Papers of John Adams, volume 7

To Thomas Cushing

To Patrick Henry

To Edmé Jacques Genet, 8 December 1778 JA Genet, Edmé Jacques To Edmé Jacques Genet, 8 December 1778 Adams, John Genet, Edmé Jacques
To Edmé Jacques Genet
Dear Sir Passy Decr 8 1778

I had last Night, very late your Card, respecting Mathews.1 I cannot recollect that any Thing was ever done in Congress, respecting him or his Conspiracy. I remember too have heard of the Transaction at the Time, but it was not an affair of sufficient Moment to excite any extensive Allarm, or make any extensive Impression; and I believe it was thought so little of, as never to have been sent to Congress.2 If it had, I think I should have known and remembered it, for no Man attended Congress more incessantly than I did from Septr. 1774 to Novr. 1777. I remember to have been told by the Judge Advocate who attended the Tryal of Sedgwick an officer of the Army who I think was tryed by a Court Martial, for some Conduct connected with in the same affair that there was no Plan, or Concert whatsoever.3 That there was Evidence against a few Individuals of Treasonable Wishes and Speeches, 264but no concerted Plot digested Plot. The Papers relative to this affair have taken up much more Room than they deserve.

In your last Number Gen. Washington is quoted as Writing to Congress after Burgoines Captivity that now, then was the favourable Moment for Treaty.4 You may depend upon it that this is false. I read every Letter he wrote upon that occasion and I know there was no such Idea in any of them. I know farther, that so rapid and irresistable Ways i.e. was the popular Torrent the contrary Way, that such a sentiment would have lost even General Washington the Confidence of his Army, and of his Country and even of his Army. But there is no End to the Lyes, that our Ennemies make and propagate, from every quarter of the World5 in Excuse of their own Injustice and Inhumanity and I am weary of complaining of them. The Gazettes of the united Provinces and of Germany, are filled with Fictions, by the Emmissaries of Great Britain, and almost every Newspaper in their Dominions is equally crouded with them, and no Improbability is too gross.6 And indeed it is not to be wondered at, for if they had not previously set all the Laws of God and Man at Defyance they would never have begun this War, but having begun it, they have not hesitated at any atrocious Enormity, nor will they hesitate. For my own Part I think that all Christendom and indeed all Humanity, ought to unite in order to arrest the Massacres and Conflagrations that are meditated under the Colour of such Forgeries, as all the Neighbourhood should unite to kill or chain a mad Dog. Dont print this Letter because all that know me will know from the Egotism of it, and other Characteristicks that it comes from your Friend

John Adams7

LbC (Adams Papers).


Genet's note (Adams Papers), undated but probably written on the 7th, was a request for information on the alleged conspiracy in June 1776 involving David Matthews, mayor of New York City. Genet planned to deal with the incident in the next issue of Affaires de l'Angleterre et de l'Amérique, “Journal,” under the date of Sept. 1776 and wished to know what action the congress had taken and how the affair had ended. The arrangement of the “Journal” volumes of Affaires makes it difficult to determine when a particular issue appeared and thus, with certainty, whether Genet was deterred by this letter or carried out his plan. If the latter was the case then it was most likely done in Affaires, “Journal,” vol. 12, p. 207–208. There, under Sept. and Oct. 1776, Matthews is referred to under the heading “Découverte d'un Traitre auprès du Général Washington.” An earlier reference under June, July, and August, is in Affaires, “Journal,” vol. 11, p. 187–193. For additional information on the conspiracy, see Samuel Cooper to JA, 1 July 1776, note 1; and William Tudor to JA, 7 July 1776, and note 2, vol. 4:356, 367–369.


The investigation was carried out by a committee of the New York Provincial Congress headed by John Jay (Force, Archives , 4th ser., 6:1152–1183).


In the summer of 1776 William Tudor, judge advocate and a frequent correspondent of JA, would have been in-265volved in any court-martial stemming from the Matthews conspiracy. In late July and early Aug. 1776 Tudor was in Philadelphia and met with JA ( Adams Family Correspondence , 2:63, 89). But if the two men discussed the Matthews affair and a court-martial connected with it then JA's memory had dimmed with the passage of time. There is no evidence that any army officer was tried, but on 26 June a member of Washington's personal guard, Thomas Hickey, was court-martialed for treason in connection with the conspiracy and on the 28th was executed (Washington, Writings, ed. Fitzpatrick, 5:161–162, 170, 179, 182 and note, 193–195).


The quotation from Washington appeared in Affaires, “Lettres,” vol. 12, cahier 60, p. ccci. Although he printed it, Genet doubted its accuracy and included a note at the bottom of the page in which he stated that the item had not been found in any American paper of the time and it was well known that the English ministry had engaged in previous fabrications.


The remainder of this sentence was interlined.


The following two sentences were written below the closing for insertion at this point.


In addition to the Adams-Genet correspondence for December, printed and mentioned here and below, two other letters, both to Genet, are noteworthy. The first was of [ca. 3 Dec.] (RC, J. G. Turner, Los Angeles, 1958) and contained a long passage taken from Cotton Tufts' letter of 5 Aug. ( Adams Family Correspondence , 3:68–70), concerning the French fleet and a valuable prize taken by it. Although JA clearly intended it for publication in Affaires, Genet did not use it, apparently because he already had a letter giving the same information (see “Lettres,” vol. 13, cahier 63, p. lv). The second, of 11 Dec. (RC, PWacD: Feinstone Coll., on deposit PPAmP), transmitted two letters for Genet's consideration and possible inclusion in Affaires. The first enclosure was Thomas Cushing's letter of 21 Oct. (above), which Genet printed (Affaires, “Lettres,” vol. 13, cahier 63, p. lv–lviii). For the second enclosure from a “Mr. A.,” possibly Benjamin Austin, see Thomas Cushing's letter of 21 Oct., note 1 (above).