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Browsing: Papers of John Adams, Volume 9

Docno: ADMS-06-09-02-0193

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: Bondfield, John
Date: 1780-05-14

To John Bondfield

[salute] Sir

Yours of 6 May, from Bourdeaux, I have received. The Negotiations on foot among the maritime neutral powers, are very favourable to America and her Allies, and they ought to convince England, a Posteriori, of which a very simple Proscess of Reasoning a Priori, might have made clear to them, many years ago, on it, that it is the Interest of all the Maritime Powers, to Secure the Independance of America, and to reduce the dangerous Domination of Great Britain upon the seas. But they think all Mankind made for their Use, and that there is no Providence, for any other nation. Quite as selfish and as blind as the Jews, there is no present probability of their opening their Eyes to their true Interest, and safety.
The News however which both they and the french, have received { 312 } from the West Indies, is very discouraging to them. Piquet, has not suffered Parker and Rowley, to get any Advantage of him. He has run about the seas there as he pleased in Spight of them. Has fought with inferiour force, and got the better, tho wounded. He has protected his Convoys. Guichen is arrived. The English Expedition is disconcerted, and the Utmost terror Spread thro all their Islands,1 and Clinton on 29 March had not Charlstown. The french and Spanish Armament will thicken the Plot, and compleat their confusion. This will give additional Spirits to the maritime Powers, to Ireland, to the Committees and Associations in England, and if not produce Peace, make the War easy to the Ennemies of Britain.
I know how to pity, Mr. Lee and Mr. Izard, because I know by Experience a little of the feelings.2 I underwent a similar operation last year, for a longer time. I bore it with as much Patience and Philosophy as I could. But every body will not always bear.
My wine is not yet come.3 I am, sir, your obliged humble servt.
1. Rear Adm. Sir Hyde Parker, with Rear Adm. Sir Joshua Rowley as second in command, commanded the Leeward Islands station between the departure of Vice Adm. John Byron in Aug. 1779 and the arrival of Adm. Sir George Rodney on 27 March 1780. Although Parker's fleet was much larger than the squadrons of either La Motte-Picquet or Grasse, which had been left behind when Estaing returned to Europe, he was unable to bring either to battle. The arrival of a convoy carrying troops in February led Parker to undertake an expedition against St. Vincent, an effort that he canceled upon learning of the appearance of Guichen's fleet. That fleet arrived at Martinique on 22 March, thus changing the naval balance, but Rodney's arrival five days later made it possible for the two fleets to meet on relatively equal terms (W. M. James, British Navy in Adversity, London, 1926, p. 196–197; Mackesy, War for America, p. 329–330). For the forces available to each side at the Battle of Martinique on 17 April, see JA's letter to the president of Congress, No. 6, 19 Feb., note 2, and to James Warren, 23 Feb., note 1 (vol. 8:337, 360).
La Motte-Picquet's squadron was primarily occupied with convoying vessels to and from Martinique. On 20 March, while engaged in that activity, he encountered a force approximately equal to his own under the command of Capt. William Cornwallis. The action lasted into the next day and ended in stalemate, but the French convoy had been protected (Mahan, Navies in the War of Amer. Independence, p. 153–155).
2. For JA's impatience with his own wait for passage to America in 1779, see Diary and Autobiography, 2:356–380, and vols. 7 and 8.
3. See Bondfield's letter of 12 April (above).

Docno: ADMS-06-09-02-0194

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: Williams, Jonathan
Date: 1780-05-14

To Jonathan Williams

[salute] Dear sir

I have received yours of the 9th.1 I received a Letter signed Jna Williams, as I thought, but it seems it was Jno. Williams.2 I did not discover my Error, untill after my Answer was gone, when inquiring of Dr. Franklin, I found I must have been mistaken.
{ 313 }
I have lost, I know not how much, but believe a great deal, in several large Packetts, one from Congress another from the Council of Mass. Bay, a third from my family besides many Single Letters from my friends, all of which Mr. Austin was obliged to cast into the Sea after he was taken.3 So that I have only received a few Scattering Letters by the Way of Spain and Holland, which contain no other News than you have heard before.
They have received at Versailles, from the West Indies directly from M. De la Motte Piquet, and by the Way of the London Papers, very important news from the W. Indies, which you will have immediately in the Papers. Guichen is arrived. An Expedition that was filling out is disconnected. Piquet had defeated Parker, so far as to secure his Convoy.4 On the 29 of March Clinton had made no Impression on Charlestown. There is no certain Account yet of Walsinghams sailing. The Ct. of St. James's have suppressed Arbuthnots Letter entirely,5 which gives room to suppose that the fleet suffered more than they are willing should be known.
I thank you sir, for your Assurances, that you will communicate to me, the News. Every Circumstance from our Country is interesting. I pray you to make my Compliments to Mrs. Williams, and am with, much Esteem, your humble and obt. sert.
1. Not found.
2. For the confusion over the letter, which was apparently dated 25 April (not found), see JA to Jonathan Williams, 30 April, and note 2 (above).
3. Jonathan Loring Austin was captured in February while on a mission to Europe to obtain a loan for Massachusetts. Soon released, he reached Paris sometime prior to 12 May (Mass. Council to JA, 13 Jan., note 2, vol. 8:309; JA to AA, 12 May, Adams Family Correspondence, 3:338).
4. Compare the news here with that in JA's letter to John Bondfield of 14 May, and note 1 (above). La Motte-Picquet fought a force under Capt. William Cornwallis, not Rear Adm. Hyde Parker.
5. The source of JA's information is not known nor is it clear to exactly what he is referring. The London newspapers of 1 May had carried letters from Lt. Gen Sir Henry Clinton of 9 March, Lt. Gen. Wilhelm von Knyphausen of 27 March, and Maj. Gen. William Pattison of 22 Feb. reporting on the military situation in America. Clinton's letter described the progress of his efforts against Charleston and mentioned in passing the very difficult voyage from New York (see Thomas Digges' letter of 3 March, and note 6, above). There was no letter from Adm. Marriot Arbuthnot, commander of the fleet carrying Clinton's army. The absence of any communication from Arbuthnot was remarked upon as “extraordinary” in the London Courant of 1 May, but no evidence has been found that such a letter existed or that it was suppressed by the ministry.
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.