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Browsing: Papers of John Adams, Volume 13

Docno: ADMS-06-13-02-0030

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: Lafayette, Marie-Joseph-Paul-Yves-Roch-Gilbert du Motier, marquis de
Date: 1782-05-21

To the Marquis de Lafayette

[salute] My dear General

Yours of the Seventh of this month, was yesterday brought me, by Mr Ridley,1 and I thank you for your kind Congratulations, on the Progress of our Cause in the Low Countries. Have a Care, however, how you profess Friendship for me: there may be more danger in it, than you are aware of.
I have the Honour, and the Consolation to be a Republican on Principle. That is to Say, I esteem that Form of Government, the best, of which human Nature is capable. Almost every Thing that is estimable in civil Life, has originated under Such Governments. Two Republican Towns, Athens and Rome, have done more honour to our Species, than all the rest of it. A new Country, can be planted only by Such a Government. America would at this moment have been an howling Wilderness in habited only by Bears and Savages, without Such forms of Government. And it would again become a Wilderness under any other. I am not however an enthusiast, who wishes to overturn Empires and Monarchies, for the Sake of intro• { 66 } ducing Republican Forms of Government. And therefore I am no King Killer, King Hater or King Despizer. There are Three Monarcks in Europe for whom I have as much Veneration as it is lawfull for one Man to have for another. The King of France, the Emperor of Germany and the King of Prussia, are constant objects of my Admiration, for Reasons of Humanity Wisdom and Beneficence which need not be enlarged on. You may well think then, that the Information you give me, that “the King of France was pleased the other day to Speak to you, of me in terms of the highest Regard,” gave me great Pleasure.
I Shall do all in my Power to obtain here a Loan of Money but with very faint hopes of Success. In Short, there is no Money here but what is already promised to France, Spain, England Russia Sweeden Denmark, the Government here, and what will be fatal to me is the East India Comany have just opened a Loan for Nine Millions of florins under the Warrantee of the States of Holland and with an augmented Interest.
My Hopes of a Speedy Peace, are not Sanguine. I have Suspicions of the Sincerity of Lord Shelburne,2 Dunning and others of his Connections which I wish may prove groundless: but untill they are removed, I shall not expect a Peace. Shelbourne affects to be thought, the Chatham of the Day, without any of his great Qualities. I much fear that all their Maneuvres about Peace will turn out, but Artifices, to raise the stocks. The British Cabinet is so divided, that my Expectations are not very high. Let us be upon our Guard and prepared for a Continuance of the War. The Spaniards will demand Cessions and the Dutch Restitutions, which the English will not yet agree to, if they should get over all the Claims of France and America.
I Should be very happy to have a personal Conversation with you,3 but this will hardly take Place, untill full Powers arrive in Paris from London and I know very well that whether in America or Versailles or Paris, you will be constantly usefull, to America, and Congress will easily approve of your Stay where you are, untill you shall think it more for the publick Good to go elsewhere.
With great Affection and Esteem I have the Honour to be &c
1. Matthew Ridley's journal (MHi) indicates that he arrived at The Hague on 19 May and visited JA on the 20th to deliver this letter, and probably also Edmund Jenings' first and secondtwo letters of 16 May (above), and those from Benjamin Franklin of 21 April22 April (vol. 12:439–441) and 8 May (above). Although he had not seen Ridley in over three years, JA entered into an extraordinarily candid conversation at their meeting. JA read to Ridley the letter of 7 May from Lafayette (above), the major points of which—regarding French { 67 } financial assistance and the prospects for peace and another campaign—Ridley duly recorded in his journal on the same day. Then Ridley apparently asked JA about the prospects for peace negotiations, whereupon JA informed him that
