Diary of John Adams, volume 3

November 10. Sunday. JA


November 10. Sunday. Adams, John
November 10. Sunday.

Accordingly at 8 this Morning I went and waited on the Comte. He asked me, how We went on with the English? I told him We divided upon two Points the Tories and Penobscot, two ostensible Points, for it was impossible to believe that My Lord Shelburne or the Nation cared much about such Points. I took out of my Pocket and shewed him the Record of Governour Pownals solemn Act of burying a Leaden Plate with this Inscription, May 23. 1759. Province of Massachusetts Bay. Penobscot. Dominions of Great Britain. Possession confirmed by Thomas Pownal Governor.

This was planted on the East Side of the River of Penobscot, 3 miles above Marine Navigation. I shew him also all the other Records —the Laying out of Mount Desert, Machias and all the other Towns to the East of the River Penobscot, and told him that the Grant of Nova Scotia by James the first to Sir William Alexander, bounded it on the River St. Croix. And that I was possessed of the Authorities of four of the greatest Governors the King of England ever had, Shirley, Pownal, Bernard and Hutchinson, in favour of our Claim and of Learned Writings of Shirley and Hutchinson in support of it. —The Comte said that Mr. Fitzherbert told him they wanted it for the Masts: but the C. said that Canada had an immense quantity. I told him I thought there were few Masts there, but that I fancied it was not Masts but Tories that again made the Difficulty. Some of them claimed Lands in that Territory and others hoped for Grants there.1

The Comte said it was not astonishing that the British Ministry should insist upon Compensation to them, For that all the Precedents were in favour of it. That there had been no Example of an Affair like this terminated by a Treaty, without reestablishing those who had adhered to the old Government in all their Possessions. I begged his Pardon in this, and said that in Ireland at least their had been a Multitude of Confiscations without Restitution.—Here We ran into some Conversation concerning Ireland, &c. Mr. Rayneval, who was present talked about the national honour and the obligation they were under to support their Adherents.—Here I thought I might indulge a 49little more Latitude of Expression, than I had done with Oswald and Stratchey, and I answered, if the Nation thought itself bound in honour to compensate those People it might easily do it, for it cost the Nation more Money to carry on this War, one Month, than it would cost it to compensate them all. But I could not comprehend this Doctrine of national honour. Those People by their Misrepresentations, had deceived the Nation, who had followed the Impulsion of their devouring Ambition, untill it had brought an indelible Stain on the British Name, and almost irretrievable Ruin on the Nation, and now that very Nation was thought to be bound in honour to compensate its Dishonourers and Destroyers. Rayneval said it was very true.

The Comte invited me to dine. I accepted. When I came I found the M. de la Fayette in Conference with him. When they came out the M. took me aside and told me he had been talking with the C. upon the Affair of Money. He had represented to him, Mr. Morris's Arguments and the Things I had said to him, as from himself &c. That he feared the Arts of the English, that our Army would disbande, and our Governments relax &c. That the C. feared many difficulties. That France had expended two hundred and fifty Millions in this War &c. That he talked of allowing six millions and my going to Holland with the Scheme I had projected, and having the Kings Warranty &c. to get the rest. That he had already spoken to some of Mr. De Fleury's Friends and intended to speak to him &c.

We went up to Dinner. I went up with the C. alone. He shewed me into the Room where were the Ladies and the Company. I singled out the Comtesse and went up to her, to make her my Compliment. The Comtess and all the Ladies rose up, I made my Respects to them all and turned round and bowed to the reste of the Company. The Comte who came in after me, made his Bows to the Ladies and to the Comtesse last. When he came to her, he turned round and called out Monsieur Adams venez ici. Voila la Comtesse de Vergennes. A Nobleman in Company said Mr. Adams has already made his Court to Madame la Comtess. I went up again however and spoke again to the Comtess and she to me.—When Dinner was served, the Comte led Madame de Montmorin, and left me to conduct the Comtesse who gave me her hand with extraordinary Condescention, and I conducted her to Table. She made me sit next her on her right hand and was remarkably attentive to me the whole Time. The Comte who sat opposite was constantly calling out to me, to know what I would eat and to offer me petits Gateaux, Claret and Madeira &c. &c.—In 50short I was never treated with half the Respect at Versailles in my Life.

