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John Adams autobiography, part 2, "Travels, and Negotiations," 1777-1778
sheet 16 of 37, 21 - 27 April 1778

were his most frequent Subjects Topicks of Invective and ridicule, but he sometimes fell upon Politicks and political Characters, and not seldom expressed Sentiments of the Royal Family and the Court of France, particularly of the Queen, which I thought very improper for him to utter or for Us to hear. Much as Mr. Lee was censured for freedoms of Speech, I never heard a tenth part so much from him as from Bancroft. The Queens Intrigues with Madame the Duchess of Polinac, her constant dissipation, her habits of expence and profusion, her giddy thoughtless conduct were for a long time almost constant Topicks of his Tittle Tattle.
Another Personage who must be introduced upon the Scene, was a Dr. Smith. He told me he was a Native of New York, and of honourable descent for his Father had been a Member of his Majestys Council in that Province, and his Brother was William Smith who also had been a Royal Councillor. This Brother was afterwards Chief Justice in Canada. The Dr. had received a good Education in Letters, I know not where, and was a tollerable Writer. He had been a Wanderer and an Adventurer in the West Indies and in England, but had not well succeeded in the practice of Physick. He had married a Lady, a most perfect Antithesis to beauty in the face and to Elegance in Person. She was however infinitely too good for him, for she had some property in the West Indies, enough I suppose to afford them a bare Subsistance, and she was what is much more, a discreet, decent, virtuous and worthy Woman. This Man was supposed to come over from England, either to solicit some Employment, or to embarrass and perplex the American Ministers, or to be a Spy both upon the Americans and the French. Which of the three was his Errand, or whether either of them I know not. When he first arrived in Paris he visited Franklin and brought him some English Newspapers containing a Number of Pieces upon Liberty which he said he had written. Franklin told me that he read them and found them to contain some good common place principles of Liberty and that they were moderately well written, but of very little value or consequence. Whether Franklin neglected to return his Visit or to answer his Letter or whether he had not expressed so much Admiration of Smiths Talents as he thought they deserved, or whatever was the offence, he soon became very Angry with Franklin and wrote him many petulant and offensive Letters, which he complained of to me, till at length he received one which proved [provoked?] him very highly. When [he] came in to Breakfast he said to Us at Table "This Envy is the worst of all distempers. I hope I shall never catch it. I had rather have the Pox and Dr. Smith for my Physician," and then gave Us an Account

of an insolent Letter he had just received and read from Smith, which had thus put him out of Temper. For some time he continued to persecute Mr. Lee much in the same manner, and once when he asked an Audience of the three Commissioners together, he told Mr. Lee that if ever he found him out of commission he would call him out into the Field of honour. Lee only smiled at this, but Smith continued in such a Strain of provoking Insolence both to Franklin and Lee, although he had carefully avoided saying an offensive Word to me, that I thought it time for me to speak and I said Dr. Smith your Conduct and Language to Dr. Franklin and Mr. Lee are excessively abusive and insufferable, and if my Colleagues are of my Mind you shall commit no more such offences here without being turned out of the house. Perceiving the determined Tone and Air with which I spoke and easily believing that Mr. Franklin and Mr. Lee would not leave me in a minority in this resolution, he changed his tone and said he did not mean to give Offence. -- We had frequent Accounts of his violent invectives in Paris against my Colleagues and of his violent quarrells with the french at his Lodgings, cursing and swearing and raving as if he was beside himself: but concerning me he was always respectful in his Language and frequently said neither Deane, Franklin or Lee were fit to represent America at the Court of France: that Adams was the only Man that Congress had yet sent to Europe, who was qualified for his Station. Such Compliments from Dr. Smith, knowing so much of him as I did, although they were frequently repeated to me, were not very flattering to me. He continued as long as he staid in France to behave inoffensively to me. But he not long afterwards addressed Letters and remonstrances to Us all jointly as commissioners containing Remonstrances and misrepresentations, which only shewed his Ignorance of our Affairs, his Envy of our Situation and the iracible intemperance of his nature.
Another Character ought to be introduced here: although he was gone to America before my Arrival at Passi and I never had an Opportunity of seeing him. A letter or two may have passed between him and me when he was Charge des Affairs at Madrid, but no misunderstanding ever occurred between Us, and I never received to my knowledge any Injury or Offence from him. He was a native of Maryland of Scotch Extraction; wherever he had his Education, he was in England or Scotland, when the Revolution commenced, and in this

