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Browsing: Papers of John Adams, Volume 8

Docno: ADMS-06-08-02-0214

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: Lovell, James
Date: 1780-02-19

To James Lovell

[salute] My dear Friend

You have been so good, in sending me the Journals and above all in sending me very particular Intelligence of what has passed upon several occasions that I depend much upon the Continuance of your Favours. An early receipt of the Journals will be a great Advantage to me, and I shall not fail to make a good Use of them.
Since I have been here, I have seen Mr. I. and mentioned to him, his famous Letter and the Use that was attempted to be made of it.1 He seemed to be very much affected, declared, that it was a private Letter to his friend which he never intended nor expected nor suspected would be laid before Congress, And that it was intended only as a pleasantry between his friend and him; a merry Exultation, between Intimates upon his having judged righter than I of the sentiments of that Body.
I beg you would inform me, of the Health etc. of the Chevalier and M. M[arbois]. <how they succeed,> whether they are esteemed, and whether there are any open or secret Attacks upon them, and from what Quarter, if any. I take a great Interest in their Success, as I think them worthy Men, and Well wishers to both Countries, without partial or sinister Views.
I must earnestly Request Authority to draw upon Passy, otherwise shall be in very great distress. The sums We are impowered to draw will be but a Sprat.2 There is no doubt at all of our draughts being paid, if orderd. If Merchandise or Bills should be remitted by Congress so much the better. We shall receive no more than our due, and the Proceeds of the Merchandise or Bills will go to the Hands of Dr. F. to discharge the public demands. On the Contrary We shall be in the most awkward Situation in the World without orders to draw, if Bills and Merchandise should fail of arriving, and there will not be wanting Persons to take Advantage of it, to put Us in a ridiculous Light, whereas orders to draw will ensure Us respect from these very Persons.
I wish I could hear of the Arrival of Messrs. Laurence's father and son.3 Mr. Jay has happily arrived in Spain, and, from the great Atten• { 334 } tion and Respect that was shewn to me, I have no doubt he will soon succeed, and that Court will support as well as receive him, and I hope afford further essential Assistance to the united states, both by their Arms and their Money.
There is a difference of sentiment here respecting the Address of Congress to the People respecting their Finances,4 some People thinking that Congress have hurt their Cause by it in Europe, others that it was a wise Measure. For my own Part I think that the Measure could not be avoided, that the Evil was so great that there must be a Remedy, and that no radical Cure could be effected without laying open to the World the Inveteracy of the Distemper. Wish to know how your Plan of Taxes succeeds, or what other Methods you may fall upon. Your Friend
[signed] John Adams
1. That is, Ralph Izard's letter to Henry Laurens of 12 Sept. 1778. For an extract from that letter, see James Lovell to JA, 14 Sept. 1779 (above). Compare JA's reporting of Izard's statement of his intentions, given below, with JA's evaluation of Izard's intentions in JA to Elbridge Gerry, 17 Oct. 1779 (above).
2. A small amount (OED).
3. JA was to have a long wait before either Laurens arrived. Although appointed to negotiate a Dutch loan on 21 Oct. and to conclude a treaty of amity and commerce with the Netherlands on 1 Nov. 1779, Henry Laurens did not sail from Philadelphia until 13 Aug. 1780. Three weeks later he was captured by the British who imprisoned him in London; he did not reach Paris until Nov. 1782 (JCC, 15:1198, 1232; DAB). His son John had been appointed Benjamin Franklin's secretary on 29 Sept. 1779, but he had declined the office in December and at the time of this letter was serving with the army in South Carolina. Captured by the British at the fall of Charleston in May 1780, he was exchanged, and in Dec. 1780 he was appointed envoy extraordinary to France. He did not arrive in Europe until March 1781 (JCC, 15:1128, 1366; DAE). It should be noted, however, that JA was only assuming, based on an enclosure in Lovell's letter of 1 Nov. 1779 (above; see also Adams Family Correspondence, 3:234), that Henry Laurens had been appointed to negotiate a Dutch loan. And although JA knew of John Laurens' appointment, he had no knowledge of his refusal of the secretaryship.
4. Addresses regarding the state of American finances had been adopted by the congress on 26 May and 13 Sept. 1779, but it is unclear to which of these JA is referring. For that of 26 May, see Jonathan Loring Austin to JA, 7 July, note 2 (above). The second address, in the form of a “circular letter,” informed the American people of the congress' resolution of 1 Sept. to limit emissions of paper money to $200,000,000. It sought to allay their fears about the ability or willingness of the congress to back its emissions and to rally their support for increased taxation and loans to support this currency. Without popular confidence in this currency and support for the measures taken by the congress to maintain its value, the address argued, final victory was in doubt (JCC, 15:1051–1062).

