Papers of John Adams, volume 8

To James Lovell, 10 September 1779 JA Lovell, James To James Lovell, 10 September 1779 Adams, John Lovell, James
To James Lovell
My dear Sir Braintree Septr. 10. 1779

By the last Post, I had the Pleasure of yours of August 20 and 24. It was not for Want of Affection, that I did not write particularly to you and to many other Gentlemen, but from Want of Time. And since my Arrival to this Time, I have been obliged to go to Boston, Cambridge &c., so often, my good old Town of Braintree having taken it into their Heads, upon my Arrival, to put me into the Convention, that I have not been able to write, excepting on the 13 of Aug. inclosing some Copies of Letters which I wish to hear you have received.

You tell me, that you send me three Gazettes, which you desire me to inclose to A. Lee: but I find but two Gazettes and in neither of them is there a Word relative to the subject You mention.

You say too, that you will send me, a Part of the Report of a Com-134mittee of 13 relative to me. But in the Journal you inclose, 19th to 24 July, there is nothing like it.

In a late Letter of yours to W. You quote a Letter to H. which says that I did not succeed extravagantly in France, because I attached myself to L. the Madman.1 Does Congress receive such Evidence as this? Anonimous Letters, from Frenchmen to Frenchmen? or even from Americans to Americans?2 do they encourage this? Do they expose the Characters of their servants so much? Do they encourage foreign Ministers and Consuls or even Ministers to attack the Characters of their Ministers abroad with such Weapons?3 Do they permit, foreign Ministers, and even Consuls, or commercial agents to become Partisans for or against Persons or systems? Mr. H's Master will not encourage him in it, I am well perswaded? and Mr. Holker May depend upon it, his Master or rather his Masters' Master4 shall know it, if he does not conduct himself better make himself busy in Party Matters. I wish to know whether this letter was from Monthieu or Chaumont, or from whom? If the Latter, I shall make you laugh: if the former, Swear. I hope it was from neither.

However, I hope my Countrymen, will believe the King, whose sentiments of me and my Conduct, are certified to me, by the Comte De Vergennes in the Letters I inclosed to you the 13 of August, rather sooner, than the anonimous Correspondent of Mr. H. The Chevalier de la Luzerne, and Mr. Marbois, will inform you, if you ask them, what my Character was in France, although I am perswaded, they will never be Party Men. I know they dare not, for they have positive Instructions against it from the King.5

In your Letter of the 20th, you assure me in strong Terms that “I have not an Enemy, amongst you.”6 I am very Sure, there is no Man there who has any just Cause, to be my personal Enemy: But I think there must be many, in political Opposition to me. By the Hint you give of Iz's over heat, I dont know what to guess. Is it possible that Iz. should have written, to my Disadvantage? It is very true, that I thought him, sometimes indiscreet and imprudent, and that I uniformly and firmly refused to have any Concern in the Dispute between him and F. either before or after my Arrival in France: But I always told him this and my Reasons for it, so frankly and I always preserved with him and he with me, So friendly a personal Acquaintance, that altho I am very sensible he thinks I ought to have inserted myself more in their Quarrells, yet I think it is impossible, he should have written against me. However I thought him too hot, and therefore it is very probable he thought me too cool. Reasonable Men will judge. I never, can sufficiently.


I never heard in my Life, of any Misunderstanding among any of the Commissioners, that I can recollect, untill my Arrival at Bourdeaux. I had not been on shore an Hour before I learn'd it. When I arrived at Paris I found that it had arrived to a great Hight. Each Party endeavoured, to get me to inquire into the subjects of their Quarrells, and to join them. But I refused to have any Thing to do with their personal7 Disputes, and determined to treat every one of them as the Representative of the united states, to endeavour to cool and soften their Animosities as far as I could, and in all public Questions, impartially to give my Judgment according to Justice and good Policy. These Maxims, I invariably pursued, and I could challenge any of them, of any side to say that I ever deviated from them.

If you recollect, what has been done—that I was struck, in an instant out of political Existence in the sight of all Europe and America out of political Existence, that the scaffold, was cutt away, and I left sprawling in the mire,8 that not a Word was said to me—that I was neither desired nor directed to Stay or go—that I was never impowerd to draw a farthing of Money, to subsist me in Europe or even to pay the Expences of my Journey to a seaport—nor for my Passage home. That Dr. F. was not even authorized to advance a shilling for me. That he is Strictly culpable for doing it, altho he genteelly ran the risque.9 That the World was left to conjecture, what had brought upon me this Vengeance of my sovereign: whether it was for Gambling in the stocks: whether it was for forming commercial Combinations for my private Interest in all the seaport Towns in France, and in all the states of America; or whether it was for Treason against my Country, or Selling her Interest for Bribes. And all this after, I had undertaken to obey the Commands of Congress, at many Hazards of my Life and Liberty, Commands unsolicited by me, and given when I was absent: I think you must reconsider your Opinion concerning my Friends and Enemies in Congress. However, I shall not whine to Congress much less storm in News Papers, concerning the personal Treatment of me—unless I should be driven to the Necessity of a candid Appeal to the World. This would oblige me to lay open So many Things and Characters that had better be concealed that such Necessity must be very evident before I shall venture upon it.10 I dont dread however, for myself, nor much for the publick, taking Mr. D in his own Way but I should go a little deeper than Mr. P. did Paine did.11 But it is a melancholly Consideration, and of no promising a very dangerous and destructive Tendency, that so many Characters, as meritorious as any that ever served this Continent, should be immolated not to Divinities but to a Gang of Pedlars. Write me, when you can & believe me your F.


