A website from the Massachusetts Historical Society; founded 1791.

Browsing: Papers of John Adams, Volume 8

Docno: ADMS-06-08-02-0245

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: Jenings, Edmund
Date: 1780-02-27

To Edmund Jenings

[salute] Dear Sir

I received to day, yours of the 22d. That by Mr. Brush I answered as soon as received.2
You cannot oblige me more sir, than by communicating Intelligence from E.
I have been a Witness, these 6 Years, of the annual Reports Spread by England to make it believed in America that the Russians were to interpose, and I have heard a vast deal of it, since my Arrival in Paris, in so much that I have set myself directly to Search out the Truth, and I have as high Authority as any in this Kingdom to assure you, and every other on whom that political Lye has made any Impression whether in Europe or America, that it is false, both with respect to Russia and Denmark.
I did not want this Authority for myself. I was So well persuaded of { 370 } the Interest of Russia, and Denmark and their disposition, before that I was easy.
But, indeed, it would move me, very little, if Russia, and Denmark too were to declare for G.B.—it would instantly determine Powers more momentous than both, to join Bourbon and America.3
I will thank Russia and Denmark with all my soul, however, if they will bring about a Peace, an honest Peace I mean.
There is an Expedition preparing at Brest, to ballance that of Boyle Walsingham, perhaps, so that I am not in pain about that.
Mr. Carmichael, is Secretary to the American Embassy at Madrid. His Residence I know not, but your Letter cant miscarry.
Can you inform me, how many Troops, Walsingham has, how many ships.4 Can you inform me how many regular Troops there are in Ireland? Who are the real Planners, of the late Correspondences and Associations in Ireland, and the real Leaders—and the ostensible. For in Europe, I take it the ostensible Leader is not the real one.
We have an high Story to day, of the Repeal of Poynings Law, of a Declaration of the Independancy of the Irish Legislature, on any others, and forbidding all Appeals from their House of Lords to the English House of Lords—it comes from England.5
What think you? Is there Spunk enough in the Counties to do any Thing? Or will the Cry of Sedition and Rebellion, and the Disgrace of a few Lord Lieutenants,6 frighten them, into Tranquility. Some of them Seem a little in Earnest and they go on, regularly enough, to be sure more Americans.7 The Committee of Correspondence, which my Friend Sam. Adams invented, refined it first and showed its Use, as much as Swift did the Irony, Seems to have the Same wonderful Efficacy. Heaven grant it success. Its Invention will make an Epocha in the History of the Progress of Society, and of the human Understanding.

