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Browsing: Papers of John Adams, Volume 10

Docno: ADMS-06-10-02-0132

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: Digges, Thomas
Recipient: Church, William Singleton
Date: 1780-10-14

To Thomas Digges

[salute] Sir

Yours of 6 and 10 are received. Upon what Principle is it, that they confine Mr. L. as a Prisoner of State? After So many Precedents as have been set. Sullivan, Sterling, Lee, Lovel, and many others have been exchanged as Prisoners of War.1
Mr. L. was in England when Hostilities commenced, I believe. He came into public, in America after the Declaration of Independence, after the Extinction of all civil Authority under the Crown, and after the Formation of compleat New Governments in every State. To treat a Citizen of a state thus compleatly in Possession of sovereignty de Facto, is very extraordinary. Do they mean to exasperate America and drive them to Retaliation? Are these People governed by Reason at all, or by any Principle, or do they conduct according to any system; or do they deliver themselves up entirely to the Government of their Passions, and their Caprice? I Saw so many Contradictions in the Papers, about Mr. L. that I hoped your first Account was a Mistake, but your Letter of the 10, makes me think the first Account, right.
Pray inform me constantly, of every Thing relative to him, and let me know if any Thing can be done for him, by Way of France, or any other.
Cornwallis's and Tarletons Gasconade2 serves to Passions, and making them throw off the Mask. I dont believe that { 267 } his Advantage is half so great, nor the Americans Loss half so much as they represent. Time you know is the Mother of Truth. Audi alteram Partem,3 and wait the Consequences. Fighting is the Thing—Fighting will do the Business. Defeats, will pave the Way to Victories. Patience! Patience! Il y en a beaucoup, en Amerique.
LbC (Adams Papers); directed to: “W. S. C.”
1. The principal difference between the case of Henry Laurens, and those of James Lovell and Gens. John Sullivan, William Alexander (Lord Stirling), and Charles Lee, was that while the four latter had been captured and exchanged between 1775 and 1778, each had been taken in America, with the disposition of their cases left to the local commander (DAB). In contrast, Laurens, who had been president of Congress, was captured at sea in the character of United States minister to the Netherlands, possessed a large number of incriminating documents, and was sent directly to England. The British desire to avoid recognizing either the de facto, mentioned by JA in the next paragraph, or the de jure sovereignty of the United States had led them to refuse negotiations with Benjamin Franklin over a prisoner exchange in Europe (to Thomas Digges, 14 March, note 1, above). To have treated the Laurens case differently would have undermined that policy.
2. JA probably refers to Cornwallis' letter to Lord George Germain of 21 Aug., as printed in the London Gazette of 9 Oct., a clipping of which Digges had enclosed in his letter of 10 Oct. (note 3, above). In his letter, Cornwallis devoted considerable space to the exploits of Lt. Col. Banastre Tarleton at the Battle of Camden and elsewhere.
3. That is, hear the other side.

Docno: ADMS-06-10-02-0133

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: Franklin, Benjamin
Date: 1780-10-14

To Benjamin Franklin

[salute] Sir

The Extracts of Letters You was so good as to send me, have been inserted in the Papers, and I should be obliged to You, for future Communications of the same kind.1
Notwithstanding the flow of Spirits, and the vigorous Exertions of our Countrymen this Year, I am sorry to say I cannot see a prospect of any thing decisive this Campaign. The fatal defect in the plan of the Campaign, in not sending a sufficient number of Ships with M. de Ternay, or soon after him, will render abortive all the great Exertions, and immense Expences of the Year.
And at the same time Cornwallis will spread too much devastation at the Southward, where the want of numbers of Whites, the great numbers of Blacks, and above all the want of Discipline and Experience, will make the People long unhappy and unfortunate.
The ill luck of Carolina pursues her Citizens even to Sea, and to Europe I think. Can nothing be done for the Relief of Mr. Laurens? Will You be so good as to apply to Court, and see if they will lend Us somebody of Mark to exchange for him? After exchanging so many military Men as prisoners of War, it is pitifully spightfull to use Mr. { 268 } Laurens as they do: but they cannot conceal the Meanness of their Character.
I have felt the mortification of soliciting for Money as well as You: but it has been because the solicitations have not succeeded. I see no reason at all, that We should be ashamed of asking to borrow Money, after maintaining a War against Great Britain and her Allies for almost six years, without borrowing any thing abroad, when England has been all the time borrowing of all the Nations of Europe, even of Individuals among our Allies, it cannot be unnatural, surprizing or culpable or dishonourable for Us to borrow Money.
When England borrows annually a Sum equal to all her Exports, We ought not to be laughed at for wishing to borrow a Sum annually equal to a twelfth part of our annual Exports.
We may, and We shall wade through, if We cannot obtain a Loan: but We could certainly go forward with more Ease, Convenience and Safety, by the help of one.
I think We have not meanly solicited for Friendship any where. But to send Ministers to every great Court in Europe, especially the Maritime Courts, to propose an Acknowledgment of the Independence of America, and Treaties of Amity and of Commerce is no more than becomes Us, and in my Opinion is our Duty to do: it is perfectly consistent with the genuine System of American Policy, and a piece of Respect due from new Nations to old ones. The United Provinces did the same thing, and were never censured for it, but in the End they succeeded. It is necessary for America to have Agents in different parts of Europe, to give some Information concerning our affairs, and to refute the abominable Lies that the hired Emissaries of Great Britain circulate in every Corner of Europe, by which they keep up their own Credit and ruin ours. I have been more convinced of this, since my Peregrinations in this Country, than ever. The universal and profound Ignorance of America here, has astonished me. It will require Time, and a great deal of Prudence and Delicacy too to undecieve them. The Method You have obligingly begun, of transmitting me Intelligence from America, will assist me in doing, or at least attempting something of this kind, and I therefore request the Continuance of it, and have the Honour to be, with respectful Compliments to Mr. Franklin2 and all Friends, Sir, your most obedient Servant
[signed] John Adams
RC in John Thaxter's hand (PPAmP: Franklin Papers); endorsed: “J. Adams Oct. 14. 1780.”
{ 269 }
1. See Franklin's letter of 2 Oct., and note 2 (above).
2. This was Benjamin Franklin's grandson and secretary, William Temple Franklin.
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.