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Browsing: Papers of John Adams, Volume 11

Docno: ADMS-06-11-02-0013

Author: Digges, Thomas
Author: Russell, William
Recipient: Adams, John
Date: 1781-01-05

From Thomas Digges

[salute] Dear Sir

Altho hostilities, and seemingly rigourous ones, have commencd between your Country and mine, I see no reason why our former freindships may not be kept up and you and I communicate by letter as we were used to do.1 I got your favor of the 18th.2 and hope eer this the two parcells of Books which were then missing have got to hand. There were Receipts taken for them but as I have not been able since the Receipt of your letter to see the person who dispatches things for me in the Custom House, and get the Receipts or names of the Ships and Captns. who carryd the parcells, I can not yet put you in the right road to find them. They were directed in an over bro[wn] Paper Cover to Messrs. De N—— & son3 and I dare say were application made for them at the Custom House in Amsm. they might be found. It frequently happens here that Captains do not properly attend to the delivry of parcells, but lodge them in a common room appropriated for these kind of things in the Custom House, till they are applyd for.
{ 19 }
I sent a day or two ago another parcell of Books directed as above, to Mr. De N–– es friend in the City desiring Him to forward them to Amsm. by the first trader that is permitted to sail. Hitherto we have stopt all Dutch Vessells and 80 or 90 are said to be taken since the Manefesto was publishd, about 20 of which are already condemnd in the Commons and disposd of. Thus you see our wise Ministry leave no door open to creep out of or put an end to the Hostilities, in the case Holland should take fright and concede to the terms which Sr. Joseph askd. For what purpose I know not (without it is the old one of deceiving the People) but the Ministry and their friends give out and assert pretty roundly that these Hostilitys will stop in a few days and that Holland will certainly do what England has demanded of them. As yet Sr. Joseph is not arrivd in Engld., and only one Dutch Ship of War taken.
Nothing talkd of but the extreem distress and critical situation of the West Indies.4 The Accounts are enough to make humanity shudder, but I cannot help looking upon it as in some measure the punishment of divine vengeance for our manyfold Sins and wickedness. It would seem that the distresses of the principal part of the Islands are so extensively calamitous that the opperations fixd on for next Campaign will be alterd, and most likely shifted to North America, where we cannot even yet give up the idea of subjugation and conquest. We still cry out that America is ours, and that the Dutch war cannot hurt us not a Guinea more for the carrying on that war being necessary to be raisd—thus we argue and thus we go on to ruin. Eight or ten days ago there was a universal cry for a Dutch war—nothing could be more popular—we are now begining to slaken very visibly in this opinion, and now many thinking folks say we may take hundreds of their Shipping and Craft, ruin their trade, take their distant possessions, cut their Dykes &ca. &ca. &ca., but ultimately it must be a mischevious war for England. I dare say in another month it will be thought as ill of as it was at first generally well Recieved.
By Genl. Leslies hasty moving from Virginia all hopes of that Colony “coming in” and submiting to English Government, is given over, and we begin to see Lord Cornwallis is not in the good situation and high road to conquests as when His Lordship last wrote Home. Leslie was certainly caled hastily from Virga. to his assistance and aid in consequence of his being “surrounded with Enemys” and his situation renderd dangerous from the defeat of Furgusons party, not one of which, out of a thousand that composd the party, but what { 20 } were killd or made Prisoners.5 We must have some accounts from that quarter of Ama. very soon. Nothing of any note from other quarters. I suppose you now and then mix with the Americans in Amsterdam, pray when you get any news from them give me a line. Mr. De N——le has got the direction. Reports of the day are that Gibraltar was lost to England for want of Amunition and Provisions the 3d. Decr.6—some folks have lookd upon it as lost for many months back.
I am told there is very little hopes of the two Gentlemen confind for debt getting soon out as their debts are enormously great.7 Some recent transactions has effectualy cut for a time my communication with one of them.
I am placd very distant from all my papers and books so that I cannot tell how accounts stand between us. In a week or two the particulars shall be transmitted. If the Communication is not too much cut—when there is a favorable opportunity a small Bill may be remittd me and which ever way it tells, it shall be accounted for.

