Papers of John Adams, volume 9

To Edmund Jenings

From Benjamin Franklin

From James Wilson, 20 April 1780 Wilson, James JA


From James Wilson, 20 April 1780 Wilson, James Adams, John
From James Wilson
Duplicate Sir Philada. 20th. April 1780

Your Inclination to oblige will excuse the Trouble, which I intend to give you. I was nominated by Mr. Gerard to be Advocate General for the French Nation in the United States, subject to the Ratification of the King.1 If his Majesty shall be pleased to honour me with his Commission, I have requested that two hundred Pounds Sterling may be appropriated for the Purchase of Books; and have taken the Liberty to mention you to Mr. Gerard, as the Gentleman, who would perform the good Office of purchasing them for me. I aim at a good Collection of Treaties, and of Books on the Laws of Nations, the Laws maritime, and the Laws of France respecting Navigation and commercial Affairs. I wish to have also some of the best Books on the History and Policy of the Kingdom. You can form the Catalogue much better than I can do. Mr. Deane will be good enough to take the Care of sending them to America.


I have been favoured, by Mr. Marbois, with the Perusal of the Plan of a Constitution for Massachussets, reported by a Committee of the Convention of that Commonwealth. From the masterly Strokes of profound Jurisprudence, and of refined and enlarged Policy, which distinguish that Performance, I can easily trace it to its Author. The Constitution of every State in the Union is interesting to the Citizens of every other State; as each spreads, in some Degree, its Influence over all. For this Reason, I feel a very sensible Pleasure, when I see a Prospect that happy Governments will be established around me. This Sentiment has, in no Instance, been more highly gratified, than by the Plan reported for the Government of Massachussets.

I have the Honour to be, with the greatest Esteem, Sir Your most obedient and most humble Servant

James Wilson

Dupl (Adams Papers); endorsed: “Mr. Wilson. 20 April. Duplicate. recd. 21st. of June. and. 24. June 1780;” addressed: “His Excellency John Adams Esquire Hotel de Valois Rue de Richlieu.” The intended recipient's copy, which JA received later, is also in the Adams Papers.


In anticipation of profiting from a greatly expanded Franco-American trade, Wilson had proposed his appointment as “advocate-general” to John Holker, French Consul-general at Philadelphia, in Dec. 1779. Although Holker and Silas Deane, after Deane's return to France in July as Wilson's agent in various matters, strongly supported his candidacy, the French court balked at Wilson's fee and did not grant him the desired appointment (Charles Page Smith, James Wilson: Founding Father, 1742–1798, Chapel Hill, 1956, p. 140–142).