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Browsing: Papers of John Adams, Volume 10

Docno: ADMS-06-10-02-0017

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: President of Congress
Recipient: Huntington, Samuel
Date: 1780-07-23

To the President of Congress, No. 99

No. 99. Duplicate

[salute] Sir

I have been amused sometime with dark and unintelligible hints in Letters from London of some Messenger sent from Lord North to Madrid.1
Three weeks ago, I waited on the Comte de Vergennes at Versailles to acquaint him that I had an intention of making a Journey to Amsterdam for a few weeks, as I flattered myself I might form some Acquaintances or Correspondences there and collect some Intelligence that might be useful the United States.2 His Excellency desired me to wait some time, for that in eight or ten days he believed he should have something to communicate to me. I assured him I would not go 'till I saw him again or heard further from him. This day sennight,3 his Excellency informed me that he was ready to let me know, that a Messenger from the Court of London had arrived at Madrid: that the Spanish Ministry had demanded the sentiments of the British Court concerning America. He said he was not instructed. He was told that he must previously explain himself upon that subject. He determined to send an Express to London for instructions. This the Comte de Vergennes said would take up two months, and consequently leave me time enough to go to Holland, but if any thing should happen in the mean time, he would give me the earliest Information of it.
In the Courier de l'Europe of the 14th of July is this paragraph.
“The report runs, that a person, who has been Secretary of M. le Marquiss D'Almodavar during his Embassy from the Court of Madrid to that of London, arrived here, London, some weeks ago, on board the Milford coming from Oporto: that after a stay of eight days, this Frigate had orders to transport this Person to Lisbon, accompanied by Mr. Cumberland, Secretary of Lord George Germaine, whose instructions imply, that if at the End of twenty days, he is not called { 27 } to Madrid, he is to return here immediately. As soon as this Person arrived at Lisbon he set out for Madrid, where fifteen after Mr. Cumberland was invited to go, and where he is at present.”4
There is a body of people in England, who are zealous and clamorous for Peace, and the Ministry find their Account in amusing and silencing them, by some equivocal Appearances of Negotiation. They have ever made it a part of their political System to hold out to America some false hopes of reconciliation and peace, in order to slacken our Nerves and retard our preparations. They think also that they can amuse the Courts of France and Spain, with a talk about Conferances and Negotiations, while they are secretly concerting measures to succour Gibralter, and carry on their operations the next Campaign: but serious thoughts of Peace upon any terms that We can agree I am well persuaded they never had. But if they ever did entertain any thoughts of negotiation, it must have been at the time of their Consternation for Sir Henry Clinton and their despair of his success.
The total and absolute suppression of the Tumults in London, and the triumphant success of Clinton beyond their most sanguine Expectations, has now given them such Exultation and Confidence, that the People of America will dethrone the Congress and like the Israelites demand a King, that they now think of nothing but unconditional submission, or at least of delusive proffers of terms which they know the majority of the People in America will not agree to, in order to divide Us, make a few Gentlemen Apostates, and some Soldiers deserters.
I have the honor to be, with the greatest Respect, Sir, your most obedient and most humble Servant
[signed] John Adams
Dupl in John Thaxter's hand (PCC, No. 84, II, f. 219–222); endorsed: “No. 99 John Adams July 23. 1780 Read Decr. 26.” LbC with closing by John Thaxter (Adams Papers); notations by Thaxter: “No. 99.” and “Paris 12th. August 1780. This day Mr. Dana delivered the originals of Nos. 91. 92 93. 94. 95. 96. 97. 98 & 99. & duplicates of Nos. 89 & 90 to Dr. Franklin, who was to send them by a Gentleman going to L'Orient to Capt. J. P. Jones who is at that place.” This is the final letter written by JA to the president of Congress during his residence in Paris in 1780 for which a Letterbook copy exists in Lb/JA/12 (Adams Papers, Microfilms, Reel No. 100). An additional letter in this Letterbook, dated 14 Aug. at Paris and numbered “100,” was inserted while JA was in Amsterdam. For that letter, see JA's letter from Amsterdam of 14 Aug. to the president of Congress, No. 1, note 1 (below). For information regarding this Letterbook, see part 2 of the Introduction: “John Adams and His Letterbooks” (above).
1. JA is likely referring to Edmund Jenings' letters of 22 May (Adams Papers), 27 May, 2 June, and 5 June (all above) in which Jenings related information received from an uniden• { 28 } tified correspondent in London concerning the Hussey-Cumberland mission to Spain. For JA's reaction to the reports and an account of the ill-fated mission, see JA's letter to Jenings of 29 May, and note 4 (above).
2. This is the earliest known letter in which JA indicates his intention to go to the Netherlands and the only letter in which he gives his reasons for doing so and that his decision had apparently been made on or about 2 July. This was immediately after his exchange with Vergennes over Congress' revaluation of its currency and prior to his correspondence with Vergennes over his mission and the need for additional French aid, but there is no indication that either confrontation significantly influenced JA's decision. In fact, there is no evidence that he planned to do anything more during his visit than is indicated in this letter or that he viewed his departure on 27 July as either permanent or a turning point in his diplomatic career. This seems borne out by his failure, except for his letters of 14, 22, and 23 Aug. to the president of Congress (Nos. 1–3, all below), to write to anyone in America concerning his departure from Paris until his letter of 4 Sept. to AA (Adams Family Correspondence, 3:409–410). Indeed, the first known letter to AA concerning JA's residence in Amsterdam was John Thaxter's of 21 Aug. (same, 3:397).
3. That is, a week ago. For the impact of the information provided by Vergennes concerning the Hussey-Cumberland mission, see JA's letter to Vergennes of 17 July, and note 6 (above).
4. This passage is an English translation of the French text in the Courier de l'Europe; opening quotation marks have been supplied. The same report appeared earlier in various other London newspapers, including the London Courant of 12 July and the London Chronicle of 11–13 July.