[salute] I am with very great Esteem Your obligd & Ob Ser

[signed] WR8
RC (Adams Papers); endorsed by John Thaxter: “Church 5th. Jany. 1781.”
1. For Digges' efforts to conceal his identity as an American, see vol. 10:366.
2. Presumably this is JA's letter of 17 Dec. 1780, for Digges is clearly replying to that letter (vol. 10:416).
3. Digges directed the books to Jean de Neufville & Fils of Amsterdam, a mercantile firm with which JA had numerous dealings.
4. A massive hurricane hit the West Indies in early Oct. 1780. The first reports appeared in the London newspapers on 26 Dec. and continued through the first week of Jan. 1781 (vol. 10:441; London Chronicle, 30 Dec. 1780 – 9 Jan. 1781).
5. For Leslie's invasion and later withdrawal from Virginia, see John Bondfield's letter of 2 Jan., and note 1, above. For Maj. Patrick Ferguson's defeat at King's Mountain on 7 Oct., see vol. 10:303.
6. No other source for the erroneous report of Gibraltar's loss has been found.
7. Digges is almost certainly referring to Henry Laurens and John Trumbull, both of whom were imprisoned for treason, Laurens in the Tower of London and Trumbull at Tothill Fields, Bridewell (The Autobiography of Colonel John Trumbull: Patriot-Artist, 1756–1843, ed. Theodore Sizer, New Haven, 1953, p. 68).
8. Digges signs this letter “WR” or William Russell, one of his many pseudonyms; while John Thaxter's endorsement refers to another—William Singleton Church. For a list of the pseudonyms Digges used in his correspondence with JA, see vol. 9:12.

Docno: ADMS-06-11-02-0014

Author: Lovell, James
Recipient: Adams, John
Date: 1781-01-06

From James Lovell

[salute] Dear Sir

I hope the Papers which you will receive by this opportunity will give you personal Satisfaction as well as facilitate the Purposes of your Commissions. I have already sent several Copies of the Diary of Congress of Decr. 12th. 1780 as follows.
“Congress took into Consideration the Report of the Committee { 21 } to whom was referred the Letter of June 26 from the honorable John Adams, whereupon Ordered That the said Letter be referred to the Committee of foreign Affairs, and that they be instructed to inform Mr. Adams of the Satisfaction which Congress receives from his industrious Attentions to the Interest and Honor of these United States abroad especially in the Transactions communicated to them by that Letter.”1
I have no Copy of what I wrote in the Name of the Committee which I am sorry for as I hope soon to have an Opportunity to discharge myself of all the Books and Papers, upon the Establishment of a proper Office.
I really am in a Disposition to wish that your Letter of July 27 had2||no being||. I am so much pleased with the Motive of it apparent in the 5th Paragraph that I doubly ||am grrieved3 at the event||.4
Infinite Pains are taken in France and here to prove that the unspeakable Disadvantages of the Delay in sending the Cloathing to America has been wholly owing to the Manner of the Departure of the Alliance. Mr. Lee advised Landais to take the Command of her as of a Ship given to him by Congress. Mr. Lee's bitter Enemies are compleatly satisfied with this Solution of our immense Injuries; but his Friends and all candid Examiners say what could the Alliance bring in Addition to the military Stores actually on board. Powder above water? What Cloathing was the Ariel about to bring when she was dismasted? I will add no more, except that there are ten thousand warm Execrations issuing dayly forth from the Mouths of the injured intended for the real Cause of their Sufferings.5
This very noon two small Vessels arrive and bring us all the Comfort of Mr. Williams's Copies of Letters from March 3d. quite up to July 25. J. P. Jones writes to Mr. R. Morris in Novr. 17 that the lower Masts of the Ariel were then getting in and as Capt. Barry has the Alliance it is judged Congress mean to give him the Seventy four, but not a Lisp about the Cloathing.6
Good God!
Oh my dear Sir, develop Hearts, Principles, Connections. Ship Masters have declared that they were willing to take Part of the public Stores, others have declared that Vessels were offered on Charter. Who are the owners of the Vessels on which the Goods have at times been put or are finally to be put?

