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Browsing: Papers of John Adams, Volume 13

Docno: ADMS-06-13-02-0124

Author: Jenings, Edmund
Recipient: Adams, John
Date: 1782-07-24

From Edmund Jenings

[salute] Sir

I am honoured by the receipt of your Excellencys Letters of the 17th and 20th Instant.
Considering the former Conduct of Mr Fox in the Early part of Life one cannot but be astonished at what He is now doing. His Ideas are vast and his Fortitude wonderful in these Times; but to tell your Excellency truly I can never trust a Man entirely, whose principles and course of Life were once so loose and irregular.1 However He must be supported by the people of England for No one is more capable of confounding the insidious Arts of Shelbune whom I am convinced cannot Stand before Him especially if the Bedford party should give Him Cuntenese and they have hitherto done it. The Ideas, which Mr Fox has, were not, I imagine, originally his own, they come from the Duke of Richmond, who saw before I left England the only sure ground of proceeding. I fancy the Dukes Staying in place is a concerted Measure.
Give me leave to inform your Excellency of an Anecdote, which came to my Knowledge by a preceding post from England. The Gentleman who sends it me says He thinks He can vouch its for a fact.
“Immediately after the Death of Lord R. the King said to Shelburne I will be plain with you, the point next my Heart, and which I am determind be the Consequence what it may, never to relinquish but with my Crown and Life, is to prevent a total Uniquivocal recognition of the Independence of A. Promise to support me on this ground and I will leave you Unmolested on every other ground, and with full power as the prime Minister of this Kingdom.”2 The bargain was struck between these two bad Men.
When the Manuscript Bill, which I sent your Excellency was passed into an Act, the second Clause of the Preamble was struck out.3
There cannot be a doubt but the Powers of Europe might have put an End to the War long since by most peaceable Means, but { 202 } how can one expect that those, who are calld the armed Nutrallity or any other should take the step, which your Excellency Advises, when Spain has not yet Acknowledged the Independancy, there is something in Her Conduct surprizing, perhaps she may now be inclind to this step, but indeed she appears to have but little Merit.
I Hope the English Agents will be all sent away from France it is astonishing to me that any of them has been suffered to Stay, but perhaps they flattered the conceit of one man, who I Agree with your Excellency is the very fellow of Shelburne and with more rancour than any Man. Indeed your Excellency Must Watch his Conduct for the good of your Country, He is capable of doing much Mischief.4
Mr L is by this Time at Nantes, where He wrote me He proposed going in Search of a passage to America. His Address is at Madame Babut & La bouchiere. He mentiond to me the Anonymous Letter, and assurd me that He did not credit a Word of it, and that He had the Utmost respect and regard for your Excellency. I shall write and obey most punctually your Excellencys orders.
I wish I may find soon an opportunity to send your Excellency a Pamphlet which B has lately sent me entitled Reflections upon the present State of England and the Independance of America—it is an Excellent one.5
Your Excellency sees there has been a Meeting of Mr Foxs Constituents in Westminster the Speech He made on that occasion will be printed.6 I Hope the Yorkshire Gentlemen will soon come to some noble resolutions, what an occasion have they when they meet to do the last Honor to the Noble Marquiss. They will have a better opportunity to do it and for a better purpose, than the burial of Caeser offered.
Upon the whole Appearance of Affairs altho I have my Uneasiness, yet I think from Necessity England must Submit and tho Shelburne may flatter the King that He is in his Sytem yet neither one or the other are capable of Standing out long. I am sure that all the Money necessary for the Service of the Current Year is not raised, and that it is impossible to do any thing Effectual, if Europe Continues as it is, the next, and therefore I expect to see your Excellency pass through This Town to Paris.

[salute] I am with greatest Respect Sir your Excellencys most Obedient Humble Servt.

