A website from the Massachusetts Historical Society; founded 1791.

Browsing: Papers of John Adams, Volume 10

Docno: ADMS-06-10-02-0115

Author: Franklin, Benjamin
Recipient: Adams, John
Date: 1780-10-02

From Benjamin Franklin

[salute] Sir

By all our late Advices from America the Hopes you expressed that our Countrymen, instead of amusing themselves any longer with delusive Dreams of Peace, would bend the whole force of their Minds to find out their own Strength and Resources, and to depend upon themselves, are actually accomplished.1 All the Accounts I have seen, agree, that the Spirit of our People was never higher than at present, nor their Exertions more vigorous.
Inclosed I send you Extracts of some Letters from two French Officers, a Colonel and Lieutenant Colonel in the Army of M. De Rochambeau, which are the more pleasing, as they not only give a good Character of our Troops, but show the good Understanding that subsists between them and those of our Allys.2 I hope we shall soon hear of something decisive performed by their joint Operations, for your Observation is just that Speculations and Disputations do us little Service. Our Credit and Weight in Europe depend more on what we do than on what we say: And I have long been humiliated with the Idea of our running about from Court to Court begging for Money and Friendship, which are the more withheld the more eagerly they are sollicited, and would perhaps have been offer'd if they had not been asked. The supposed Necessity is our only Excuse. The Proverb says God helps them that helps themselves, and the World too in this Sense is very Godly.3
As the English Papers have pretended to Intelligence that our Troops disagree, perhaps it would not be amiss to get these Extracts inserted in the Amsterdam Gazette.
With great Respect I have the honour to be, Sir, Your Excellency's most obedt. & most humble Servant
[signed] B Franklin
1. This statement appears in JA's letter to Franklin of 17 Aug. (above), to which this letter is a reply.
2. The two French officers remain unidentified and the enclosed letters have not been found. JA, however, apparently complied with Franklin's request that the letters be published. Their publication in the Gazette d'Amster• { 195 } dam cannot be confirmed, but the “Supplement” to the Gazette de Leyde of 10 Oct. contained two letters from officers in Rochambeau's army, dated 29 and 31 July at Newport. Both men described in some detail the friendly reception accorded the French army by the people of Newport and the good relations and understanding existing between the French and American armies. In the same issue of the Gazette de Leyde was another letter from a French officer at Newport, dated 8 August. That letter focused more on the military situation than did the two letters noted earlier, but it too confirmed the high degree of cooperation and amity existing between the allied forces.
3. For earlier expressions of Franklin's distaste for actively pursuing European alliances, see vol. 7:183, note 5; Franklin, Papers, 23:511; 27:448. Note also Franklin's elaboration upon the proverb that first appeared in the 1736 edition of Poor Richard's Almanack (Franklin, Papers, 2:140).

Docno: ADMS-06-10-02-0116

Author: Digges, Thomas
Author: Church, William Singleton
Recipient: Adams, John
Date: 1780-10-03

From Thomas Digges

[salute] Dr. Sir

I am sorry to inform You that Mr. Heny. Lawrens and two other Amn. Gentlemen Prisoners in England.1 They were taken in a small packet on the banks of New foundland about 24 days ago and sent to St. Johns, where Admiral Edwards thought the capture so important as to immediately dispatch the Vestal Frigate Capt. Keppell with them, and the mail which was also taken, to England. Mr. <Adams> Laurens being very much indisposd was put on shore at Dartmouth and is now on his way to London, travelling slowly and guarded by the Lieutenant of the Ship. The frigate had but 14 days passage to England. The Ministers give out confidently they not only possess the mail, but all Mr. Laurens's papers (which is scarcely to be credited) and that they discover to them his business to Holland which was to get a loan for which France was to stand Guarantee. They also say that the mail discovers an Expedition from France was expected against Hallifax to arrive there between the 20th and the last day of Sept. There is no appearance of exultation for the taking Mr. Laurens, but they seem much pleasd with the discoverys his papers have lead to. I will take the earliest opportunity to write You when I hear more. A second Man of War is arrivd from Nfoundland Express upon the heels of the Vestal—She must bring news of some importance, and not good because it is not given to the publick. Report says She is dispatchd in consequence of discovering a small french fleet and armament near Newfoundland.
I am yrs. mo respectfully
[signed] WSC
RC (Adams Papers); addressed: “A Monsieur Monsieur Ferdinand Raymond San Chez Monsr. Heny. Shorn Amsterdam”; endorsed on the first page below the body of the letter: “recd. 18th. 1780—October. Q. Where has this Letter been all this While.”; endorsed by John Thaxter: “W. S. C. Octr. 3d. 1780.”
{ 196 }
1. This is the earliest extant letter reporting Henry Laurens' capture, but it was not the means by which JA first learned of it, hence his complaint about the letter's delayed arrival. JA heard of Laurens' capture, probably from a newspaper account, on or about 11 Oct., for he mentioned it at the very end of his letter to the president of Congress of that date (No. 15, calendared, below). For JA's first detailed comment on the capture, see his letter to Digges of 14 Oct. (below).
Digges' information came from London newspaper reports appearing on or about 3 Oct., all of which contained inaccuracies, most notably Laurens' arrival on the frigate Vestal, rather than the sloop Fairy. Henry Laurens and most of his official papers were captured off the banks of Newfoundland on 3 Sept., when the Mercury packet was taken by the Vestal, Capt. George Keppel, and the sloop Fairy, Capt. Berkley. Laurens was put on the Vestal and taken to St. John's, Newfoundland, from whence he wrote on 14 Sept. to the Committee for Foreign Affairs to report his capture and imminent departure for England on the Fairy, now commanded by Keppel. The sloop departed St. John's on or about 18 Sept., and reached Dartmouth, England, on the 29th. Put ashore in the custody of Lt. Hugh Norris, the two men then set off for London, arriving there on the evening of 5 October.
Digges' mention here of two “Gentlemen” and his later reference to a second ship from Newfoundland are erroneous. The newspapers reported the capture, with Laurens, of his “Secretary [Moses Young] and another gentleman,” but did not state that they had been sent to England with Laurens. In fact, Young did not reach England until mid-November, and then it was on the frigate Vestal, in company with Winslow Warren and Capt. William Pickles of the Mercury. The reference to a second vessel stems from the erroneous report that Laurens had come in the Vestal, rather than the Fairy, for the same papers that reported the frigate's arrival also reported the Fairy's arrival at Portsmouth on the 30th, to which it had gone from Dartmouth, (London Courant, 3 Oct.; London Chronicle, 30 Sept. – 3 Oct., and 3–5 Oct.; Morning Post, 3 Oct.; Laurens, “Narrative,” p. 19–23; Davies, ed., Docs. of the Amer. Rev., 1770–1783, 18:166–157; 16:398, 408, 443; for a partial list of the documents captured with Laurens, see p. 420, 424; Wharton, ed., Dipl. Corr. Amer. Rev., 4:56; from Mercy Otis Warren, 8 May, note 1, above; from Thomas Digges, 17 Nov., 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.