Docno: ADMS-06-08-02-0215

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: President of Congress
Recipient: Huntington, Samuel
Date: 1780-02-19

To the President of the Congress, No. 6

[salute] Sir

Inclosed are Copies of former Letters to Congress, and I shall continue to transmit Copies until I learn that some have arrived; for { 335 } which Reason I must request the Favour that his Excellency the President, or some Committee, may be desired to acknowledge the Receipt of Letters, so that I may know as soon as may be what Letters have arrived and which have been less fortunate.
The Art of making and spreading false News, to answer political purposes is not peculiar to Great Britain: but yet She seems to possess this Art, and the Talent of giving to her Fictions the Colours of Probability beyond other Nations: at least She seems to have more Success in making her Impostures believed, than any other.
It is her annual practice in the Winter to fabricate and export large Quantities of this Merchandize, to all parts of Europe and America, and She finds more Customers to take them off her Hands than She ought, considering how illicit the Traffick is.
This Winter her Emissaries have been more assiduous than ever, in propagating Reports.
That they have entered into new Engagements with several other petty Principalities in Germany, by which they shall hire seven thousand Men, for the service of the next Campaign in America.
That by compromising with Ireland, they shall be able to take Advantage even of the Military Associations in that Kingdom: and draw from thence a large Number of regular Troops for the Service in America, depending on the Volunteer Militia, or Associators for the Defence of the Country.
That they have made a Treaty with Russia, whereby that Power has engaged to furnish them twelve Ships of the Line and twenty thousand Troops, as some say, and twenty Ships of the Line and twelve thousand Troops according to others. This Alliance, they say too, is of the more Consequence on Account of some Connection between Russia and Denmark, who it is insinuated will follow Russia into the War, and Denmark they add, has forty five Ships of the Line, not manned it is true, but England they say, can mann them.
These Tales, one would think, are so extravagant and absurd, that they would not find a Believer in the World. Yet there are Persons who believe them in all Nations of Europe, particularly in Holland, and there is no doubt the same Song will be sung in America, and many will listen to it.1
There is nothing further from the Truth. They will find the utmost Difficulty to draw from Germany Troops enough to repair the Breaches in the German Troops made in America the last Year. The same with regard to Ireland—and as to what is said of Russia, there is not even a Colour of Truth in it, but on the contrary, the same good Understanding continues between Versailles and Petersbourg which { 336 } subsisted last Winter, Spring and Summer. As to Denmark; I have no Reason to think that She is disposed to assist Great Britain; but on the contrary that She has armed to defend herself at Sea against Great Britain: but if it were otherwise, To what purpose would her Ships of the Line be unmanned, when Great Britain cannot mann the ships of the Line She already has.
France seems determined to pursue the Naval War with Vigour and Decision in the American Seas. Mr. De Guichen sailed the beginning of January with seventeen or eighteen Ships of the Line. Seven more are now preparing at Brest with all possible Expedition supposed to be for America. These, if they all happily join the twelve Ships left there by the Comte D'Estang will make a Fleet of six and thirty Ships of the Line—and the Court seems determined to maintain the Superiority in the American Seas. This will give Scope to our Privateers, to weaken and distress the Enemies of their Country, while they are enriching themselves.
There is no News of Admiral Rodney; from whence I conclude he is gone to the West Indies.2
The English have derived such a Flash of Spirits from their late sucesses, which are mostly however of the negative Kind that they talk in a Stile very different from that of Peace.
There are two Reflections which the English cannot bear: one is that of loosing the Domination of the Colonies at the Conclusion of a Peace; because they look upon this Domination as indispensible to the Support of their naval Superiority over France and Spain: the other is, that of leaving France and Spain, or either of them, in possession of a powerful Fleet, at the Peace. Their Maxim is, to make themselves terrible at Sea to all Nations, and they are convinced that if they make a Peace, leaving America independent, and France and Spain powerful at Sea, they shall never again be terrible to any maritime Power. These Reasons convince me, that Great Britain will hazard all, rather than make Peace at present.3 Thompson's Brittannia,4 which expresses the Feelings as well as the Sentiments of every Briton, is so much to the present Purpose, that I hope I shall be pardoned for referring to it, even in a Letter to Congress.

[salute] I have the Honor to be, with the highest Esteem, Sir, your most obedient and most humble Servant.

[signed] John Adams
RC, with four enclosures, in John Thaxter's hand (PCC, No. 84, I, f. 263–266, 247–262); docketed: “No. 6. J. Adams Esr Feby. 19th: 1780. Read May 15.—Englis[h] Lyes—real Intentions of France Letters to & from the Marqs: Fayette and to & from Monsr. Genet.” These were JA's letter to Genet (above) and Lafayette (not printed, but see the letter to { 337 } Genet, note 1) of 18 Feb. and their respective replies of 20 and 19 Feb. (both below).LbC (Adams Papers); notations: “recd Congress Oct. 15. Triplicate.”; and by Thaxter: “No. 6.”
1. JA's account of British efforts at deception is, to this point, almost identical to that in his letter to Genet of the 18th (above).
2. JA's account of the movements of Louis Urbain du Bouexic, Comte de Guichen, and Adm. Sir George Rodney is approximately correct. Guichen's force of 17 ships of the line and numerous frigates sailed from Brest in early February, escorting a large convoy carrying supplies and troops for the reinforcement of Martinique. The leading vessels of the fleet arrived off the French island on 22 March. Rodney, following his successful relief of Gibraltar in January, sailed for the West Indies with four ships of the line, arriving off St. Lucia on 27 March. JA's conviction that France intended to establish naval supremacy in the West Indies was correct, but at the indecisive battle off Martinique on 17 April the two fleets were approximately equal, Guichen having 22 and Rodney 20 ships of the line (Dull, French Navy and Amer. Independence, p. 187–188; Mackesy, War for America, p. 323–331; see also JA to James Warren, 23 Feb., below).
3. In the Letterbook draft, JA wrote this sentence after the close, and marked it for insertion here.
4. For an almost identical reference to Thomson's Brittania, see JA to James Lovell, 16 Dec. 1779, and note 4 (above).
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.