“Mr Laurens had been in Holland that he come to know what had Passed between Mr Adams and Mr Ths. Digges who had been here and to be sure how far his and Mr. Adams' opinion coincided in case of offers of Peace—Their opinions are the same. He staid only a few Hours. The affair of Digges is as follows. He came to Holland—Put up at the Parliament of England and sent to Mr Adams to know when he could Have the honor of waiting on him—Sending him at the same 2 Letters, from Mr Samuel Hartley wherein Mr Hartley said Mr Digges was sent to Holland for the purpose of Interview with Mr Adams and he had Authority to say he was sent by Persons of the first distinction. Mr. Adams retd for answer to D. that he could have no meeting with him unless in the presence of a third Person and even not then unless he was left at Liberty to publish to the world, if he thought necessary what might pass between them and send it to Comte de Vergennes at Versailles for he would have no secrets that the third Person he should propose would be his Secretary Mr Thaxter. If he D. chose to see him on those conditions he might call the next morning. D. accepted them and came. He informed Mr Adams he was sent by Lord North that England was desirous of a Peace but did not know if the same disposition prevailed with the other parties or it would be listened to. Mr. A. told him whenever the English Ministry chose to apply in a proper way they would be attended to but while they continued to do otherways no attention would be paid to what they said. D. said they had understood that Mr. A. was inclined to Peace but Dr. Fr. was against. Mr. A. said it was impossible for any one to know his sentiments for he had never declared them to any one that the making Peace did not depend upon him Congress had named five Persons (one of which Mr Jefferson of Virga. was not yet arrived) the other four Dr. Fr. Mr Jay, Mr Laurens and himself that any offers made for Peace must be made at Paris. D. mentioned the difficulty of collecting such a number together. Mr. A told him that would be no difficulty if England made such propositions as might be listen'd to—if she did not—certainly there would be no meeting and that America would make no Peace but on such terms as would satisfy France as well as America and that it must be made in conjunction with Comte de Vergennes. A Copy of the Commission for making Peace laying at Mr Adams's hands he told Digges there was a Copy of the Commission and read it to him. D. said he should report what had Pass'd and I think Mr Adams told me talked of writing to Mr. Adams Mr. A told him he might write but he need expect no Answers from him and that he should think himself obliged to communicate to Dr. Franklin and Comte de Vergennes whatever he received. Thus the interview ended. D. returned to England Lord North was then out and he made his report to Ld. Shelburne who had come into Office and it is said added that Mr. A had promised to correspond with him which Mr. A. flatly and roundly denies.
“Spain certainly is security to France for a proportion what money she lets America have.
“Mr Adams is Much discontented with Dr. Fr. who was always agt. Mr. A's coming here as was Mons. de Vergennes nay when he determined on his Memorial he was even menaced by them. The French Minister at the Hague Duke de Vauguyon was two different days with him to prevent it. In the end Mr. A told him he had heard all the Arguments he had used on the Subject and was still determind to persist even at the risque of his head—he did and has carried his point. Mr. A informed me the people of Holland have at bottom very high notions of Liberty, that they are slow to move but when moved are full of fire—And he is sure he might with the greatest ease in the World have thrown the whole States into commotion so great was their desire for the American Independence and their dislike to the Stateholder and Duke of Brunswick. He had for this Reason since being acknowledged delivered his Credentials rather privately to prevent a tumult and has also declined several public entertainments fearing the consequences that he had since understood the Prince had expressed himself as pleased with his caution in this respect.”
JA's comments, as related by Ridley, regarding the visits of Thomas Digges in March and Henry Laurens in April, should be compared with those in his letters to { 68 } Benjamin Franklin of 26 March and 16 April (vol. 12:350–352, 410–413). For remarks regarding French opposition to JA's 19 April 1781 memorial to the States General and his meetings with the Duc de La Vauguyon about it, see his letters of 17 April 1781 to La Vauguyon, note 1, and 21 Feb. 1782 to Robert R. Livingston (vols. 11:263–265; 12:250–259).
2. The following six words were interlined.
3. The following fourteen words were interlined.

