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Browsing: Papers of John Adams, Volume 13

Docno: ADMS-06-13-02-0040

Author: Dalton, Tristram
Recipient: Adams, John
Date: 1782-05-25

From Tristram Dalton

[salute] Sir

I beg leave to intrude upon a few of your important moments, in behalfe of William Armstrong, late commander of a letter of marque Brig, belonging to me, and called, the little Porga; which vessel was captur'd the 3d Nov. last by a Cutter Privateer, belonging to the Island of Guernsey—whither Capt Armstrong and his company were carried, after being stripped almost naked, according to the custom of the privateer's men from that Island. From thence They were sent { 80 } to Portsmouth, and put on board a guard ship, called the Diligent, from that vessell most of them were order'd to Mill Prison, at Plymouth—but, by letters of March 7. 1782, from the chief Mate,1 who dates them in France, it appears Capt Armstrong, on his arrival in Portsmouth, was seperated from his own people, and put between decks of the Guard ship, with the British Seamen, and confined in Irons, on both legs, and not suffered to speak to one of his own men—no reason being given for this singular treatment. The Mate writes me he left Mill Prison 28th Feby—that he had not seen Capt Armstrong there, tho' he heard he was sent to Plymouth to be examined—for what he does not say—neither can I conjecture. A Letter from his 3d Mate, dated in Mill Prison, Jany 10th, gives a full confirmation of the ill usage given his former commander—and that he was left on board the guard ship confined by both legs.
Humanity, and Justice to a fellow Subject, demand my attention. I know not to whom, so properly, to apply, for investigating the cause of this singular treatment, and for releif to the unhappy Object of it, as to yourself—trusting, you'll excuse my freedom in troubling you with the enquiry, both on public, and private, motives.2
On this affair, I beg leave, to detain you a moment longer—to acquaint that Capt Armstrong, was born in or near New Castle, Britain; came to this country before hostilities commenced with the British—being then a boy. Soon after that nation began capturing our property on the Seas, he was taken in a letter of Marque Ship bound to Philada—sent to New York—where he was put on Board the Somerset Ship of War—and was in her, when she was wrecked on Cape Cod. This event releasing him, he came to town, and put himself under his former master, a Capt Roberts, who, meeting with misfortunes, gave this lad his liberty. By his merit he got employ—and, before he was 20 years of age, commanded a letter of marque Brig, of mine, and captured a large Ship—afterwd was successful, in a privateer, untill this misfortune happen'd him. The Prisoners, whom he took, spoke, in the highest terms of praise, of the usage received from him. I know not a single circumstance of his conduct, that can have, justly, led to the uncommonly severe treatment inflicted on him. Being a young fellow of merit, and connected in my business, I feel anxious for his safety and welfare. When I look on it as an insult upon a Subject of the US of America a singular resentment arises in my breast. These motives induce me to ask the favor of your giving such directions as may appear best, both for his releif, and for preventing like usage to any other Subject of these States.
{ 81 }
I shall forward Letters to Messr John de Neufville & Son, at Amsterdam, as will entitle you, if occasion for his use calls, to draw for such sums as may be necessary.
Enclosed is a Letter for Capt Armstrong,3 which I wish might be handed him, if it can be done with propriety. It is open for your inspection.
