A website from the Massachusetts Historical Society; founded 1791.

Browsing: Papers of John Adams, Volume 8

Docno: ADMS-06-08-02-0043

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: Franklin, Benjamin
Date: 1779-04-29

To Benjamin Franklin

[salute] Sir

I had, Yesterday, the Honour of yours of the 24th inclosing a Letter from his Excellency M. de Sartine, expressing his Majestys Desire that the Alliance Should be retained here a little longer.
As my Baggage was on board, and every Appearance promised that We should be under Sail in three or four days for America, in a fine ship and the best Month in the Year, this Intelligence, I confess, is a Disappointment to me. The Alliance has now a very good Crew, and the little Misunderstandings between the officers and their Captain Seem to have Subsided.
The public service, however must not be obstructed for the private Convenience of an Individual, and the Honour of a Passage with the new Ambassador, should be a Compensation to me for the Loss of the prospect of So Speedy a Return home. I cannot but hope, however that the Frigate will go to Some Eastern Port, for I had rather remain here some time longer, or even take my Lott with the Alliance in her Cruise, than go to Chesapeak or even Delaware.
I shall go round to L'orient in the Alliance, and if the Frigate which is to carry the Chevalier de la Luzerne, Sails soon, shall accept with Gratitude to his Majesty, of his obliging offer of a Passage, but I hope that his Excellency, M. De Sartine, will give the necessary orders, for this Purpose to the Frigate, otherwise I may be under an Embarrassment still.
I Sincerely join with you in your Wishes that the Alliance may make Prisoners enough to redeem our brave and honest Countrymen who have So long Suffered in English Prisons, and make Prizes enough to reimburse the Charges of refitting.
{ 51 }
I wish M. Dumas's Information may be well founded, and indeed it Seems to be favoured by a general Expectation from all Quarters.
A Vessell is arrived at Morlait and another at L'orient from Virginia—the latter brings nothing that I can learn, tho some favourable Bruits have been propagated, concerning Affairs in Georgia, as from her. As the former has brought Some Virginia and Philadelphia News-papers, I hope she may have brought, public Dispatches at least some good News. If any of either comes to your Hand proper to be communicated I should be obliged to you, for a share of it.
In a Newspaper of the 1st March, it is said that Mr. Deane has asked Leave of Absence,1 and this is all the material News, that I recollect in it excepting, indeed, G. Maxwells Letter2 giving an Account of the Affair of Elizabeth Town, by which it appears that the English were repulsed, and lost the Cattle and Horses they had taken, and if they had not fled with uncommon Dexterity, they would have been burgoinisès, a technical Term which I hope the Accademie will admit into the Language by lawful Authority.

[salute] I have the Honour, to be with great Respect, sir, your most obedient, humble sert

[signed] John Adams
RC (PPAmP: Franklin Papers); docketed: “Jonh Adams Nantes 29 avril 1779.”
1. JA is referring to information contained in a piece by Thomas Paine signed “Common Sense” that appeared in the Pennsylvania Packet of 2 March. There he wrote that “Mr. Deane now wants to get off the Continent and has applied to Congress for leave of absence,” but Paine questioned whether Deane should be permitted to go in view of his unsettled accounts and the charges made by him. Even before Deane left France he had indicated his intention of returning as early as October or November (Deane to JA, 8 April 1778, vol. 6:10–13). His plans, however, went awry because the congress, in the face of the Deane-Lee controversy, required Deane to appear before it in August and December and refused to make a final determination in the case and thus excuse him from further attendance (JCC, 11:787, 789, 802, 826; 12:1240, 1246, 1247, 1258, 1265). On 11 Sept., Deane, impatient at the delay, began a series of appeals to the president of the congress. The last one previous to Paine's letter was of 22 Feb., asking that he be informed of the congress' demands so that he might fulfill them and then return to France (Wharton, ed., Dipl. Corr. Amer. Rev., 2:710; 3:57; see also Deane's letters of 22 Sept., 12 Oct., 19, 30 Nov., 4 Dec. 1778, and 21 Jan. 1779 in same, 2:736–738, 761–762, 841–842, 845, 847; 3:29). Deane's pleas for action were to no avail, for not until 6 Aug. 1779 was it resolved that he could “be discharged from any further attendance on Congress” (JCC, 14:930). Deane did not return to France until the summer of 1780, and then as a private citizen. For additional comments on Deane's rumored return, see Jenings to JA, 15 May, and JA to Jenings, 22 May (both below).
2. Brig. Gen. William Maxwell's account of his successful action against a British force that had landed near Elizabeth, N.J., on the morning of 25 Feb. was contained in a letter of 25 Feb. to George Washington. That and a covering letter by George Washington were received by the congress on 1 March, and extracts of both appeared in the Philadelphia papers, including the Pennsylvania { 52 } Gazette of 3 March and the Pennsylvania Packet of 4 March. A letter from Maxwell to Washington of 27 Feb., which was not printed, indicated that the British force had been composed of approximately 1,000 men under the command of Lt. Col. Thomas Sterling, and had as its objective the seizure of Gov. William Livingston at his home near Elizabeth. When it was discovered that Livingston was not there, the British force returned to its boats (PCC, No. 169, V, f. 202–206).