Docno: ADMS-06-13-02-0031

Author: Mazzei, Philip
Recipient: Adams, John
Date: 1782-05-21

From Philip Mazzei

[salute] Sir

Permit me to congratulate your Excellency on your complete success, which I am confident is owing to your prudent, wise, and indefatigable endeavours, at least as much as to certain favourable circumstances. From this place I knew, perhaps better than you could, all the obstacles you had to surmount; which would not be surprising, as it is natural to suppose that you have almost constantly kept company with the independent and patriotick part of the Inhabitants, while I was in the way of being informed of the most refined intrigues of the opposite party from an unquestionable Authority. I have spoken of your Excellency to a great Personage, and mentioned more than once that if any good could be made of the Dutch, you was in my opinion the most proper person to bring them to it, just as I had the honour to write you in my letter of 28. March 1781.1 I congratulate your Excellency once more, because you have really gained a great point. The Personage in question had his doubts to the last moment.
I took the liberty to trouble you again the 24 and 31. of May following,2 but having not been honored since with an answer, I am still in doubt whether it did proceed from want of leasure, or from my letters being miscarried. Since that time I have recd. of the Govt. of Virginia the duplicates of my Commissions and Instructions, which were kept either by Mr. Penet, or Dr. Franklin, about a year in France, and at last sent from Passy, and left at Mr. Favi's house3 in Paris by an unknown person, without any message, together with 4. letters from the Govr., and one from the Board of Trade. The Govr. writes me that it is the 4th. set of duplicates they have sent me. The letters being now almost 2. years old can be of no service.4
I think I told you, Sir, that according to my Instructions I was impowered to give only 5. [per] % interest for the money I was to borrow on the credit of my State, and that after I had heared from Dr. Franklin (with whom my Instructions direct me to confer and avail myself of his information and advice) that he had tried to raise { 69 } money for Congress in Genoa at 6., I had written to the Govt. of Virginia desiring them to enlarge my Powers accordingly. In a letter I wrote them afterwards from Genoa, which I inclosed unsealed to your Excellency before I knew you had left Paris, I informed them that I might raise some money there at 5., allowing 3. or 4. [per] % for charges at first, once for ever, as it had been done for the Queen of Hungary, the Ducal Chamber of Milan, and others, which is much cheaper to the borrower than one [per] % annually. After receiving the honour of your letter last year, I informed them of what you had written to me in money-matter, of my answer to you on the subject,5 and desired them, in case the conditions on which the Loan could be obtained did not suit them, to let me know it, and give me leave to act for Congress. The only letter I have recd. since is from Col. Maddison, dated Philadelphia 25. October 1781.,6 in which he tells me that my cipher was lost in the late confusions in Virginia, therefore that I must make no more use of it in my future correspondence, and refers to 2. preceding letters which I have not received. I am at a loss what to do, and know nobody to consult for advice but your Excellency. Could my finances afford it, I would immediately set out for Holland.
As to finances, in one of the said letters the Govr. orders me to draw the sum of 300. louis on the House of Penet & Co:; and says “you will therefore consider yourself as authorised to draw on them for that sum and be assured that your draught will be honored.” In another letter, in which he tells me some thing of the transactions of our State with that House, he says “we have been very attentive to the strengthening their hands.”7 My bill for the 300. Louis was protested, on pretence of having no funds in their hands belonging to the State of Virginia. I have since heared from a young Virginian Gentleman now in France, son to our Col. George Mason, that Penet had recd. orders from Govt. to pay me 6, or 700. Louis, but “by the by (says he) I have been lately informed that Mr. Penet has protested bills to a considerable amount, drawn on him by the Virginia Agent at New-Orleans.” Mr. Lynch from Nantes writes me in the mean time that Mr. Penet's affaires are in a sad condition.8 I have not recd. any money from Virginia ever since I had the pleasure to see you. Had I not had some property and good Friends in this part of the World, I should have been in a deplorable situation. But now the delay begins to be unbearable, and I often think of going to France, and embark for America. I want your advice to sanctify my resolution. Pray, dear Sir, do not deny it me; honour me with { 70 } an answer, and please to have it delivered to the Director Genl: of the Dutch Post, to whom this is inclosed by the Director Genl: of the Post in Tuscany, who, besides being my Friend, is ordered to take particular care of my letters.
I am sensible of your Excellency's multiplicity of business of the last importance; a few lines written by any body, and signed by you, is all I take the liberty to ask. And I have the honour to be most respectfully, Sir, your Excellency's most Humble and most Obedient Servant
[signed] Philip Mazzei
RC (Adams Papers); endorsed: “Mr Mazzei 21 May 1782.”
1. Vol. 11:233–237. For the “great Personage” to whom Mazzei had spoken, probably Leopold I, Grand Duke of Tuscany, see note 3 to that letter.
2. Vol. 11:335–336, 344–349.
3. Francesco Favi was the secretary to the legation of the Grand Duke of Tuscany in France; Mazzei often used him to deliver correspondence.
4. On 8 Aug. 1781, Mazzei wrote Thomas Jefferson, then governor of Virginia, acknowledging receipt of copies of various letters, along with copies of commissions and instructions relating to his appointment to raise a loan for Virginia in Tuscany, the earliest of which dated from 1779. Mazzei also complained of the “scandalous” delay that held up the papers in Paris for over a year. By the time Jefferson received this letter, Virginia's new governor, Benjamin Harrison, had already written to Mazzei on 31 Jan. 1782 to relieve him of his appointment. Mazzei had apparently not yet received that letter at this time; he acknowledged its receipt on 6 Sept. (Jefferson, Papers, 6:114–116, 162–163).
5. JA's letter was of 18 Jan. 1781; Mazzei replied on 28 March (vol. 11:58, 233–237).
6. Not found.
7. The first quotation likely comes from Jefferson to Mazzei, 31 May 1780, the second letter Jefferson sent to Mazzei on that date, which has been lost (see Mazzei to Jefferson, 8 March 1782, in Margherita Marchione, ed., Philip Mazzei: Selected Writings and Correspondence, Prato, Italy, 1983, 1:332–336). The second quotation is from Jefferson's letter to Mazzei of 12 May 1780 (same, 1:225–226).
8. Neither of these items has been located. A few weeks later, Mazzei would describe J. Pierre Penet of the merchant house of Penet, da Costa Frères & Co., as “an accomplished master of deviousness and a swindler” (Mazzei to the Grand Duke of Tuscany, 19 June 1782, same, 1:354). Mark Lynch was a merchant in Nantes who had exchanged letters with JA in July 1780 over some books that Lynch forwarded to JA according to Mazzei's instructions (vol. 9:503–504).
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.