A website from the Massachusetts Historical Society; founded 1791.

Browsing: Papers of John Adams, Volume 8

Docno: ADMS-06-08-02-0159

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: Lovell, James
Date: 1779-10-25

To James Lovell

Mr. Joshua Johnson, is a Merchant settled with his Lady and Family at Nantes. I was honoured with many of his Civilities in that City, and with a good deal of his Conversation. He is a sensible genteel Man has a good Character, and I believe is as well qualified, for the service you mention1 as any <Man> American now in Europe: His affections sentiments and Acquaintances are, supposed to be on a particular side:2 but I believe his Conduct has been, prudent and unexceptionable.
The french Frigate would be as agreable a Conveyance for me as I wish; I should be very sorry to delay her. I dont expect to have much direct Negotiation, for some time, but I do expect a great deal of indirect, roundabout, and very ridiculous Manoeuv[r]ing. If I go at all I had rather go without delay, because I hate a state of suspence—and in my present situation I can engage in no other Business public or private. I was running fast into my old <Business> Profession, but this will put total stop to it, for being uncertain when I shall go, I cannot undertake any Mans Business and give him my Word to go through with it.
If Dana should not go, you will find that, Bancroft will be set up—but I think you would certainly carry it, and you may depend upon it, no Man would make me happier. Dana however will accept. He spent yesterday with me, and I am persuaded he will go.
I will inform A. L[ee]. by the 1st Opportunity. He cannot be delayed. He not only had Power to borrow Money, but has I believe considerable sums in his Hands from Spain. Spain has sent him <to my Knowledge> from Time to Time large sums, and she will continue to supply Mr. Jay, so that he will have no Trouble. I shall be in a different Predicament. You are mistaken about the English. There is no Money to be got there. Small sums may be borrowed in France or in Amsterdam, so that I wish to be furnished with full Powers to borrow. But I beg one favour more, and that is for an order to draw in Case of Necessity and in Case other Resources fail on Dr. Franklin, or on the Banker of the United States3 for a sum not exceeding My salary Yearly, and also for a Resolution of Congress, or a Letter from the Commercial Committee requesting the Continental Agents, in Europe and America, to furnish me Aids and supplies of Cash &c.,4 and to the Captains of all American Frigates, to <assist me> afford me a Passage out or home upon demand, so as not to interfere with other orders they may have however, or prevent their Cruising,5 I to pay for my { 227 } Passage to Congress, or be accountable for it. Mr. Dana should have the same Resolution of Congress and Letter from the Commercial and Marine Committee, one from each for each of Us. And perhaps the same to Mr. Jay and Mr. Charmichael.6 I hope I shall find the Funds provided for me sufficient, but if I should not I may be in the Utmost distress and bring upon my self and you <great> Disgrace. Franklin will supply me, and so will any Agent in France, if they have a Resolution of Congress, or even a Letter from the Commercial Committee.
I dont know what Indecencies you mean in my Commission. I have looked it up, and have it before me.7 It is on a large sheet of Paper, written very well all in the Hand Writing of our much respected Secretary. Signed by, President Laurens. Sealed with his seal, and attested by the Secretary. It is not upon Vellum, nor Parchment it is true, and the Paper is not the best, but I believe as good as any We had at that Time. Upon the whole I think it a very decent, respectable and Honourable <Condition> Commission. It was treated with great Respect at Versailles, and I see no Reason to object to it. Pray let me know what the Question is about it?
1. See Lovell to JA, [1 Oct.] (above).
2. JA probably alludes to the fact that Johnson had lived in London for several years before the Revolution as a factor for an Annapolis firm, and that his wife, Catherine Nuth, was English, so that his English connections were fresher than his American ones.
3. JA interlined “and in Case other Resources fail,” and “or on the Banker of the United States.” For the congress' orders to Franklin to assist the new ministers plenipotentiary, see JCC, 15:1183.
4. JA interlined “and supplies of Cash &c.”
5. The remainder of this sentence was interlined.
6. JA interlined this sentence.
7. See Lovell to JA, [1 Oct.], note 8 (above).

Docno: ADMS-06-08-02-0160

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: Marchant, Henry
Date: 1779-10-25

To Henry Marchant

[salute] Dear sir

I have the Pleasure of yours of Octr. 2. Give me leave to assure you that, I never received a troublesome or useless Letter from America, during my Absence. We had enough such from many Parts of Europe to be sure—but none from America, and I should have thought myself under particular Obligations to you, for your Correspondence. If I should be so happy as to go with Mr. Dana, as I flatter myself I shall, I shall depend upon your constant Advice to him or me or both, to both the more agreable. We shall want it.
I assure you notwithstanding the Aukwardness of the situation you { 228 } hint at, I did not find the Rank of a Citizen either so inconvenient or so dishonourable, as to wish very impatiently to advance out of it. I have ever considered the service of the Public as a Duty, a real Duty, but this service may be performed by the Citizen as well as by the senator, or the Consul, the General or the Ambassador. It is easier performed, in the first Character than in any, and with the least Risque and Anxiety.
I would fain hope there is not so much of that Degeneracy you hint at, in Reality, as some Appearances indicate. The Misfortune is that ten vicious Persons in a society of an hundred are able to defeat very often the virtuous Intentions and Efforts of the other Ninety. But this will not always last. The national Character will work its Effects in Time.
Mr. Dana's Appointment makes me very happy, and his Acceptance will make me more so. I have no doubt of it, myself, from the Conversations I have had. The Judge1 will be the greatest Obstacle, but I dont intend to take any Denial, of the Judge, whom I have undertaken to convert or perswade.
Where is the Comte D'Estaing. He must come here this Year or next, or both. You must sett some Springs and Wheels in Motion to get him along, and to get him reinforced from Time to Time.2 We must have a superiour naval Force in the West Indies and on the Coast of this Continent. England will never be brought to her senses untill this Plan is adopted. Get Convoys to Trade, and a superiour naval Power in the American seas, and all will be easy, I think. I am with great Esteem, yor frid & sert
1. Edmund Trowbridge, distinguished jurist and uncle of Francis Dana, who was to be his heir (DAB).
2. It is likely that JA was addressing Marchant simply as a member of the congress, for his two standing committee assignments—Appeals and Treasury—would have given him no particular responsibility for promoting greater naval activity (JCC, 15:1445, 1447).
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.