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Browsing: Papers of John Adams, Volume 8

Docno: ADMS-06-08-02-0183

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: Lovell, James
Date: 1779-12-16

To James Lovell

[salute] My dear Friend

Providence has favoured me, with a very unexpected Visit to Spain. It is somewhat of a Contretems, to be sure, that the Minister for Spain should be at this Time in France, where I hope he is, altho' We have no Account of his Arrival:1 and the Minister of Peace, who ought to be in Paris, in the remotest part of Spain. But so it is—The Captain of the Sensible, finding the Leak in the Ship dangerous, was determined to put into the first port, and I cannot blame him, altho' I did not advise him to it, and here I am, with the prospect of the Mountains of Asturias and the Pyrenees before me.
If the Business of my Commission is not retarded by my accidental Journey, through Spain, I shall have no Reason to regret it. I have been treated with as much Civility, and with a more studied Attention and Respect, in this Country, than I ever was in any other. If I had Time, there is nothing but what I could have the fairest opportunities to see, in Company with the first People of the Country.
I really dont know whether to go through Madrid or not—whether { 298 } it will be most respectful to this Nation in my Situation to go to Madrid or to avoid it.2
I shall inclose to Congress all the News Papers, I can beg or find, or I had almost said steal: but there is not much News. No great Things have been done in Europe, excepting keeping the English Fleet in Torbay—that indeed is a great thing.3
The English Maxim is to make themselves terrible at Sea to all the Nations of Europe—read Thompson's Brittannia.4 But cooped up in Torbay, they are not dreaded by any Body. They will be less dreaded next Year than this.
The Eyes of Europe are turned upon Ireland next to America. There are many Reports—that France has sent over large Sums of Money—ten thousand Stands of Arms &c. &c. &c.: but I pay little Attention to such Tales. Ireland will give England Inquietude, but I have not much Faith as yet in the Menaces of Revolt and Independence and Insurrections and all that.
Nothing is more delusive than the private Letters and paragraphs of Letters, that are read in the great Towns of Europe from Paris, London, Amsterdam, Madrid &c. unless it be the Articles of News in the Newspapers. There is this Difference—the private Letters are the Errors of Ignorance—those of the Gazettees are the Impostures of Knavery—both equally false and deceitful.
My Journey from Ferrol to Paris will be vastly expensive, and I must intreat that Congress would not delay to make some provision for supplying me, with means to discharge this as well as all other Expences. Mr. Jay, I think will find no Difficulty. His Wants will all be supplied and he will enter soon on business. I shall, I fear, find great difficulty to get Cash to bear my Expences, and have nothing in direct Consequence of my Commission to do for a long time. I hate to be idle.
My Love, and Duty &c. where due—particularly to your Colleagues. You have a new Sett probably e'er now.

[salute] I am with much Affection Your's

LbC in John Thaxter's hand (Adams Papers).
1. See JA to Benjamin Franklin, 8 Dec., note 3 (above).
2. JA would puzzle over this decision until he reached Astorga on 4 Jan. 1780, when he decided to proceed directly to France without passing through Madrid (JA, Diary and Autobiography, 2:421–422; 4:231.
3. This was an erroneous report that JA may first have seen in the Independent Chronicle of 23 Sept. It reported the arrival at Boston from Amsterdam in 56 days of a Capt. Coffin with news that a French and Spanish fleet of 54 sail was blockading Adm. Sir Charles Hardy's fleet of 30 ships in Torbay on the Devonshire coast. Hardy had been at Torbay in July, but he had been forced there by the weather. By the time Coffin arrived at Boston, the French and Spanish forces { 299 } had retired to Brest, without having engaged Hardy's force in what had been expected to be a decisive battle (Mackesy, War for America, p. 284–297).
4. Perhaps JA had in mind lines 179–181 of James Thomson's Britannia: “But on the Sea be terrible, untam'd, / Unconquerable Still; let none escape / Who shall but aim to touch your Glory there.” JA had quoted at great length from Britannia in his letter to Lovell of 4 Oct. (above; poetry not printed).

Docno: ADMS-06-08-02-0184

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: President of Congress
Recipient: Huntington, Samuel
Date: 1779-12-16

This is a summary of a document and does not contain a transcription. If it is available elsewhere in this digital edition, a page number link will be provided below in the paragraph beginning "Printed."

