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Browsing: Papers of John Adams, Volume 13

Docno: ADMS-06-13-02-0170

Author: Livingston, Robert R.
Recipient: Adams, John
Date: 1782-08-29

From Robert R. Livingston

No: 10

[salute] Dear sir

Near five months have elapsed since I have been favoured with a line from you. Your letter of the 4th. of March is the last that has as yet found its way to America.1
Let me entreat you, Sir, to reflect on the disgrace and discredit it brings upon this department to be kept thus in the dark relative to matters of the utmost moment, and how impossible it is without better information to declare the designs or wishes of Congress since they must be in some measure directed by a State of their affairs in Europe, and yet, Sir, they have hitherto been left in a great measure to collect that state from private Letters, common newspapers or the communications of the Minister of France. There is another circumstance in which the reputation of our ministers themselves is materially concerned. Letters announcing a fact that is well known before their arrival lose half their force and beauty, they cease to be interesting and are read with indifference. You have done yourself great injustice frequently in this way, for tho' your Letters have generally been particular, yet from not being Sufficiently attentive to the means of conveyance we frequently have had the facts they related publishd in the newspapers a month before their arrival. As one instance out of many, we received with your Letter of the 11th. of March, Amsterdam papers of the 30th. which informed us of the determination of Holland relative to your reception. We are told that you were received in your public character the 19th. of April, and yet, Sir, we have not to this hour had any official information on that head. I am ready to make every allowance for the miscarriage of Letters, but this should only urge our ministers to multiply the number of their copies, particularly where the subject of them is important. I feel myself so hurt at this neglect, Congress are so justly dissatisfied at seeing Vessels arrive every day from France without public Letters at this very critical period from any of our ministers, that I fear I have pressed the subject farther than I ought to have done. If so, be pleased to pardon my Earnestness, and to impute it to my wish as well to render this Office more useful to the Public as to enable you to give Congress more ample satisfaction.
{ 407 }
The advantages which will be derived to these states from the acknowledgement of their political existence as an independent nation, are too many and too obvious not to be immediately and sensibly felt by them. I sincerely congratulate you on having been the happy means of effecting this beneficial connection. We may reasonably hope that your official letters will detail the progress of so interesting an Event and thereby enable us to form some judgment of the nature and principles of the government of the United Provinces. From the zeal that they manifest to us I should hope that you would find no great difficulty in the accomplishment of one great object of your mission, the procuring a loan, which neither the probability or the conclusion of a peace will render unnecessary. On the contrary, I am inclined to believe that our wants will be more pressing at the close of the war when our Troops are to be paid and disbanded than at any other period, and as it seems to have been your sentiment hitherto that money could be procured when our political Character was fully known, I venture to hope that you have availed yourself of your present situation to obtain it.
Genl Carleton and Admiral Digby, (presuming I suppose that our ministers were not the most punctual correspondents) have been pleased to inform us thro' the Commander in Chief that negotiations for a general peace are on foot. If so, I presume this will find you in France.2 In addition to the great objects which will become the subject of discussion, and on which you are fully instructed, I would wish again to repeat one that I have mentioned in my last to you3—that materially interests us—I mean the procuring a market for lumber and provisions of every kind in the West Indies. Should France pursue her usual system with respect to her Colonies, and England follow her example, the shock will be severely felt here, particularly in the states whose Staples are flour, beef and pork. But should either of them be so fully apprized of their true interest as to set open this market at least for these Articles, the advantage they will derive from it must compel the others to adopt the same system. I need only mention this matter to you, the Arguments to shew the mutual advantage of this Commerce to this country, the Colonies and the parent States, will suggest themselves readily to you and be suggested by you to those we are interested in convincing. The turtle and fruit of the Bahama Islands have formed powerful connexions among the good eaters and drinkers of this country. I recommend their interests to your care; they flatter themselves their { 408 } friends the spaniards will not interrupt their ancient alliance if those Islands should remain in their hands. I have already transmitted you an Account of the Evacuation of Savannah.4 The enclosed papers contain a proclamation of General Leslie announcing that of charlestown, and generously offering to provide for the transportation of the Royalists to East Florida where the climate will doubtless aid Administration in the proposed reduction of the list of Pensioners.5 The fleet under the Marquis de Vaudreuil has unfortunately lost a seventy four by striking a rock in the harbour of Boston. Congress have endeavoured to compensate this loss by presenting his most Christian Majesty with the America.6
I have caused two quarters salary to be remitted to Doctor Franklin on your account, for which you will be so obliging as to send me your receipt. I must again press you to appoint an Agent to receive your money here as I act without any authority at present, which I must decline the hazard of doing in future.

[salute] I have the honor to be, sir with great respect & Esteem Your most obedt humble servant

[signed] Robt R Livingston
RC (Adams Papers); endorsed: “Mr Livingston 29. Aug. 1782 N. 10.”
1. The date of the letter referred to by Livingston is either an inadvertence by him or a copying error by his clerk. JA wrote on 11 March, not the 4th, and Livingston refers specifically to that letter in the next paragraph. The letter of the 11th was the most recent to reach Livingston, having arrived on 31 May, but the last letter by JA that Livingston had received was of 19 Feb., which arrived on 22 July (vol. 12:308–310, 240–245; PCC, No. 185, III, f. 29, 35). The next batch of JA's letters to reach Congress arrived on 11 Sept. and included eight letters written between 19 April and 5 July (PCC, No. 185, III, f. 41).
2. In fact this letter reached JA at Paris on 4 Nov., and he replied on the 6th (Wharton, Dipl. Corr. Amer. Rev., 5:854–858).
3. Of 4 July, above.
4. No letter from Livingston enclosing an account of the British evacuation of Savannah on 11 July has been found.
5. It is not known what papers Livingston sent that contained Gen. Alexander Leslie's proclamation of 7 Aug., signed by his secretary, Edward Scott, but it was printed in Rivington's Royal Gazette of 28 Aug. and in the Pennsylvania Gazette of 4 September. Livingston's summary of its content is accurate.
6. For the presentation of the America to France, see JA's letter of 12 Aug. to John Paul Jones, note 2, above.

