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Browsing: Papers of John Adams, Volume 8

Docno: ADMS-06-08-02-0057

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: Jenings, Edmund
Date: 1779-05-22

To Edmund Jenings

[salute] Dr. sir

Yours of the 15 reached me, Yesterday. I am waiting here in anxious Expectation of the new Minister, with whom, it is said I am to embark. It would give me Pleasure to form an Acquaintance with this Gentleman, because his Character is good, and because, it would give me an opportunity of convincing him of the Importance of keeping himself disconnected with Parties. Not only the Benefits of the Alliance, but the Duration of the Confederacy of the states depends, upon the Neutrality of the French Court, in our internal Disputes.
The Object of the Armament that is fitting out, here, is a Secret of { 68 } state. Who is to be at the Expence of it? Who directs it? Who is [to]1 have the Benefit of it?2
I must Sing a little to the God of Love, let War and Politicks say what they will. Surely I may be allowed to hum a Tune to him, when I am not permitted to pay him any other Kind of Worship. This I may do without looking back, which I shall never do, whoever holds the Plough. As to your Idea of the great Men, there is not much in it. It is a great People, <with little Masters?> that does great Things. They will always find Instrument[s] to employ that will answer their Ends. I am more and more convinced that every great Character in the World is a Bubble, and an Imposture, from Mahomet down to Governor Johnstone. It is made up of little Tricks and low Devices.
I thank you for the news from Holland and Sweeden. Every Article of News is important to me here, where nothing is to be learnd. I never felt the Want of it so much.
Mr. Ds. Permission to come over, to settle, his or the public Accounts is another Mistery.3 A new Device for Sliding into a public Character. Why permitted to do this? Is he to be a public Man? in public Pay? Why permitted to do what is his Duty? and was his Duty, to have done before? What Accounts are to settle? I am weary of these misterious Artifices. If he had been ordered to lay his Accounts, before Congress, without delay or as soon as he could get his Papers from France, and censured for leaving them there I should have understood this very well. I am convinced that a Construction will be put upon this that Congress never intended. And that he means to draw Consequences from it that they did not think of. Will Dr. F. pay Mr. Ds. Expences, who refused to pay Mr. Izards, and Mr. W. Lees?
With all my Professions of Neutrality and Impartiality I confess myself wholly against this Man. He will not have my Vote, to be in any very important office. His narrow Capacity and his immeasurable Vanity, to go no farther make such a Composition, as will not soon have my Confidence. With all this He has subtelty and Intrigue enough to do our affairs much Harm, if he comes to France. He has formd Connections in Trade, with some House or Houses or other in almost every State from G. to N.H. as I am informed. He has also formed very extensive Connections in the maritime Towns in France. These grasping Genius's are the Curse of human Kind. This Mans Conduct in particular has done our Cause in my humble opinion incredible Injuries. To his extravagant Projects, all the Disputes and Quarrells about our foreign affairs, are to be imputed. To him it is chiefly owing that Americans are tearing one anothers Characters in Pieces in this Coun• { 69 } try, mutually labouring to make each other appear to be Knaves. And a great Part of the World, here, is now complaisant enough to take Us all at our Words.
For my own Part, instead of permitting Mr. D to come, I wish Congress had positively ordered Mr. L. to Spain, Mr. Izard to Tuscany and Dr. F. to attend wholly to his Negociations at Court.
If mercantile and maritime matters and the Disposition of all Money but his own salary, is not taken from the Minister, America will be ruined in Reputation as well as Credit very soon.
A Consul should be appointed at Nantes, with a Power of Deputation. This Consul, in Person or by Deputy should have the management of all our Commercial Concerns and the Direction of all the Vessells of War, and be made without Mercy to lay his Accounts before Congress once in two Months.
This is the substance of my system for American affairs in France. I beg your sentiments upon it, and your Reasons against any Part that you may disapprove, for I am open to Conviction.
The great Difficulty will be to find a proper Person for a Consul, I wish you would mention if you think of any.
This is writing freely to be sure, but you will make no improper Use of it, and the Times certainly demand a free Communication of Sentiments.

