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Browsing: Papers of John Adams, Volume 7

Docno: ADMS-06-07-02-0275

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: Lovell, James
Date: 1779-02-20

To James Lovell

[salute] My dear Friend

I set down Simply to acknowledge over again the Receipt
1777 Decr I
1778 Jany. 20.
Ap. 29.
May 15.
Sept 25
3 others which accompanied some of the others without dates
Oct. 24
of the Letters from you whose dates are in the Margin.1 These have been answerd, and I have wrote you at other Times. But there is a terrible Waste of Letters in the Sea.
I cannot lay aside my Pen without Saying, that the Accusations before Congress, against the Messrs. Lees and <others> and I know not who besides distress me, beyond Measure. I fear it will perpetuate Altercation, without bringing any great Truths to light for the Benefit of the Public. I have Sighed and mourn'd, and wept, for that Intemperance of Passions, which I very early discovered here, without being able to Soften or to cool it in the least degree. I wish I could draw the Portrait of every Character here, as it appears in my Eyes: But this would be imprudent, and if it should be known would do public Mischief, full enough of which has been done already by Indiscretion.
Our old incidental Agent,2 is an honest Man: faithfull and zealous in our Cause: but there is an Acrimony in his Temper—There is a Jealousy—there is an Obstinacy, and a Want of Candor at times, and an Affectation of Secrecy the Fruit of Jealousy, which renders him disagreable often to his Friends, makes him Ennemies, and gives them infinite Advantages over him.
{ 420 }
That he has had great Provocations here I never doubted, and Since the Appearance of the Address less than ever.
There is another Character here,3 exceedingly respectable in Fortune, Education, Travel, Honour, Integrity, Love of his Country and Zeal in its Cause: But Tacitus would say his Passions are always strong, often violent: and he has not Experience in public Life.
These two Gentlemen, have been very intimate, and have encouraged no doubt each other and often irritated. Another Thing I think that other Gentleman ought not to have been here. He should have been in Italy or in America, or being here, I really think he ought not to have interfered, so much. This is simply my opinion—I may be wrong. That Gentleman thought he was doing his Duty I am clear. But of this I am perswaded that if he had been in Italy Things would never have gone to the Lengths they have.
On the other Hand most of the old Connections of the Dr. and Mr. D.4 were filled with Prejudices against those two Gentlemen—one Party was striving to get the better of the other, to lessen its Reputation and diminish its Authority.
In this Chaos I found Things and have been tossed in it.
On the other Hand, there was a Monopoly of Reputation here, and an Indecency in displaying it, which did great Injustice to the real Merit of others, that I do not wonder was resented. There was an Indolence—there was a Dissipation—which gave just Occasion of Complaint—there was a Complaisance to interested Adventurers. There was an Intimacy, with stock jobbers, there was an Acquaintance with Persons from England, which gave just Occasion of Jealousy, however innocent the intentions were. I have learnd that total silence is enough to procure a Character for Prudence, whatever Indiscretions a Man may commit.
In this state of Things Congress have had the Wisdom and the Fortitude to do the only Thing, which could be done for putting Matters on a better Footing. But this will last a very little while, if Money matters are not seperated from political.
Some other Thing must be done. Some Resolution must be passed forbidding every Man, in the most positive Terms who has any Connection with your Minister here, from having any Connection with English Stocks, Insurances, &c and forbidding all Correspondence with them. There is in England a Practice of making Insurances on political Events, which has interested the whole Alley5 in American Politicks, and has thrown all into Distraction.
I have been wholly without Information of what was passing in { 421 } Congress and indeed in America, especially in Philadelphia. My Friends I know have been engaged in doing the public Business, not in Strengthening the Hands of Individuals or Parties here. But Bushells of Letters, have come to Adventurers here, containing Information more exact in Some things, and not so true in others as they might.
1. The first seven letters listed are printed in vols. 5 and 6. Also printed there are letters of [post 17] and 30 Dec. 1777; 1 and 13 Jan.; 8, 10, and []Feb.; []May; and 8 June 1778. No letter dated 25 Sept. has been found, but that of 24 Oct. is printed above.
2. Arthur Lee.
3. Ralph Izard.
4. Benjamin Franklin and Silas Deane.
5. London's stockbrokers or, as JA would put it, stockjobbers, did business in 'Change or more properly Exchange Alley, Cornhill. In 1773 New Jonathan's Coffee-house, the principal meeting place of the brokers in the alley, was renamed “The Stock Exchange” (Wheatley, London Past and Present, 1:348–349; 3:315).