Year 1778 came over to Paris, and as I was informed commenced an Opposition to all the Commissioners Franklin, Deane and Lee, and indeed to all who had any Authority in American Affairs, and was very clamorous. Mr. Deane and Dr. Franklin and Dr. Bancroft, however a little before or after his departure found means to appease him in some degree, and after his Arrival in America he was chosen one of the Delegates in Congress for Maryland, where in a Year or two he got an Appointment as Secretary of Legation and Charge Des Affaires to Mr. Jay when in 1779 he was appointed Minister to the Court of Spain, where he remained many Years and finally died. He had Talents and Education, but was considered by the soundest Men who knew him as too much of an Adventurer. What was his Moral Character and what was his Conduct in Spain I shall leave to Mr. Jay. But he was represented to me as having contributed much to the Animosities and Exasperations among the Americans at Paris and Passi. There were great divisions in Spain among the Americans and Mr. Jay had as much Trouble with his own Family Mr. Carmichael, Mr. Brokholst Livingston and Mr. Littlepage as I had at Paris. I shall leave this Scene to be opened by the memorials of the Actors in it, if any such should ever see the light.
I have now given a faint Sketch of the French and American Personages who had been concerned in our Affairs at and before the Time of my Arrival.
I may have said before, that Public Business had never been methodically conducted. There never was before I came, a minute Book, a Letter Book or an Account Book, or if there had been Mr. Deane and Dr. Franklin had concealed them from Mr. Lee, and they were now no where to be found. It was utterly impossible to acquire any clear Idea of our Affairs. I was now determined to procure some blank books, and to apply myself with Diligence to Business, in which Mr. Lee cordially joined me. To this End it was necessary to alter the Course of my Life. Invitations were sent to Dr. Franklin and me, every day in the Week to dine in some great or small Company. I determined on my part to decline as many as I could of these Invitations, and attend to my Studies of french and the Examination and execution of that public Business which suffered for want of our Attention Every day. An Invitation came from the Duke of Brancard to dine with him at his Seat. I determined to send an Apology and on
Dined at home and spent the day on Business with Mr. Lee.
Dined at home with Company.
Dined at Mr. Buffauts with much Company.
Dined at Mr. Chaumonts with Company.

Dined at home.
Dined with Mr. Boulainvilliers, at his house in Passi, with Generals and Bishops and Ladies. In the Evening I went to the French Comedy, and happened to be placed in the Front Box very near to Voltaire, who was then upon his last Visit to Paris, and now attended the representation of his own Alzire. The Audience between the several Acts, called Out, Voltaire! Voltaire! Voltaire! and clapped and applauded him during all the intervals. The Aged Poet on Occasion of some extraordinary Applause arose and bowed respectfully to the Spectators. Although he was very far advanced in Age, had the Paleness of death and deep lines and Wrinkles in his face, he had at some times an eager piercing Stare, and at others a sparkling vivacity in his Eyes. They were still the Poets Eyes with a fine frenzy rolling. And there was yet much vigour in his Countenance. After the Tragedy, they acted the Tuteur, a Comedy or a Farce in one Act. This Theatre did not exceed that at Bourdeaux.
I had not been a month, as yet, in France, nor three Weeks in Passi, but I had seized every moment that I could save, from Business, company or Sleep to acquire the language. I took with me the Book to the Theatre, and compared it line for Line and word for Word, with the pronunciation of the Actors and Actresses, and in this Way I found I could understand them very well. Thinking this to be the best course I could take, to become familiar with the language and its correct pronunciation, I determined to frequent the Theatres as often as possible. Accordingly I went as often as I could and found a great Advantage in it as well as an agreable Entertainment. But as Dr. Franklin had almost daily Occasion for the Carriage and I was determined the public should not be put to the Expence of another for me, I could not go so often as I wished. Another project occurred to me to familiarise the language, which was to keep a journal in French. This was accordingly attempted and continued for a few days, but I found it took up too much of my time, and what was more decisive I was afraid to keep any journal at all: For I had reason to believe, that the house was full of Spies, some of whom were among my own Servants, and if my journal should fall into the hands of the Police, full of free remarks as it must be, to be of any value, it might do more Injury to my Country than mischief to me.

Cite web page as: John Adams autobiography, part 2, "Travels, and Negotiations," 1777-1778, sheet 16 of 37 [electronic edition]. Adams Family Papers: An Electronic Archive. Massachusetts Historical Society. http://www.masshist.org/digitaladams/
Original manuscript: Adams, John. John Adams autobiography, part 2, "Travels, and Negotiations," 1777-1778. Part 2 is comprised of 37 sheets and 7 insertions; 164 pages total. Original manuscript from the Adams Family Papers, Massachusetts Historical Society.
Source of transcription: Butterfield, L.H., ed. Diary and Autobiography of John Adams. Vol. 4 Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1961.
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