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Browsing: Papers of John Adams, Volume 8

Docno: ADMS-06-08-02-0155

Author: President of Congress
Author: Huntington, Samuel
Recipient: Adams, John
Date: 1779-10-20

From the President of the Congress

[salute] Sir

I have the honour to transmit you herewith enclosed Two Commissions wherein you are Authorized and appointed Minister Plenipotentiary from these United States to Negotiate Treaties of Peace and Commerce with Great Brittain; Accompanied with instructions in each Case, for your government in the Execution of those Several Commissions.1
For your further Information and benefit, are enclosed Copies of the Instructions to the honble. Ben. Franklin and John Jay Esqr. our Ministers Plenipotentiary at the Courts of Versailes and Madrid.2
Also two Acts of Congress of the 4th and 15th Instant Ascertaining your Salary and making provision for your Subsistance on your Arrival in France.3
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The nature and Importance of the Trust committed to your charge, will, I perswade my self engage your Immediate Attention and induce you to undertake the Service, and Embark for France without loss of time.
Wishing you a prosperous Voyage and Success in your Embassy I have the honour to be with Sentiments of the highest Esteem & Regard—Your humble Servant
[signed] Saml. Huntington President
P.S The honbe. Frances Dana Esqr. is appointed your Secretary.
RC (Adams Papers); with eight enclosures.
1. The two commissions, approved on 4 Oct. but dated 29 Sept., and the first and secondtwo sets of instructions, adopted on 14 Aug. but dated 16 Oct., are calendared (above).
2. Franklin's instruction as received from Huntington was undated, but, using another copy in his possession, JA copied it into his Autobiography under the date of 16 Oct. (Diary and Autobiography, 4:185–187). The instruction, adopted on 14 Aug., noted that recognition of American rights to the Newfoundland fishery was to be a provision in an Anglo-American commercial treaty rather than a peace ultimatum. The reason for this, although not stated, was that France had refused to make any commitment regarding the fishery in the Treaty of Alliance and thus would not agree to continue the war to obtain recognition of America's fishing rights in the peace treaty. Franklin was, therefore, ordered to seek an additional article to the alliance, providing that if Britain disturbed either party in the exercise of its rights to the Newfoundland fishery the other would join in a war to protect and preserve those rights. It was a futile effort from the beginning, but see JA's comments on the instruction in his Autobiography (same, 4:187).
Jay's instructions for negotiating a treaty with Spain are printed in Wharton, ed., Dipl. Corr. Amer. Rev., 3:352–353, 374–375.
3. The text of the two resolutions is in JCC, 15:1145, 1179–1180.

Docno: ADMS-06-08-02-0156

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: President of Congress
Date: 1779-10-21

To the President of the Congress

[salute] Sir

So many Advantages might be derived to the united States in the Conduct of the War; in furnishing the Army and Navy; in augmenting the Value, or at least in preventing the further Depreciation of their Currency; in lowering the Prices of Goods; in Supplying the Wants of the People and in preventing Murmurs and Discontents, that I have ever thought it, of very great Importance, in some Way or other to procure Convoys to their Trade, to and from the West India Islands and Europe.
France and Spain, have such Advantages of England, in carrying on the War, in the American Seas, and would receive such Assistance from our Commerce, Privateers and growing Navy, that I have ever thought it a main Principle of their Policy to maintain a constant and decided Superiority of Naval Power, in the West Indies and upon the Coasts of this Continent.
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I would therefore with due Defference to the Superiour Wisdom of Congress, beg Leave to submit to their Consideration, whether it would not be expedient for them, either by a direct Representation1 from themselves to the French and Spanish Courts, or by Instructions to their Plenipotentiary Ministers, to endeavour to convince those Courts, that their true Interest lies, in adopting this Plan. It is certainly their Interest reasoning upon French and Spanish Principles, simply, to conduct this War, in such a manner, as has a tendency, in the shortest Time, and with the least Expence to diminish the Power of their Ennemies, and increase their own. Now, I would submit it to Congress, whether it may not be easily demonstrated, that these Ends may be obtained, the most easily, in this Way. A Representation from Congress, either directly or by Instructions to their Ministers, shewing what Assistance, in Provisions, Artists, Materials, Vessells of War, Privateers, Land Armies, or in any other Way, France and Spain might depend upon receiving from these states either for Money, or as the Exertions of an Ally,2 would have great Weight.
Much has been already Said to the French Ministry, upon these subjects and not wholly without Effect: Yet much more may be said, to greater Advantage and perhaps to better Purpose, for they are extreamly well disposed to do what can be made to appear to them, for the Advantage of the common Cause.
I have the Honour to inclose Some Papers on this subject. One, is a Letter from the Commissioners, to his Excellency the Comte De Vergennes, which he received the Beginning of January last. The other is a Letter from me to the Marquis de la Fayette, in February, with his Answer.3

[salute] I have the Honour to be, with great Respect, your Excellencys, most obedient servant

[signed] John Adams
RC (PCC, No. 84, I, 105–106/2); docketed: “Letter from Hon John Adams Esqr. Dated Braintree 21st Octr. 1779. read Novr. 1 4 Papers inclosed No. 1 Commissioners Letter to Ct. de Vergennes No. 2 JA to the Marqs. de Fayette No. 3 Marqs. in Answer No. 4 JA to the Presd of Congress Oct. 19–79.” JA's letter of 19 Oct. to the president of the congress is not printed, but see JA to the Massachusetts Council, 13 Sept., and note 2 (above). LbC (Adams Papers).
1. For “Representation” the Letterbook has “Application.”
2. The Letterbook copy does not have “either for Money or as the Exertions of an Ally.”
3. For the first letter, which Vergennes acknowledged on 9 Jan., see the Commissioners to Vergennes, [ante 20] Dec. 1778 – [ante 9] Jan. 1779 (above). JA's letter to Lafayette is that of 21 Feb.; the marquis replied on 9 April (both above). In the JCC the receipt and description of these enclosures is garbled (15:1231).
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.