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Browsing: Papers of John Adams, Volume 9

Docno: ADMS-06-09-02-0168

Author: Jenings, Edmund
Recipient: Adams, John
Date: 1780-05-07

From Edmund Jenings


[salute] Sir

I yesterday received your Excellencys Letter of the 30th of last Month,1 inclosing Advice, relative to the fortunate Arrival of the Transports at their destined Ports, which shall be made the proper Use of to Confound and Laugh at our Ennemies: it Contains too the purport of his Excellencys at Passy Conversation with you, He told your Excellency, “that the Marylands Act directd Him first to write to the Commissrs in London (who formerly had the Trust of the Money,) to draw it out and transfer it into the Hands of a Banker in Paris or Amsterdam; but if they refuse then his Excellency is to choose one out of the Persons mentiond to Him; so that, He shall write to the Commissioners and if they refuse, He shall after that determine, which shall have the Trust.”
I was sensible, that the Notice, which my Native Country took of me was small indeed, so if I may Judge of your friendly Expressions was your Excellency, I was however pleased with it, but If I under• { 282 } stand the business rightly, it is now by no means so pleasant to me. That the Choice out of several shoud be left to some one of a Known character and public Trust, was natural, for the State might not be acquainted with the Avocations and Existence of the persons nominated, but that these people shoud be of the State itself, or at least Americans was Natural, and neither of them coud be Affronted (I am sure I was not) that one such Man shoud be considered, as Equal in Independancy, Integrity, disinterestdness and Affection to his Country to another. At this Distance it is Impossible for the State to Know every ones Comparative Merit, but to have a Banker of a foreign Country prefered to a Native is not Agreable. If I understand the business right, shoud the Commissioners transmit the Money to a Banker in Paris or Amsterdam, there is no Employment for the American Agent. If they will not, an American is then to be nominated; What to do? to force three London Merchants to transfer to Him the public Money of the Country declared in Rebellion. Parbleu! this will require much Law, or a greater Army than America Glories in, and that France herself has upon her Coasts Opposite to England, and what American could present himself publickly before these interestd, Obstinate and perhaps treacherous Commissioners, except Mr. L.L.2 He is the only American that I Know, who can appear publickly in the Streets of London. I may Mistake this Affair and therefore beg your Excellency to give me your Ideas of it. I shoud be glad to be correctd being most unwilling to think my Country has treatd me with Contempt. If She does, I have not deserved it, and must endeavour to Convince them of it by my future Actions, since the past has made no Impression—Can your Excellency get the Words of the Act.
Every thing seems to tend to the Ruin of England, Her own folly towards her proper Subjects and towards those, who were once so, makes the Conduct of her Ennemies appear with the Utmost Liberality. The Declarations of France and Spain in favor of the Commerce of Holland are at this Juncture highly politic, and cannot but have the greatest Consequences.3 England must I think Lower her Insolence to foreign Powers, or plunge into inevitable destruction. They talk in Holland of laying an Embargo in Holland on the Shipping, this will prevent the immediate depredations of her Ennemy and tend to Man her fleet.
I am sorry to hear Rumors of Attempting the opening the Navigation of Antwerp;4 and the Difficulty of doing it is great, it shews however a disposition in the Emperor to quarrel with the Dutch for { 283 } such a Measure cannot but bring on a Misunderstanding between them. I am convincd this Idea is Suggested by the English for the worst purposes.
I am much obliged to your Excellency for the Attention Shown me, least the postage of Letters shoud Cost too much, let me beg of your Excellency not to think of it, but impart to me at all Times your Commands, which I shall abways execute with the Utmost Alacrity and faithfulness, out of Respect to You and Duty to my Country.
I am with the greatest Respect Sir, Your Excellencys most faithful & Obligd. Humble Servt
[signed] Edm: Jenings
RC (Adams Papers); endorsed: “Mr. Jennings. ansd. May 15” by John Thaxter: “1780.” Filmed under the date of 4 May (Adams Papers, Microfilms, Reel No. 351).
1. This letter (Adams Papers) has not been printed, but see Jenings' letter of 12 April, and note 3 (above).
2. This person remains unidentified.
3. Jenings is probably referring to the memorial presented by La Vauguyon to the States General on 26 April that disclosed the terms of a French decree of 22 April removing restrictions on Dutch shipping, and to a Spanish regulation of 13 March that liberalized Spanish treatment of neutral vessels. JA sent translations of both to Congress in his letters of 2 and 8 May (Nos. 57 and 62, calendared above and below).
4. Navigation of the Scheldt River to Antwerp, part of the Austrian Netherlands, had been closed in 1648 by the Treaty of Münster. In 1780 Britain sought to have Austria reopen the port, but Joseph II refused because of his unwillingness to involve Austria in the Anglo-French war. The Scheldt was not reopened until 1792 (Cambridge Modern Hist., 6:641–642; 8:300–301).