I thank you, for your kind Attention to my dear Portia, in my Absence, but your Rogueries are so bewitching that I should, have some hesitation about trusting you nearer together, than Philadelphia and Boston Braintree.

LbC (Adams Papers).


In a letter to James Warren of 13 Aug., Lovell quoted an extract from a letter in French dated 7 Dec. 1778, which was laid on the table in the congress by Gouverneur Morris on 3 May. Because John Holker, agent of France for its marine, supplied the fragment, Lovell concluded that the French letter was to him. As translated by Lovell the extract read, “Mr. J. Adams the Deputy does not succeed here further than is reasonable: He appears to be intirely devoted to Mr. Lee, who, as you know, is a sort of mad-man” ( Warren-Adams Letters , 2:117–118).


The previous six words are interlined.


The phrase “with such Weapons” and the sentence that follows are interlined.


The previous five words are interlined.


The previous two sentences are interlined.


The opening quotation mark is supplied. JA changed only the pronouns.


This word is interlined.


The passages “in the sight of all Europe and America” and “that the scaffold ... in the mire” are interlined. Compare this passage with that in JA's letter to AA of 28 Feb. ( Adams Family Correspondence , 3:181).


This sentence is interlined, and the long one following it is written lengthwise along the margin, its place in the text indicated with a mark.


This sentence and the clause beginning with “unless” which precedes it are interlined.


This sentence is written in the bottom margin, its place in the text indicated with a mark. For Paine's attack on Deane, see Edmund Jenings to JA, 25 April, note 1 (above).

To Henry Marchant, 10 September 1779 JA Marchant, Henry To Henry Marchant, 10 September 1779 Adams, John Marchant, Henry
To Henry Marchant
My dear Sir Braintree Septr. 10. 1779

A few Days before I Sailed from America, I had the Pleasure of a Letter from you, on the subject of a Law for Confiscations,1 but my Engagements in a new Scaene of Adventures, made it impossible to attend to the subject, or answer the Letter. And Since, my Peregrination, not having received any Letters from you, and being occupied in a manner you may well imagine, I have not I confess done my Duty to you.

I believe the Scaene of Affairs you have been in, has been as disagreable as mine. I fancy We both deserve Commisseration, and shall have it—from Posterity, and from those of the present Generation, who may be in Similar Circumstances, if any such there can be. Yet I confess I am of old Dr. Cutlers2 Mind “I hate to be pitied.”

I had the inexpressible Pleasure, of finding on my Arrival my own Family and all my Connections in perfect Health—a fine Season, which promised Abundance of every Necessary for the People; our military and political Affairs in a much better Condition than I ex-137pected, and infinitely less of Discontent and ill Humour, among all Sorts of People than I left when I went away.

I joyfully congratulate you on the fair Prospect of Affairs, that lies all around Us, except the affair of our Currency. But as this neither kills nor Wounds, nor starves any body, I do not suffer it to darken the scaene very much. We shall blunder along through, with tolerable Comfort, I think, the remainder of the Voyage.

Our maritime Power, has become an astonishing Thing. The Destruction of Thirty Eight Vessells at Penobscott is scarcely felt, and near 30 Privateers I am told have sailed since the Embargo.3 Wonders have been done this Year and greater will be done next. Poor Britania! I feel that kind of Compassion for thee, that I have sometimes felt, for an habitual Drunkard, who knew that he was ruining soul, Body and Estate, yet could not resolve to keep the Cup from his Lips.

I took my Pen, only to pay my Respects to you; to ask your further Correspondence and to assure you that I am your Frid & sert

John Adams

LbC (Adams Papers).


That of 22 Dec. 1777 (vol. 5:363). When he wrote, Marchant, like JA, had just left the congress. He returned to the congress in the summer of 1778 and served until the end of Nov. 1779 (Burnett, ed., Letters of Members , 3:lx; 4:lxii).


Perhaps Rev. Timothy Cutler, Harvard 1701, Congregational apostate and early Anglican leader in Boston (Sibley-Shipton, Harvard Graduates , 5:45–67).


The clause about privateers is interlined; JA appears to have first written “40 Privateers,” and then heavily written a “3” over the “4.” Presumably a large number of privateers sailed because their crews were the more readily obtainable as a result of congressional action on embargoes. See John Bondfield to the Commissioners, 3 Oct. 1778 (above). A number of states had embargoes on provisions, which served a twofold purpose. Keeping needed food supplies within a state helped hold down prices (Pennsylvania Archives, Phila. and Harrisburg, 1852–1935; 119 vols. in 123, 1st ser., 7:588) and also kept such supplies out of the clutches of British warships. Such embargoes could cause temporary hardship elsewhere; earlier in the year both Rhode Island and Massachusetts turned to the congress for help in acquiring food supplies from states with embargoes ( JCC , 13:130, 152, 257, 449). On 11 Aug. the Pennsylvania Supreme Executive Council sought the advice of the congress on whether to extend the state's embargo past 1 Sept., when it was scheduled to expire (Pennsylvania Colonial Records, 1683–1790;, Phila. and Harrisburg, 1851–1853; 16 vols., 12:70–71;). The first committee report on Pennsylvania's query recommended that all states end their embargoes by 1 Oct., but the congress voted to recommit the report. On 21 Aug., the congress voted to recommend extension of all embargoes to 1 Jan. 1780 and urged the inclusion of a specified list of grains and meat products and the adoption of an embargo by every state. At the same time it called for an end to restrictions on inland trade. A later attempt to return to the 1 Oct. expiration date, as first recommended, was defeated ( JCC , 14:953–954; 986–987; 15:1036–1037). An additional reason for success in privateering was the presence of French naval forces in the West Indies, which drew British frigates away from the North American coast (see James Warren to JA, 13 June, above).