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Browsing: Papers of John Adams, Volume 9

Docno: ADMS-06-09-02-0162

Author: Gerry, Elbridge
Recipient: Adams, John
Date: 1780-05-05

From Elbridge Gerry

[salute] My dear sir

It gave me great Pleasure to learn by Your Letter of the 11th. Decr.1 { 274 } that You had safely arrived, and had met with so agreable a Reception in Spain: and I hope soon to have the Satisfaction of hearing from You at Paris.
Mr. Lovell informs me that he shall transmit You the Journals of Congress and News Papers by the latter of which You will perceive that the Enemy have invested Charlestown, and that it is defended by General Lincoln with about four or five thousand Men, the greatest part whereof are continental Troops. General DeKalb with the whole of the Maryland Corps, consisting as I am informed of between two and three thousand Men, is ordered to Charlestown from the main Army, and has by this Time probably crossed the Cheesapeak: Reinforcements of Militia are also on the March from Virginia and North Carolina, all of which should Charlestown hold out about a Month or five Week's must I think make a formidable Army, in the rear of the Enemy. The Garrison by the best Accounts are supplied with five or six Months provission, and have a sufficiency of military Stores; and altho the General in his publick Letters is exceedingly modest and confines himself to States of Facts, yet in one of his private confidential Letters he expresses his Hopes and Expectations of being able to defend the City, or of making the Acquisition expensive to the Enemy.2
The Resolutions of Congress for calling in and cancelling the two hundred Million of Dollars emitted by them, have in general been well received.3 The Depreciation is stopd, and Specie, which before the passing of the Resolves was sold for upwards of 70 for 1, is now current at 60 and has been lately @ 55. The Advantage of this Plan will be great to the Landholders, inasmuch as the national Debt including Certificates and foreign Demands does not now much exceed five Million sterling, which is but a trifling Sum compared with the two hundred Millions sterling due from G Britain. Another Benefit resulting from it, is a Supply of five Million Dollars of the new Emission, every Dollar of which is equal to 40 Dollars of the old Emission; indeed this must be called in before that can be realized, nevertheless, there is a greater Demand amongst all Ranks for continental Money, than there has been since the Commencement of the War, and Specie is no longer hoarded by the disaffected or timid. So much for the Value and Stability of the Medium. With Respect to our Resources Congress are at present much in Want of Money, and it is a happy Circumstance; for, their Oeconomy is in proportion to their Wants. The Demands on the Treasury are generally answered by Warrants on the several States which are careful by some Means { 275 } or other to discharge the Draughts. The Taxes are indeed very heavy, but the Collection goes on, and I doubt not that the Army will be well fed and paid. Military Stores of Cloathing must however be procured on Credit in Europe, as well as a considerable loan to serve as a Fund for drawing in Case of Necessity. Since the Treasury, Admiralty, and Court of Appeals have been put in Commission, Congress have not been troubled much with their respective Concerns, and for several Days past have adjourned before the usual Time from a Want of Business.
Trade and privateering are brisk, and there is aplenty of Goods of every Kind (excepting military),4 but no Money to purchase them. This is easily accounted for, since the whole Sum in Circulation as Congress have fixed it, is only five Million Dollars, and these are not one third of what are necessary for a Medium for the several States. Our privateers and Commerce have nevertheless lately suffered much by the Cruisers of the Enemy, who have the <entire> Command of the Coast. It is much to be wished that the Court of France would order a squadron superior to the Enemy to be stationed in some part of the united States, as the best and only Means of putting a speedy End to the War. It is almost impossible to conceive the Havock that our privateers made of the Enemy's Cruisers and Transports during the Time that the Count D'Estaign was at Rhode Island and Charlestown, but our Losses at present nearly equal our Captures. Indeed that worthy Officer aware of those and other Advantages5 ordered the Count de Gras to be stationed at the Cheesapeak, but his plan was defeated by the Tempestuousness of the Weather: had the latter arrived with his squadron, Charlestown could not have been beseiged and three or four of our Frigates which are now in Ashley River and will probably be destroyed, would have been employed in intercepting the Enemy's Transports.
We have had a very severe Winter and backward Spring, but the prospects are not unfavorable.
I had forgot to mention a Resolution of Congress to pay off the Continental Certificates according to the Value of Money at the Time of their being respectively issued. This is but Justice, and will undoubtedly be satisfactory to Foreigners.6
Bills of Exchange are now at 45 for one, and will be higher, in Consequence of the great Risque of sending Vessels from the eastern States to the southern for produce.
I have had the pleasure of a Line from Portia,7 whose Sentiments are sufficient proof of a Mens sana in Corpore sano.8 Poor Don Juan { 276 } de Merailles lately died at Camp, on a Visit with the Minister of France to General Washington.9 I have many Things more to say to You but the Vessel is to sail immediately and I have scarcely Time to send my sincere Regards to brother Dana or to assure You that I remain sir with every Sentiment of Esteem & Respect Your affectionate Friend
[signed] E Gerry
Mr Lovell will give You the necessary Information respecting your Accounts.10 The recruiting goes on, and it will be less difficult to find Men than to pay and subsist them.
1. Vol. 8:294–295.
2. Charleston fell on 12 May. For an account of the siege, see Robert Middlekauff, The Glorious Cause: The American Revolution, 1763–1789, N.Y., 1982, p. 441–449.
3. See Benjamin Rush's letter of 28 April, note 4 (above).
4. Gerry interlined “(excepting military).”
5. The preceding three words were interlined.
6. The resolution was adopted on 18 April and proceeded from Congress' consideration of a report on the redemption of loan office certificates presented on 25 March. The means by which the resolution was to be implemented were not adopted until 28 June (JCC, 16:374–375, 287–288; 17:566–569).
7. AA to Gerry, 13 March (Adams Family Correspondence, 3:297–300).
8. A healthy mind in a healthy body.
9. Don Juan de Miralles, a Cuban merchant, served as the unofficial Spanish representative in America from early 1778 until his death at Washington's camp on 28 April (Bemis, Diplomacy of the Amer. Revolution, p. 88).
10. See James Lovell's letter of 4 May, and note 3 (above).