Docno: ADMS-06-09-02-0169

Author: Lee, Richard Henry
Recipient: Adams, John
Date: 1780-05-07

From Richard Henry Lee

[salute] My dear Sir

I should have paid my respects to you before now had I known where to have directed my letters, for at this time I have no other method than to inclose the present to our friend Mr. Lovell at Philadelphia, who I trust will know the best manner of conveying it. The enemy appear to have abated very little of their pride, however much their power may be lessened. It may be expected nevertheless that the former will shortly be compelled to yield to the very great abatement of the latter, and therefore that you will next winter have something to do in execution of your commission. It would seem by the present manoeuvres of the enemy, that they mean to possess themselves of as many strong holds in different States as they can in order to go full handed to a treaty. With this view they are now making great efforts for Charles Town in South Carolina, and our Portsmouth in this State is next threatened.1 We are now opposing them at { 284 } Charles Town with great vigor, and we shall endeavor to disappoint their views upon us—but the events of war are uncertain—from the number and spirit of our troops at Charles Town I am persuaded that they will not get the place but at a very great expence of blood—it is strongly fortified and powerfully protected. Our foes indeed have great advantage in their command of the sea, as they can with canvass wings fly swiftly from place to place with succors, whilst great delays on our part do necessarily arise from long marches thro this wide extended continent. A few Line of Battle ships would do us unspeakable good.
Should the fate of war give them Portsmouth in this State, I think that the powers of Europe that wish our independance on commercial principles will not agree that they shall continue in that possession after a peace, as it will effectually command the entrance into Chesapeake bay and controul the commerce of the two only tobacco producing states, Virginia and Maryland. The small quantity of Tobacco that grows in North Carolina, and indeed a great part of their commerce in other articles passes thro the Capes of Virginia. These states are also among the first for their export of wheat, flour, and Indian corn, exclusive of many other articles. It will therefore be indispensable to the freedom of this commerce that the British possess not Portsmouth altho the chance of war should accidentally put it into their hands. Delegates from Georgia have lately passed thro this state to Congress, from whom we learn that the enemy possess only Savannah and its environs in that State—the independant government being fully exercised in other parts of that country. There will be a general effort this summer to restore our money to its proper value, which we hope may succeed—the plan recommended by Congress is, to call in with taxes by April 1781—180 millions of dollars, which is to be destroyed and a twentieth part issued in a new kind of paper which is to be funded, redeemable in 6 years with specie; whilst the war is to be chiefly supported by specific aids from every state according to its produce and commercial ability.2 This would seem to be effectual, if we can come up to such very extensive taxation, for which I believe every nerve will be strained. Colo. Francis Lee and myself are recommencing our tour of duty in the Assembly of this our native State—it will make us happy to hear from you when ever it is convenient for you, and it will certainly delight us much to know that you are likely to succeed in your mission. I hope your efforts will not be wanting to secure us the free navigation of Mississippi—I expect much more sown from such efforts than from { 285 } any other—without this free Navigation our vast back country will be so distressed as to lay the foundation of future wars and dissention from the necessity of having an outlet to market. Our State hath already dispossessed the English of their holds on the river Illenois, we have great numbers of people settled on the Ohio, and we are now taking a post at the mouth of that river at its confluence with Mississippi—all these places being within our Charter limits.3 Remember me with much esteem to my friend Mr. Dana—I am dear Sir your most affectionate and obedient Servant
[signed] Richard Henry Lee
RC (Adams Papers); endorsed by John Thaxter: “Richard H. Lee Esqr. 7th. May 1780. recd. 19th. Septr.”
1. Clinton intended to seize Norfolk, rather than Portsmouth, the object of a British raid in 1779 (Mackesy, War for America, p. 342; J. L. Austin to JA, 7 June 1779, note 3, vol. 8:78). The capture of either town as a base of operations to support Cornwallis, however, could have had the effect envisioned by Lee. The arrival of Rochambeau's army forced the abandonment of the plan.
2. See Benjamin Rush's letter of 28 April, and note 4 (above).
3. George Rogers Clark had seized the British posts in what was then known as the Illinois country in the summer of 1778 and later that year the Virginia legislature adopted a plan for the government of the area. Fort Jefferson was the post referred to by Lee (Clarence Walworth Alvord, The Illinois Country 1673–1818, Springfield, Ill., 1920, p. 326–335, 345).
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.