Permit me, Sir, before I conclude, to add one request more, which, I hope, will not appear improper, as it is made with a view of serving our country. Wishing to give the little aid in my power, at this critical period, I purpose, to attend the General Court this year, as one of the representatives of this Town, being appointed by a general Suffrage. The connections and views of these States being large and extensive, it is necessary that such information and knowledge be had by those entrusted with different departments, as may enable them to act with propriety—and for the good of the whole. From the fountain alone will such advices come pure and authentic—in proportion as they run thro' different channels they become tainted, contracted, and at best uncertain. Ambitious to do the greatest possible service, in that station I am placed in, I shall earnestly seek every useful intelligence. With this view, may I presume to ask the particular favor of your having any advises, respecting public Affairs, communicated to me, which may appear to be necessary or proper, to guide my political conduct. In the high department, which must call for all your time, I cannot flatter myself with receiving your opinions and advice on any movements, made—or likely to be—tho' beleive me, Sir, I should esteem them, not only as a very singular honor, but, in the first degree, useful and beneficial. Most of us are, literally, in the dark, as to political informations—which is the occasion of many errors in the general conduct. Advantages are taken by our internal enemies, who, thro' the course of the war, have been better informed, than the friends of the Country have.4
The present proposals of the Parliament of G B, do not affect the people of this State, as that body might flatter themselves, they would. Independence is the full cry—and fixed determination. At present there seems not the least disposition to accept even a declaration of that from G B., with peace, unless the French are included in the Peace. The total Change of the British Ministry do not flatter our hopes; on the contrary, I think, it will cause greater caution, and more animated exertions—if so, the wishes of the friends to these States will be finally gratified.
{ 82 }
I beg leave to acknowledge myself to be, with the greatest respect, and, if you please to permit, with the same sincerity of friendship which possessed my breast in our younger days, Your most obedient and very humble Servant
[signed] Tristram Dalton
RC and enclosure (Adams Papers); endorsed: “Mr Dalton May 25 recd & ans. Aug. 18. 1782.”
1. Identified as a “Mr. Buckley” in the enclosed letter from Dalton to William Armstrong, for which see note 3.
2. When JA received this letter he undertook inquiries on Armstrong's behalf, which he reported in a letter of 18 Aug. to Dalton that has not been found, but to which Dalton refers in his letter to JA of 26 Oct., below. JA's efforts were of no avail because, as Dalton indicates in his letter of 19 July, below, Armstrong had escaped from captivity and returned to America.
3. In the enclosed letter to Armstrong of 25 May, Dalton indicated that he was writing letters to JA and Jean de Neufville & Fils at Amsterdam, Conlougnac & Cie. at Lorient, and Jonathan Williams at Nantes on Armstrong's behalf and that he could apply to them for up to one hundred pounds sterling. Dalton ended the letter with assurances that Armstrong's friends were well and “particularly Miss Polly B. Who no doubt will be glad to see you on every acct.”
4. For more on Dalton's opinions regarding war intelligence, see his letter to JA of 26 Oct., below.