Docno: ADMS-06-09-02-0163

Author: Watson, Elkanah Jr.
Recipient: Adams, John
Date: 1780-05-05

From Elkanah Watson Jr.

[salute] Sir

Yesterday I was honour'd with an answer to my Epistle;1 for which permit me Sir with gratitude to acknowledge your goodness, I flatter my self it will be attended with perticular advantages in my present, and perhaps future persuits in Europe: I cannot However, but regret the leaving my letters for you behind; as that loss renders the propriety of your assertaining my character Impracticable. It affoards me no little pleasure Sir that you are so well acquainted with my fathers circumstances, because you are sensible, money, and address are great objects of recommending one to mankind in this Old corrupted Continent: without letters, and without being known to be Intituled to the former claim, I have fortunately However, been politely recieved into Several of the best familys. I have spent the winter 21 miles from this;2 where by close application I have attain'd a considerable profficiency in their language, and other connissance; which my mercantile persuits prevented me from acquiring before. I shall { 277 } conduct your friend Mr. Allin for the same place tomorrow, where he proposess to remain the summer.
I am Extreamly oblig'd to you Sir also in pointing out to me maxims founded upon the dictates of reason and nature; which I wish invariably to persue: Impartial reason will Ever prefer the honest simplicity, of manners to vain Empty ceremony: I am persuaded the Easy address of a frenchman added to the honest candour of an American, is necessary to form a system of manners perfect which I hope will be gradually Introduce'd in America, but not their little follies.
It affords me a sensible consolation that you have condesended to favour me with your advise; I am conscious of my inability and inexperience; I am launch'd upon the theatre of life at an Early age, independent of controul: all my conduct of consequence must be govern'd by the natural Impetuosity, and inexperience of youth without a patron to councel, or a reason to vanquish these Impulsess: I am happy in being fav'd with the resourse of your councel, as my Ideas are Elevated beyond Idolizing l'arshent[l'argent] tho' taught in the proffession; and as I wish in prefference as far as my circumstances will permit, to travel and to gain Knowledge of the world and mankind <(as far as my circumstances will permit,)> the advise of one so well acquainted with both as yourself, will most certainly be the standard of my persuits, If you'l continue your Kindness, and give it without reserve, notwithstanding I have not the honour to be personally acquainted with your Excellency.
The day before I left Plymo. Mrs. Warren in the most pathetic manner Injoyn'd me, If I heard or saw any thing of her wandering, miserable son;3 in this Eastern world, to write her and to relieve his distresess: I have not, nor cannot write to do justice to incontestible facts without adding to her pain; from the most promising of youths, he is now degenerated into the most beastly of sots: his ridiculous Excesses has impair'd and shatter'd, his wreck'd constitution to such a degree, that he has of late been very dangerously Ill at l'Orient, but malheuresment for himself and family he is yet permitted to possess a worthless Existance.
Having attain'd a very considerable Knowledge of the commerce of this country, and as my present object is commerce; perhaps you may find it not incompatiable to throw into my hands some affairs of business which may not only be beneficial; but will tend to the more Effectuall Establishment of my reputation.
I reciev'd a letter from America yesterday, via Holland which gives me Information that the Mercury Packett Captn. Sampson arriv'd at { 278 } Plymo. the 17th. [February o]n a passage of 3 months and 2 days—no news—fortunately for me, for the 1st. commencement I ship'd 20,000 L. aboard of that Packett.4
If their is no Impropriety (as the main object of my success in commerce depends upon grappling the close of the war) it would be perticularly advantageous to me to be Inform'd when their is a solid prospect of Peace, but If their is, I beg you'l Excuse this freedom.
I have the Honour to be most respectfully Your Excellencys Very Hl. St.
[signed] Elkh. Watson Jr.
RC (Adams Papers); addressed: “His Excellency John Adams Esq. à la Paris Hotel de Valois Rue de Richelieu à Passi” endorsed: “M. Elk. Watson 5. May” docketed by CFA: “1780.” The removal of the seal has resulted in the loss of two words, which are supplied in brackets.
1. This was JA's reply of 30 April to Watson's letter of 10 March (both above).
2. At Ancenis. See JA's letter of 30 April, descriptive note (above).
3. James Warren Jr. was a marine lieutenant on the Alliance, then at Lorient (Charles R. Smith, Marines of the Revolution, Washington, 1975, p. 475).
4. The month of the Mercury's arrival is supplied from Isaac Smith Sr.'s letter of 26 Feb. to JA (Adams Family Correspondence, 3: 284). In the remainder of the sentence Watson, who reached France in the fall of 1779 as a passenger on the Mercury (Watson to JA, 10 March, above), presumably means that at the “1st. commencement” of his commercial activities at Nantes he had shipped goods worth 20,000 livres on board the Mercury, which according to the data given on the length of its voyage would have sailed for America in mid Nov. 1779.
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.