In the Antichamber before Dinner some French Gentlemen came to me, and said they had seen me two Years ago. Said that I had shewn in Holland that the Americans understand Negotiation, as well as War.

The Compliments that have been made me since my Arrival in France upon my Success in Holland, would be considered as a Curiosity, if committed to Writing. Je vous felicite sur votre Success, is common to all. One adds, Monsieur, Ma Foi, vous avez reussi, bien merveilleusement. Vous avez fait reconnoitre votre Independance. Vous avez fait un Traité, et vous avez procuré de l'Argent. Voila un Succés parfait.—Another says, vous avez fait des Merveilles en Hollande. Vous avez culbute le Stathouder, et la Partie angloise. Vous avez donné bien de Mouvement. Vous avez remué tout le Monde.—Another said Monsieur vous etes le Washington de la Negotiation.—This is the finishing Stroke. It is impossible to exceed this.

Compliments are the Study of this People and there is no other so ingenious at them.2


JA was well prepared for his call on the French minister of foreign affairs. The documents he carried with him or was prepared to show when wanted were attested copies of the Massachusetts charters and attested extracts from the records of the General Court relative to the boundaries of Massachusetts. These had been made at JA's request by the clerk of the General Court when JA had sailed for Europe late in 1779 as sole commissioner to treat for peace with Great Britain; they survive in the JA Miscellany (Adams Papers, Microfilms, Reel No. 191). In four long communications to the Boston Patriot, 23, 26 Oct., 6, 9 Nov. 1811, JA later told how they proved useful in establishing the northeastern boundary of the United States in the preliminary negotiations of 1782; these letters are partly reprinted in an appendix to JA's Works , 1:665–669.


The several foregoing paragraphs were clearly those that evoked amusement at JA's expense when his “Peace Journal” was read in Congress in 1783; see note on entry of 2 Nov., above. Alexander Hamilton was a delegate to Congress at the time, and in 1800, when assembling all the evidence he could gather to discredit JA as a Federalist candidate for the Presidency, he cited the “Peace Journal” as proof of JA's boundless vanity and jealousy.

“The reading of this Journal [Hamilton went on], extremely embarrassed his friends, especially the delegates of Massachusetts; who, more than once, interrupted it, and at last, succeeded in putting a stop to it, on the suggestion that it bore the marks of a private and confidential paper, which, by some mistake, had gotten into its present situation, and never could have been designed as a public document for the inspection of Congress. The good humor of that body yielded to the suggestion” ( Letter from Alexander Hamilton, concerning the Public Conduct and Character of John Adams, Esq., President of the United States, N.Y., 1800, p. 7–8).

JA's reply to this passage in Hamilton's tract is in a letter published in the Boston Patriot, 4, 7 Sept. 1811.

It is worth noting that when Jared Sparks printed the “Peace Journal” from the Papers of the Continental Congress he silently omitted the whole paragraph recording the French comparison of JA 51with Washington, thus cutting the ground from under Hamilton's charge ( Diplomatic Correspondence of the American Revolution, Boston, 1829–1830, 6:471). It may also be worth noting that Matthew Ridley reported in his Diary (MHi), 10 Nov. 1782, that “Some time ago he [JA] was told that Mr. Washington was the greatest General in the World and that he Mr. A. was the General Washington in politics. —All this makes no Impression on him.”

1782 November 11. Monday. JA


1782 November 11. Monday. Adams, John
1782 November 11. Monday.

Mr. Whitefoord the Secretary of Mr. Oswald came a second Time, not having found me at home Yesterday, when he left a Card, with a Copy of Mr. Oswalds Commission attested by himself (Mr. Oswald).1 He delivered the Copy and said Mr. Oswald was ready to compare it to the original with me. I said Mr. Oswalds Attestation was sufficient as he had already shewn me his original. He sat down and We fell into Conversation, about the Weather and the Vapours and Exhalations from Tartary which had been brought here last Spring by the Winds and given Us all the Influenza. Thence to french Fashions and the Punctuality with which they insist upon Peoples wearing thin Cloaths in Spring and fall, tho the Weather is ever so cold, &c. I said it was often carried to ridiculous Lengths, but that it was at Bottom an admirable Policy, as it rendered all Europe tributary to the City of Paris, for its Manufactures.

