Papers of John Adams, volume 7

The Commissioners to John Ross, 30 September 1778 Franklin, Benjamin Lee, Arthur JA First Joint Commission at Paris Ross, John


The Commissioners to John Ross, 30 September 1778 Franklin, Benjamin Lee, Arthur Adams, John First Joint Commission at Paris Ross, John
The Commissioners to John Ross
Sir Passi September 30. 1778

We have received your Letter of the twenty second of September,1 and take this Opportunity to say, that We have no Authority, either to give you Orders or Advice, any further than respects the large Sum of Money, which the Commissioners put into your Hands sometime ago. 86Of the Expenditure of this Money, We have demanded an Account, which you have refused to give Us.

With your private Concerns We have nothing to do. If you have any Power derived from the honourable Committee of Congress, to that Committee you must be responsible and look for Instructions. We can never justify interfering in those Affairs, much less could We be justified in Advancing more Money, to a Gentleman who has refused to give Us an Account of a large sum already intrusted to him, not to mention the Circumstances of Indecency, with which that Refusal was accompanied, and with which most of your Letters since have been filled. We return you the original Contract, which you inclosed to Us, Sometime ago.2

That you may Save yourself for the future the Trouble of writing Letters to Us, We now assure you, that it is our fixd Determination to have nothing further to do with you, or any Affairs under your Care, untill you have laid before Us, and settled your Account of the public Money you have received from the Commissioners, unless We have Instructions from Congress, which with the most perfect Attention, We shall ever observe. We are, sir, your humble servants.

B Franklin Arthur Lee John Adams

P.S. It is proper you shoud be informd that there appears from Mr. Williams's Accounts to have been a farther advance made to you of twenty thousand Livres3 for which we likewise expect you will without delay account with us.

B Franklin Arthur Lee John Adams

RC (MiD); LbC (Adams Papers). In the recipient's copy, the postscript is in Arthur Lee's hand.


Not found.


In the Letterbook copy, JA originally intended to end the letter here.


No reference to this advance has been found in Williams' accounts (see Williams to the Commissioners, 22 Sept., note 1, above).

The Commissioners to the Comte de Vergennes, 1 October 1778 Franklin, Benjamin Lee, Arthur JA First Joint Commission at Paris Vergennes, Charles Gravier, Comte de


The Commissioners to the Comte de Vergennes, 1 October 1778 Franklin, Benjamin Lee, Arthur Adams, John First Joint Commission at Paris Vergennes, Charles Gravier, Comte de
The Commissioners to the Comte de Vergennes
Sir Passy 1. October 1778

We have received, the Letter which your Excellency, did Us the Honour, to write to us, on the twenty seventh of the last Month: together with a Copy of a Letter from the Ministre of the Marine to your Excellency, of the twenty first of the Same Month.


Convinced of the Propriety of those Ecclaircisements, which his Excellency demands, We had recourse to our Instructions from Congress, and although we have Powers and Instructions to treat, and conclude Treaties, with all the European Powers, to whom no particular Minister has been sent by Congress, yet we cannot find that our Powers extend to conclude Treaties, with the Barbary States.

We are, nevertheless instructed, to endeavour to obtain Passes for the Vessells of the United States, and their Subjects, from those Powers, through the Mediation and Influence of his most Christian Majesty, which we therefore request his Excellency, to endeavour to procure, provided he Sees no danger in the Attempt or material Objection to it.

We have, however the Honour to agree with his Excellency in Opinion, that an Acknowledgment of the Independance of the United States, on the Part of those Powers and a Treaty of Commerce between them and Us, would be beneficial to both, and a Negociation to that End not unlikely to succeed, because there has been, heretofore Some Trade between them and Us, in the Course of which our People and Vessells were well received.

We therefore Submit it to his Excellency's Judgment, either to commence a Negociation for Passes for American Vessels, immediately, or to wait untill we can write to Congress, and obtain Powers, to treat with those States and conclude Treaties of Commerce, with them, when we Shall request to commence, and conduct the Negociation, through the Mediation, and under the Auspices of his Majesty.

We have the Honour to request his Excellencys Advice hereupon.1

We address this to your Excellency, as We have done many other Things, which we suppose must be referred to other Departments, because your Excellency, being the Ministre for foreign Affairs, we have understood, that we have no right to apply in the first Instance, to any other: But if we have been misinformed, or ill-advised, in this, and there is no Impropriety in our making immediate Application to other Ministers, upon Subjects which we know to be within their Departments, we request your Excellency to give Us an Intimation of it; And for the future we will avoid giving unnecessary Trouble to your Excellency.

We have the Honour to be, with Sentiments of the most entire respect, your Excellencys most obedient and most humble servants

B Franklin Arthur Lee John Adams

RC in JA's hand (Arch. Aff. Etr., Paris, Corr. Pol., E.-U., vol. 5).


In his reply of 30 Oct., Vergennes stated that full powers from the congress were necessary before France could act and would have to include both the authorization to propose such payments as might be required by the Barbary States and the money needed to meet their demands (LbC, Adams Papers; translation by John Pintard, PCC, No. 85, f. 231–232).