Docno: ADMS-06-13-02-0171

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: Jenings, Edmund
Date: 1782-08-30

To Edmund Jenings

[salute] Sir

The inclosed Copies will shew you, the State of Matters.1 Besides these I have a Letter of Credence to their H. M.2 which has been presented accepted and recorded, long since; this Letter of Credence is as Minister Plenipotentiary. I have also recd another Commission for other Purposes not yet public.3 But Mr L. is named in none but that for borrowing Money, but so named in that that he { 409 } can do nothing, without his original Commission or a new one, as you See.
The Captivity of our Friend together with certain Intrigues of Passy Seems to have induced Congress to alter their Plan, by sending me full Powers to this Republick and by changing the Commission for Peace, by putting Mrs Lawrens, F. and J. and J with me into that.
Thus you See that it is impossible for Mr L. without a new Commission to do the least Thing in this Republick, even in the affair of borrowing Money, and I am under a Necessity of remaining here to finish the Treaties &c untill relieved by Congress. Will you be So good as to transmit these Copies, to Mr. L.—They will go Safer under your Cover, than mine.
I thank you for another Slip.4 The only Way to oblige Shelburne to do his Duty or to retire is to familiarise the People to certain Strange Names Faces and Facts as you observe. I Should think Fox and Burke Men of sufficient Experience to know the Influence of the publick Papers which form the publick opinion. Yet they have never Supported any one Paper. Nor did the late opposition as I could ever learn, ever support one. It is no great matter whether what is Said is well Said or not, provided the Nation is made to talk and think of what is right. Hold up the Object continually, in various Light and they will in time see the right Side. But the well disposed Party in England, if there is one, have constantly observed an opposite Conduct. They have concealed every Thing from the People, which they ought to know. Not a Paper dares use the Words “United States of America.” These Words constantly repeated would Soon frighten, Shelburne out of his feeble Entrenchments.
I am fully of your Mind that you could work to great Advantage in England at this Time. But I cant advise you to go because of the Suspicions it would excite. No American Setts his Foot on British Ground, without raising against himself, violent Jealousies, and it would put it in the Power of those who wish for nothing but Advantages right or wrong to make a use of it, which would do more harm, than you could do good by going.
The whole Story of Vaughan and Grafton, I remember very well. Pray wt is he about at Paris? Is oswald there too? If they have any Thing to say, it is wholly concealed from me.5 I know Fitzberberts Comn., it is to treat with the K. of Es. dear Brother the K. of France, (French King) and with the Ministers “ordinum6 Generalium federati Belgii, et omnium Principum et Statuum quorum interresse poterit.” Is this enough to authorize Us to treat with him? I { 410 } know what my opinion wd be, if I were alone, as I was a year ago. I would put an instant End to this Negotiation, (as Stubbornly as you please) and give Fox and Burke full Scope. But Providence has prevented this by disarming me, no doubt for my good as well as that of our Country. I have one general Consolation for all present Evils. Our Country is so happily circumstanced, that all present Evils will be compensated by greater future good. Every Thing turns to the Advantage of such a Country in the End.
My Imagination has been warmed, and my Heart enflamed, by the Contemplation of that vast Scaene which is opening in the West: So that I am not much affected with Measures that appear to me wrong at present. We have nothing to do, but march intrepidly on. My Countrymen the Mastmen, with an hundred yoke of oxen in a String, dragging a Pine stick through Swamps and stumps, never stop for an ox, that stumbles and breaks a leg or his Neck. They drag the lame or the dead ox along, as if nothing had happened. They dont even stop to flogg a vicious ox who kicks or gores but rather Sperit up the rest of the Team, to force him into his Place, in order for his own Preservation.
RC (Adams Papers); endorsed: “His Excellency Mr Adams Augst 30t. 1782.” LbC (Adams Papers).
1. In his reply of 5 Sept., below, Jenings indicated that three papers had been enclosed, and he identified them as commissions. From JA's comment in the final sentence of this paragraph, it is possible to tell that one of the copies almost certainly was his commission of [20 June 1780] to raise a loan in the Netherlands in place of Henry Laurens (vol. 9:452–453). The second was likely his commission of [29 Dec. 1780] to conclude a commercial treaty with the Netherlands (vol. 10:449). The third document cannot be identified.
2. Of [1 Jan. 1781] (vol. 11:1).
3. JA's commission of [16 Aug. 1781] to conclude a tripartite alliance with France and the Netherlands (vol. 11:453–454).
4. “Letters from a Distinguished American,” No. 1 (vol. 9:541–545).
5. In the LbC the text from this point to the end of the paragraph is underlined.
6. Opening quotation marks supplied from the Letterbook.
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.