Papers of John Adams, volume 9

To the President of Congress, No. 30

From William Lee

To the President of Congress, No. 31, 30 March 1780 JA Huntington, Samuel President of Congress


To the President of Congress, No. 31, 30 March 1780 Adams, John Huntington, Samuel President of Congress
To the President of Congress, No. 31
Sir Paris March 30th 1780

I have the Honor to inclose to Congress Copies of certain Letters, 94which I have had the Honor to write to the Comte de Vergennes, and of others which I have recieved from him.1

It seems that the Presentations of the American Commissioners and Ministers Plenipotentiary have not been inserted in the Gazette, which occasioned some Uneasiness in the Minds of some of our Countrymen, as they thought it a neglect of Us, and a distinction between our Sovereign and others. The inclosed Letters will explain this Matter, and show that no Distinction has been made between Representatives of the United States and those of other Powers.

I ought to confess to Congress that the Delicacies of the Comte de Vergennes about communicating my Powers, are not perfectly consonant to my manner of thinking: and if I had followed my own Judgment, I should have pursued a bolder Plan, by communicating immediately after my Arrival, to Lord George Germain, my full Powers to treat both of Peace and Commerce:2 but I hope Congress will approve of my communicating first to this Court my Destination, and asking their Advice and then pursuing it, because3 I think no doubt can be made that it is my Duty to conduct my Negotiations at present in Concert with our Ally as I have hitherto done. I have the Honor to be, with perfect Respect, Sir, your most obedient and most humble Servant,

John Adams

RC in John Thaxter's hand (PCC, No. 84, I, f. 381–382;) docketed “No. 30 Letter from J. Adams March 30. 1780 with 3 Papers Read Septr. 11th. concerning his Presentations at Court & the announcing of it in the Gazette of France vid Feb. 20. 25 23 March 8.” The dates at the end of the docketing are those of letters to the president of Congress (vol. 8: 345–347, 358–359, calendared; No. 14, above). LbC (Adams Papers;) notation by Thaxter: “No. 30 & 31. Delivered Capt. Landais 1st. April 1780.”


The docketing indicates that JA enclosed three “Papers,” but only Vergennes' letter of 30 March and his reply of the same date (both below), can be readily identified. Copies of those two letters appear immediately before this letter in the PCC (No. 84, I, f. 373–374, 377–378). The third letter may have been JA's to Vergennes of 21 March (above), but JA indicated at the bottom of his Letter-book copy of the letter to Vergennes of 30 March that “all the past Leters have been sent to Congress,” making it unnecessary to include them with this letter.


Although JA here indicates that he would reluctantly defer to Vergennes' wishes that he not officially disclose his powers to the British ministry, the issue was not settled. For the renewal of the debate between JA and Vergennes over the matter, see Editorial Note, The Dispute with the Comte de Vergennes, 13–29 July; JA to Vergennes, 17 and 26 July; Vergennes to JA, 25 July (all below).


At this point in the Letterbook JA deleted the following: “the Ministers of this country must be supposed in things of this Kind to understand better than We, the Humours of Europe, and know better how to address themselves to them. But whether this be so or not.”