Papers of John Adams, volume 9

Enclosure: A Draft of an Article: A Translation, 30 March 1780 Vergennes, Charles Gravier, Comte de JA


Enclosure: A Draft of an Article: A Translation, 30 March 1780 Vergennes, Charles Gravier, Comte de Adams, John
Enclosure: A Draft of an Article: A Translation

Mr. Adams, whom the Congress of the United States of America has appointed to participate in the peace conferences whenever they may occur, arrived here sometime ago and has had the honor of being presented to the King and the royal family.1


This notice, which appeared virtually without change in the 8 April issue of Mercure de France, “Journal Politique de Bruxelles” (p. 88), was the second of two very different versions considered for publication. The first, in the form of a canceled draft, reads “Le S. Adams a été présenté au Roi le de ce mois. Le Congrés l'avois nommé eventuellement, Plenipotentiaire pour prendre part aux négociation de paix qui parois-99soiens devoir s'ouvir sous la mediation de Sa Majesté Catholique, et il a fixé son séjour à Paris en attendant que la circonstance le mettens en mesure de faire usage de se plenipouvoir” (Arch. Aff. Etr., Paris, Corr. Pol., E.-U., vol. 11). Translation: Mr. Adams has been presented to the King the of this month. The Congress has named him eventual plenipotentiary to take part in the peace negotiation which will take place under the mediation of His Catholic Majesty [the King of Spain], and he has established himself at Paris in the expectation that circumstances will permit him to make use of his full powers.

The first draft is worded very curiously. JA's powers were eventual only in the sense that they became operative when and if Great Britain agreed to negotiate a peace treaty with the United States and to recognize it as sovereign and independent in advance of negotiations. The beginning of negotiations under the mediation of the King of Spain had no bearing on JA's powers, for they did not contemplate or permit his participation in a mediation by Spain or any other power.

By 30 March, Vergennes knew the full extent of JA's powers. Conrad Alexandre Gérard had included JA's instructions in a letter of 14 Aug. 1779, that Vergennes had received on 6 Nov. (Gérard, Despatches and Instructions , p. 846–850).