Adams Family Correspondence, volume 3

John Adams to Abigail Adams, 27 February 1779 JA AA


John Adams to Abigail Adams, 27 February 1779 Adams, John Adams, Abigail
John Adams to Abigail Adams
Feb. 27. 1779

The Weather continuing fine, I went to Saint Denis a little Village about Eight Miles from this Place, where are the Tombs of all the Kings and Queens. The statues of all lie in state in Marble.

The Church which is called the Royal Church of Saint Denis is magnificent, and there is an Appartment in a Chamber where the Crowns and many other Curiosities are preserved.

It is curious to see such a Collection of Gold, Ivory and precious stones, as there is every Species I suppose that is mentioned in the Revelations. The Diamonds and Rubies glitter.—But I confess I have so much of the savage sachem in me, that these Things make no great Impression upon me.

There are several little Crucifixes here, which the Ecclesiastic, who showed them told Us, were made of Bits of the true Cross.—This may be for any Thing that I know.

In my Return, I took a Circuit round by Mont Martre and dined at Home, with the Dr. who has a fit of the Gout but is getting better.

The situation in which my Masters have left me, puzzles me very much. They have said nothing to me, but one sett of Gentlemen write that I am to go to Spain, another to Holland, a third to Vienna. But upon the whole I believe they dont intend to send me to either, but leave me, to stay here in a ridiculous situation or return home, if I can get there.


I shall return, unless I should receive before the Time arrives for the Vessell to sail, orders which I can execute with Honour, and a Prospect of rendering some service to the public. But of these two last Points I will judge for myself.1

RC (Adams Papers).


In a letter of this date addressed to John Jay, president of Congress, JA expressed his feelings about his situation and intentions in language that was officially correct but not without barbs below the surface:

“By the new Arrangement, which was brought by the Marquis de la Fayette, I find myself restored to the Character of a private Citizen.

“The Appointment of a single Minister, at the Court of Versailles, was not unexpected to me, because I had not been two Months in Europe, before I was convinced of the Policy, and indeed of the Necessity of such a Measure. But I ever entertained Hopes that when the News of such an Alteration should arrive, the Path of my own Duty, would have been made plain to me by the Directions of Congress either to return home or go elsewhere. But as no Information we have received from Congress has expressed their Intentions concerning me, I am obliged to collect them by Implication, according to the best of my Understanding: and as the Election of the new Minister Plenipotentiary, was on the fourteenth of September, and the Alliance sailed from Boston the fourteenth of January, and in this Space of four Months no Notice appears to have been taken of me, I think the only Inference that can be made is, that Congress have no farther Service for me on this Side the Water, and that all my Duties are on the other. I have accordingly given Notice to his Excellency M. De Sartine, and to his Excellency the Minister Plenipotentiary here, of my Intentions to return, which I shall do by the first Frigate which sails for any Port of the united States, unless I should receive Counter orders in the mean time. In a Matter of so much Uncertainty, I hope I shall not incur the Disapprobation of Congress, even if I should not judge aright of their Intentions, which it is my Desire as well as my Duty to observe, as far as I can know them.” (PCC, No. 84, I; LbC, Adams Papers.)

John Adams to Abigail Adams, 28 February 1779 JA AA


John Adams to Abigail Adams, 28 February 1779 Adams, John Adams, Abigail
John Adams to Abigail Adams
Feb. 28. 1779

I suppose I must write every day, in order to keep or rather to restore good Humour, whether I have any thing to say or not.1

The Scaffold is cutt away, and I am left kicking and sprawling in the Mire, I think. It is hardly a state of Disgrace that I am in but rather of total Neglect and Contempt. The humane People about me, feel for my situation they say: But I feel for my Countrys situation. If I had deserved such Treatment, I should have deserved to be told so at least, and then I should have known my Duty.

After sending orders to me at five hundred Miles distance which I neither solicited, nor expected nor desired, to go to Europe through the Gulf Stream, through Thunder and Lightning, through three successive storms, and three successive Squadrons of British Men of War, 182if I had committed any Crime which deserved to hang me up in a Gibet in the Face of all Europe, I think I ought to have been told what it was—or if I had proved myself totally insignificant, I think I ought to have been called away at least from a Place, where I might remain a Monument of the Want of Discernment in sending me here.

I have given Notice here and written to Congress, of my Intentions to return, by the first good Opportunity, unless I should receive other orders before my Embarkation, orders that I can execute with Honour and some Prospect of Advantage to the Public.—You know probably before now what orders if any are sent me. If none or such as I cannot observe you may expect to see me in June or July. If otherwise I know not when.

RC (Adams Papers).


This day JA wrote her twice, and the order in which the two letters are printed here (the second letter following) is merely the editors' guess.