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Browsing: Papers of John Adams, Volume 9

Docno: ADMS-06-09-02-0290-0001-0002

Author: Vergennes, Charles Gravier, Comte de
Recipient: Adams, John
Date: 1780-06-30

The Comte de Vergennes to John Adams: A Translation

[salute] Sir

I have received, sir, the letter which you did me the honour to write of the 22d of this month concerning Congress' resolution of 18 March. I have already informed you that it was not my intention either to analyze this resolution as it respects the citizens of the United States or to examine whether circumstances authorize the arrangements or not. I had but one objective in writing to you with the confidence which I thought due to your knowledge and your attachment to the Alliance, which was to convince you that the French ought not to be confounded with the Americans, and that this would be an evident injustice by making them sustain the loss with which they are threatened. The details into which you have thought proper to enter have not changed my sentiments, but I think that all further discussion between us on this subject will be needless. I shall only observe that if the King's Council considers, as you pretend, the resolution of Congress in a wrong point of view, the Chevalier de La Luzerne who is on the spot will not fail to clarify the matter, and should Congress not agree with the representations which that Minister is charged to make, it will undoubtedly communicate to us its reasons justifying its refusal. Should they be well founded the King will take them into consideration, His Majesty demanding nothing but the most exact justice. But should they be otherwise, he will renew his request to the United States and will confidently expect, from their penetration and wisdom, a decision conformable to his demand. His Majesty is the more persuaded that Congress will give their whole attention to this business, as this assembly, which has frequently renewed the assurance, values as well as yourself sir the union which subsists between France and the United States and thus they will assuredly perceive that the French deserve a preference before other nations who have no treaty with America and who have not even recognized its independence.1
I have the honor to be very perfectly, sir, your very humble and very obedient servant,
[signed] De Vergennes
{ 493 }
RC (Adams Papers;) endorsed: “M. Le Cte. de Vergennes. 30 June 1780. ansd. July 1.”; notation by CFA: “See Dipl Corresp. vol. 5 p. 232,” [i.e. Jared Sparks, ed., Diplomatic Correspondence of the American Revolution].
1. In this sentence, and even more explicitly in his letter of this date to Benjamin Franklin (Wharton, ed., Dipl. Corr. Amer. Rev., 3:827), Vergennes expressed his view of the FrancoAmerican relationship. In effect, he declared that Congress, as the junior party to the Franco-American alliance, was obligated to conform to the policies and wishes of the French government and to subordinate its own interests to those of France when necessity required, as it did in regard to the revaluation. For the effect of this statement on JA, see the Editorial Note, 16 June – 1 July 1780 (above).

Docno: ADMS-06-09-02-0291

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: Johnson, Joshua
Date: 1780-07-01

To Joshua Johnson

[salute] Dear sir

I have just received yours of 27 of June.1 I have no Sufficient2 Reason to believe that any Letter to or from me, has been intercepted. I have certain Information that large Dispatches for me by two Vessells have been cast into the sea—One Vessell being taken and the other thinking herself taken.3 The Moment I should have Cause to believe that any Letter to me or from me is intercepted, I will carry my Complaint of it to the King. For I never will tamely submit to such a Complication of Injury and Insult. And the Practice of intercepting Letters public or private, (altho I believe it much less frequent than many People surmise) is too infamous and detestible to be countenanced, or indeed not to be punished by any Government. My Letters by the Way of N. London have arrived.4 As to future Letters you may use your discretion.
My Feelings have been wounded, beyond all description by the Loss of Charlestown. I sympathize most Sincerely with the brave and worthy People in that Quarter: but with all this My candid opinion is, that <We are better off,> the United states are in a better situation now and the English in a worse, than if the whole English Army had remained in N. York and Charlestown had still been ours. This Dispersion of the British Force, weakens them every where—doubles their Expence; distracts their Attention—and the Clymate will certainly destroy their Army, altho by an uncommon cold late Spring they did not feel it so early, as they would in ordinary Seasons.
<Politic> Military Events <have> whether prosperous or Adverse have never had any great Effect upon the Paper money and never will, either to raise it or to lower. And as to shaking the Firmness of the People, it will have no more effect than casting a Pebble at Mount Atlas. It will only animate them to double Exertion and Indignation.
I dread, nothing So much as the Divisions, which will be excited { 494 } in America, by Representation from hence. I hope Congress will never send any more such Bones of Contention as Frigates, unless upon an Errand and order her instantly back. These Contentions however will only make our Countrymen a little unhappy for a time. They will have no material Effect upon the general Cause.
Among the Consequences of the loss of Charlestown I should have mentioned that I think it probable the English may penetrate some Way into the state for a short time, and destroy or take some Magazines, and We shall probably have a pompous display of these Wondrous Feats in the London Papers. But these Excursions will do Us more good than them. In such Excursions our People never fail to procure them selves arms Ammunition, Accoutrements, Cloathing and every thing they want, for their is nothing but what the English soldiers and officers too, some of them I mean will sell.
Another Advantage will be this, a secret Commerce will be opened as it ever has been and ever will be where ever the British Army is, by which our People will Supply them selves with Goods and Cash both. In short I may say in a familiar Letter to you, our Country is a Catt—cast her as you will, she always will fall upon her feet—and her leggs are Strong enough to sustain the shock. The Paper Money will do very well—from various Parts of America I learn that the Resolution of 18 of March is very well received—and that the new Bills issued in pursuance of it pass, on a footing with silver. I am with much respect, your most obedient
1. Not found.
2. This word was interlined.
3. The first set of lost dispatches had been carried by Jonathan Loring Austin (to Jonathan Williams, 14 May, and note 3, above); the loss of the second set has not been identified.
4. JA may mean the letters carried by John Steele Tyler, who sailed with John Trumbull from New London, Conn., to Nantes in early May. Tyler was the brother of Royall Tyler, who later became a suitor of AA2. The letters he carried included Richard Cranch's of 26 April from which JA sent an extract to Vergennes on 16 June (Adams Family Correspondence, 3:325–329; to Vergennes, 16 June, and note 2, above). Tyler may have given Johnson the letters to forward to JA, since he did not reach Paris before 25 June.
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.