[salute] Affectionately

[signed] JL
{ 22 }
RC (Adams Papers); endorsed: “Mr Lovel. Jan. 6. 1781.” JA began deciphering the enciphered text, interlining the letters above Lovell's numbers. These passages are indicated in the notes.
1. Congress commended JA for his support of the revaluation of the Continental currency in his representations to Vergennes, see The Revaluation Crisis, 16 June – 1 July 1780, vol. 9:427–430, and references there. The letter of 26 June 1780 to which the resolution refers is that from JA to the president of Congress (vol. 9:477–479).
2. Immediately following this word is a canceled passage that cannot be read, but which probably consists of two words. These may be the words that Lovell encrypted, for the first five cipher numbers appear above the cancellation.
3. JA successfully deciphered Lovell's first enciphered passage, but attempted only the first four letters of the second. He began this passage by substituting letters from the opposite alphabet sequence than Lovell intended, thus rendering the decipherment useless.
4. The letter of 27 July 1780 from JA to the Comte de Vergennes led directly to Vergennes' of 29 July in which the foreign minister indicated his intention to have no further communication with JA (vol. 10:48–51, 56–58). Both letters were part of a correspondence begun earlier in July that centered on JA's desire to execute his mission to negotiate Anglo-American treaties of peace and commerce and his plea for the dispatch of additional French naval vessels to American waters. For the progress and implications of this acrimonious exchange, see The Dispute with the Comte de Vergennes, 13–29 July 1780, and references there (vol. 9:516–520). It was in the 6th paragraph of the 27 July letter that JA indicated his determination to communicate to Vergennes his views regarding matters effecting Franco-American relations “direct in person, or by Letter, to your Excellency, without the Intervention of any third person.” Lovell presumably was concerned that JA's statement gave ammunition to those who believed JA was too confrontational toward France and sought to usurp Benjamin Franklin's position as minister to France. For Congress' reaction to JA's correspondence with Vergennes, particularly with regard to the negotiation of an Anglo-American peace treaty, see the president of Congress to JA, 10 Jan., below.
5. This and the two paragraphs dated 7 Jan. center on Lovell's anxiety over the failure of the Army's much needed clothing to arrive from France, which was heightened by the Pennsylvania Line's mutiny on 1 January. He raises a number of issues, most notably Arthur Lee's complicity in Pierre Landais' seizure of the frigate Alliance from John Paul Jones, but also the diligence and competence of American agents in Europe, specifically Jonathan Williams. While Lovell would absolve Lee from blame for the Alliance's failure to carry the needed clothing, Williams' letter of 25 July 1780 to the Committee for Foreign Affairs (PCC, No. 90, f. 603–606) lays the blame squarely on the events surrounding Landais' seizure of command and thus by implication on Lee. Jonathan Williams' letters of 3, 7, 21 March, and 6 April 1780 to the Committee, which also arrived on 7 Jan., describe his unsuccessful effort to obtain any means possible to transport the clothing and include invoices for the goods in his possession (same, f. 587– 602). The sloop Ariel, which John Paul Jones received as compensation for the loss of the Alliance, sailed on 7 Oct., was dismasted and forced back into port, and finally departed for America on 18 Dec., but was too small to carry much cargo (Samuel Eliot Morison, John Paul Jones: A Sailor's Biography, Boston, 1959, p. 301–307). Jones' testimony regarding the dispatch of the clothing to America largely corroborates that of Williams (JCC, 19:316– 320). For additional comments on the obstacles to sending goods to America, see John Bondfield's letters of 12 April and 2 May 1780 (vol. 9:127–129, 259–260).
6. Although no letter of 17 Nov. 1780 from John Paul Jones to Robert Morris has been found, a draft letter to Morris of 8 Nov. contains the same material Lovell mentioned here (Calendar of John Paul Jones Manuscripts in the Library of Congress, Washington, 1903). In Nov. 1779, John Barry had been appointed commander of the 74-gun ship of the line America then building at Portsmouth, N.H., but lack of funds produced construction delays that made it unlikely that the vessel soon would be ready. Therefore, when Pierre Landais was summarily dismissed as captain, Barry was available for appointment to the Alliance, a post he held for the remainder of the war. On 26 June 1781, Congress appointed John Paul Jones commander of the America, but he never took the vessel to sea, for in 1783 it was transferred to France as a replacement for the { 23 } Magnifique, which had been wrecked at the entrance to Boston Harbor (Marine Committee to John Barry, 6 Nov. 1779, Admiralty Board to John Barry, 5 Sept. 1780, PCC, Misc. Papers, Reel No. 6, f. 231, 272; Dict. Amer. Fighting Ships; JCC, 20:698).
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.