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Browsing: Papers of John Adams, Volume 9

Docno: ADMS-06-09-02-0240

Author: Jenings, Edmund
Recipient: Adams, John
Date: 1780-06-05

From Edmund Jenings

[salute] Sir

I have receivd your Excellencys Letters of the 28th and 30th Ultimo, together with that, which I had the Honor of Communicating to your Excellency upon a very serious Affair.2 Whatever Explanations I may receive on that Head, I shall think it my Duty to lay them before your Excellency, whomever they may Affect. Your Mind is fortified Against Unmanly and dangerous Suspicions, and therefore no Slight Suggestions will Operate with You, Against Any One, to the Shame and Prejudice of an honest Cause, but having grounds of Proofs of Fraud and Treason, Your Judgment and Discretion will prevent the public Mischief, resulting from them. I perceived last Year, when I had the Honor of seeing your Excellency a different Disposition in certain Persons.3 I saw too much Confidence in Some, and too much Distrust in Others, and our Country I beleive feels the Consequences. I believe your Excellency saw the Same and thought with me there was but little sound Philosophy or policy in such Procedure.
Your Excellencys Observations on the Speeches of Ld. G Germaine and Genl. Conway have struck me much, and ought to do so those, who are most esteemd therein; but their Eyes are blinded and their Hearts are hardened too much for any thing, but the severest Misfortunes to bring them back to the Ways of Wisdom and Peace, but ever Misery, which is in General the best Correctress of the Forward and Obstinate, now looses its proper Effect, and serves only to increase the public Criminality and Madness, every place, offerd to them, makes them Shut their Eyes the closer; every one receivd, makes them more Callous, however one cannot help, and perhaps it would be a Neglect of Duty not to persevere in Endeavouring to detect the fallacy of Knaves, and to enlighten the simple, in hopes that the attempt to do good, may in the due Course of divine Wisdom produce the desird effect.
The traiterous and Malicious Lying of Lord G. Germaine never was more Obvious than in his Speech of the 6th.4 of last month; but the people of England cannot now, it should seem be governd by any { 375 } thing Else. They will not, they dare not, attend to Truth. They beleive in Nothing, but what flatters the Wickedness of their Hearts. Does this proceed entirely, from natural Causes or is there a divine Interposition in it? The last is possible and probable we Know, that it is Sometimes the Wisdom of Heaven to produce some great general Good by such Extraordinary Means. I have found in a very scarce book, which I picked up here, this Idea suggestd, that marks the Character of the people of G Britain at this Juncture. I will take the Liberty of laying it before your Excellency.
Posons avant toutes Choses cette verité, si souvent etablie dans les saintes Lettres; que l'un des plus terribles effets de la Vengeance divine est lorsqu'la punition des nos peches precedens, Elle nous liera a notre sens reprouvés, en Sorte que nous sommes sourds à tous les sages avertissements, aveuglés aux Voyes de Salut, que nous sont montrés, prompts a croire tout ce qui nous perd, pourvu qu'il nous flatte, et hardis a tout entreprendre sans jamais Mesurer nos forces avec celles des Ennemis, que nous irritons.5 This Character of the Jewish people of old and of the british at this time, I find in a famous book entitled les Imposteurs insignes at the End of which, de Recoles the Author,6 has made Reflections Historiques sur la Malice et la punition temperelle de la Nation Juive. I believe your Excellency will think it applicable to the present Time and will make use of it as a Comfort, that if human reason and efforts are apparently fruitless, it is in the design of Providence that they shoud be so, for the surer working the general Happiness.
If the Inveterate Malice of Lord G Germaine shocks, Much more ought the futility of a Conway make us laugh. It is not possible, humanly Speaking, that his Lordship shoud be a better Man, but surely the general might be wiser; He has had a Course of Years and Experience to Correct the original Weakness and Insignificance of his Head. You Know He was called a Parade Character, and you see by the Absurdity of his Ideas, that he is entitled to it. I am much pleased with the Manner, in which your Excellency has showed it, nothing can be more forcibly done. But give me leave Sir, to take Notice of what your Excellency has said with respect to the Rivalship and Enmity, that must Ever subsist between England and America. Your Excellencys Condescention to me emboldens me to take this Liberty, Which I am Confident your Goodness and Candor will pardon.
