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Browsing: Papers of John Adams, Volume 8


Docno: ADMS-06-08-02-0059

Author: Lee, Arthur
Recipient: Adams, John
Date: 1779-06-02

From Arthur Lee

[salute] Dear Sir

Either my Letter to you of the 29th. March miscarried or you are in my debt. The inclosed MS which belongs to you was seald to go by Mr. Ford and was omitted by mistake.1
This will be delivered to you by the Chevalier de la Luzerne and M. de Marbois, whom you will find to be Gentlemen worthy of the important trusts they fill. I am much obliged to you for your kindness to Mr. Ford, and hope you will take him with you, if he shoud prefer it to going by Bourdeaux. I usd every argument in my power to prevail on Dr. Franklin to let the Alliance persue her first destination, and convoy the fleet after Piquet had left them. But my application was in vain, and the answer was that the Capt. had assurd him she was not mannd. This was on the 3d. of May.2
I have been told that accounts have been transmitted from Nantes to Passy, of your having spoke very freely there of the conduct of Dr. Franklin. I beleive this may be relied on, I think it proper you shoud know it.
The declarations of Holland and the Nothern powers against the right of England to stop their Merchant vessels, and arming to support their rights, are the most favorable events that have lately happend. Not a syllable from Congress, nor any news from England. Mr. Paine is displaced.3 I have seen the paper which gave rise to it which is more in favor of the french than truth will justify and in so much it merited censure. We have hazarded our lives and fortunes to some purpose if { 72 } the factious nod of a foreign Minister can subject a deserving man to punishment in the most open violation of truth and justice. You must correct these proceedings.
Remember me to my young friend and accept of my good wishes for prosperity to you both.

[salute] I have the honor to be with great esteem Dear Sir, yr. most Obedt Servt.

[signed] A. Lee
RC (Adams Papers); docketed: “H. A. Lee. 2. June ansd. 9th.”; in CFA's hand: “1779.”
1. No reply by JA to Lee's letter of 29 March (above) has been found. See, however, JA's letter to Lee of 9 June (below). Neither the manuscript mentioned by Lee nor a pamphlet referred to by JA in his letter of the 9th have been identified.
2. Lee is referring to Franklin's reply of 3 May to his of the 2d (Wharton, ed., Dipl. Corr. Amer. Rev., 3:153–154; Cal. Franklin Papers, A.P.S., 2:71). In a letter of 6 May, Lee renewed his plea that the Alliance convoy the ships to America, but it was not until 15 May, when he met with Franklin, that Lee was told that he had received no reply because the ships had already sailed and thus there was nothing to be done (same, 2:72; PCC, No. 102, III, f. 25–26). For Franklin's real reason for refusing, see his letter to JA of 24 April, note 1 (above).
3. That is, Thomas Paine had resigned under pressure because of the controversy over his statements regarding French aid (Edmund Jenings to JA, 25 April, note 1, above).

Docno: ADMS-06-08-02-0060

Author: Franklin, Benjamin
Recipient: Adams, John
Date: 1779-06-05

From Benjamin Franklin

[salute] Sir

The Chevalier de La Luzerne sat out Yesterday for L'Orient, and will be with you perhaps before this comes to hand. You will find him a very agreable sensible Man, and a hearty Friend to the Cause of America.
As you may land in Boston and are not certain of going directly to Philada. I have put under his Care my Dispatches for Congress, and request yours for those to New England.
Mr. Bondfield has drawn on me for 18,000 Livres on Account of the Canon. I cannot find the Agreement that was made with him for that Article. If you have it and can easily get at it, be so good as to send it to me or a Copy of it.1
Mr. Schweighauser in a late Account charges a Commission of Five Per Cent, on the simple Delivery of two Cargoes of Tobacco out of the Ship into the hands of the Officer of the Farmers General, all attending Expences separately charged; and to make the Commission rise the higher, he has valued the Tobaccos at 90 Livres, the Price it now sells at in the Ports, and not at 40 Livres, which it was to be delivered at by our Contract; by this means the Commission on those two Cargoes comes to 630 £ sterling. Thinking this an exorbitant Demand, I got a { 73 } Friend to enquire of the Merchants upon Change2 what was the Custom in such Cases, and received the following Answer. “I have spoken to more than ten Merchants, who all have told me unanimously, that One Per Cent was not only the general Custom, but as high as could be claimed being half Commission: For if there had been a Sale in the Case, it would have been two Per Cent. which is the general Usage in the Trade and not 5 Per Cent.” I have wrote to M. Schweighauser that I objected to that Article of his Account, but he seems not disposed to give it up. I find myself too little acquainted with Mercantile Business to be a Match for these People, which makes me more and more desire to see Consuls appointed in the Ports, who might take it off my Hands, and I wish, if you are of Opinion it would be right, that you would press it upon Congress.3 My Grandson desires I would present you his affectionate Respects, and joins with me in heartily wishing you and our young Friend a prosperous Voyage and happy Meeting with your Friends and Family. I shall take care to present your Respects to the good Ladies you mention. All goes well here: Countenances begin to brighten, and the contrary in England (according to our last Advices) from the Aprehension of certain Event, which may God prosper. I am with great Esteem and Respect, Sir, Your most obedt & most humble Servant.
[signed] B Franklin
RC (Adams Papers); docketed: “Dr Franklin June 5. 1779.”
1. The contract has not been found, but it presumably was that for the purchase of 56 cannon for the ship of the line America. In a letter of 9 Jan. (above), Bondfield had informed the Commissioners that the first payment of 24,000 livres was due in February.
2. That is, upon the Paris exchange or bourse.
3. Schweighauser's account concerned the tobacco that had arrived on the brigantine Baltimore, but his report, the letter from Franklin's friend concerning customary charges, and Franklin's letter to Schweighauser protesting his commission have not been found. The protest, however, did have an effect, for Schweighauser reduced his commission from 5 to 2½ percent (Foreign Ledgers, Public Agents in Europe, 1776–1787, DNA:RG 39 [Microfilm], f. 103).
In his letter of 26 May to the Committee for Foreign Affairs, Franklin gave an almost identical description of the Schweighauser matter and also his desire that consuls be appointed (Wharton, ed., Dipl. Corr. Amer. Rev., 3:191). Franklin's reference to consuls, there and in this letter, is interesting, for it is in accord with JA's view of Franklin's inability to manage commercial affairs satisfactorily and the need to take them out of his hands, expressed in several earlier letters.
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, 2014.
http://www.masshist.org/apde2/