[salute] I am with much Attachment yours

[signed] John Adams
RC (Adams Papers). LbC in John Thaxter's hand (Adams Papers).
1. The dateline is in John Thaxter's hand; the remainder of the recipient's copy is by JA.
2. Presumably JA is referring to Jenings' letter of 19 Feb., which he had answered on the 25th (both above). Mr. Brush, who apparently carried the letter of the 19th, remains unidentified.
3. Probably Prussia and Austria.
4. In his reply of 5 March (Adams Papers), and in considerable detail, Jenings answered this and other questions posed by JA in this letter.
5. This report was false and, according to JA's letter to AA of 28 Feb., had been supplied by Benjamin Franklin (Adams Family Correspondence, 3:291–292). In the wake of Parliament's grant of a measure of economic independence (see JA to Elbridge Gerry, 23 Feb., note 4, above), there was renewed agitation for legislative independence through the repeal or modi• { 371 } fication of Poyning's Law of 1495 and the Irish Declaratory Act of 1719. The first provided that all previous general statutes that had not specifically been applied to Ireland were to be in force and enabled the Privy Council in England to “initiate, supervise, reject, or amend all bills” enacted or considered by the Irish Parliament. The second formally provided for the British Parliament to legislate for Ireland (Henry Campbell Black, A Law Dictionary Containing Definitions of the Terms and Phrases of American and English jurisprudence Ancient and Modern, 2d edn., St. Paul, Minn., 1910; R. Coupland, The American Revolution and the British Empire, London, 1930, p. 58–59). These efforts came to nothing, and at the time that this letter was written the Irish Parliament had not yet considered the issue. Not until 19 April did Henry Grattan, noted Irish statesman and orator, introduce a resolution calling for legislative independence; after a fifteen-hour debate, the measure was postponed and never revived (DNB; Coupland, American Revolution and the British Empire, p. 125–128; W. E. H. Lecky, A History of England in the Eighteenth Century, 8 vols., N.Y., 1878–1890, 4:550–551).
6. A reference to the removal of Henry Herbert, 10th earl of Pembroke, and Francis Osborne, marquis of Carmarthen (later 5th Duke of Leeds), as lords lieutenant of Wiltshire and the East Riding of York, respectively, because of their refusal to oppose the demands of the county associations. Both were restored to office by the Rockingham ministry in 1782 (DNB). Pembroke, and presumably also Carmarthen, received notice of his dismissal in a letter from Lord Hillsborough of 14 Feb., to which Pembroke replied on the same day. For the two letters, which were widely reprinted, see the London Chronicle of 29 Feb. – 2 March.
7. Thus in both the recipient's copy, where JA interlined “to be sure,” and the Letterbook copy.

Docno: ADMS-06-08-02-0246

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: President of Congress
Recipient: Huntington, Samuel
Date: 1780-02-27