[salute] Adieu

Your Remembrancer is not yet arrived.
RC (Adams Papers); docketed by Jenings: “J Adams Esqr. Rcd. May 29. 1779.” and “J Adams Esqr May <1>22. 1779”; possibly in another hand: “John Adams Esqr May 29 1779.” LbC (Adams Papers). It is the first Letterbook copy to be entered in Lb/JA/5 since JA's letter to John Boylston of 5 March (above).
1. Supplied from the Letterbook copy.
2. See Benjamin Franklin to JA, 24 April, note 1 (above).
3. See JA to Benjamin Franklin, 29 April, note 1 (above).

Docno: ADMS-06-08-02-0058

Author: Jenings, Edmund
Recipient: Adams, John
Date: 1779-06-02

From Edmund Jenings

[salute] Dear Sir

I am much honored by the open and Confidential Manner, in which you have written to me; in return to which, I must assure you, that I heartily Concur with You in your Sentiments of the Necessity of the french Courts holding a Most liberal and neutral Conduct, and that it will do so, I look upon the New Appointment,1 to be an Earnest. I am to have the Honour of meeting the Gentleman, who is going out, to• { 70 } morrow at Dinner. I have heard such Accounts of Him, that I Shall go much prejudiced in his favor. Your Opinion of the Necessity of appointing different Men for the Mercantile Maritime and Money Matters are just. At present the Power of the Minister2 is vast indeed, too much for any Man, and in Case of Accidents, the whole depending on one life, maybe highly detrimental to the States for want of a Successor or Chargé des Affaires on the Spot.
When you was informd that Mr. D was coming over, you ought to be informed it was not much Credited by me, it was however positively assertd by one of his friends. But when I asked the Question of another, I was convincd there was little foundation for it. You show me the Impropriety of the permission. The Narrow Capacity, the Immeasurable Vanity, together with the Intrigue and Subtility of the Man, must make Him most dangerous. But I must tell you He is in the highest Repute here—His bust was placed in your Apartments immediately as you Quitted them.3
The Questions you Ask, as to the intended Expedition occurred to every one. Some others might be Asked? Who advised the Sending french Troops to any part of America? And who contested that the Alliance, which surely ought to have attended the American Ships out, when left by the french Men of war, on their own most Dangerous Coasts? but to these and other Questions, the Answer is now given. The Expedition is totally Laid Aside; so that you may yet go in your favorite Vessel.4
I Know the Difficulty of recommending Men who may be proper to discharge the public business, but I think I can with Ease and pleasure recommend Mr. Joshua Johnson,5 now residing at Nantes, to be Consul there. He is the Brother of the Govr. of Maryland, and is at present charged with the particulars Commission of that State. But is there not at present a Commercial Agent or Consul there already?
I was preventd sending to You by the last Post. I have since I wrote the foregoing seen the Minister who Answered my Expectation. He sets out tomorrow for L Orient. He goes by the Way of Orleans I believe to visit Choiseul.6 I shall beg the favor of his Secretary to deliver a Packet to You—of Which I Shall be obliged to you for the Delivery in America. They Talk in England and Here of Spain taking a part. The Jamaica fleet is arrived.
I beg you remember me to your Son and Mr. Ford7 who I Hope goes with You. You all go with my best Wishes.

[salute] I am Dear Sir Your Most Obt Humble Servt

[signed] Edm: Jenings
{ 71 }
RC (Adams Papers); addressed: “A Monsieur Monsieur Jean Adams. au Soin de Monsieur Moylan á L Orient.”; docketed by CFA: “E. Jennings. June 2d. 1779.”
1. Chevalier de la Luzerne.
2. Benjamin Franklin.
3. This bust of Silas Deane has not been located.
4. See Benjamin Franklin to JA, 24 April, note 1 (above).
5. Johnson, whose daughter Louisa Catherine married JQA in 1797, had first met JA on 12 April 1778 at Paris. While at Nantes in April 1779, JA spoke with him about trade and the appointment of consuls (JA, Diary and Autobiography, 2:299, 357–359, 363; for a sketch of Johnson, see same, 2:300).
6. La Luzerne apparently meant to visit Etienne François de Choiseul-Stainville, Duc de Choiseul, Vergennes' predecessor as foreign minister from 1758 to 1770. La Luzerne reached Lorient on either 10 or 11 June (JA to the president of the congress, 3 Aug., below; JA, Diary and Autobiography, 2:380). Barbé-Marbois had arrived a few days earlier (JA to Arthur Lee, 9 June, below).
7. Hezekiah Ford did not return to America with JA (JA to Arthur Lee, 9 June, below).
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.