Papers of John Adams, volume 5

From James Lovell, 22 November 1777 Lovell, James JA From James Lovell, 22 November 1777 Lovell, James Adams, John
From James Lovell
Dear Sir York Novr. 22d. 1777

We have this Evening a Letter from Mr. Bingham of Octr. 13th. in which he tells us that the french General had received a Packet by a Boat which left Rochelle Sepr. 4th. advising him of the destination of 5,000 Troops for Martinique the Transports being actually ready at Havre Nantes and Bourdeaux to take them on Board. An Embargo was to be immediately laid upon european bound Vessels to prevent their falling into the hands of the English as it was then thought at Martinique that war must have been declared at the date of the Letter. The French were working night and day at Brest and Rochfort and Toulon to get their marine in a respectable Force. Carmichael1 writes from Paris the 6th. of Sepr. that war appeared inevitable.

The british Ministry are publishing the most irritating peices against the French in hopes of drawing the people into a disposition for a war with France that such an Event may give a pretence for relinquishing the american contest of which he has at length a desperate view.2 Carmichael mentions that he had received a Letter from Mr. Lee who was “on his return from Berlin having finished his business successfully.”3 No foreigners had subscribed for the english Loan tho' the advantages were the greatest ever offered except once: and all army and navy contracts were for 5 years which Mr. Carmichael says is a Proof of war.

I feared I should not have opportunity to copy large Extracts from the well-wrote letters received before the post goes thro' this place Tomorrow therefore give you these hints and a good Night.

James Lovell

You will consider that the within Intelligence has not been read in Congress—tis confidential to you.


RC (Adams Papers); addressed: “Honble John Adams Esqr. Braintree”; franked: “York Town Jas. Lovell”; docketed: “Mr Lovell”; in an unidentified hand: “November 22nd 1777.” MS slightly mutilated.


William Carmichael, who had performed various tasks for the American Commissioners, had become disillusioned with them and was determined to return to the United States. On 28 Nov. the congress appointed him secretary to the Commissioners, but he never accepted the position. After his return to America, he entered the congress as a representative from his home state, Maryland (Lloyd B. Streeter, “The Diplomatic Career of William Carmichael,” Md. Hist. Mag. , 8:119–125, 128 [June 1913]).


Rumors flew around in Europe that an accommodation with the United States would take place. On 22 Nov. the congress, taking note of these disturbing developments, emphatically denied that anything but recognition of independence and of treaties made under the authority of the United States could end the contest with Britain. A copy of the resolves of the congress was sent to JA ( JCC , 9:951–952; James Lovell to JA, 1 Dec., below).


Lee went to Berlin in early June to discuss trade possibilities with the Prussian government. While there, according to his report, he was assured that the German states were not likely to furnish additional mercenaries and that Russia would send none at all. Lee also broached the subject of Prussia's admitting American prizes to their ports and received a promise that Prussia would look into the practice of France and Spain (Wharton, ed., Dipl. Corr. Amer. Rev. , 2:335–336, 369–372). Lee failed in his main object, however—being received as the accredited representative of an independent United States.