Docno: ADMS-06-07-02-0276

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: Lafayette, Marie-Joseph-Paul-Yves-Roch-Gilbert du Motier, marquis de
Date: 1779-02-21

To the Marquis de Lafayette

[salute] My dear Marquiss

The Conversation with which you honoured me last Evening,1 has induced me, to give you the Trouble of this Letter upon the same subject.
It is certain that a Loan of Money, is very much wanted, to redeem the Redundancy of our Paper Bills, and without it, it is impossible to foresee what will be the Consequence to their Credit, and therefore every service that may be rendered, in order to obtain it from this Kingdom, from Spain or Holland, will be a most essential and acceptable service.
But without some other Exertions, even a Loan, perhaps would be but a temporary Relief: with them a smaller Loan might suffice.
You know perfectly well, that the Ennemy in America, is at present very weak and in great Distress in every Part. They are weak in Canada—weak in Hallifax—weak in Rhode Island—weak at New York <and> weak in the Floridas, and weak in every one of the West India Islands.
An Strong2 Armament of Ships of the Line, with Five thousand Troops, directed against Hallifax, Rhode Island or New York, must infallibly succeed. So it must against The Floridas. So it must against Canada, or any one of the West India Islands.
You are very sensible that, in this state of Weakness, the British Possessions in America depend upon each other for reciprocal support. The Troops and ships derive such supplies of Provisions, from Canada and Nova Scotia, that if these Places or either of them was lost it { 422 } would be difficult, if not impossible for the others to subsist. The West India Islands derive such supplies from the Floridas, that if they were lost, the others could scarcely subsist. Their Fleets and Armies, in Canada Hallifax, Rhode Island, New York, and the Floridas receive supplies of Rum Sugar, Molasses &c. from the West India Islands without which they could scarcely subsist. Every Part of their Possessions in America, both on the Continent and in the Islands receive constant supplies from, Europe, from England Scotland and Ireland, without which they must fall. You perceive therefore that their Dominions in America at present form such a Chain that the Links mutually support each other, in such a Manner that if one or two were taken away the whole, or at least the greatest Part must fall.
In this state of Things then the obvious Policy is, to send a strong Squadron of Ships of the Line, to co-operate with the Count D'Estaing and the American Army in some Expedition directed against New York Rhode Island or Hallifax or perhaps all of them in Course—five or six Thousand Troops, would be quite enough. Above all it is indispensably necessary to keep a clear superiority of naval Power both on the Coast of the Continent and in the West India Islands. This, together with French and American Privateers, would make such Havock among the Ennemies Transports passing from one of their Possessions to another as must ruin their Affairs.
The French have a great Advantage in carrying on this Kind of War, in America at present. The British ships are badly manned and in bad Repair. They cannot send them into the American seas without the Utmost Terror for their own Coasts—and when they are in America, they have not such Advantages for supplies of Provisions, naval stores and so forth as the French.
The Devastation that was made among their ships of the Line Frigates Transports and Traders in the American seas the last summer, shews how much more might be done, if a stronger Force was sent there.3
As long as the Ennemy keep Possession of New York and Rhode Island so long it will be necessary for Us to keep up large Armies to watch their Motions and defend the Country against them, which will oblige Us to emit more Paper and still farther encrease the Depreciation.
Now as long as they maintain the Dominion of those Seas, their Troops will be protected by the Cannon of their ships, and We could not dislodge them, with any Army however large—<and> at least We could not keep those Places.
But if their Force was captivated in those Places, as it might easily { 423 } be by a sea Force cooperating with the land Forces, We might reduce our Army, and innumerable other Articles of Expence. We need not emit any more Paper, and that already out, would depreciate no further.
I should be happy to have further Conversation with you, sir upon those subjects or to explain any Thing by Letter, which may be in my Power.
With the highest sentiments of Esteem and Respect, I have the Honour to be, sir your most obedient and most humble servant
LbC (Adams Papers); notation: “sent—and recd. as the Marquis told me 27 feb.” A copy (NHi), the first twelve lines of which are in JA's hand and the rest in John Thaxter's hand, was later made from the Letterbook copy and enclosed in JA's letter to Elbridge Gerry of 11 Sept. (below). Another copy, entirely in Thaxter's hand, was sent as an enclosure (PCC, No. 84, I, f. 107–110) in JA's letter of 21 Oct. to the president of the congress (below).
1. JA described the conversation with Lafayette in his letter to Elbridge Gerry of 11 Sept. (below). Certainly JA's proposal fit in well with Lafayette's plan for a Franco-American attack on Canada, which he pressed on the French government. Despite Lafayette's efforts, the plan was rejected for financial reasons as well as the doubtful benefit to France of additional American conquests (Louis Gottschalk, Lafayette and the Close of the American Revolution, Chicago, 1942, p. 7–9).
2. “Strong” was interlined for insertion.
3. The following three paragraphs were written below the closing and marked for insertion at this point.
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.