Papers of John Adams, volume 7

To Arthur Lee, 12 February 1779 JA Lee, Arthur To Arthur Lee, 12 February 1779 Adams, John Lee, Arthur
To Arthur Lee
Sir Passy Feb. 12. 1779

We duly received the Letter which you did us the honor of writing on the 9th. of Feb.1 accompanyed with a Letter from Mr. Pringle, herewith you have the Draught of an Answer to that Gentleman,2 which you are requested, if you approve of it to subscribe and forward. As 405Mr. Lee is best acquainted with the Places, Persons and Officers to which Mr. Pringle must apply—it is requested of Mr. Lee to make a Draught of Instructions, for Mr. Pringle, which Mr. Adams will subscribe, if he approves them, as he doubts not he shall.3

I have the honor to be &ca.

(signed) John Adams4

LbC in William Temple Franklin's hand (Adams Papers). This is the last letter to be recorded in Lb/JA/4, which contains letters written by the Commissioners during JA's first mission.


Not printed here, but see Pringle's letter of the 9th (above).


Lee and JA to Pringle, 12 Feb. (below).


No instructions to Pringle have been found, but see the letter to Pringle immediately following.


Although this letter was signed only by JA, it is clear that he was speaking also for Benjamin Franklin. Franklin probably was unwilling to sign because of Lee's severe criticism of the original appointment of Edward Bancroft in his letter of 7 Feb. to Franklin and JA (above). That neither JA nor Franklin was pleased by the appointment of Pringle in place of Edward Bancroft can be surmised from both the tone of the letter and the implication that Pringle's instructions would be the work of Arthur Lee, not Franklin or JA.

Arthur Lee and John Adams to John Julius Pringle, 12 February 1779 Lee, Arthur JA Pringle, John Julius Arthur Lee and John Adams to John Julius Pringle, 12 February 1779 Lee, Arthur Adams, John Pringle, John Julius
Arthur Lee and John Adams to John Julius Pringle
Sir Passy Feb. 12. 1779

We have received your Letter of Feb. 9. offering your Services to the public by going to England to negotiate an Exchange of Prisoners. We have considered this Subject and judging it necessary to send some Person upon this Business, We have determined to accept of your Proposition, and We desire you to prepare yourself for the Journey, with all convenient Dispatch. Your Instructions shall be prepared immediately.1

We are Sir your humble Servants

Arthur Lee signed only John Adams

LbC in William Temple Franklin's hand (Adams Papers). This letter was enclosed in the preceding letter from JA to Lee and appears before that letter in JA's Letterbook.


This letter may be considered the last official act by Arthur Lee and JA as members of the joint commission to the French court. Benjamin Franklin's official notification of his appointment as minister plenipotentiary arrived on 12 Feb., presumably after this letter had been drafted and sent (JA, Diary and Autobiography , 2:353). Franklin did not go forward with Pringle's appointment, reverting instead to his plan to name Edward Bancroft as agent. But Bancroft apparently did not go to England either. According to David Hartley, to whom Franklin had written concerning a safe conduct for Bancroft, the British ministry saw no need for an American agent in England to expedite the exchange, In any event, the first shipload of American prisoners reached France on 1 April ( Cal. Franklin Papers, A.P.S. , 406 2:35; Catherine Prelinger, “Benjamin Franklin and the American Prisoners of War in England during the American Revolution,” WMQ , 3d ser., 32:275–276 [April 1975]).