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Browsing: Papers of John Adams, Volume 9


Docno: ADMS-06-09-02-0274

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: Landais, Pierre
Date: 1780-06-20

To Pierre Landais

[salute] Sir

I came this moment from the Post office, where I have been to give a Receipt for a Letter from you of the 14, which I was advertised of, by a Billet from the office last night. I had before received a Letter from Commodore Gillon,1 informing me of the application of the officers and Crew of the Alliance to his Excellency Dr. Franklin, in your favour.
I presume these Communications were made to me, from a Respect to the public Trust I have the Honor to hold as a servant of the United States, and in this point of View they lay me under obligations. I have also received a Letter from Mr. Pierce requesting me to interest myself in the affair of the Alliance.2 And another Letter from another Gentleman implying Censure upon me.3
I have the Honour to be in a department totally distinct from that of his Excellency Dr. Franklin, and have no Authority over, or connection with his more than he has with mine. There is a possitive Instruction of Congress, to his Excellency, to me, and to all the Ministers of the united States abroad to cultivate a good Understanding with each other.4 Neither the Congress, nor his Excellency, have communicated to me, the Nature and Extent of the Authority they have given his Excellency over their Frigates in France and the officers of them.
If his Excellency Dr. Franklin, or Mr. Jay, or Mr. Laurens, or any other Minister of the United States should ask my opinion and Advice respecting any Thing within their Departments stating the Case both { 448 } respecting their Authority and the Facts, I should think it my Duty, to give it <with the Utmost Promptitude>.5 His Excellency has in some Cases asked my opinion, So have the Minister at Madrid,6 in every such Case I ever have and ever shall give my opinion with the Utmost Promptitude Candor and Decision: and if I should have occasion to ask their Advice, on any Thing respecting my own department I should hope for the same favour of their answer.
But it must be remembered that Congress have neither <appointed me> established an appeal from the Judgment of his Excellency to mine, nor appointed me Inspector of his Administration, nor made me a Spy upon his Conduct. They have not given me any office So high as the two former, nor so low as the last.
Every Man of Common sense then will see that it would be criminal in me, and I should infallibly incur the Censure of Congress, if in such a critical Business, I were to interfere unasked by his Excellency, So as to become an auxiliary either to Captain Jones or Captain Landais in this dispute.
Further, I hold myself obliged to give my opinion to the Kings Ministers, when they see Cause to ask it, and I think I never shall fail to do so. But it would introduce, or rather continue and perpetuate, Confusion and Distraction in our affairs, if I who am simply a resident at Paris, were to undertake uninformed, and unasked to obtrude my opinion and advice upon the Ministers, in matters entirely without my Jurisdiction. These are my sentiments and the Principles upon which I have and shall endeavour to Act. If you or any Gentleman, pleases to lay before Congress an accusation against me, for Timidity, Inaction, or omission of duty, I furnish you with this Letter, and full Liberty to lay it before Congress or to print it in the Newspapers in America, if you choose for their Censure or approbation. It contains the Principles and Rules of Conduct which I am determined to pursue untill I have orders of Congress to the Contrary which I am well persuaded I never shall. And it may be depended on I have not too much timidity to pursue my Principles.
I have the Honour to be with Esteem and respect, sir, your most obedient humble sert.7
LbC (Adams Papers;) notation: “not sent.”
1. This letter of 12 June (Adams Papers), which has not been printed and to which no reply has been found, described the situation on the Alliance and implied that JA should intervene with Benjamin Franklin to seek its resolution.
2. Of 1 June (above). In his reply of 10 June (above), JA stated that he could not become { 449 } involved in the controversy.
3. This may be a reference to Arthur Lee's letter of 14 June (above). For JA's reply of 23 June (LbC, Adams Papers), which he began, but did not complete or send, see note 2 to the letter of 14 June.
4. JA is presumably referring to Congress' resolution of 22 Oct. 1778, calling on the American representatives in Europe to cultivate “harmony and good understanding” among themselves (JCC, 12:1053).
5. See Benjamin Franklin's letter of [ante 26 June] requesting JA's advice regarding the Alliance and JA's reply of 26 June (both below).
6. No letters soliciting JA's opinions previous to this date have been found from either Benjamin Franklin or John Jay. But JA had offered his advice in letters to Franklin of 19 April and to Jay of 13 and 15 May, which the two ministers acknowledged in their respective letters of 21 April and 4 June (all above).
7. JA's decision not to send this letter likely proceeded from his unwillingness to involve himself in matters that were Franklin's responsibility as minister to France. He may also have concluded, after rereading the letter, that his comments regarding his willingness to provide advice when asked by his fellow ministers and the French government went beyond the scope of an appropriate response to Landais, but compare his statement in this regard with that in his letter of 26 June to the president of Congress (No. 87, and note 10, below).

Docno: ADMS-06-09-02-0275-0001

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: Vergennes, Charles Gravier, Comte de
Date: 1780-06-20

To the Comte de Vergennes

[salute] Sir

Last Evening I received the Letter, an Extract of which I have the honour to inclose. It is from Mr. Gerry, a Member of Congress who has been a Member of their Treasury Board from the beginning of the year 1776.1
It is much to be regretted that the Congress did not publish their Resolution to pay off the Loan Office Certificates, according to the value of Money, at the time of their being respectively issued, with their Resolutions of the 18th. of March, because this I think wou'd have prevented the alarm that has been spread in Europe.2 It will be found that almost all the Interest that European Merchants or others have in our Funds lies in those Certificates: And that almost all the paper Bills now in Possession of their Factors in America, have been received within a few Months, immediately before the 18th. of March, and consequently received at a depreciation of forty for one, at least, perhaps at a much greater.
Altho some Europeans may have considerable sums in Loan Office Certificates, yet I have Reason to believe that the whole will be found much less than is imagined. They have realized their property generally as they went along. Some may have purchased Land, others have purchased Bills of Exchange, others have purchased the produce of the Country which they have exported to St. Eustatia, to the French West India Islands, and to Europe. I have the Honor to be with the { 450 } | view greatest Respect and Esteem Your Excellencys most obedient and most humble Servant.
[signed] John Adams
RC in Francis Dana's hand (Arch. Aff. Etr., Paris, Corr. Pol., E.-U., vol. 12). With the recipient's copy in the archives is a French translation, entitled: “Lettre de M. Adams a M. le Comte de Vergennes en date du 20 Juin 1780”; and bearing the note: “M. Adams cherche àprouver que la derniére operation de finance du Congrès a peut etre que tres peu prejudiciable aux Commerçants Européans.”
1. This was Elbridge Gerry's letter of 5 May (above).
2. Although Gerry's letter implied that the resolution regarding loan certificates was adopted on 18 March, in fact it was not voted on until 18 April and proceeded from Congress' consideration of a report on the redemption of loan office certificates presented on 25 March (JCC, 16:374–375, 287–288).
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, 2014.
http://www.masshist.org/apde2/