Docno: ADMS-06-10-02-0018

Author: Warren, Mercy Otis
Recipient: Adams, John
Date: 1780-07-24

From Mercy Otis Warren

[salute] Sir

You Will doubtless hear from several quarters of the arrival of admiral Greavess squadron who anchored of point Judith 4 days since.1 You have heard from better hands of the present situation of this Country, the Military Manuvers, the political opperations, the Disinterestedness of the Inhabitants and the purity of the Manners.
You have been told that the New Constitution has been accepted, that there is a Canvasing for Elections, and a sighing for the Post of Honour, which however Corrupt the times is not Yet Considered a private station. And perhaps you may hear one of the first acts under the New Establishment is a prohibition of the Trade Newly opened with Britain for the Benefit of a set of Inactive, unoffending, Innocent Men, who to be out of Harms way, have not till Lately shewn themselves in the Capital.2
But these are Matters which Lie so much out of the sphere of Female Life that I (of Late) seldom advert to them any further than is Necessary to Discharge the Duties of the Wife, the Mother, and the Friend, which occupy Every sentiment of my soul. Yet as the first I listen to the Transactions of state, or I should be unworthy of the union with your patriotic friend, and this Leads to Every attention the second Character Can Bestow on the Education and Conduct of { 29 } his sons, a Deficiency in Either would Cut me off from the Claim which Friendship makes on a small portion of your time.
But as I would not Encroach too far on Those Moments Every one of which I must suppose more usefully Employed, Brevity is the first injuction I lay on myself when I take up the pen to address Mr. Adams: who will always permit me to write from the Native Dictates of a feeling Friendly Heart unadorned with the Flatering Epithets of the Courtier or the Complimentary Style of the polished Lady Eqally pleased with the Embassadour and with Herself.
But as Man Notwithstanding his acknowledged superiority of Ability, Breaks through the Barriers of the Wisest Legislation, no Wonder a feble Woman Should Counteract her own Maxims. This must be my apology if I fill up this sheet and this I shall plead as part of my Excuse for writing a second time to a Gentleman before I have been Honoured with a Return.3
Yet perhaps a Letter wrote by a son whose welfare lies too near my Heart may not have reached you. If any Misfortune to him has prevented he will not need an introduction to you. Your affection to his Father insures him your Friendship, your Benevolence the tender offices of Civility and kindness and I hope his Modesty, Rectitude and Honour will Engage your Esteem.
But a youth of twenty-one seldom knows Either Himself, or the World sufficiently to parry the Thousand arrows which the Blushless Race, both from the toylette and the Gaming Table, Daily level at his Virtue. Yet when the Moral principles are untainted, the more he Discovers the Intriguing spirit of Man and the Duplicity of Human action, the more will he Revere that Probity which shines Conspicuous in a few and the stronger will be his Contempt for the Worthless part of his species.
Mrs. Adams writes fully by this opportunity4 which precludes the Necessity of saying more of your family on this side the Atlantic. To those on the other you will make the affectionate Regards of their and their Fathers Friend & Humble Servant
[signed] Marcia
RC (Adams Papers); addressed: “His Excellency John Adams Esqr Paris”; endorsed: “Mrs. Warren ansd. 9. Decr. 1780”; by John Thaxter: “Mrs. Warren 24th. July 1780.”
1. Adm. Thomas Graves' fleet sailed from England on 17 May in pursuit of the French fleet under Ternay and as a reinforcement for the fleet under Adm. Marriot Arbuthnot at New York. Graves reached New York on 13 July, one day after the French had reached Newport. The combined fleet of Arbuthnot and Graves arrived off Rhode Island on 22 July, not the 20th as indicated by this letter. By then the French had fortified their posi• { 30 } tion and forestalled any British attack. Even so, the British fleet's presence curtailed any major offensive actions by the French navy (Mackesy, War for America, p. 328–329, 347–349; Stinchcombe, Amer. Rev. and the French Alliance, p. 135–137, 347–349).
2. For the “Trade Newly opened,” see James Warren's letter of 19 July, and note 2 (above).
3. Mercy Warren's previous letter was that of 8 May (above), requesting JA's assistance for her son Winslow Warren, to whom she refers in the next paragraph. For the fate of both that letter and Winslow Warren, see note 2 to the letter of 8 May.
4. Several letters by AA probably went by “this opportunity,” including those to John Thaxter of 21 July, CA and JQA of 22 July, and JA of 16 and 24 July (Adams Family Correspondence, 3:375–382).
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.