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Browsing: Papers of John Adams, Volume 15

Docno: ADMS-06-15-02-0010

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: Cerisier, Antoine Marie
Date: 1783-06-09

To Antoine Marie Cerisier

[salute] Sir,

I thank you for yours of the 2d. inst: The translation of my letters in the Pol: Hol: of the 2d. June: 82, fm. Parker’s Genl: Adverr: is very just as I believe. I have not the English to compare, but in memory. I am the more anxious abt: those letters as I committed a great indiscretion in sending them in the year 1780 fm. Paris without keeping a Copy of a single line of them— I am endeavoring to get the Originals; but, if I shd. fail in this I wish them to be fully published at present & reduced to a certainty, since such things are sometimes liable to change, obliterations Interpolations, &c:1
The truth is, the letters themselves have little weight & made a small impression: but hereafter, when inquisitive Spirits begin greedily to search for documents of the Peace, if any one shd. discover in those letters the characteristic features of the Provisional Treaty of the 30th. Nov. 1782. he may think the letters & Treaty had the same Sire: and if he shd. afterwards find that the Writer of the letters, 2. or 3. yrs: afterwards, really did act in the Character of first Min: Plenipo: of the U: S: at the peace, he may think those letters of more importance than you & I do.2 For this reason I wish to have them now fixed, as well as may be, that no imposture may be { 22 } practised in future, under color of them, & I am, for this reason the more obliged to you for translating them.
Yr: &:
LbC in Charles Storer’s hand (Adams Papers); internal address: “Mr: Ceresier—”; APM Reel 108.
1. For JA’s unsuccessful effort to obtain the manuscripts of his “Letters from a Distinguished American” from Edmund Jenings, to whom they had originally been sent and who obtained their publication in Parker’s General Advertiser and Morning Intelligencer, see his letter to Jenings of 9 June and Jenings’ reply of [ca. 8 July], both below.
2. The anxiety expressed here and in his 9 June letter to Edmund Jenings, below, over being identified as the author of the “Letters” was due largely to the fact that he had written them in 1780 when he was the sole minister to negotiate an Anglo-American peace. In and of itself this might not have been a problem, but the “Letters” were at least an implied invitation to the North ministry from an American diplomat to conclude a separate Anglo-American peace in violation of the Franco-American Treaty of Alliance signed two years earlier. Such an offer, more than two years prior to the official opening of negotiations that resulted in a separate peace, placed JA in a somewhat awkward position, particularly since he had not informed Congress of his plans for publication (“Letters from a Distinguished American,” [ante 14–22 July] 1780, vol. 9:531–588). See also JA’s 9 June 1783 letter to Robert R. Livingston, below.

Docno: ADMS-06-15-02-0011

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: Jenings, Edmund
Date: 1783-06-09

To Edmund Jenings

[salute] Sir

I have received your Favour of June 3d.—  The Gentleman intended in it, has never once Since his last Residence here, mentioned the Subject to me, nor I to him, So that I hope it will be forgotten.1 I wish it may.
I think Mr B. must have meant that you Should Send the Paper in question to me. This Intention is necessary for his own Justification or Excuse. for if he Sent it to Mr L. & to you, or communicated it to any one, without communicating it to me, that I might have an opportunity, of preventing the Mischief it was designed to do, he committed more than an Indiscretion.—
Nothing would be more pleasing to me, than a Correspondence with Dr P, whose Principles are pure, and whose head is clear beyond any Writer of this Time: but I have little hope of Health or Leisure.
Pray what is the System in England at this hour? Are the present Ministers united and like to endure? Is N. York to be evacuated? Is the Definitive Treaty to be Signed? Is any Thing to be done? how many more Months of our Existence are to be annihilated?
Has the Treaty with Holland been yet printed?2 I have one favour to beg of, you, Sir, and that is to get into your Possession those { 23 } original Letters I sent you from Paris in 1780, Some Part of which have been printed in Parkers General Advertiser in the Course of the Last Year, as Letters from a “distinquished American.” Will you be so good as to inform me whether the whole of them have been published or not.— But whether they have or not, I should be glad to get the originals into my Possession, as I have no Copy of any Part of them.— If I can get these originals and those which I wrote in Amsterdam to Mr Calkoen, I Shall be in a Condition to ballance my Books and shut up shop.—3 if the originals are refused you, I beg that the whole may be published, with the true dates, and then I shall know whereabout I am.— There are in those Letters So many of the Characteristicks of the Peace of 30 Nov. 1782, that Some Persons hereafter may take it in their Heads to compare them together and if any one should ever find out, that those Letters were written by the first Minister Plenipotentiary of the United states at the Peace they may possibly think those Arguments were used & enlarged on in the Negotiation & they may possibly think them of more importance, than you and I did or do. I should be glad therefore to have them in my Power or at least have them reduced to something certain and unalterable, by a compleat Publication.— I think you must see Cause to excuse my Anxiety upon this occasion.
With great Regard, your most / obedient
[signed] John Adams
RC (Adams Papers); internal address: “Edmund Jennings Esqr.LbC (Adams Papers); APM Reel 108.
1. Probably Henry Laurens, who had recently left Paris and landed in England on 10 June (Laurens to the commissioners, 17 June, and note 1, below). But JA might also mean the unidentified person that Jenings mentioned in his 3 June letter, above, whose involvement in the dispute with Laurens concerned Jenings.
2. For the publication of the Dutch-American Treaty of Amity and Commerce, see JA’s letter to Jenings of 28 March, and note 2, vol. 14:374–375, and Jenings’ letter of [ca. 8 July], and note 4, below.
3. JA had no more success in obtaining the originals of his Oct. 1780 letters to the Amsterdam lawyer Hendrik Calkoen than he did in obtaining those of the “Letters from a Distinguished American.” But while the “Letters” were not republished anywhere until James Hutson’s 1978 edition, JA used his drafts as the basis for an edition of the Calkoen letters published at London in 1786 (vol. 9:540–541, 10:199; from Jenings, [ca. 8 July 1783], below).
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, 2017.