[signed] Edm: Jenings
RC (Adams Papers); endorsed: “July 24. 1782.”
{ 203 }
1. Fox was noted in his youth for his dissipated lifestyle and heavy gambling that resulted in the loss of most of his personal fortune and the incurring of substantial debt. But even in 1782 his lifestyle had not fundamentally changed, contrary to what might be implied from Jenings' comment, which was likely owing to a desire to see something good in a British politician whose policies toward the United States were viewed as more favorable than those of the Shelburne ministry (DNB).
2. The source of this anecdote is unknown, but it is not surprising that such an account would be current among those opposed to Shelburne's ministry, since such a bargain between George III and Shelburne was at least implied by most of the opposition speakers in the House of Commons on 9 July.
3. Jenings had sent the bill as an enclosure with his letter of 8 July (Adams Papers), for which see JA's reply of the 9th, and note 1, above.
4. Probably a reference to Benjamin Franklin, in response to JA's comments about Franklin in his letters of 17 and 20 July to Jenings, both above.
5. A copy of Thomas Day's Reflexions upon the Present State of England, and the Independence of America, London, 1782, is in JA's library at MB (Catalogue of JA's Library). Day was a British poet, essayist, and novelist (DNB). For a quotation from the pamphlet, see Jenings' letter of [ca. 1 Aug.], below.
6. Accounts of Fox's 17 July speech before his Westminster constituents appeared the next day in the London newspapers, for which see Parker's General Advertiser and Morning Intelligencer. It was almost immediately published as a pamphlet entitled The Speech of the Right Honourable Charles James Fox, at a General Meeting of the Electors of Westminster, Assembled in Westminster-Hall, July 17, 1782, London, 1782. In his speech, Fox covered much the same ground as in the Commons debates on 9 July, particularly his distrust of Shelburne and his pledge to recognize American independence.

Docno: ADMS-06-13-02-0125

Author: Sullivan, James
Recipient: Adams, John
Date: 1782-07-24

From James Sullivan

[salute] Dear Sir

Your Numerous friends will undoubtedly give you by this Conveyance all the news we have in this part of the world, but that you may not think me wanting in that respect which we all owe to your public Character, and that Esteem I ever had for you in private life, I intrude this letter upon you: I have not however the ambition to wish you would acknowledge the receipt of it, because I am sensible that your time is wholly taken up in business of importance, and besides, there is nothing in it that can need an answer.
We have had nothing from the Camp or from york for several Days G Washington hath been in Controversy with the present and late British generals upon the Murder of one Capt Huddy of N Jersy who was Tried by the late board of refugees in york and hanged—he ordered one Asgill a Capt in the surrender of york Town to be executed, soon afterwards we heard that Sir Guy Carlton had ordered one Lippencut and the perpetrator out to be hanged on the Jersey Shore but lately nothing has been said about it.1
All our Supplies of money from france is carried into york for Goods. So that we have by no means money to pay our Taxes. Congress recommend it warmly to the States to pass effiecacious Acts { 204 } against Such proceedings. I am ordered now to draw a bill against it in this State—but am very sensible that while the merchants and traders look upon a person who shall now Seize or inform in as odious a light as we used to formerly, very Little will be done in execution of the Act. I got a number of the merchants together and said whatever I had in my mind about it. An association is Set on foot and Deacon Smith and a few others have signed it but it appears to me nearly impossible to make it general.2 The importers of goods [fro]m Europe are ready to associate against taking Goods from york but the bringing English Goods by way of Ostend is not so readily given up. I wish for your sentiments on this Subject writen to some one of your friends who will Communicate them to me.3
The finances of each State in the union are intirely deranged, there is a shameful inattention to this important matter throughout the Continent. This State owes at a large Computation about 1700,000 pounds the Interest of which is near about 100,000 annually our present excise if extended to Lemons Limes Oranges Suggar Coffee and Cocoa will amount to a sum fully equal to the Interest, our Civil Government the last year amounted to an expence of 80,000 pounds this may well be reduced to twenty. Congress calls upon us for 400,000 pounds to support our Army the people can bear a Tax of 500,000 without being unreasonably burthened and yet we have not money enough in our Treasury to send an express to head quarters. I inclose you the purport of an Order lately passed by the general Court to have their finances arranged but I have no hope of the general Courts adopting any plan that may be laid before them.4
Our new Constitution has lost all the energy which the propriety and Justness of its principles gave it at the first introduction of it. A number of people in the County of Hampshire stimulated by the Tories arose to oppose Government. The Superour Court there in april Last Acted with great firmness and Success agt. them. Their Leader5 was committed to prison but was afterwards rescued by an Armed force of 130 men. The people there collected in Arms to assist Government. Each side acquired new force untill the Number on the Side of Government amounted to 800 men, on the Side of the insurgents there assembled nearly 400. Both Sides seemed determined. An express arrived to the Governor from the Sherriff. It was laid before the General Court where the question whether the insurgents were wrong or right was agitated. This damped the Spirits of the people on the Side of Government and gave boldness to { 205 } the other side. Nothing since hath been done save the appointment of a Committee to go to treat with the Insurgents Mr Adams was I am told against the measure but he is now gone on the Commission. Had the governor Ordered the whole militia of the State in motion to aid the civil authority the matter would have Ended well without Shedding blood, but as the matter is now managed by the General Court the weakness of Government is too strongly painted to be capable of Coerce.
I have given you the bad side of our affairs and least you should think that I am in a fit of meloncholly I will give you something better—our Ships have arived lately from Europe beyond our most sanguine expectations. The Country abounds with merchandise as well as produce, and prizes of great Value Tumble in every day and so far are our people from wishing to relinquish their Independence that no man dares to make it a question whether we shall hold it or not. The people at large would not deign to here a Conversation upon the Subject and they will most chearfully Sacrifice every thing to Independence if their Rulers will Conduct their affairs with any tolerable prudence.
I wish your return here exceedingly if you could be Spared from your Countrys service in Europe you could do much for your Country here.

