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Browsing: Papers of John Adams, Volume 9

Docno: ADMS-06-09-02-0264

Author: Landais, Pierre
Recipient: Adams, John
Date: 1780-06-14

From Pierre Landais

[salute] Sir

I think it my duty to inform you that I have wrote several Letters to his Excellency Dr. Franklin desiring to know by what authority I was Kept from my Ship, I inclosed him an order from the Secretary of the Honble. Navy board Philadelphia the purport of which was, to take in a few goods for his use As the Ship was Ordred home by Congress, My Officers and Crew Inform me that they have also wrote his Excellency, beging that their Lawfull Commander might be restored to them again, As they knew of no other Commander but me, they Inform me that no answer has come to their hands.2
I have Sir with the Advice of the Principle Americans and the desire of my Officers and Crew, Taken the Command Yesterday As my Right,3 and am determined to keep her, and Carry her to America as Required by Congress, in the Letter from the Secretary of the Honble Navy Board. I have wrote his Excellency Dr. Franklin Beging that he would be pleased to pay the Officers and Crew their Prize money, And to Send me his dispatches that I may fullfil the orders of Congress.4
On my going on board yesterday I was Received with the greatest { 413 } Cheerfulness by my Officers and Crew and acknowledged me to be their Lawful Commander and no other till they see a Resolve of Congress to place another in my Station. I have also inform'd him I am ready to sail whenever he will please to pay my Officers and Crew and Send me his Dispatches, And if you have any to send I shall take the Greatest Care of them.
I am sir with the Greatest Respect yr most obedient & very humble Servant.
[signed] P: Landais
1. This letter is identical to that from Landais to Benjamin Franklin of 14 June except for changes due to its recipient (Edward Everett Hale and Edward Everett Hale Jr., Franklin in France, 2 vols., Boston, 1886–1888, 1:333–334). For JA's position regarding Landais and the Alliance, see his reply of 20 June (not sent) and his letter to Benjamin Franklin of 26 June (both below).
2. For the unrest among the officers and crew of the Alliance, as well as other circumstances leading to Landais resuming command of the Alliance, see the letters from Arthur Lee of 26 March, and note 2, and 5 June, and notes 3 and 4; and from Benjamin Pierce of 1 June, and notes 1–3 (all above). In letters of 10 Feb., 11 March, and 29 May, Landais demanded that Benjamin Franklin reinstate him as captain of the Alliance. Franklin steadfastly refused to do so in replies of 12 Feb., 12 March, and 7 June, declaring in that of 12 March that “if, therefore, I had 20 ships-of-war in my disposition, I should not give one of them to Captain Landais” (Franklin in France, 1:323–331). For the letter of 1 April from John Brown, secretary of the Board of Admiralty, which Landais sent to Franklin on 31 May with a duplicate of his letter of the 29th, see Arthur Lee's letter of 5 June, and note 4 (above).
3. The “Principle Americans” were Arthur Lee and Alexander Gillon, to whom Landais had written on 12 June, requesting their advice. In their replies dated 12 June, both Lee and Gillon strongly supported Landais' claim to command, based on a resolution of Congress appointing him to the Alliance, and urged him to take his rightful place. A letter from eleven officers of the Alliance, also dated 12 June, acknowledged Landais as captain and requested him to assume command (all in PCC, No. 193, f. 708–711). For Arthur Lee's position regarding the respective claims of Landais and John Paul Jones to the command of the Alliance, see Lee's letter of 14 June to JA, and note 1 (below). For an account of Landais' assumption of command by a midshipman on the Alliance, see Nathaniel Fanning, Fanning's Narrative, ed. John S. Barnes, N.Y., 1912, p. 82–83. Fanning gives the date of the incident as 23 June, rather than the 13th.
4. Here and for the remainder of the letter Landais refers to his letter of 14 June to Benjamin Franklin.

Docno: ADMS-06-09-02-0265

Author: Lee, Arthur
Recipient: Adams, John
Date: 1780-06-14

From Arthur Lee

By the enclosed copy of a Letter I have sent Capt. Jones you will see that the dispute between him and Capt. Landais, is come to an alarming higth.1 The latter went on board the Alliance yesterday and has the command of her. The former has claimd the protection of the governing powers here, who will not employ force unless they have an express order for it from Above, or they come to blows on board the Ship. It was to prevent any such pernicious extremity, that { 414 } I wrote the enclosed to Capt. Jones. But as it is apparently the interest and inclination of some people here to urge that extremity, I have no doubt but that attempts will be made to obtain an order from Court for violent means. You must be sensible how deep a wound it woud be to the Sovereignty and honor of the United States if a foreign Power were by force to deprive a man of the command who holds it under immediate authority of Congress, and give it to another who has no such authority. I hope therefore that you will talk with Dr. Franklin on the subject that he may be well advised before he adopts such a measure.2 I do assure you from what I can learn the Officers and Crew are so determined not to submit to any authority but that of Congress, that there will be bloodshed if it is attempted. Whereas if there is any such authority, and it were produced, they woud submit to it without hesitation. The dignity of our Country, the honor of the Laws, our National character and personal safety call upon every good American to endeavor to prevent the Commission of Congress from being insulted, and such disputes from being decided but by the Laws of America.
I have the honor to be, with great regard & esteem, Dr. Sir Your most Obedient & Humle. Servant
[signed] Arthur Lee
RC and enclosure (Adams Papers); addressed: “The Honble John Adams Esqr.”; endorsed: “Mr A. Lee”; by John Thaxter: “June 14th 1780.” The enclosure is not printed, but see note 1.
1. The enclosed letter, dated 13 June and probably sent to Jones after Landais had assumed command of the Alliance, constituted a vigorous endorsement by Arthur Lee of Pierre Landais as the frigate's captain. Lee noted that on 12 June, Jones had shown him his commission as captain and an order from Benjamin Franklin to take command of the Alliance, and that he had then examined Landais' commission as captain and the congressional resolution appointing Landais to the Alliance, thereby undertaking “a cool and candid consideration of the authorities on both sides.” Lee concluded that “it is clear, beyond a possibility of doubt that Capt. Landais commands that Ship under the full, direct, and express authority of Congress” and, “in this situation, Capt. Landais must answer at his peril, for the frigate which is trusted to him till he receives an order of Congress to deliver her up to another.” As a result, anyone seeking to remove Landais from command was committing “a high crime against the Laws and Sovereignty of the United States, and subject themselves to proportionable punishment.” In a letter of 12 June, Landais also had requested Lee's opinion, which Lee provided in his reply of the same date (from Landais, 14 June, note 3, above).
2. On 23 June, JA drafted, but did not complete or send, a reply to this letter (LbC, Adams Papers) in which he indicated that in response to Lee's appeal as well as letters of 12 June from Alexander Gillon (Adams Papers) and 14 June from Pierre Landais (above), he and Francis Dana had met with Franklin and, in response to Franklin's request, had given their opinion regarding the Alliance. The uncompleted reply does not indicate the nature of that opinion, but see JA's letter to Franklin of 26 June containing his advice regarding Landais and the Alliance in response to Franklin's query of [ante 26 June] (both below).
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.