To the President of the Congress, No. 10

[salute] Sir

No. 10.
There are so many Gentleman of Rank going out to America, that there can be no doubt Congress will be fully informed of the State of public Affairs.
Mr. Lee, Mr. Izard, the Marquiss de la Fayette, Mr. Wharton, and many others, are going by different Vessels.
Besides these Monsieur de L'Etombe, who is appointed Consul General of France for the Northern District of America, as Mr. Holker is for the middle, and I have not yet learned who for the Southern, will go soon.1
There is an Armament preparing with the greatest Expedition at Brest, which is to be commanded by Monsieur de Ternay, and to consist of eight or ten Ships of the Line and Frigates. Six of the Line and several Frigates, as it is said, perhaps it is not yet certain nor determined, exactly how many of either, with several thousand Men, all Numbers are mentioned from six to ten thousands, under the General Officers, de la Rochambeau and Jaucourt.2 Whether this Force is destined to the Continent or the West Indies, Time will discover, at present it ought not to be known.
{ 372 }
On the other Hand, I see a Paragraph in a London Paper of the sixteenth of this Month, that the Thunderer, Torbay, Ramilies, Royal Oak, Triumph, and Egmont, are ordered for the West Indies under Captain Walsingham, the Southampton, St. Albans and Winchelsea, which were talked of to go with him, are found unfit for Service, and in so bad a Condition as to be ordered to be paid off.
Thus the French are likely to be drawn into the American Seas in sufficient force, where they have great Advantages in carrying on the War. It is much to be wished that the Spaniards could be drawn into the same Field of Battle,3 for Gibralter must be taken in America, if ever.
There are some Persons, however, who think, that the English will avenge the French, the Spaniards, and above all the Americans, upon one another, and it is certain that Parties in England are working up to a Crisis. The Petitions of the Counties, their numerous Committees of Correspondence, their Hints of Associations have most certainly alarmed the King and his Ministers to a great degree—to such a degree, that for some Time their Conduct was equivocal, giving Hopes at Times to the People, that the Crown would favour the desired Reformation, in the Expenditure of Money. But upon the News of Rodney's Success, they grew bolder, and determined, to exert all the Authority of the Crown, to suppress the Meetings of the People. Accordingly the Cry, of Faction, Sedition and Rebellion was set up in Parliament by the Majority, and the King was advised to dismiss those Lieutenants of Counties, who had favoured the Meetings of the People, Advice which he has certainly taken.
This is a decisive Measure. It will either discourage, and suppress these Meetings, Petitions, Correspondences and Associations altogether; or it will give them greater Force.
By a Debate in the House of Commons on the fourteenth of this Month, one would think that the Nation was really at the Brink of a Civil War.4 Yet I confess, I cannot think that there are any Characters at present, in whom the Nation have sufficient Confidence, to venture themselves any Lengths under their Guidance. And I believe that this spirited Conduct of the King, will defeat the Measures of the Counties, unless indeed in the Course of the next Campaign, his Arms, especially by Sea, should meet with any signal Defeat, which would re-animate perhaps, the People.
But, even supposing the People go on, and succeed so far as to effect a Change in the Ministry: the Question is, whether this would be an Advantage to Us or our Allies? I am myself, very far from being convinced that it would. There are none, of the principal Leaders of the { 373 } People, that avow any fixed Principle, that We can depend upon. None that avow a design of acknowledging our Independence or even of making Peace.
By5 Letters I have recieved from Brussels and Holland since my Arrival,6 I am told that the late desperate Step of the English in seizing the Dutch Ships, has made a great Change in the Minds of the People there, and the Government too, in our Favour. Even the Prince, declares that he has been decieved by the English, and that he will promote unlimited Convoys: that an American Minister is much wished for, who, altho' he might not be yet publickly recieved, would be able to do as much Good as if he was: that Money might be borrowed there, by such a Minister directly from Congress applying directly to solid Dutch Houses. I hope every Hour to hear of Mr. Laurens's arrival.
I have subscribed for the English Papers, but have not yet recieved any, which I am sorry for, because I can get none to inclose. As fast as they come to me I will send them. I have the Honour to inclose another Mercure de France, and to be, with the most perfect Attachment, Sir, your most obedient and most humble Servant.
[signed] John Adams
RC in John Thaxter's hand (PCC, No. 84, 1, f. 291–294); docketed: “No. 10. Letter from J. Adams Paris Feby 27. 1780 Read May 15.—french & english Armaments preparing for the American Seas Disputes in England no prospect of serious Articles of Peace. Affairs of Holland.” LbC (Adams Papers); notation by Thaxter: “No. 10.”
1. The three consuls were Philippe André Joseph de Létombe at Boston, John (or Jean) Holker the younger at Philadelphia, and Charles François, Chevalier d'Anmours, at Baltimore (JA to AA, 27 Feb. 1780, and note 3, Adams Family Correspondence, 3:286–287). On 29 Feb., Ralph Izard wrote to JA (Adams Papers) concerning a meeting between Izard, JA, and Létombe on the following day. It is not known if the meeting took place.
2. When it sailed on 2 May the fleet under the command of Chevalier de Ternay consisted of seven ships of the line, two frigates, and two smaller warships; it escorted thirty-two transports and cargo ships carrying 5,500 troops under the command of Comte de Rochambeau. The force reached Newport in July (Dull, French Navy and Amer. Independence, p. 190–191). Jaucourt remains unidentified.
3. In the Letterbook the remainder of this sentence reads: “for <in my Opinion> Gibraltar must be taken in America, if ever.”
4. The debate on 14 Feb. was ostensibly over a proposal put forth by Isaac Barré to establish a committee of accounts to oversee public expenditures. This was one of the demands of the county association movement, and the debate largely centered on the propriety of that movement. During the debate George Onslow attacked the Duke of Richmond for his support of the county associations and strongly implied that Richmond was making military preparations to support their demands for reform. As reported in the London Chronicle of 12–15 Feb., Onslow stated at one point that “associations were the commencement of rebellions.” See also Parliamentary Hist., 21:74–83.
5. In the Letterbook this paragraph was written below the formal closing and marked for insertion at this point.
6. These were the letters from Edmund Jenings of 19 Feb. and Alexander Gillon of 14 Feb. (both 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.