We fell soon into Politicks. I told him, that there was something in the Minds of the English and French, which impelled them irresistably to War every Ten or fifteen Years. He said the ensuing Peace would he believed be a long one. I said it would provided it was well made, and nothing left in it to give future Discontents. But if any Thing was done which the Americans should think hard and unjust, both the English and French would be continually blowing it up and inflaming the American Minds with it, in order to make them join one Side or the other in a future War. He might well think, that the French would be very glad to have the Americans join them in future War. Suppose for Example they should think the Tories Men of monarchical Principles, or Men of more Ambition than Principle, or Men corrupted and of no Principle, and should therefore think them more easily seduced to their Purposes than virtuous Republicans, is it not easy to see the Policy of a French Minister in wishing them Amnesty and Compensation? Suppose, a french Minister foresees that the Presence of the Tories in America will keep up perpetually two Parties, a French Party and an English Party, and that this will compell the patriotic and independant Party to join the French Party is it not natural for him to wish them 52restored? 3. Is it not easy to see, that a French Minister cannot wish to have the English and Americans perfectly agreed upon all Points before they themselves, the Spaniards and Dutch, are agreed too. Can they be sorry then to see us split upon such a Point as the Tories? What can be their Motives to become the Advocates of the Tories? The french Minister at Philadelphia has made some Representations to Congress in favour of a Compensation to the Royalists, and the C. de Vergennes no longer than Yesterday, said much to Me in their favour. The Comte probably knows, that We are instructed against it, that Congress are instructed against it, or rather have not constitutional Authority to do it. That We can only write about it to Congress, and they to the States, who may and probably will deliberate upon it 18 Months, before they all decide and then every one of them will determine against it.—In this Way, there is an insuperable Obstacle to any Agreement between the English and Americans, even upon Terms to be inserted in the general Peace, before all are ready.—It was the constant Practice of The French to have some of their Subjects in London during the Conferences for Peace, in order to propagate such Sentiments there as they wished to prevail. I doubted not such were there now. Mr. Rayneval had been there. Mr. Gerard I had heard is there now and probably others. They can easily perswade the Tories to set up their Demands, and tell them and the Ministers that the Kings Dignity and Nations honour are compromised in it.

For my own Part I thought America had been long enough involved in the Wars of Europe. She had been a Football between contending Nations from the Beginning, and it was easy to foresee that France and England both would endeavour to involve Us in their future Wars. I thought it our Interest and Duty to avoid them as much as possible and to be compleatly independent and have nothing to do but in Commerce with either of them. That my Thoughts had been from the Beginning constantly employed to arrange all our European Connections to this End, and that they would be continued to be so employed and I thought it so important to Us, that if my poor labours, my little Estate or (smiling) sizy blood could effect it, it should be done. But I had many fears.

I said the King of France might think it consistent with his Station to favour People who had contended for a Crown, tho it was the Crown of his Ennemy. Whitefoord said, they seem to be, through the whole of this,2 fighting for Reputation. I said they had acquired it and more. They had raised themselves high from a low Estate by it, and they were our good Friends and Allies, and had conducted 53generously and nobly and We should be just and gratefull, but they might have political Wishes, which We were not bound by Treaty nor in Justice or Gratitude to favour, and these We ought to be cautious off. He agreed that they had raised themselves very suddenly and surprisingly by it.

We had more Conversation on the State of Manners in France, England, Scotland and in other Parts of Europe, but I have not Time to record this.


Oswald's second commission, dated 21 Sept. 1782, empowering him to treat with “any Commissioners or Persons vested with equal Powers, by and on the part of the Thirteen United States of America”—the recognition that Jay had insisted on before treating with a British commissioner. A copy is in the Adams Papers under date of 9 Nov. 1782, the day it was attested by Oswald for presentation to JA; a printed text is in Wharton, ed., Dipl. Corr. Amer. Rev. , 5:748–750.


Comma supplied for clarity, but the passage is obscure in the MS, and a word may have been omitted by JA.