[salute] I am Sir the greatest Esteem and Friendship your most obedt & very Hble Servt

[signed] James Sullivan
I should not have Trusted the aforgoing Sentiments to paper but am assured that Captain Coffin6 will Sink the Letter if he is in danger of being taken.
RC (Adams Papers). Some loss of text due to damage at edge of letter.
1. For more on the so-called Asgill affair, see Robert R. Livingston to JA, 29 May, note 5, above.
2. On 21 June, Congress adopted a resolution recommending that state legislatures “adopt the most efficacious measures for suppressing all traffic and illicit intercourse between their respective citizens and the enemy” (JCC, 22:341). The Mass. General Court initially addressed this issue in March 1781 with “An Act for Preventing All Commerce and Illegal Correspondence with the Enemies of the United States of America,” and strengthened it in May 1781 with “An Act in Addition . . .” (Mass., Acts and Laws, 1:55–59, 67–69). As Sullivan predicted, the General Court took no immediate action on Congress' recommendation, but on 7 Sept., Isaac Smith Sr., possibly the “Deacon Smith” referred to by Sullivan, wrote to JA regarding the illicit trade from New York. In his letter he indicated that on 6 Sept. the Boston Town Meeting had adopted spirited resolutions condemning such trade and calling on the General Court to take more effective measures to stop it (AFC, 4:378–379; Boston, Reports, 26:272–275). Likely as a result of Boston's action, the General Court again revised its 1781 law by adopting another “Act in Addition” (Mass., Acts and Laws, 2:84–91).
3. For JA's “sentiments,” see his letter to Sullivan of 6 Sept., below.
{ 206 }
4. The order to which Sullivan refers has not been identified, but in early July the General Court adopted a number of acts and resolves concerning finances and the treasury (Mass., Acts and Laws, 2:34–38, 42–44, 250–257).
5. Samuel Ely. For more on the uprising and the committee appointed by the General Court to investigate the situation, see Samuel Cooper to JA, 22 July, note 4, above.
6. Capt. Alexander Coffin reached Amsterdam in early Oct., and on his return to America he carried merchandise for AA (to Wilhem & Jan Willink, 12 Oct.; from Wilhem & Jan Willink, 14 Oct., both below; AFC, 5:19–20).
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.