To the President of the Congress, No. 2

La Coruña, Spain, 16 December 1779. RC in John Thaxter's hand PCC, No. 84, I, f. 231.; docketed: “No. 2 Letter from J. Adams Corunna Decr. 16. 1779 Read March 27. 1780.” LbC Adams Papers. LbC in Thaxter's hand Adams Papers; notations: “Recd in Congress Oct. 15. Triplicate.”; by Thaxter: “No. 2.” and “NB. Nos. 1 & 2 were sent by Captain Trask bound to Newbury Port from Corunna.” For a discussion of the presence of two Letterbook copies in the Adams Papers, see part 2 of the Introduction: “John Adams and his Letterbooks.”
John Adams reported his arrival in Spain, journey from El Ferrol to La Coruña, and answers to numerous questions from Spanish officials about the progress of the war and the appointment of an American minister plenipotentiary to Spain. He noted the “prevailing Opinion,” mistaken as it turned out, that Spain would receive the American minister, recognize American independence, and conclude a treaty. He then described measures taken to improve the coordination between the French and Spanish fleets and stated his belief that war would last at least another year. Finally, Adams reported rumors of a Russian mediation and his opinion that Russia, as a preliminary, would insist on British recognition of American independence, a concession he believed Britain would make with even greater reluctance than the cession of Gibraltar to Spain.
RC in John Thaxter's hand (PCC, No. 84, I, f. 231.); docketed: “No. 2 Letter from J. Adams Corunna Decr. 16. 1779 Read March 27. 1780.” LbC (Adams Papers). LbC in Thaxter's hand (Adams Papers); notations: “Recd in Congress Oct. 15. Triplicate.”; by Thaxter: “No. 2.” and “NB. Nos. 1 & 2 were sent by Captain Trask bound to Newbury Port from Corunna.” For a discussion of the presence of two Letterbook copies in the Adams Papers, see part 2 of the Introduction: “John Adams and his Letterbooks.”printed: (JA, Diary and Autobiography, 4:204).

Docno: ADMS-06-08-02-0185

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: Cermeño, Don Pedro Martin
Date: 1779-12-18

To Don Pedro Martin Cermeño

Mr. Adams presents his Compliments to the Governor of Corunna,1 and informs him according to his desire, express'd last Evening, that the Names of the Persons for whom he requests a Passport, from His Excellency, the Governor of this Province, are as follow
John Adams, a Ministre, plenipotentiary from the United States of America
The Honourable Francis Dana Esqr., Secretary, to Mr. Adams's Commission, a Member of Congress, and a Member of the Council of the Massachusetts Bay.
Mr. John Thaxter, private Secretary to Mr. Adams
{ 300 }
John Quincy Adams a Son of Mr. Adams of about twelve Years of Age
Charles Adams another Son of Mr. Adams, near 10 Years of Age.
Mr. Jeremiah Allen a private Gentleman, of Boston in the Massachusetts2 accidentally <travelling> in Company,3 he is a Merchant travelling with a View of establishing a private Commerce in Spain as well as France.
Samuel Cooper Johonnot, another Infant of 10 or 11 Years of Age, a Grandson of a particular Friend of Mr. Adams's in Boston going to Paris for an Education in the University there.
Joseph Stevens a Servant of Mr. Adams
John William Christian Fricke a Servant of Mr. Dana
Andrew Desmia a Servant of Mr. Allen
Mr. Adams requests a Passport for all these Persons4 to go to Madrid, and from thence to Bilbao and from thence to Bayonne in their Way to Paris, with Liberty at the Same Time to go directly to Bayonne by the nearest Road without going to Madrid or to Bilbao, as it is uncertain whether Mr. Adams will have the Time to gratify his Inclinations with the Sight of those Cities or not.
1. As the passport that resulted from this letter (see note 4) makes clear, JA was addressing Don Pedro Martin Cermeño, governor of the province of Galicia, not the military governor of La Coruña, Galicia's administrative capital.
2. The preceding five words were interlined for insertion here.
3. The remainder of this sentence was interlined.
4. Only JA is named in the passport, the rest of the party being described by their relationship to him. The document, in Spanish, is in the Adams Papers, dated 18 Dec., and is reproduced in JA, Diary and Autobiography, 2:following 290.
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.