Docno: ADMS-06-08-02-0044

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: Jenings, Edmund
Date: 1779-04-29

To Edmund Jenings

[salute] Dear sir

There is a fatal spell set upon, all Intelligence between This Country and Ours. Two Vessells have arrived, from Virginia one at L'orient the other <from> at Morlaix, and no News.
I have seen four or five News Papers which came by the latter, one of which is a Virginia Paper as late as 12 March.
No News, excepting a Letter from G.W. to Congress containing a Letter from G.M.1 to him concerning the Affair of Elisabeth Town, by which it appears that the English were obliged to take themselves away in great Haste or they would have been burgoined, leaving the Horses, and Cattle they had taken by surprise.
The speculations continue, concerning Paper Money, General Arnold—the Constitution of Pensilvania,—and Our Mightinesses the Commissioners.2
Common sense 1. March says Mr. Deane had asked Leave of Absence,—but thinks it not safe to let him go.3 The Virginia Paper says my Commission is superseded,4 but no more about tittle top, &c.
I fancy, they expect me home—but their Expectation as well as mine I fear is cut off, by the Intelligence I had Yesterday that I am not to go home in the Alliance.
You may well imagine that I am suffering Tortures. But I learned, an heathen Prayer in a heathens Translation in my early Youth, which has often in the Course of Life been of service to me.

Parent of Nature! Master of the World

Wher'eer thy Providence directs, behold

My steps with chearfull Resignation turn

Fate leads the willing, drags the backward on.

Why should I grieve, when grieving I must bear

and take with Guilt, what guiltless I <might>

<must> might share?

Mr. Johnson tells me, and so does Mr. Blodget, that there is a Packet for me from you, in the Diligence which I may expect tomorrow. The { 53 } Tongue, has no Bridle here, by all that I can learn—Slander is unchained. Guarded before me,—it is a great Political Problem which side I am of. I could tell them the secret, at once I am of neither, and another secret too, vizt. that it would be of little Importance which side I was of—indeed they seem to be sensible enough of this, that without taking a side a Man is of no Consequence.
They may possibly live to see, However, that Rashness Rancour, and Tearing one another to Pieces, is not the Way to do any good at all to their Country, nor any lasting Honour or Benefit to themselves.

[salute] Adieu

[signed] J.A.
RC (Adams Papers); docketed: “His Excellency John Adams Aug. 29 1779.” Jenings' dating of this letter in August, rather than April, was apparently accidental.
1. See JA to Franklin, 29 April, note 2 (above).
2. During this period, the Philadelphia papers were filled with “speculations” concerning paper money, because of its continued depreciation, and Pennsylvania's Constitution of 1776, because of the Assembly's call for a convention to make revisions. Both issues provoked sharp factional controversy. Benedict Arnold's actions as commander of Continental troops in Philadelphia also provoked controversy. Feeling against Arnold, who was charged with misusing his powers for private gain, was heightened by his arrogance and his close relationship with loyalist elements in the city. His marriage to Margaret Shippen, daughter of Edward Shippen, a neutral with loyalist sympathies, merely confirmed popular fears of his Tory connections. The campaign against Arnold ended in his court-martial in Dec. 1779, which directed that he receive an official reprimand from Washington (Robert L. Brunhouse, The Counter-Revolution in Pennsylvania, 1776–1790, Harrisburg, 1942, p. 64–68). The Pennsylvania Packet of 2 March contained a piece by “T G,” attacking Arnold's command of troops in Philadelphia and calling for his removal. Arnold's defense appeared in the issue of 4 March.
“Our Mightinesses the Commissioners” probably refers to the Carlisle Commission and, in particular, to George Johnstone's attempt to bribe Joseph Reed through Mrs. Elizabeth Ferguson. On 24 Feb. and 3 March the Pennsylvania Gazette contained long letters by Reed and William Smith, Provost of the College of Philadelphia, concerning Mrs. Ferguson's role in the affair. See also Carl Van Doren, Secret History of the American Revolution, N.Y., 1941, p. 100–104).
3. See JA to Franklin, 29 April, note 1 (above).
4. JA's reference may be to the Virginia Gazette (Purdie, Clarkson, and Davis) for which no issue of 12 March has been found. The issue of 12 March of the other Virginia Gazette (Dixon and Nicolson) makes no mention of JA being superseded.
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.