Papers of John Adams, volume 9

From Arthur Lee

To William Vernon Sr.

To James Lovell, 16 March 1780 JA Lovell, James


To James Lovell, 16 March 1780 Adams, John Lovell, James
To James Lovell
Dear Sir Paris Hotel de Valois Ruë de Richelieu March 16. 1780

I have received, Since my Arrival here, your Favour of the Sixteenth of November 1779. I shall take proper Notice of your Remarks upon the 19 and 13 Articles of the Treaty.1 They are, both of Importance and as to the last I wish for an Instruction upon it, because there is no doubt to be made, that whenever a Serious Negotiation shall be commenced, great Pains will be taken for the banished, altho little Attention is paid to them now. I learned Yesterday that they have received no Payment of their Pensions these 18 Months. The Delay is coloured with a Pretense of Waiting for Some funds for Quebec, which have been Stopped by the Interruption of that Trade. They are Still bitter, as I am told, and are firmly persuaded that America cannot hold out Six months longer.

You assure me, that I shall not be without the orders and Credit, I mentioned in a Letter of mine.2 I thank you for this assurance, which is conceived in such strong Terms, that one would think you did not expect any opposition to it, at least any effectual opposition. I wish there may not be: but I am not without Conjectures, I will not call them suspicions upon this Head. Denying them, however would be, virtually recalling me and Mr. Dana, and in a manner the most humiliating and disgracful. Indeed I dont know how We shall get away from our Creditors. You know what Sort of Minds cannot bear a Brother near the Throne, and So fair, So just, so oconomical a Method would not escape Minds of so much Penetration, as a Refusal to lend Money without orders.3 I am not sure, however that the Measure would be hazarded, in the present Circumstances, by Persons by whom I have been treated politely enough, Since my Return.

I should be glad to know what the Board of Treasury have done with my accounts? Whether they have passed upon them? Or whether there are any Objections to them, and what they may be. I dont know but I was indiscreet in Sending all my original Vouchers, because if any of them should be lost I may be puzzled to explain Some Things. However I know by a Letter from Gerry that they were received and I presume they will be preserved.4


I wish to know your private Opinion whether Congress will continue Mr. Dana and me here, at so much Expence, with so little Prospect of having any Thing to do, for a long time, an uncertain Time however: or whether they will revoke our Powers and recall Us? Or what they will do with Us. A Situation so idle and inactive, is not agreable to my Genius, yet I can submit to it, as well as any Man, if it is thought necessary for the public Good. I will do all the Service I can, by transmitting Intelligence and in every other Way.

You must have observed, that in all my public Letters, and indeed in a great Measure in my private, I have cautiously avoided giving Accounts of the state of our Affairs, in France.5 I had many Reasons for this Caution. In general, I was Sure it would do no good, and I doubted the Propriety of Stating Facts, and remarking upon Characters, without giving Notice of it to the Persons concerned, and transmitting the Evidence. There is no End of conceiving Jealousies, but I am Sure Officers of Government, especially foreign Ministers ought not to attack and accuse, one another upon Jealousies, nor without full Proof, nor then neither without notifying the Party to answer for himself.

Thus much let me say, however that the Present Plan of having a distinct Minister in Spain, another in Holland, and another to treat with Great Britain, and having Secretaries independant of Ministers is a good one. I pray you to stand by it, with the Utmost firmness if it should be attacked, or undermined. If you revoke the Powers of a Seperate Minister to treat with the King of Great Britain, you ought to revoke the former Powers of treating with all the Courts of Europe, which were given to the Commissioners at Passy, for under these, Authority will be claimed, of treating with the English if my Powers are revoked. The Powers of treating with all other Courts ought to be Seperated from the Mission to this. Your Friend,

LbC (Adams Papers.)


Vol. 8:289–290. JA, as Lovell had in his letter, is referring to Arts. 13 and 19 in the Franco-American Treaty of Amity and Commerce as negotiated, rather than as ratified with Arts. 11 and 12 removed. Thus JA means Arts. 11 and 17. Lovell was concerned about the use of the Franco-American treaty as a model for an Anglo-American commercial treaty. He feared that the inclusion of Art. 11, dealing with the disposition of property in the respective countries, would provide the loyalists with a means to regain their confiscated property. Art. 17 established the right of French and American vessels to bring prizes into each other's ports. Its inclusion in an Anglo-American treaty would give Great Britain a right that it was precluded from exercising in American ports under the terms of the prior treaty with France, which took precedence over any later ones (Miller, ed., Treaties , 2:11–12, 16–17).


Of 4 Nov. 1779 (vol. 8:277–278).


A reference to Benjamin Franklin, who never followed the course feared by JA. JA 56had already raised the issue of compensation for himself and Dana in letters of 16 Dec. 1779 and 19 Feb. 1780 to Lovell, as well as in that of 17 Feb. to the president of Congress (vol. 8:297–299, 333–334, 330–331). For Congress' resolution of the problem see the letter to the president of 17 Feb., note 1.


Of 12 Oct. 1779 (vol. 8:197–199).


For more candid accounts that JA did not send, see his letters to Samuel Adams and Lovell of 4 March (both above).