I am well Convinced, that a Rivalship and Enmity will ever Subsist between the two Countries, but have ever avoided openly saying so { 376 } to the English, a great Body of whom have no Inducement to make Peace, but on a Supposition of it being done almost on any Terms and a change of Councils and Conduct ensuing, the antient Harmony May be restored. By the English I mean those, who have always been Shocked at the Principles, or frighted at the Consequences of the War: these may be divided into three Bodies, the first are those, whose Virtues make them the friends of Liberty all over the World; they are our friends from Principle and are therefore good and Steady Men; but they are few. The second, are numerous, but are selfish; they have ever opposed the designs of the Court against America, because they saw, if they were crowned with success, their own Liberty would be in danger, these men have hitherto actd Steadily, as the practices of the Minister serve daily to Convince them of the original Intention of his System. The third, are those, who, without honor or honesty, have concurred in every attempt against America without Shame or remorse in hopes of promoting a selfish personal, or mistaken national Interest, but feel at length themselves in danger of being impoverishd, and the Nation ruined for ever. These Men begin to retract, they wish to Stop Short. Their numbers increase daily owing to the danger and Misery, to which they find themselves every moment Approaching, and being in hopes that if a Peace is once concluded, the operation of Time will do that, which fraud and force have vainly attempted, they look for a cordial Reconcilement with America, a Connection of Commerce, and perhaps a future Alliance, as the only Means of saving themselves, which they call the saving of the Country. These are numerous at this Time, and are increasing in numbers daily; they are powerful, and being nearly touched begin to be very Active for Peace, which they imagine will produce the Object, they have in View. The first Class, Sir, will ever Continue our friends, because they are the true friends of liberty and Virtue, the second, it is probable, will be so, so long as the Court Acts in its present barefaced Manner. But the last, if once they understand that the farmers in America are Universally of Opinion that from the Time, they became independant England became their Natural Ennemy, and that the Commercial Interests of the two Countries will be ever incompatible, that the Alliance between France and America is natural and indissoluble these Men, I say will change the Tone of their Clamor; their present Hopes and Views will vanish at once, and they will Obstinately and desparately urge the Continuation of the War, as a Matter that Cannot make their Condition worse and may perhaps make it better.
{ 377 }
I must Confess although I am well Convincd of the Truth of your Excellencys Observations, yet I have ever indulged the English I have met with in these flattering Hopes, as the only Means to induce them to seek for Peace if I have done wrong I wait for your Excellencys Correction.
I am Sir With the greatest Consideration Your Excellencys Most Obedient & faithful Humble Servant
[signed] Edm: Jenings
1. “May” was clearly an inadvertence, since the letters referred to by Jenings in this letter were written at the end of May, not April.
2. JA's letter of 28 May has not been found, but it may have contained JA's analysis of Lord George Germain's speech mentioned by Jenings later in this letter. See Jenings' letter of 2 June, and note 1 (above). JA wrote two letters to Jenings on 30 May, one containing his analysis of Gen. Henry Seymour Conway's speech and the other enclosing the forged letter from Clinton to Germain (both Adams Papers). For the first, see JA's letter to Genet of 17 May, and note 1; for the second, see his letter to Dumas of 21 May, and note 1 (both above). The final letter referred to by Jenings is that of 29 May (above), in which JA commented on Jenings' comments regarding Thomas Hussey's activities in Spain.
3. Jenings' meaning here is not altogether clear, but see his letters of 15 May and 2 June 1779, responding to JA's of 29 April and 22 May 1779, which were very harsh with regard to Silas Deane (vol. 8:62–63, 69–70, 52–53, 67–69).
4. The speeches of both Germain and Conway were given on 5 May.
5. Translation: Place before all else this truth so well established in the sacred literature, that one of the most terrible effects of divine vengeance is when for punishment of our past sins, it ties us to our reprobate senses to the extent that we are deaf to all wise admonitions, blind to the salutary views we have held, prompted to believe in all that is lost to us, providing we are gratified, and ready to hazard all without ever measuring our forces against those of the enemies we vex.
6. This was Jean Baptiste Rocoles' Les Imposteurs insignes, Amsterdam, 1683.