Docno: ADMS-06-13-02-0041

Author: Jenings, Edmund
Recipient: Adams, John
Date: 1782-05-29

From Edmund Jenings

[salute] Sir

Your Excellency will permit me to Congratulate you on you having before This embraced the noble Sufferer Mr Lawrens. I wish I had been a witness of the mutual pleasure you had in meeting one Another in a free Republick.1
I doubt not that your Excellency has recievd the Pamphlets, which I sent by Mr Myers, and Mr Hollis Memoirs, conveyed to you by my Friend Mr Ridley. The Copy which Mr B Hollis sent your Excellency is I am Affraid lost. I therefore transmitted to you, that, which was given to me, according to my promise.2
I see with pleasure that Mr Cerisier has taken up the affairs of Geneva as a matter interesting to all Republicks, which have any Connection with great monarchs. I Know not whether it will fall within that Gentlemans Plan to insert the Letter of Count de Vergennes to the republic of Geneva, which appeard I think in the Amsterdam Gazette last Octobr.—it is the Letter wherein it was declared, that France woud not Continue her Protection, and disdaind all Interference in their Affairs, but to avenge those, who might suffer, by the violence of the Citizens. The Letter was written in a Stile that effected me much, and as similar Things may happen, I wish the Letter was preserved in la politique Hollandais.3
{ 83 }
I hear that my nephew is arrivd at Boston and Therefore conceive your Son is so too.4 I congratulate your Excellency Thereon.
I beleive I need not say any thing more to recommend Mr Ridley to your Excellencys Acquaintance and Confidence. I think your Excellency must have seen something of Him by this time as to induce you to think, He is worthy of your Attention.
I am with the greatest Consideration Sir your Excellencys Most Obedient Humble Servant
[signed] Edm: Jenings
1. Matthew Ridley, who had left The Hague for Amsterdam on 21 May, returned to The Hague on the 25th, the same day, according to Ridley's journal (MHi), that Henry Laurens arrived for meetings with JA. Laurens apparently met twice with JA, first, according to Ridley's journal, on 26 May, and second probably on the 27th or 28th, prior to Laurens' departure for Amsterdam on the 29th. Laurens' purpose was to inquire as to whether he should take up his duties under his 1779 commissions to raise a loan and negotiate a treaty of amity and commerce. When JA informed Laurens that the objectives of his commissions either had been or were in the process of being accomplished, Laurens concluded that JA thought “my Attendance is not re[qui]site, and that it could only be productive of unecessary Expence to the Public, which I neither wish nor would encourage.” He then set out to visit his family in the south of France (Laurens, Papers, 15:518, 521–522; JCC, 15:1198, 1210, 1235–1236). For JA's account of his exchange with Laurens, see his letter to Edmund Jenings, [ante 28 Aug.], below; for the possibility of an otherwise unrecorded JA-Laurens meeting in early June, see JA to Jenings, 5 June, below.
Matthew Ridley dined with JA and Laurens on the 26th. In his journal, Ridley indicates that after Laurens left, “soon after dinner on account of his illness,” he and JA, “took a ride to Scheidam about 3 miles from Town.” In the course of their ride the two men apparently had a conversation that, as recorded by Ridley, sheds some light on what passed during JA's meeting with Laurens but also expands on JA's criticism of Benjamin Franklin raised in his first meeting with Ridley on 20 May (to Lafayette, 21 May, note 1, above). According to Ridley, JA told him that there was
“no great prospect of Peace—Mr L. will not go to Paris—intends as soon as possible out to America. There is no doubt that when Mr. L was in the Tower and wrote to D. F for money that he gave directions for £100 part of the Money sent for the Prisoners to England to be given Mr L. This Mr L refused and never after made any application to the Dr. There seems a general dissatisfaction with Dr. F. and no scruples are made in saying the time will come when his Character will be known—that he is an intriguing unfeeling Man—at Comte de Vergennes disposition has his parties and favorites &c. &c. Mr. A. cannot forgive him for sending out Mr de Vergennes complaint agt. Mr. Adams respecting his declaration of the necessity and Justice of the 18: March business and not giving Mr Adams Notice of it. Mr A hardly knew any thing of it untill he got the Resolve of the Thanks of Congress to him for his Behavior. I find Mr A has a good opinion of Mr. Morris.”
For Laurens' request for funds in late 1781 that was relayed through Benjamin Vaughan, Franklin's response, and Laurens' reaction, see Franklin, Papers, 36:59–60, 61; Laurens, Papers, 15:385. JA's comments regarding Franklin refer specifically to Congress' 18 March 1780 revaluation of its currency and his defense of that decision in correspondence with the Comte de Vergennes. In fact, however, he is referring to the entirety of his acrimonious exchange with Vergennes in the summer of 1780 and the role played by Franklin therein, for which see the editorial notes on The Revaluation Controversy, 16 June – 1 July 1780; and The Dispute with the Comte de Vergennes, 13–29 July 1780, vol. 9:427–430, 516–520.
2. The pamphlets sent by “Mr. Myers” have not been identified, but for Jenings' promise { 84 } regarding the Memoires, see his letter of 17 Sept. 1781 to JA, at note 9 (vol. 11:488).
3. For the dissatisfaction with the oligarchical government of Geneva that led to unrest in 1781 and to a full-scale revolution in 1782, see vol. 12:47–49. The Comte de Vergennes' letter to the government of Geneva, in which he stated the French position and laid the groundwork for intervention, appeared in the Gazette d'Amsterdam of 19 Oct. 1781. For an English translation, see vol. 2 of the Remembrancer for 1781, p. 302–304. With the 6 May 1782 issue of Le politique hollandais, Cerisier began a series entitled “Sur la Contitution & les Troubles de la République de Geneve,” which continued in the issues of 20, 27 May; 17, 24 June; and 1, 22 July.
4. Jenings presumably refers to John or Matthias Bordley. CA had sailed from Bilbao, Spain, on the Cicero in early Dec. 1781 and reached Massachusetts in late Jan. 1782 (vol. 11:286; 12:324, 410).
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.