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Browsing: Papers of John Adams, Volume 10

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.

Docno: ADMS-06-10-02-0134

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: President of Congress
Recipient: Huntington, Samuel
Date: 1780-10-14

To the President of Congress, No. 16

[salute] Sir

Repeated Letters from London,1 confirm the Account of Mr. Laurens's being confined to the Tower, so close a Prisoner, that neither his old Correspondents, nor even his Refugee Relations, are Suffered to Speak to him.
There have been So many Precedents of Exchanges, Mr. Lovell as well as the Major Generals Sullivan, Stirling, Lee and others having been exchanged, as Prisoners of War, that it is very extraordinary they should now treat Mr. Laurens as a Prisoner of State. It is not however merely a Proof that Passion and Caprice govern their Councils. I conceive it is intended to Signify to the Tories in America, whom they believe to be more numerous than they are and to their Officers and Troops, Serving in that Country, that now they have obtained an Election of Parliament to their Minds, they are determined to prosecute the War, with Vigour, and to bring America Still to unlimited Submission. For however our Countrymen, may have flattered themselves with hopes of Peace, there is nothing farther from the Thoughts of the King of England, his Ministers, Parliament, or Nation, for they are now all his, than Peace upon any Terms that America can agree to. There is no future Event more certain in my Mind than that they never will acknowledge American Independance while they have a Soldier in the united States. Nay, they would not do it, even after their Troops should be all driven from the Continent.
I think I see very clearly, that America must grow up in War. It is a painfull Prospect to be sure. But when I consider that there are more People in America, than there are in the United Provinces of the Low Countries: that the Earth itself produces Abundance in America both for Consumption and Exportation, and that the united Provinces produce nothing but Butter and Cheese: And that the united Provinces have successively maintained Wars, against the Formidable Monarchies of Spain, France and England, I cannot but perswade myself it is in the Power of America to defend herself against all that England can do.
The Republick where I now am has maintained an Army of an hundred and twenty thousand Men, besides a formidable Navy. She maintains at this day a standing Army of Thirty Thousand Men which { 270 } the Prince is desirous of augmenting to Fifty Thousands, besides a considerable Navy. All this in a profound Peace. What Cause phisical or political can prevent Three Millions of People in America, from maintaining for the Defence of their Altars and Firesides, as many Soldiers, as the Same Number of People can maintain in Europe, merely for Parade, I know not.
A Navy is our natural, and our only adequate Defence. But We have but one Way to increase our shipping and Seamen, and that is Privateering. This abundantly pays its own Expences, and procures its own Men. The Seamen taken generally, enlist on board of our Privateers, and this is our surest Way, of distressing their Commerce, protecting our own, increasing our Seamen and diminishing those of the Ennemy. And this will finally be the Way, by capturing their supplies, that We shall destroy or captivate, or oblige to fly, their Armies in the United States.
A Loan of Money in Europe would assist Privateering, by enabling Us to fitt out ships the more easily, as well as promote and extend our Trade, and serve Us in other Ways. I wish I could give Hopes of Speedy success in this Business, but I fear that Cornwallis's account of his Defeat of General Gates, whether true or false, will extinguish the very moderate Hopes which I had before, for a Time.
There is a Prospect however that the English will force this Republick into a War with them, and in such Case or indeed in any Case if there were a Minister here accredited to the States General and to the Prince Statholder of the United Provinces of the Low Countries, he would assist a Loan. There is another Measure which may be taken by Congress to the same End. That is sending Some Cargoes of Produce, upon Account of the united States directly here or to St. Eustatia, to be Sold for the Payment of Interest. The sight of a few such Vessells and Cargoes would do more, than many long Reasonings and Negotiations.
Another Method may be taken by Congress. Make a Contract with private Merchants in Philadelphia, Boston, Maryland, Virginia, or elsewhere, to export annually Produce to a certain Amount, to Amsterdam or St. Eustatia or both, to be sold for the Payment of Interest. The Merchants or Houses contracted with should be responsible and known in Europe, at least some of them.
This Country has been grossly deceived. It has little Knowledge of the Numbers Wealth and Resources of the united States and less Faith in their finally supporting their Independance, upon which alone a Credit depends. They have also an opinion of the Power of { 271 } England vastly higher than the Truth. Measures must be taken but with great Caution and Delicacy to undeceive them.
I have the Honour to be, with the greatest Respect, sir your most obedient and most humble servant
[signed] John Adams
RC (PCC, No. 84, II, f. 305–308); docketed: “No. 116 John Adams Octr. 14. 1780 Recd. Jany. 29. 1781. Treatment of Mr. Laurens Advantage of privateering—of sending on public accot. some produce to Holland or Eustatia to discharge interest.”
1. Thomas Digges' letters of 6 and 10 Oct., but see also JA's reply of 14 Oct. to those letters (all above).
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.