Docno: ADMS-06-09-02-0241

Author: Lee, Arthur
Recipient: Adams, John
Date: 1780-06-05

From Arthur Lee

[salute] Dear Sir

I am obligd to you for your favor of the 25th. ultimo. The enclosd was an old Letter of the 13 Sepr. 1779.1
I lament with you the impediments which are studiously thrown in the way of all confidential communication with America on the transactions in Europe, except thro' a particular channel.2 All persons begin now to be persuaded, that the Alliance was never intended for America, and that all the appearances to the contrary were like those of the last year calculated to cover the same unworthy projects. What truth there is in this it is not my province to determine. But of this I am sure, that unless they who are really consulting the honor and interest of our Country strike with more resolution at the root of all this base and corrupt system, our sovereignty will become a sarcasm, and our independence a farce. And since popular prejudices are { 378 } allegd as an excuse for tampering counsels and timid execution, let it as well be feard, that the People when they find themselves overwhelmd with debt and contempt, ruind at home and betrayd abroad, will wreck their vengeance indiscriminately on the Actors in their ruin and those whose inaction has permitted it. I am of opinion too that very nicely weighing the consequences to oneself is not the way to serve the public against daring and flagitious men.
I agree with you that there is a Country where every thing goes by protection and where the maxims of government are the direct opposite to what ought to be ours. But it is clear to me that a proper conduct in those who have and do represent our Country in Europe, woud make them the givers not the receivers of that protection, and controul the vitious maxims, a submission to which will disgrace and ruin our Country. I have seen the first men in this Country suing for that protection, and it is manifest that we have fallen from that dignity solely by condescending to connections with the most contemptible and infamous Jobbers that this Country contains. If I were to say to the smallest of the marine here, that he was under the protection of Beaumarchais, Chaumont, Holker, or Montieu, I am confident he woud consider it as an insult, for which he woud demand immediate satisfaction. Yet these are the men who have presumd to call themselves the Protectors of America, of that Country which ought to consider itself, like ancient Rome, as the Sovereign of Soverigns. The illustriousness of our cause ought to inspire us with a proportionable dignity of character, and make us prefer even perishing with honor than being protected with infamy. A disposition has discoverd itself in the Officers and Crew of the Alliance, which I am apprehensive will serve as a pretext for detaining us longer. The Officers have unanimously signd a Letter to Dr. Franklin containing a resentful complaint of the treatment of Capt. Landais, and desiring he may be restord to the command of the Ship.3 Two only have added an acception to this to their signatures. The Crew on their part have written a Letter to the same purpose. I believe this resentment has been much excited by seeing in the American Papers brought by Montgomery, Letters from Capt. Jones and others here, in which not only all the honor of the victory is claimd for him, but the most obnoxious aspersions are thrown upon Capt. Landais and the Alliance. I have seen here a Letter from the Secretary of the board of Admiralty at Philadelphia dated the 1st of April and addressed to Capt. Landais or the Commanding Officer of the Alliance in which he says She is orderd immediately to that port. That order has I { 379 } presume been transmitted to Dr. Franklin which makes it the more astonishing that we shoud be still detaind here.4
Clinton's letter is certainly a lesson to those, who woud have no occasion for it had they not been too wise for us to teach. What is it prevents the English from proposing Peace? Do they hope to gain by a continuance of the war, or are they afraid of Exorbitant demands on the part of the Allies, if once they appear desirous of giving up our Independence for the sake of relieving themselves from a hopeless contest? Surely if the confederated neutral Powers were to interpose, they coud easily put an end to a war, which it is not the interest of one side, nor the inclination of the other to continue.
Be as good as to remember me to Mr. Dana. Farewell.
[signed] A. Lee
RC (Adams Papers); endorsed: “M. A. Lee June 5. 1780.”
1. This letter has not been otherwise identified.
2. Lee probably means through Benjamin Franklin.
3. The officers of the Alliance wrote to Franklin on 7 June (PCC, No. 193, f. 431– 434), renewing their plea on behalf of Landais that they had made in a letter of 30 May, which has not been found. Lee is probably referring to the letter of 30 May. For the controversy surrounding the actions of Landais and the Alliance at the battle between the Bonhomme Richard and the Serapis, see Benjamin Pierce's letter of 1 June, and notes 1–3 (above).
4. The letter from John Brown, secretary to the Board of Admiralty, was directed to “Captain Landais or the Commanding officer of the Continental frigate Alliance” (PCC, No. 193, f. 706). Brown noted that the Board had ordered the Alliance to return to Philadelphia and then indicated that he had been given permission to ship goods on the Alliance and requested that Landais accept them on board. Landais may have sent a copy of Brown's letter in his of 31 May to Benjamin Franklin (Cal. Franklin Papers, A.P.S., 2:254). The Board of Admiralty had written to Franklin on 28 March ordering that the Alliance sail immediately for Philadelphia (PCC, No. 193, f. 825).
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.