug., and note 1 (below).
2. See John Boylston to JA, 6 Feb., note 1 (above).
3. See JA's Diary entries for 8, 9, 11, 12, and 13 Feb. (Diary and Autobiography, 2:345–347, 352–354).
4. See Price to the Commissioners, 18 Jan. (above).
5. This sentence was interlined, as was at least a portion of the one immediately preceding it. It is impossible to determine precisely how much of that sentence was an addition to the original text.
6. The preceding nine words were interlined.
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.