Diary of John Adams, volume 3

1782. November 3. Sunday. JA


1782. November 3. Sunday. Adams, John
1782. November 3. Sunday.

In my first Conversation with Franklin on Tuesday Evening last, he told me of Mr. Oswalds Demand of the Payment of Debts and Compensation to the Tories. He said their Answer had been, that We had not Power, nor had Congress. I told him I had no Notion of cheating any Body. The Question of paying Debts, and that of com- 44pensating Tories were two.—I had made the same Observation, that forenoon to Mr. Oswald and Mr. Stretchy, in Company with Mr. Jay at his House.... 1 I saw it struck Mr. Stretchy with peculiar Pleasure, I saw it instantly smiling in every Line of his Face. Mr. O. was apparently pleased with it too.

In a subsequent Conversation with my Colleagues, I proposed to them that We should agree that Congress should recommend it to the States to open their Courts of Justice for the Recovery of all just Debts. They gradually fell in to this Opinion, and We all expressed these Sentiments to the English Gentlemen, who were much pleased with it, and with Reason, because it silences the Clamours of all the British Creditors, against the Peace, and prevents them from making common Cause with the Refugees.

Mr. J. came in and spent two hours, in Conversation, upon our Affairs, and We attempted an Answer to Mr. Oswalds Letter.2 He is perfectly of my Opinion or I am of his respecting Mr. Dana's true Line of Conduct as well as his with Spain, and ours with France, Spain and England.

I learn from him that there has not been an Harmony, between him and Carmichael. The latter aimed at founding himself upon a French Interest, and was more supple to the french Ambassador at Madrid, and to Mr. Gérard than was approved by the former. G. endeavoured to perswade him to shew him, his Instructions, which he refused at which offence was taken.3

Vergennes has endeavoured to perswade him to treat with D'Aranda, without exchanging Powers. He refuses. V. also pronounced Oswalds first Commission sufficient, and was for making the Acknowledgement of American Independance the first Article of the Treaty. J. would not treat. The Consequence was, a compleat Acknowledgment of our Independence by Oswalds new Commission under the great Seal of G.B. to treat with the Commissioners of the United States of America.—Thus a temperate Firmness has succeeded every where, but the base System nowhere.

Ridley says that Jennings is in easy Circumstances, and as he always lives within his Income, is one of the most independent Men in the World. He remitted him 3000£ St. when he came over to France. His Father left him Ten Thousand Pounds. He kept great Company in England and no other. He is related to several principal Families in America, and to several great Families in England. Was bred to the Law in the Temple, and practised as Chamber Council, but no otherwise.


D'Estaing has set off for Madrid and Cadix. Reste a Scavoir, what his Object is. Whether to take the Command of a Squadron, and in that Case where to go—whether to R. Island to join Vaudreul, and go vs. N. York, or to the W. Indies. Will they take N. York, or only prevent the English from evacuating it.—O. proposed solemnly to all 3 of Us, Yesterday, at his House, to agree not to molest the British Troops in the Evacuation, but We did not. This however shews they have it in Contemplation. Suppose they are going against W. Florida—how far are We bound to favour the Spaniards? Our Treaty with France must and shall be sacredly fulfilled, and We must admit Spain to acceed when She will, but untill She does our Treaty does not bind Us to France to assist Spain.

The present Conduct of England and America resembles that of the Eagle and Cat. An Eagle scaling over a Farmers Yard espied a Creature, that he thought an Hair. He pounced upon him and took him up. In the Air the Cat seized him by the Neck with her Teeth and round the Body with her fore and hind Claws. The Eagle finding Herself scratched and pressed, bids the Cat let go and fall down.—No says the Cat: I wont let go and fall, you shall stoop and set me down.4


Suspension points in MS.


There is no letter from Oswald to the American Commissioners on record to which this could pertain except one dated 4 Nov. concerning the compensation of loyalists (Tr, Adams Papers), which was answered by JA, Franklin, and Jay on the 7th (RC, Public Record Office, London) after several conferences. These letters are printed in Wharton, ed., Dipl. Corr. Amer. Rev. , 5:848, 849–850 (the answer under date of 5 Nov.).


Passages preceded and followed by dagger signs were not included in the transcript of his Diary furnished by JA to Secretary Livingston; see note on preceding entry. In view of JA's purpose and of the noise made by his “Peace Journal” when it was read in Congress, JA's “editing” of the text is of some interest.


JA later told this fable in more detail and in a different context but with the same point, and attributed it to Franklin ( Corr. in the Boston Patriot , p. 45–46).

November 4. Monday. JA


November 4. Monday. Adams, John
November 4. Monday.

Called on J. and went to Oswalds and spent with him and Stretchy from 11. to 3. in drawing up the Articles respecting Debts and Tories and Fishery.1

I drew up the Article anew in this form—“That the Subjects of his Britannic Majesty, and the People of the said United States, shall continue to enjoy unmolested, the Right to take fish of every kind, on all the Banks of Newfoundland, in the Gulph of St. Laurence and all other Places, where the Inhabitants of both Countries used, at any time heretofore, to fish: and also to dry and cure their Fish, on the 46Shores of Nova Scotia, Cape Sable, the Isle of Sable, and on the Shores of any of the unsettled Bays, Harbours or Creeks of Nova Scotia, and the Magdalene Islands, and his Britannic Majesty and the said United States will extend equal Priviledges and Hospitality to each others Fishermen as to his own.”2

Dined with the Marquis de la Fayette, with the Prince du Poix, the Viscount de Noailles and his Lady, Mr. Jay, Mr. Price and his Lady, Mrs. Izard and her two Daughters, Dr. Bancroft, Mr. W. Franklin.

The Marquis proposed to me in Confidence his going out with D'Estaing, to the W. Indies. But he is to go a Month hence in a Frigate.—Mem.

All the forenoon from 11 to 3 at Mr. Oswalds, Mr. Jay and I. In the Evening there again, untill near II.

Stretchy is as artfull and insinuating a Man as they could send. He pushes and presses every Point as far as it can possibly go. He is the most eager, earnest, pointed Spirit.

We agreed last night to this.

Whereas certain of the united States, excited thereto by the unnecessary Destruction of private Property, have confiscated all Debts due from their Citizens to British Subjects and also in certain Instances Lands belonging to the latter. And Whereas it is just that private Contracts made between Individuals of the two Countries before the War, should be faithfully executed, and as the Confiscation of the said Lands may have a Latitude not justifiable by the Law of Nations, it is agreed that british Creditors shall notwithstanding, meet with no lawfull Impediment, to recovering the full value, or Sterling Amount of such bonâ fide Debts as were contracted before the Year 1775, and also that Congress will recommend to the said States, so to correct, if necessary, their said Acts respecting the Confiscation of Lands in America belonging to real british Subjects as to render their said Acts consistent with perfect Justice and Equity.3


This conference resulted in a “second set” of provisional articles, which were taken by Strachey to London for consideration by the British ministry; they are printed in Wharton, ed., Dipl. Corr. Amer. Rev. , 5:851–853.


For a later draft by JA of this article, see entry of 28 Nov., below.


Copied from a draft in Jay's hand now in Adams Papers under the assigned date of Nov. 1782.