Papers of John Adams, volume 5

From Thomas Johnson Jr.

To James Warren

To James Warren, 31 March 1777 JA Warren, James To James Warren, 31 March 1777 Adams, John Warren, James
To James Warren
Dear sir Philadelphia March 31. 1777

We have this day received Letters from Europe,1 of an interesting Nature. We are under Injunctions of Silence, concerning one very important Point:2 and indeed I dont know how far I am at Liberty, concerning Some others: but thus much I may venture to communicate: That We have an Offer of three Millions of Livres in Specie, without Interest, and to be paid when We Shall be Settled in Peace and Independence,3 that all Europe wish Us well, excepting only Portugal and Russia.4 That all the Ports of France and Spain, and Italy, and all the Ports in the Mediterranean, excepting Portugal, are open to our Privateers and Merchant Ships. That there is no danger of our wanting Arms, or Ammunition for the future. Between Six and seven hundred Barrells of Powder having arrived in Maryland, and indeed We had plenty of Powder before.


In Short, my Friend, altho We have many grievous Things to bear, and Shall have more; yet there is nothing wanting but Patience. Patience and Perseverance, will carry Us through this mighty Enterprize. An Enterprize, that is, and will be an Astonishment to vulgar Minds, all over the World, in this and in future Generations. An Enterprize however, which, Faithfullness to our Ancestors, who have sett Us Examples of Resistance to Tyranny, Faithfullness to the present and future Generations, whose Freedom depend upon it laid us under every moral and religious Obligation to undertake.

Our Accounts from Europe are, that great Preparations are making for War, and that every Thing tends to that Object: but when or where, or how Hostilities will commence is yet unknown. France and Spain, will act in concert and with perfect Amity. Neither will take any step without the other.

The American Ministers abroad, advise Us to exert ourselves in every Respect, as if We were to receive no Assistance from abroad. This is certainly good Advice, and if We have Wisdom enough to follow it, a Diversion by a War in Europe, will be a more effectual Relief to us. I am &c.

RC (MHi:Warren-Adams Coll.); docketed: “Mr J. Ad. Lettr March 77”; LbC (Adams Papers), with minor differences in phrasing.


The only certainly identifiable letter received on this day was one to the Committee of Secret Correspondence signed by Franklin, Deane, and Arthur Lee and dated 17 Jan. JA made a copy of it and sent it to Warren on 1 April, when he had a reliable carrier (below). It is printed in Wharton, ed., Dipl. Corr. Amer. Rev. , 2:248–251. At its start it revealed that Vergennes had received the American Commissioners, whose status was unofficial still in France; the foreign minister's gesture was a sign of tentative support, however.


In copying the letter from the Commissioners, JA omitted the section describing an agreement reached with the Farmers-General that the congress would purchase twenty thousand hogsheads of tobacco to be shipped to France in vessels provided by the Farmers-General. War materials could be carried at American risk in the ships at reasonable rates on their westward journey. The Farmers-General would reimburse the congress for the tobacco in two payments, one-half at once, the rest when they were informed that the tobacco had been shipped. This business connection with the Farmers-General, “the most efficient part of government,” meant an immediate supply of badly needed money for the upcoming campaign and began a business connection that it was hoped would prove advantageous in the future (Wharton, ed., Dipl. Corr. Amer. Rev. , 2:249–250).


Both JA's copy of the Commissioners' letter and the printed version agree that the offer was for two, not three, millions. Presumably made by pro-American wealthy Frenchmen but actually by the King, the loan was to be repaid, not paid, as JA ambiguously states, with the return of peace (same, 2:250, 284).


Although Portugal and Russia were not mentioned in the Commissioners' letter, the hostility of Portugal had been known for months; as a long-standing ally of England, it understandably favored its ally's cause. A specific reference to the “malice” of Russia is found in the Commissioners' letter of 6 Feb., which may have been one of those received on 31 March (same, 2:146, 148, 161, 263).